What could possibly be more effective that a shotgun blast at short range?

For a home intruder, nothing can be more terrifying than the sight of a double-barreled shotgun leveled at them. How about the sound of a pump-action shotgun racking a shell into the chamber for a sound deterrent? Both will make any criminal think twice about their bad life choices.

Sheer intimidation won’t always solve your big problem. What do you load your shotgun against these home-invading foes?

Below are Remington 12-gauge shotgun shells opened up for you to see the actual payload. Impressive, right? Well, each load from 7 1/2 shot on the left to even the mighty shotgun slug on the right has a purpose in home defense.


Birdshot is a favorite of many home defenders. From close range, the blast of these lightweight small lead pellets hit like a solid fist. Out at a distance farther the story is not the same. Some old time shooters call shotguns “scatterguns” for good reason. The many shot projectiles fan out quickly the farther away the target is.

Birdshot has excellent track record for up-close-and-personal damage with minimal penetration to household walls. If the distance is somewhat far, you’d better think bigger, such as the smaller-sized buckshot loads. So an up close birdshot is a worthwhile choice but at a distance might sting instead of drop an intruder.

The useful shot size chart shows a size comparison of how these projectiles stack up against each other. You can use any of these sizes in a pinch, but personally nothing smaller than No. 6 for close range would be a solid choice.

Remember, as distances and any obstructions you might encounter get larger, you should increase the size of your projectiles. Light weight shot looses energy quicker than heavier sized shot or buckshot. Save the largest sizes for shooting through cover or barricades. Remember those larger projectiles will keep going and walls may not hold them. In more rural areas, loads of 00 buckshot will get almost any job done. Once again though watch for the chance of over penetration issues.

What about shotgun slugs? Unless you’re living in big bear country or have to shoot through heavy barricades, save shotgun slugs for big-game hunting. A 1,000-pound bear knocking down your cabin door takes more to stop than a home invader. Better have a heavy hitting shotgun slug for that hungry bruin.

Midway USA

My advice to all who want to use a shotgun for home defense is to buy a variety of shells. Then, take various items, like drywall, plywood or jugs of water and test what those loads do to them at the gun range, if allowed. This target practice will allow you to see how powerful your shotgun really is. Then you can make the right decision of what shotgun load will be the best pick for your own home-defense situation needs.

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