Educational Zone #91 – Let’s Talk About Buckshot

A short while back I was on Shotgunworld in the Tactical/Home Defense Forums, (also known as The Basement) and we had a guy ask a simple question:

“Specifically, I’m curious about how much the shot in standard 2-3/4″ 9-pellet 00 buckshot weighs. Anyone know?

I tried figuring it out mathematically and came up with about 1.1 ounces. I thought that seemed a bit light, but I guess they can’t pack big pellets as tight as birdshot, so I don’t know.”

He had several guys try to help him. And several quoted manuals or lists which showed how much various sizes of buckshot were supposed to weigh. But they didn’t quite agree exactly.

Now, as you guys that know me might imagine, I had a better idea about how to solve this mystery.

I got out a round of Wolf 9 pellet 00 Buckshot and a razor knife and cut it open.

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I then weighted the pellets. They were all between 59 and 60 grains, with an average of about 59.5 grains.

So, 59.5 X 9 = 535.5 total grains of weight.

Wolf lists the velocity as approximately 1,325 fps for the load.

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The pellets were approximately .340 inches in diameter.

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As I was in the weighing mood, I also dug out a round of Remington #4 Buckshot and did the same with it.

It was a slightly higher quality load and had a plastic ground up buffer between the pellets to help keep the pellets round as they accelerated down the barrel.

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There were 27 – #4 pellets in the load, and each weighed approximately 19.5 grains, for a total weight of 526 grains.

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The pellets were approximately .240 in diameter.

Okay, now that we have some facts, let’s discuss why this is important to a person that intends to use his shotgun for home defense.

We know from this Great Article posted on AR15.com, that no birdshot will reach the required FBI minimum penetration of 12 inches.

Only buckshot will do that. So, which buckshot is “best?”

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The linked article sums this up in the last paragraphs where it points out the #1 Buck is probably the “best” buckshot load, but that it is hard to find, and 00 Buckshot is a very close second, so that is what most of us use.

Let’s put some false rumors to rest:

1. Birdshot is a good self defense load.

This is false for several reasons. The main reason is that no birdshot load will reach the required 12 inches of penetration needed for STOPPING a bad guy from whatever he is doing to threaten your life. Birdshot makes a very nasty, yet shallow wound, and will not reach the vital organs or CNS.

“Might” birdshot work? Sure. But why depend on “might” when “better” is available.

Use birdshot for little birds. Use buckshot for bad guys.

2. Buckshot penetrates too much and will go through walls in my home.

Sure it will. Any load that will STOP a bad guy, will also penetrate several interior walls, as I proved.

Until someone invents a phaser, like on Star Trek, any load that will STOP a bad guy will also penetrate several walls.

3. Any buckshot will work about the same.

While any buckshot is better than birdshot, the larger the buckshot pellets, the more they will weigh, and the more they will penetrate. The #4 Buckshot I measured is the “minimal” buckshot load, and will barely meet the penetration standards. Some folks like it, and some police departments even issue it, but it is the smallest buckshot and will penetrate the least. Larger is better, and 00 is preferred.

4. Getting shot with a load of 00 buckshot is like getting shot 9 times with a handgun.

Not exactly.

Each 00 pellet weighed about 60 grains. No normal handgun round shoots a bullet that light in weight. A .32 ACP round has a 71 grain bullet traveling at 900 fps. That is the lightest “common” handgun bullet around. But it is only doing 900 fps.

The 00 buckshot pellets weigh 60 grains, but are doing 1,325 fps. There is no comparison between the two.

And the shotgun pellets all hit the target at around the same time. Very effective.

Conclusion:
If you are loading your shotgun for home defense, you will be hard pressed to use a better load than 00 Buckshot. It is the best commonly available load.