Defensive Shotgun Ammunition to Keep in Stock

The best shotgun loads for defensive work is a contentious subject, but there are a few absolutes. Here’s our advice on what to stock.

Defensive Shotgun Ammunition to Keep in Stock

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Shotguns were once seen as the pinnacle of home defense firearms but have since been demoted to the rank of “used to be good” by many gun owners. In reality, shotguns are versatile weapons deserving of a place in your gun safe. Shotguns aren’t only for waterfowl hunting or ventilating empty cans at the range — they’re absolutely for home defense, not to mention the law enforcement applications. Here’s what you need to know about shotguns and the related home-defense ammunition to keep in stock for customers.


Home Defense Details

Choosing a shotgun for defensive use is a process that’s undergone quite a bit of debate over the years. At one time, the 12-gauge was considered the only possible choice, but then opinions swung the other way and people decided you were better off with a .410 bore due to over-penetration risks through walls and doors. What you need to know about overpenetration is this: Any bullet or pellet on the market can go through a barrier in your home. However, to date there have been no known cases of an innocent family member being killed by an over-penetrating bullet or pellet during a home defense situation. What there have been are countless cases of a perpetrator being shot with poorly selected ammunition, from different gauges and bores of shotguns, and walking off under their own power to attack someone else another day. Ammunition selection matters, as does an understanding of what your gun can and cannot do.

One of the masters of the gun world when it comes to defensive shotgun use is firearms instructor Tom Givens. Givens teaches a number of classes on various topics, but it’s his Defensive Shotgun course that might be the most useful and informative of all. Taking Defensive Shotgun means you have access to vital details, such as how to properly pattern your home defense shotgun. Different loads will pattern in varying ways, which makes generalizations risky, but the bottom line is that a 12-gauge shotgun fired the distance of the average living space in a residence is going to impact its target like a large bullet. Givens doesn’t recommend slugs for home defense, in part because 00 Buck is only going to spread perhaps four inches when fired the length of a bedroom, which means it’s going to have the same effect as a slug, only bigger and better. Shotguns are neither spray-and-pray firearms nor point-and-shoot ones. Shotguns used for defense require precise aiming and familiarity with the capabilities of the gun and its loads. What you want to keep in stock are reliable, consistent 12-gauge shotgun loads from reputable manufacturers.


Federal Premium Personal Defense Force X2 12-Gauge 00 Buckshot

Federal has a long history of designing and producing good defensive ammunition, and their Force X2 loads are a good example. The Federal Premium Personal Defense Force X2 load is for 12-gauge shotguns and is specifically meant for self-defense use. It’s a 2 3/4-inch, 00-buckshot load containing nine 32-caliber pellets made to break into two segments upon impact. Those segments can then create 18 wound channels in the target, increasing its effectiveness while simultaneously reducing over-penetration risks. The pellets are copper-plated lead, and the manufacturer-listed muzzle velocity is 1,250 feet per second.

Aside from the segmented pellets, what sets the Force X2 load apart from others is its manageable recoil. Federal developed this ammunition for more manageable recoil, which translates to the ability to make follow-up shots faster and more accurately. Getting back on target quickly so you can shoot until the threat stops is a significant selling point.

According to Federal’s testing, this load can spread to approximately 12 inches at a distance of 20 yards, but this depends on the length of the barrel and the choke used. Always encourage customers to do their own testing so they can be confident they know what to expect.


Hornady Critical Defense 12-Gauge 00 Buckshot

Although this is not a new load from Hornady, it is one that shouldn’t be left out of a defensive shotgun ammunition roundup. Hornady’s entire Critical Defense line performs well for self-defense purposes, whether through a rifle, handgun or shotgun. The Hornady Critical Defense 12-gauge 00-buckshot load is 2 ¾ inches in length and contains eight 33-caliber pellets. Muzzle velocity is listed by the manufacturer at 1,600 feet per second but has tested with a muzzle velocity over 1,800 feet per second.

This load includes Hornady’s Versatite wad technology to facilitate a smaller spread through a variety of shotguns. The Versatite wad is made to produce those tighter patterns with no need for barrel modifications or aftermarket chokes on factory shotguns. It’s also designed to cycle in both semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, which isn’t something that can be said of all defensive shotgun loads. This is a top-performing load from a respected ammunition manufacturer and a good choice for home defense.


Winchester Defender 12-Gauge 00 Buckshot

Winchester’s Defender shotgun load — not to be mistaken for the PDX1 Defender, which contains a 1-ounce rifled slug — is made for 12-gauge shotguns with a 2 3/4-inch chamber. It’s made with a black hull and full of nine 00-buckshot copper-plated pellets. Engineers at Winchester created the wad used in this load to help the pellets stack reliably and pattern consistently. This defensive load is also made for more manageable recoil for faster target acquisition. Muzzle velocity is listed by the manufacturer as 1,145 feet per second. The Defender is also offered for 20-gauge shotguns.

If your customers are interested in a shotgun load with a slug, take a closer look at Winchester PDX1 Defender. The PDX1 for 12-gauge shotguns is loaded with three Grex-buffered, copper-plated 00 buckshot pellets and a 1-ounce rifled slug. Muzzle velocity is listed as 1,150 feet per second. A second PDX1 option for 12-gauge shotguns is made using only the rifled slug. This line is available in 12-gauge, 20-gauge and 410.


Fiocchi Defense Dynamics 00 Defense

Fiocchi Defense Dynamics 00 Defense is marketed as being for both home defense and target use. This is a good detail to discuss because users should be practicing with their chosen home defense loads. Yes, it costs more than running only inexpensive target loads, but since home defense ammunition does not perform identically to the average target load, customers need the trigger time. Recoil, feeding, and shot placement can all vary, so encourage shoppers to take the time to train with their defensive ammunition.

This load is for 12-gauge shotguns and is 2 ¾ inches in length. The hull is loaded with nine 00-buckshot pellets. The powder used by Fiocchi in these shotshells is formulated specifically for a cleaner burn while producing consistent pressure. Pellets are carefully produced with a uniform size and shape for superior performance, and the wad is made to deliver tight, on-target hits with minimal pellet deformity. The manufacturer’s listed muzzle velocity is 1,250 feet per second. These are marketed as low-recoil, meaning shoppers should be aware they may not cycle reliably in all semi-automatic shotguns.


Lightfield Home Defender Less Lethal 12-gauge

For those interested in a less-lethal option for home defense shotguns, there’s Lightfield. The Lightfield Home Defender Less Lethal 12-gauge shotshell is made for 2 3/4-inch chambers and contains a 75-grain rubber slug. The projectile is a rubber star slug packed tightly into the top of the shotshell and designed to expand into what is similar to an anemone shape when fired. It measures approximately 1.25 inches in diameter and is made with a low overall mass. According to the manufacturer, it has a muzzle velocity of 850 feet per second and muzzle energy of 120 foot-pounds. It will lose its effective energy when fired at a target further than 15 yards away.

When fired at close range, these rubber slugs can cause injuries spanning a broad spectrum. Possible injuries may be as minor as welts or bruises or as serious as broken bones or death. Users should remember that with specific shot placement, any projectile can be fatal. Severity of injuries depends on the size and build of the target, clothing worn at the time, and where the slug impacts the target. Shooters intending to use less-lethal shotgun loads should be aware they may or may not effectively stop a threat.


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