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Why I Choose Buckshot for Home Defense

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April 13, 2012
Why I Choose Buckshot for Home Defense - 19

You often hear people say, “The shotgun is the ultimate home-defense firearm,” but many don’t seem to know why. Such folks assert, “The sound of a pump-action being cycled is enough to scare off most intruders.”

Yes, a rational person would hear that unmistakable metallic shunk and go running -- but can we assume the person who just kicked our door down is of sound mind? And, perhaps more importantly, if a truly prepared homeowner cycles his pump-action, it will eject a shell.

There are a variety of reasons to select a gun for home-defense (and the shotgun isn’t right for everyone), but its advantages are made obvious with a little math. So I crunched the numbers for you. 

It made my head hurt, but I came up with some really intriguing figures. Using the formula Energy =.5 x Mass x Velocity ^ 2, here are comparisons of close-range terminal energies, averaged across a wide range of bullet sizes and velocities.

.45 ACP – 400-450 ft./lbs.

9mm Luger – 330-350 ft./lbs.

.380 ACP – 200 ft./lbs.

.223 Rem. – 1300 ft./lbs.

.30-’06 – 2900 ft./lbs.

12-gauge, 9 pellets 00 buckshot (1.107 ozs.) – 1547 ft./lbs.

So, why is the shotgun so effective? It’s equivalent to four simultaneous rounds of .45 ACP. And, get this, each individual .33-caliber, 53.8-grain 00 buckshot pellet packs about 172 foot/pounds—not much less than a round of .380 ACP.

Clearly the average deer rifle packs a heavy wallop, as evidenced by the .30-’06 example. But I wouldn’t call it the most practical choice.

The .223 Remington stacks up pretty well, lending credence to the increased popularity of the AR-15 platform as a home-defense gun. The shotgun, however, arguably delivers more of its energy to the target due to the high surface area of its payload.

That’s one of the reasons my home is protected by 12-gauge buckshot.

What type of firearm do you keep for home defense? Why did you choose it?

Comments (19)

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from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

One thing everyone needs to understand about home intrusion, is these folks are coming into your home, KNOWING YOU ARE HOME! That tell us, they INTEND TO HURT OR KILL YOU! If you shoot to wound, they will likely sue you and win, for pain and suffering. Dead intruders don't usually sue. Non-violent burglars will usually wait until they are sure you AREN'T HOME, before entering. But if they are armed and you surprise them, you still may face a life and death situation.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Along with Buckshot rounds, I'd keep a dozen slugs around as well, in case you need to really thump someone or something. Some intruders (the ones who do it regularly), may resort to bullet-proof vest. Even with a trauma plate employed, that slug makes a very nasty bruise on the vest wearer and get his/her attention, better than any shot round. After you've knocked him/her down, then you can take your time for place the next shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

DSMbirddog in response to your ideal that a shotgun will have a wider pattern in a home defense, more likely to hit. I respectfully disagree when talking about an inside encounter. Most inside encounters will happen within 10' - 15' which my shotgun still has a pattern of only a couple inches. It isn't until you get into ranges of 20' or further that you see that pattern open up. Still the "shattergun" for home defense is a better choice for one or 2 intruders. 3 or more and I'd go for the AR/AK style weapon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Birdshot shot through a sheet rock wall, will loose it's energy much faster than heavier buckshot, and if you don't want external wall penetration, a good choice, but if you end up trading rounds with the invader from cover, the heavy shot is a better choice. This does give me a new project testing shot penetration. Most testing is done with no space between the sheet rock or plywood, but what if you have 2 or 3 feet in between the sheets?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Your birdshot rounds are good in an emergency, but I still prefer the heavier buckshot - '00' or '000' buck, or even 4 Buck in a pinch. Buckshot will usually produce a fatal wound with the 1st shot, and retain more energy as it enters the body or if you have to shot through sheet-rock and/or 2x4's and plywood. But even buckshot, once it goes through an internal wall, loses a lot of its energy, i.e. not likely to penetrate neighbors' ext. walls.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from A3214 wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

I have a mossberg 590 with a cable lock loaded with 4 rounds and the key next to my bed. I have dogs down stairs and would be awakened. I can unlock the gun, get the necessary sound and have 4, 00 buck rounds ready. I also have a Beretta 92 very close at hand with a 15 round mag, and it isn't locked, just there isn't a round in the chamber. I would opt for the shotgun, but occasionally we have small children in the house and would not feel comfortable keeping it loaded without the chamber loaded and a cable lock. The beretta, takes a strong person to pull back the slide and then figure out the safety. Much less of a hazard, just in case one finds my firearm, which is secured during the day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from riodot wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Yes - Buckshot penatrates but so does birdshot. I'm a Hunter Ed Instructor and we do demonstrations for our students to show just that type of situation. A shotun going off in a house. Birdshot will penatrate 4 sheets of drywall and keep going into the 5th (thats through two rooms) and buckshot goes through 6 sheets of drywall and still busts up a concrete block behind the drywall. In a house I think birdshot is a better choice but don't kid yourself - it's not stopped by the 2 sheets of drywall in the wall of a standard home.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buckshott00 wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I'm not going to disparage anyone's choices to defend themselves I am just happy for people to defend themselves.

I will however state what I use, and preface it with the fact that I am a bioengineer. I use #2 Buckshot(lead).

Here's why: out to about 10yds it's going to fly pretty close to 1 solid mass in a 7in circle. However, when it hits, all the energy is going to be expanded at once. It will still have 7-12 inch of penetration, but I am confident in my shooting ability to put them in the bad guy, so if some do go through they will be stopped by the dry wall and foam insulation in my house. I don't have many large rooms in my house so for home defense I'm not trying to make long shots.
Additionally, shot placement makes the single biggest factor in any shooting. In a stressful situation the pattern will buy you a factor of error (about 7in or so) #2buck still has enough shot to pattern out well while still leaving a fairly good sized wound channel. I can tell you this if an EMT or a ER-Doctor gets to you in time, and you have a hole in you or even a couple of holes in non-critical areas, if they get to you in time there is a good chance they can save you. If they get to you and your chest looks like hamburger, you've got no chance.

Thanks for letting me rant :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruger wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Just remember any buckshot that doesn't hit the intruder will go through the walls of your house.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blue Ox wrote 2 years 3 days ago

I wholeheartedly agree with the 12ga shotgun as a home defense weapon, especially loaded with buckshot. And while the telltale sound of a pump-action can unnerve any intruder, nothing can compare to the pants-$hittingly sinister growl of an angry 200+lb mastiff who knows you don't belong there...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 3 days ago

For those of you who read Capstick... he had an interesting take on this. The OO buckshot is a large projectile and it takes up a bit of space. As mentioned, only 9 pellets fit in the shell (3"?). Capstick favored #1 or #2 for thin skinned, dangerous game, up close and personal. His claim was that he could fit something like 30% to 40% more weight in the same volume, since the smaller pellets packed in better.
Of course, Pete's also the guy that liked the "chains" style payload in his shotgun. That is, all of the buckshot are soldered to a long piece of wire. Supposed to be devastating up close... and it won't penetrate any walls, either!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from HawkEye wrote 2 years 3 days ago

12 ga with 7 1/2 shot is more than adequate for in the home. Unless you live in a mansion with very large rooms! I have kids and I do not want over penetration.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DEADEYEDICK396 wrote 2 years 3 days ago

For a number of years I have avocated the use of a shotgun with 00 buckshot as the best home defense weapon. Pistols are OK but just about anyone can hit an intruder with a blast of buckshot. I personally use a defender with a few attachments (laser sights and a very powerful bright white light) I have taken my wife to the range so that she is proficient with it and to get her used to the recoil. I hope I never have to use it. Whenever I am asked what gun I would use for home defense I always answer, 12 guage with 00 buck just point and shoot

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Outwrite Outdoors wrote 2 years 3 days ago

All of the choices you listed are bad. A shotgun with buckshot is close, but buckshot can penetrate a wall, endangering the other occupants of your home.

Smaller shot, size 5-8, will work just as well in the shot distances needed for home defense. Within the few feet the shot would travel, it will put any intruder down, yet the smaller shot has less of chance of penetrating into the next room. If you have kids or others living in your house, it is the only responsible option.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 3 days ago

Both a .45 and a 12 gauge would be even better than just a 12 gauge =].

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from captjim wrote 2 years 4 days ago

For home defense you want the biggest, slowest, sluggish, bullet you can get. If someone comes at you with a knife and you shoot them with a 357 mag their momentum can keep coming at you and they could fall dead on top of you wielding the knife and the bullet could end up anywhere. A slow 45 slug will stop them in their tracks or even knock them backwards. The shotgun is the ultimate defense but it is not as easy to have handy like a pistol. If you have kids in the house then it gets even more complicated creating the de-lima of having a weapon handy vs child safety.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 4 days ago

12 ga buck shot is probably a better choice for the city dweller. Even 223 can go through the wall of a frame house and potential hit a neighbor. The pattern obtained from a shotgun using buck shot also greatly increases your chance of a hit in a stressful situation.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVCountryBoy wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Force of impact aside, I have always thought that you'd be more likely to hit the uninvited midnight caller with a pattern of multiple projectiles that with a single one. Know what I mean?

I think that accuracy would be negatively impacted when you factor in adrenaline + waking up from a dead sleep. So you'd be more likely to hit the bad guys at the end of the hall (in the dark) with a swarm of lead rather than one round of (insert caliber here). That's my reason for suggesting a shotgun anytime someone asks my opinion on the matter.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Hi...

I won't comment regarding any home defense weapons I might have...but I certainly agree with your opinion on the 12 guage shotgun...!!

Do you have any specs on 000 buckshot?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from WVCountryBoy wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Force of impact aside, I have always thought that you'd be more likely to hit the uninvited midnight caller with a pattern of multiple projectiles that with a single one. Know what I mean?

I think that accuracy would be negatively impacted when you factor in adrenaline + waking up from a dead sleep. So you'd be more likely to hit the bad guys at the end of the hall (in the dark) with a swarm of lead rather than one round of (insert caliber here). That's my reason for suggesting a shotgun anytime someone asks my opinion on the matter.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DEADEYEDICK396 wrote 2 years 3 days ago

For a number of years I have avocated the use of a shotgun with 00 buckshot as the best home defense weapon. Pistols are OK but just about anyone can hit an intruder with a blast of buckshot. I personally use a defender with a few attachments (laser sights and a very powerful bright white light) I have taken my wife to the range so that she is proficient with it and to get her used to the recoil. I hope I never have to use it. Whenever I am asked what gun I would use for home defense I always answer, 12 guage with 00 buck just point and shoot

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blue Ox wrote 2 years 3 days ago

I wholeheartedly agree with the 12ga shotgun as a home defense weapon, especially loaded with buckshot. And while the telltale sound of a pump-action can unnerve any intruder, nothing can compare to the pants-$hittingly sinister growl of an angry 200+lb mastiff who knows you don't belong there...

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen wrote 2 years 4 days ago

Hi...

I won't comment regarding any home defense weapons I might have...but I certainly agree with your opinion on the 12 guage shotgun...!!

Do you have any specs on 000 buckshot?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 4 days ago

12 ga buck shot is probably a better choice for the city dweller. Even 223 can go through the wall of a frame house and potential hit a neighbor. The pattern obtained from a shotgun using buck shot also greatly increases your chance of a hit in a stressful situation.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Outwrite Outdoors wrote 2 years 3 days ago

All of the choices you listed are bad. A shotgun with buckshot is close, but buckshot can penetrate a wall, endangering the other occupants of your home.

Smaller shot, size 5-8, will work just as well in the shot distances needed for home defense. Within the few feet the shot would travel, it will put any intruder down, yet the smaller shot has less of chance of penetrating into the next room. If you have kids or others living in your house, it is the only responsible option.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from HawkEye wrote 2 years 3 days ago

12 ga with 7 1/2 shot is more than adequate for in the home. Unless you live in a mansion with very large rooms! I have kids and I do not want over penetration.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 2 years 3 days ago

For those of you who read Capstick... he had an interesting take on this. The OO buckshot is a large projectile and it takes up a bit of space. As mentioned, only 9 pellets fit in the shell (3"?). Capstick favored #1 or #2 for thin skinned, dangerous game, up close and personal. His claim was that he could fit something like 30% to 40% more weight in the same volume, since the smaller pellets packed in better.
Of course, Pete's also the guy that liked the "chains" style payload in his shotgun. That is, all of the buckshot are soldered to a long piece of wire. Supposed to be devastating up close... and it won't penetrate any walls, either!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from captjim wrote 2 years 4 days ago

For home defense you want the biggest, slowest, sluggish, bullet you can get. If someone comes at you with a knife and you shoot them with a 357 mag their momentum can keep coming at you and they could fall dead on top of you wielding the knife and the bullet could end up anywhere. A slow 45 slug will stop them in their tracks or even knock them backwards. The shotgun is the ultimate defense but it is not as easy to have handy like a pistol. If you have kids in the house then it gets even more complicated creating the de-lima of having a weapon handy vs child safety.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Your birdshot rounds are good in an emergency, but I still prefer the heavier buckshot - '00' or '000' buck, or even 4 Buck in a pinch. Buckshot will usually produce a fatal wound with the 1st shot, and retain more energy as it enters the body or if you have to shot through sheet-rock and/or 2x4's and plywood. But even buckshot, once it goes through an internal wall, loses a lot of its energy, i.e. not likely to penetrate neighbors' ext. walls.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Birdshot shot through a sheet rock wall, will loose it's energy much faster than heavier buckshot, and if you don't want external wall penetration, a good choice, but if you end up trading rounds with the invader from cover, the heavy shot is a better choice. This does give me a new project testing shot penetration. Most testing is done with no space between the sheet rock or plywood, but what if you have 2 or 3 feet in between the sheets?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

One thing everyone needs to understand about home intrusion, is these folks are coming into your home, KNOWING YOU ARE HOME! That tell us, they INTEND TO HURT OR KILL YOU! If you shoot to wound, they will likely sue you and win, for pain and suffering. Dead intruders don't usually sue. Non-violent burglars will usually wait until they are sure you AREN'T HOME, before entering. But if they are armed and you surprise them, you still may face a life and death situation.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruger wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Just remember any buckshot that doesn't hit the intruder will go through the walls of your house.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buckshott00 wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I'm not going to disparage anyone's choices to defend themselves I am just happy for people to defend themselves.

I will however state what I use, and preface it with the fact that I am a bioengineer. I use #2 Buckshot(lead).

Here's why: out to about 10yds it's going to fly pretty close to 1 solid mass in a 7in circle. However, when it hits, all the energy is going to be expanded at once. It will still have 7-12 inch of penetration, but I am confident in my shooting ability to put them in the bad guy, so if some do go through they will be stopped by the dry wall and foam insulation in my house. I don't have many large rooms in my house so for home defense I'm not trying to make long shots.
Additionally, shot placement makes the single biggest factor in any shooting. In a stressful situation the pattern will buy you a factor of error (about 7in or so) #2buck still has enough shot to pattern out well while still leaving a fairly good sized wound channel. I can tell you this if an EMT or a ER-Doctor gets to you in time, and you have a hole in you or even a couple of holes in non-critical areas, if they get to you in time there is a good chance they can save you. If they get to you and your chest looks like hamburger, you've got no chance.

Thanks for letting me rant :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from riodot wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Yes - Buckshot penatrates but so does birdshot. I'm a Hunter Ed Instructor and we do demonstrations for our students to show just that type of situation. A shotun going off in a house. Birdshot will penatrate 4 sheets of drywall and keep going into the 5th (thats through two rooms) and buckshot goes through 6 sheets of drywall and still busts up a concrete block behind the drywall. In a house I think birdshot is a better choice but don't kid yourself - it's not stopped by the 2 sheets of drywall in the wall of a standard home.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from A3214 wrote 1 year 48 weeks ago

I have a mossberg 590 with a cable lock loaded with 4 rounds and the key next to my bed. I have dogs down stairs and would be awakened. I can unlock the gun, get the necessary sound and have 4, 00 buck rounds ready. I also have a Beretta 92 very close at hand with a 15 round mag, and it isn't locked, just there isn't a round in the chamber. I would opt for the shotgun, but occasionally we have small children in the house and would not feel comfortable keeping it loaded without the chamber loaded and a cable lock. The beretta, takes a strong person to pull back the slide and then figure out the safety. Much less of a hazard, just in case one finds my firearm, which is secured during the day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

DSMbirddog in response to your ideal that a shotgun will have a wider pattern in a home defense, more likely to hit. I respectfully disagree when talking about an inside encounter. Most inside encounters will happen within 10' - 15' which my shotgun still has a pattern of only a couple inches. It isn't until you get into ranges of 20' or further that you see that pattern open up. Still the "shattergun" for home defense is a better choice for one or 2 intruders. 3 or more and I'd go for the AR/AK style weapon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Maranatha Mark wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Along with Buckshot rounds, I'd keep a dozen slugs around as well, in case you need to really thump someone or something. Some intruders (the ones who do it regularly), may resort to bullet-proof vest. Even with a trauma plate employed, that slug makes a very nasty bruise on the vest wearer and get his/her attention, better than any shot round. After you've knocked him/her down, then you can take your time for place the next shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 3 days ago

Both a .45 and a 12 gauge would be even better than just a 12 gauge =].

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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