Buckshot and Birdshot Put to the test

June 8, 2010
By Jason Wimbiscus
If you spend way too much time on internet shooting forums like I do, you’ll notice a fairly common topic of conversation to be the value of birdshot loads for self defense.  I’m not going to pretend to be a tactical expert when I’m really just a guy who likes to fire guns at blocks of jelly, but I can’t help but notice that many of the comparisons I’ve seen  between buckshot and birdshot pitted a 00 buck load against a dove/quail birdshot load.  I began to wonder how other, stouter, birdshot loads would compare to the tried and true 00 buck.  So, I cast the remainder of my ballistics gel into some plastic containers, placed two layers of denim over them and opened up with a selection of turkey, waterfowl and small buckshot loads. All shots were taken at a distance of approximately 15 feet using a modified choke in my Mossberg 835.

Remington 2.75″ 00 Buck

First, I established a sort of control using a Remington 2.75″ 12 pellet load of 00 Buck.  Predictably, the pellets went right through the 15″ gel block and buried themselves in the backstop.  It’s hard to argue with that kind of performance.

Cross section of the 00 buck cavity

Federal 3.5 Strut Shok 2 oz #6

I decided to get the Federal 3.5″ turkey load over with second.  These rounds hold 2 ounces of #6 shot and kill on both ends.  The pellets penetrated about 10″ into the block, mangling it in the process.  I certainly wouldn’t want to get hit in the chest (or anywhere else) with 2 oz of #6 shot.  However, I imagine that the miserable amount of recoil produced by these turkey loads would limit their usefulness for self defense.  Recoil makes a quick follow-up shot virtually impossible.

From Top: The entry “wound” created by the 3.5″ turkey load;

Cross Section of the cavity created by the turkey load

Federal 3″ Black Cloud Size BB
Next up was Federal’s Black Cloud #BB steel waterfowl load.  The 3″ sends 1 ¼ oz of shot downrange at 1450 f/s.  While some of the pellets stopped in the 12″ block, many of them penetrated completely with a few even making it through the 5/8″ plywood at the face of the backstop.  The channel in the gel was large and ragged.

From Top:  Entry point of the #BB Black Cloud load; Black cloud cavity cross section
Size F Buck Handload

Last up was a XXpellet load of small #F buckshot that I handloaded into a standard Win AA hull and wad.  Size F buck pellets are each .22″ in diameter, which means I can potentially pack a lot of them into a 2.75″ or 3″ hull.  All but a few of the pellets went right through the   12″ gel block, disappearing into the backstop.  The diameter of the cavity is actually wider than that of the 00 Buck.

From Top: #F Buck Entry; #F Buck cavity cross section

So far, it seems that at close range, such as those across the average bedroom, buckshot provides deeper penetration, but birdshot will turn a wide, shallower section of material into hamburger.

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