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Shotgun Ammo For Home Defense | Buckshot VS Birdshot



Feature | Double shotgun and ammo | Shotgun Ammo For Home Defense | Buckshot vs Birdshot

With the shotgun being one of the best firearms to defend your home with, it becomes inevitable to discuss which shotgun ammo is better for the job.

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In this article:

Shotgun Ammo | Which Load Is Best for Home Defense

Buckshot vs Birdshot Comparison

What is the best shotgun ammo for home defense? The shotgun is one of the most popular firearms for home defense.

Of course, we all want something powerful and easy to use when we talk about home protection. With all the crazy things happening everywhere, it is only natural to find a way to defend our family and home.

Our family's safety is something we cannot risk, which is why I'm here to help you today with the ideal tactical shotgun ammo types to use. Let's take a look at the difference between buckshot and birdshot and how it impacts your home defense ammunition.

Learn the differences between buckshot and birdshot ammunitions and decide which is best for your home's protection.


The sheer devastating power of buckshot 12-gauge ammo types is one of the most convincing arguments of using a shotgun for home defense. The shells are loaded with a volley of small lead pellets.

12-Gauge Definition: Refers to the total number of lead balls that equals in weight to one pound for the particular bore diameter.

Each pellet in a shell of double-aught buckshot is 0.33 inches in diameter. Think of 9 pellets and about 32 or 33-caliber, a buckshot will penetrate multiple walls inside your house just like shooting a 380 automatic or a 9 millimeter.

It may not be a problem if you're living alone or out in the woods. But if you have family members in the house or neighbors close by, penetration will be a serious problem.


Birdshot for home defense, with its very small BBs, tends to under penetrate. This doesn't mean they're ineffective against an unarmed bad guy.

Experiments have shown a buckshot and birdshot being virtually equally effective at close range. A 12-gauge shotgun loaded with a number 8 birdshot for home defense will absolutely protect you and your family.

RELATED: A Pump Shotgun For Home Defense; Is It The Right Choice For You?

5.11 Tactical Shotgun Ammo Pouch, Black
  • Reliable slicks tick/molle shotgun shell holder. Overlapping elastic top keeps rounds secure
  • 5” H x 4.75” L x 2.5” D main compartment
  • Zippered access compartment

Shot Comparison

Two shots were made with a Remington 870 shotgun which is typical for a home defense shotgun nowadays. At 5 yards, which is just across the room, the number 8 birdshot covers a larger area while the buckshot had its bigger pellets spread out a little bit.

At these distances, both buckshot and birdshot shotgun shells will be very lethal. In the case of a birdshot, the majority of the wound is clustered right in the middle causing a rathole effect.

This is where a large portion of the shot actually goes through, causing a very significant wound.

Adaptive Tactical Shotgun Receiver Mounted Shell Carrier Holds 6 Rounds of 12 Gauge Amoo for Remington 870 1100
  • Securely holds six 12ga shotgun shells in durable, flexible carrier, Rapid access design reduces chances of snagging
  • Non-glare, heavy-duty construction, Keep shells close to the receiver for faster reloads
  • Streamlined, lightweight design features shaped mounting plate which fits closely to the receiver’s contours


Learn more about the difference between buckshot and birdshot for home defense in this video from fmgpubs:

The experiment clearly showed both shotgun ammunitions would more likely stop any threat you have. Both shotgun ammo types have devastating power capable enough of performing in defense situations.

However, an important factor to consider is using the birdshot ammo won't over penetrate and pass through two or three walls. Compared to using the buckshot ammo with solid 32-caliber, this can easily endanger your family members or even your neighbors.

Hopefully, with this information, you can better decide which is a better choice for your shotgun ammo home defense.

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What do you think about this buckshot and birdshot comparison for home defense? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Shotgun Ammo For Home Defense | Buckshot vs Birdshot |

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. Old Submariner

    January 26, 2018 at 11:53 AM

    I used an Ithica Mod. 37, 12 ga. for years. Consider it my best home defense weapon because of the layout of the house. If intruder gets to our bedroom, we have no place to go. The night light makes a perfect silhouette in the doorway. Distance from barrel says that the buckshot is going to take him out without collateral damage to walls. Just the wife & I & at 82, retired military, I’m not about to screw around waiting to see what his intentions are!

  2. Michael Shutek

    January 22, 2018 at 7:36 AM

    When everyone talks about shot gun loads it is either buckshot or the small shot that is used for birds. I always used # 6 for everything, good in high brush for rabbits and the distance for squirrels. In my gun I load #6 then slug(1 oz of lead) then #6 then slug(1 oz of lead). That will stop anything that lives.

  3. JJM

    January 21, 2018 at 4:24 PM

    Better representation would be a series of drywall sections behind each other to effectively demonstrate differences in penetration. I prefer #4 shot with good penetration and plenty of pellets and spread. Where’s the blunderbuss for the owner who just woke up or can’t hit the side of a barn?

  4. Noe

    January 21, 2018 at 2:57 PM

    Perhaps a #6 shot would be a good alternative.

  5. Chuck Crsmer

    January 21, 2018 at 12:58 PM

    By all means use a shotgun of any gauge or caliber to defend yourself and family during a home invasion it is the ultimate point and click weapon at close range. The louder the racking sound of a round (even if you haven’t a shell) will make anyone back off.

  6. Mr. Shadow

    January 15, 2018 at 5:23 AM

    #4 shot suitable for Turkeys, not #4 Buckshot…a rarity, or #6 Field Loads, delivered out of Cylinder Bore will hammer any turkeys that break into your home, and minimize over-penetration risk.
    If the offending turkey is heavily dressed, #8 Target & Bird Loads may not do the job…unless delivered to the turkey’s face and head.
    Personally, #6 are the first two out; then, 00 or 0 Buckshot to follow.
    I pity the fool.
    Also, GAWDFAHBID that you wind up in court, criminal or civil, over a home defense shooting…
    shot loads first are clear indicators of NO PRIOR LETHAL INTENT.
    This also applies to handguns when out and around in Turkey Territory.
    My drill is inverse of the usual; two shot loads to the face and head (takes out the control tower).
    Then, two solid copper frags to Center Mass…if the turkey keeps coming, or not.
    But, that’s just me.

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