Anyone that has ever ventured into the shotgun section of an internet gun forum has likely witness a heated argument over various defensive loads. Most folks are of the school of thought that will accept nothing less than 00 buckshot and/or slugs. A few others feel that #1-#4 buck better suits their needs, perhaps for liability/safety reasons, living in an apartment or for some other over-penetration concerns. Then there is another small group of passionate individuals that insist on the use of game loads such as birdshot for defensive use.
Well, we all know that any information acquired on the internet should be taken with a pretty hefty pinch of salt. Better yet, we can find out for ourselves what works and what does not.
Today I tested 3 loads.
1) Sellier & Bellot 2.75” 00 Buckshot 9-pellet
2) Sellier & Bellot 2.75” #4 Buckshot 21-pellet
3) Winchester Universal 2.75” #8 Birdshot
The test gun is a Remington 870 Express with an 18.5” cylinder bore (no choke) barrel. The test medium was a single, water-soaked phonebook (see the page “Phone Book Ballistics”). We fired all shots at 7 yards.
First, lets look at the 00 buck… on the entry…
… and on the exit, it looks like all of the pellets fully penetrated the book without hesitation. They sure made a mess of mister ambulance chaser.
Next, lets look at the #4 buckshot… on entry…
… and on the exit, it looks like only a couple of pellets made it all of the way through. Most of them were stopped in the far back of the phone book. Not the best penetration, but I still consider this adequate considering that there are 21 of the darn things making 7”-9” puncture wounds in your enemy all at the same time. Many of these will still reach the vital areas needed to stop the attack.
And now, lets see what the #8 birdshot did to it… on entry…
… notice how I didn’t post an image of the exit side? Though the birdshot made a really ugly entry wound, not one single pellet made it through the book. Actually, the deepest pellets were found less than half way through… equating to maybe 4”-5” of total penetration. And, this is at only 7 yards. What do you think will happen at 15 yards? Unless your goal is to merely disfigure your attacker, make them mad at you for injuring them, or the attacker is just a rabid squirrel, this is not useful defensive ammo in my humble opinion.
When choosing your defensive shotgun ammo, remember that you can’t rely on pain infliction or intimidation alone to stop an attack. In many cases, the attacker has lost the capacity for rational thought. They may be juiced up on drugs, adrenaline, psychotic delusions, or all of the above. In my limited knowledge of trauma medicine, only two things stop attackers reliably.
1) Blood loss, which can take anywhere from seconds to minutes to hours, and
2) Disrupting the central nervous system, which entails brain/spinal trauma.
These are the only things that guarantee the attacker will stop. Other factors in so-called “stopping power” such as energy transfer, shock, pain, fear, broken bones, severed limbs, etc… may also stop an attacker. However, they do not do so with any level of consistency. So please, try to choose ammo that is designed for the animal you are using it on… and save the birdshot for the birds.