The Box O’ Truth #42 – Precision Shooting With Buckshot

Okay, I know that title might be a misnomer. The words “precision” and “buckshot” don’t usually go together.

But at Thunder Ranch, in the Defensive Shotgun Class I recently attended, we discussed and did some drills about this subject. A 12 gauge shotgun, loaded with 00 Buckshot, is a devastating weapon at close range. As Clint Smith reminded us several times, “It will remove meat and bones.”

But buckshot tends to spread out more, the further it goes down range. It has a very small pattern at close range, but a very large pattern at longer ranges.

The questions is: How big of a pattern does it have at X yards? And to make it even more confusing, we must add the qualifier “with this particular load”.

I brought some Wolf 00 Buckshot to the class.

As you can see, it holds 9 – 00 pellets and they do not have a filler to cushion the shot.

This tends to flatten the soft lead pellets and deform them as they go down the barrel.

This will open up the pattern more than other, better quality loads.

But I used this load because I had to shoot a lot of them, and they were cheap.

I figured they were good enough for practice, and they did just fine in that application.

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We set up targets and shot them from measured distances to note the size of the spread.

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This target was shot at 3 yards. The spread was about 4 inches, not counting the wad.

This one was at 5 yards and the spread was about 5 to 6 inches.

This one was at 5 yards and the spread was about 5 to 6 inches.

This one was at 7 yards and the spread was about 9 inches.

This one was at 7 yards and the spread was about 9 inches.

This target was at 10 yards and the spread was about 10 inches.

This target was at 10 yards and the spread was about 10 inches.

This target was at 15 yards and we shot it twice. The spread was about 20 inches.

This target was at 15 yards and we shot it twice. The spread was about 20 inches.

Then at 20 yards, and the spread was about 22 inches.

You will also note that this is the last target that had all 9 pellets on it.

You will also note that this is the last target that had all 9 pellets on it.

Then at 30 yards, and only 2 pellets stayed on the target.

Where did those other 7 pellets go?

I better know, as I am responsible for everything I send down range.

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Lastly, at 40 yards. I managed to get 3 on the target.

Where are the other 6 pellets?

I better know, as I am responsible for them too.

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When might we need to know the “exact” size of our group?

Well, one situation might be if we had a bad guy behind a hostage like this.

We might have to take the shot, and if we knew the yardage and the spread of our load in that particular shotgun, we could take the shot.

But we would have to aim towards the edge of the target to be absolutely sure that we did not put a pellet onto the hostage.

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Here's where we might aim, at 3 yards.

Here’s where we might aim, at 3 yards.

Let’s try a shot.

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And here's the results.

And here’s the results.

That worked out pretty well, but just how confident would you be if that was you?

That demonstrates a big advantage of a carbine, as regards precision shooting.

Let’s try it with a .30 Carbine at the same range, for three shots.

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And the results. That looks a lot better.

And the results. That looks a lot better.

Lessons Learned:
  1. “Precision” is not really a shotgun word.
  2. There is only one way to know what your shotgun will do at any range… You must test it. And re-test it. With a specific shotgun and a specific load.
  3. Different loads will have much different spreads at the same distances. At TR, I tried a fellow shooter’s high quality buffered and hardened buckshot and my gun shot them into much smaller patterns.
  4. At close range, a 12 gauge shotgun is a very powerful weapon. But it lacks precision and this gets much worse at longer ranges.
  5. A carbine has the precision that the shotgun lacks.
  6. It’s fun to shoot stuff.