Whether you’re looking for your next home defense gun or something to go hunting with in the woods, it pays for you to know the differences between the different kinds of shotgun shells available in each gauge of shotgun.
The below article discusses just that, with examples of each for your reference.
Buckshot VS Birdshot VS Slug:
There are a few differences between the various shotgun shells. Foremost is the size and number of projectiles being shot. Birdshot shoots a lot of small pellets, buckshot shoots less projectiles that are bigger, and slugs shoot one projectile that is usually the diameter of the bore.
Each type of shot shell projectile is meant to do something different. Let’s discuss further.
What is birdshot used for?
Birdshot is generally used for hunting birds and other small game animals, like squirrel and rabbit. It can also be used for training purposes because it is generally easier to shoot and is, at least most of the time, less money.
Here is an old photo of mine after cutting open an old bird shot shell:
Is birdshot good for home defense?
Birdshot is usually only something that should be used by people who cannot, for one reason or another, use buckshot for home defense, or have no other option to.
In the case of not having any other type of shotshell to use, birdshot is certainly better than nothing. However, it would not be my first choice and it should not be yours unless you have medical issues preventing you from shooting buckshot.
Then again, there are plenty of low recoil buckshot options that are still better than birdshot as an option.
Is birdshot lethal at close range?
It can be, depending on several different factors. Is it lethal to birds and small game like squirrel? Yes, absolutely. Is it lethal to an attacker meaning to do you harm? Maybe, but I wouldn’t trust my life to it stopping an attacker.
There are many stories out there of burglars getting hit with birdshot and fleeing. I even remember a story where one burglar was shot twice in the same night by the same shotgun because he went back to finish the job he started.
Don’t get me wrong here, getting hit with birdshot is no fun and it varies by shot because there are many different kinds and types of birdshot. The stuff you use for turkey is totally different than the stuff you’d use on pheasant.
What is buckshot used for?
Buckshot is generally used to hunt bigger game animals like deer, and is also an excellent choice for use in a home defense shotgun when paired with the right ammo.
Is buckshot good for home defense?
Yes, buckshot is good for home defense. In terms of a home defense shotgun, using buckshot is the best ammo you can use. The pellets are big enough and have the necessary velocity to stop an attacker.
What are slugs good for?
A shotgun slug is essentially a single, heavy piece of lead that is usually the size of the bore (barrel) and is meant to help the shotgun reach out further than traditional shot allows, and take bigger animals for hunting.
Some slugs are rifled to help stabilize the bullet in flight (the stabilization happens before it leaves the barrel as the rifling helps it rotate), which help them travel even further with greater accuracy.
All of the major gauge shotguns, so 12 gauge, 20 gauge, etc., have slugs manufactured by the ammo companies. I have a Mossberg 500 that, when scoped, can hit man-size targets with ease at 100 yards with the right slugs.
Are slugs good for home defense?
My first choice for a home defense shotgun load with be 00 Buckshot, but the slugs would certainly work in a pinch, and would be my second pick before birdshot.
Finally, I’d feel that I did you a disservice if I didn’t at least speak about the role your shotgun’s choke plays.
What is a shotgun choke and what role does it play?
A shotgun choke is a small device that screws into the muzzle of your barrel to adjust how far the pellets spread out at any given distance.
Not all types of shot shells work with all types of chokes.
In other words, your choke will dictate which kind of shotgun ammo you can fire through your gun.
Most shotguns have an interchangeable choke that can be unscrewed from the barrel to allow a different diameter choke that allows for a different spread.
Then again, some shotguns don’t utilize a choke at all. That really depends on the age and type of shotgun you have. For example, my single shot 20 gauge does not have a choke, but my Mossberg 500 does.