I didn't want to slight the shotgun lovers by not carefully researching what a shotgun will do as far as penetration.

The shotgun is a Mossberg Maverick, 12 Gauge, with a 19.5" barrel, no choke. Typical of "combat" shotgun dimensions.


The Box O' Truth is loaded with 12 sheets of 5/8" sheetrock, backed up by a jug of water to try to "catch" anything that might penetrate all 12 boards.

It is backed-up by a wall of bricks.

3-2I tried a variety of different shotgun loads.

This is the first shot.

This is the first shot.​

This load was Remington 2 3/4", #4 Buck, 27 pellets.

It penetrated 6 sheets and bounced off the 7th sheet.

Notice how the wall "collapsed" under the shot.

This is the damage to the sheetrock.

This is the damage to the sheetrock.​

All shots were from a measured 12 feet from the muzzle to the first wall.

Notice that there is an approximate 3 1/2 inch spread.

We will discuss this later.

I then shot a load of Winchester 2 3/4", #1 Buck, 16 pellets.

This round penetrated 6 sheets and bounced off the 7th.

Just like the #4 Buck.

This is the entrance wound.

This is the entrance wound.​

I then loaded a round of Remington 2 3/4", 00 Buck, 9 pellets.

This load penetrated 7 boards, 3 pellets went through the 8th board, and one pellet was stuck in the 9th board.

This is it.

This is it.​

The pellets were pretty badly deformed.


Notice, again, about a 2 1/2" spread from 12 feet.

Also notice the big hole caused by the shot cup.

This is the entrance wound for the 00 Buck.

This is the entrance wound for the 00 Buck.​

It was time for the Rifled Slug.

I bought some Remington "Slugger", 1 ounce, Max load, 2 3/4", "rifled" slugs.

This is the Box O' Truth getting killed.

This is the Box O' Truth getting killed.​

The slug penetrated all 12 boards.

The first one barely penetrated the water jug.

I shot another one, and it actually bounced off the water jug.

This is the entrance of the slug into the 12th board, along with the expanded slug.

This is the entrance of the slug into the 12th board, along with the expanded slug.​

Lessons learned:

  1. After doing additional tests, I now feel that this test had a flaw. Having the sheetrock pieces so close together allowed them to "stack up" and gave a false result. By spreading the sheets out, like in a home, we found that buckshot will penetrate 4 walls (8 sheets of sheetrock)easily.
    To see the results, please see, Rifles, Shotguns, And Walls.
    The slug penetrated all 12 boards.
  2. Once again, please notice the size of the entrance spreads....2 1/2" to 3 1/2". Therefore, anyone that says, "With a shotgun, you don't even have to aim. Just point it in the general area of the bad guy, and you can't miss", does not know what they are talking about.
    You can very easily miss with a shotgun. You must aim to hit your target.
  3. The slugs were "bad" penetrators. By that, I mean that they will penetrate several interior walls. If you have loved ones in your home, consider this as you select your home defense weapon.
  4. I "racked" the shotgun several times during the tests, and no bystanders lost control of their bowels.
Conclusion: Racking a shotgun will not make the bad guy faint.

Frankly, I was surprised that the shotgun did not penetrate more than it did. I had been led to believe that they penetrated more than a .223 rifle or a 9mm or .45 ACP. Such was not the case.

Amazing what you can learn by doing a little testing.

Birdshot as a Defense Load

I have had a lot of questions, summed up as follows: How effective is birdshot (#4, #6, #8, etc.) as a defense load?

We have done tests with various birdshot loads. Birdshot penetrated through two pieces of drywall (representing one wall) and was stopped in the paper on the front of the second wall. The problem with birdshot is that it does not penetrate enough to be effective as a defense round. Birdshot is designed to bring down little birds.

A policeman told of seeing a guy shot at close range with a load of 12 gauge birdshot, and was not even knocked down. He was still walking around when the EMTs got there. It was an ugly, shallow wound, but did not STOP the guy. And that is what we want... to STOP the bad guy from whatever he is doing. To do this, you must have a load that will reach the vitals of the bad guy. Birdshot will not do this.

In fact, tests have shown that even #4 Buckshot lacks the necessary penetration to reach the vital organs. Only 0 Buck, 00 Buck, and 000 Buck penetrate enough to reach the vital organs.

Unless you expect to be attacked by little birds, do not use birdshot. Use 00 Buck. It will do the job.

But doesn't 00 Buck penetrate too much in interior walls to be a "safe" load in a home?

Yes, it does penetrate a lot. But any load that is going to be effective will need to penetrate walls to have enough power to penetrate bad guys. If our only concern was to be sure we didn't penetrate walls, we would use BB guns. However, BB guns will not stop bad guys.

Therefore, we must use loads that will STOP bad guys, and this means that they will also penetrate walls. So, be sure you hit the bad guy and do not shoot into walls where loved ones are on the other side.

When To Use Birdshot

A friend of AR15.com sends this:

"I saw a gunshot victim, about 5' 10" and 200 lbs, taken to the operating room with a shotgun wound to the chest. He was shot at a range of six feet at a distance of just over the pectoralis muscle. He was sitting on his front porch and walked to the ambulance. We explored the chest after x-rays were taken. The ER doc had said 'buckshot' wound, but this was obviously not accurate.

It was # 6 shot. There was a crater in the skin over an inch in diameter. When the shot hit the level of the ribs, it spread out about five inches. There was ONE pellet that had passed between the ribs and entered the pericardium, but not damaged the heart at all. As you say, 'use birdshot for little birds.'"