Shotgun Penetration With Various Rounds

I’ve scraped this from commentator Montana Bound’s post on the most excellent shotgunworld.com, where it was attributed to a dead link. “All of these shots were taken from a known distance and angle into bare Ordinance Gelatin in a controlled environment. This does not take into consideration the effects clothing, weather, range, temperature, cover, or body structure.”

#8 Birdshot

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#8 Remington Heavy Dove out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum

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First three inches of permanent wound cavity were completely destroyed. Little to no temporary stretch cavity effects were observed.

Small sized birdshot such as this #8 heavy dove load is a poor choice for deployment with a tactical shotgun. Wounds inflicted from birdshot tend to be gruesome yet shallow as they lack the penetration required to reach vital cardiovascular or central nervous system structures.

#5 Birdshot

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2¾ Kent Tungsten Matrix #5 Birdshot

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Closeup of the shot cloud and temporary stretch cavity.

The dark area on the left side of the photograph represents totally shredded gelatin.

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Shallow yet massively shredded entrance tract.

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Entrance hole

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Entrance hole.

Designed as a better performing alternative to steel wetland bird loads, Tungsten Matrix is an exotic shotgun projectile material that has an even higher density than lead. It’s high density was what interested us in it’s possible application as a tactical shotgun load.

While this load’s penetration looks impressive as compared with the much larger #1 shot tungsten matrix load, it needs to be interpreted in the context of the calibration bb’s greater penetration. Temperature outside was a little warmer than it should have been when we shot this block and it was the last block of a relatively long string. As a result, this gelatin block exhibits slightly more elasticity than our standard blocks and consequently deeper penetration.

Small sized birdshot such as this #5 Tungsten Matrix load is a poor choice for deployment with a tactical shotgun. Wounds inflicted from birdshot tend to be gruesome yet shallow as they lack the penetration required to reach vital cardiovascular or central nervous system structures.

#4 Birdshot

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#4 Remington Heavy Dove out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum

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Significant crushing of tissue evident as with all birdshot, however minimal penetration limits the effectiveness of small shot as a tactical round except at ultra short range.

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Perspective of the shredded gelatin block.

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Slightly more perspective.

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Closeup of the entrance “hole”.

Small sized birdshot such as this #4 heavy dove load is a poor choice for deployment with a tactical shotgun. Wounds inflicted from birdshot tend to be gruesome yet shallow as they lack the penetration required to reach vital cardiovascular or central nervous system structures.

#2 Birdshot

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Remington Express #2 birdshot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

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Average penetration of 9.5 inches was observed.

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Perspective on the entrance holes and wound tract.

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More perspective on the entrance hole.

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Closeup of the entrance hole.

Tested was a 2¾ inch load of #2 Remington Express Birdshot fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

Small sized birdshot such as this #2 express load is a poor choice for deployment with a tactical shotgun. Wounds inflicted from birdshot tend to be gruesome yet shallow as they lack the penetration required to reach vital cardiovascular or central nervous system structures. For ultra close range applications (ie: inside your home) this load would likely be effective, however an operator should be prepared to follow up with larger shot in the event that additional force is required to stop a threat.

#1 Birdshot

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2¾ Kent Tungsten Matrix #1 Birdshot

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Closeup of the shot cloud and temporary stretch cavity.

The dark area on the right side of the photograph represents totally shredded gelatin.

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Slightly more perspective on the shallow yet massively shredded entrance tract.

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The three primary temporary stretch cavities were large; one tearing beyond the boundaries of our 9×9 test block.

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Closeup of the shredded gelatin at the entrance hole.

Designed as a better performing alternative to steel wetland bird loads, Tungsten Matrix is an exotic shotgun projectile material that has an even higher density than lead. It’s high density was what interested us in it’s possible application as a tactical shotgun load.

While approaching our minimum recommended penetration standard for an all around tactical shotgun load, this birdshot load just does not quite measure up. Consideration of this load should be limited to an application where an engagement is guaranteed to be very close range and overpenetration is a significant and unacceptable risk. In mitigating these risks it is important to recognize that birdshot loads are significantly handicapped as compared to buckshot loads in their capacity to create the deep permanent cavities required to damage either cardiovascular or CNS structures.

Lead BB

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2¾ Remington Express Lead BB

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For close range applications possibly the perfect balance between pellet count and pellet size?

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Aspect putting into perspective the entrance wound and the temporary stretch cavity tears

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Entrance hole illustrating the 6 lobed temporary stretch cavity.

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Large amounts of crushed tissue visible at the entrance wound extend approximately 6.5 inches into the block.

The entrance hole from the calibration bb is also visible.

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Cross section illustrating the spread of the shot as it travels through target media.

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Cross section of shot cloud.

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Cross section of shot cloud.

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Closeup of the cross section. Visible are the individual wound channels created by the bbs.

Likely a very effective close range tactical load.

Before lead shot was banned throughout most of North America for use on waterfowl, Lead BB was the load of choice for long range goose hunting. The same performance characteristics that made it so well suited for that application merit consideration when evaluating short range loads for your tactical shotgun. We feel lead BB has it’s place, being a reasonable balance of penetration and pellet count. That being said, it is not recommended for medium range work. #4 buckshot is the minimum pellet size we recommend for general tactical applications.

#4 Buckshot

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Federal Classic #4 buck shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum. The shot column struck a little low…this photograph was taken without the ruler to show the entire shot load.

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Temporary stretch cavity was approximately 10 inches long. Permanent crush cavities were on average 14.5 inches deep.

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Generally…#4 buck is the minimum shot size we recommend for all purpose tactical applications.

Up for observation was a 2¾ inch load of federal classic #4 buckshot fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

#4 buckshot is what we here at [dead link] consider the minimum all purpose buckshot load for tactical applications. It balances decent penetration with a higher projectile count; increasing your first round hit probability over both #1 buck and 00 buck at medium shotgun range. If all pellets strike the intended target (likely when utilized at closer range) #4 buckshot offers several times the effective wound channel creation capabilities over both #1 and 00 buck.

#4 Buckshot Magnum

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Federal Classic #4 plated magnum buck shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

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Impressive and consistent penetration of 15.5 inches was observed.

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Perspective on the entrance holes and wound tract.

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Given the 3 yard range, we were surprised the pattern had opened up as much as is evident in this photograph.

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Closeup of the entrance holes.

Tested was a 2¾ inch load of federal premium #4 plated magnum buckshot fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

#4 buckshot is what we here at [dead link] consider the minimum all purpose buckshot load for tactical applications. While a standard #4 buck load typically has a payload of 27 pellets, this magnum load from federal has 34. Not a load for the recoil sensitive.

#1 Buckshot

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2¾ Remington #1 Buckshot (16 pellet) shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 marine magnum

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In this shot, the temporary stretch cavity exceeded the elastic limits of our gelatin block and ruptured out the top and side. An additional shot was conducted into a second gelatin block below at a slightly increased range to measure the temporary stretch cavity.

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Overall penetration was approximately the same as the first shot, however the shot pattern was slightly larger at the 5 yard range as compared to the 3 yard range of the original shot.

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Perspective on the entrance wound of the 16 pellet load fired from 5 yards.

A 2¾ inch load firing 16 .30 cal pellets, this offering from Remington fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum exhibited excellent average penetration of approximately 16.5 inches. Temporary stretch cavity measured approximately 8.5 inches. Shot recovered exhibited minimal deformation.

In our opinion, this load is superior to 00 buck for selection as a tactical shotgun load. While exhibiting slightly less penetration, overall penetration is still acceptable and if all pellets strike their intended target there is potential to create approximately 77% more wound tract with the additional 7 pellets.

#00 Tactical Buckshot

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2¾ Remington Tactical Managed Recoil Buckshot (8 pellet) shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 marine magnum

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While this particular load patterned well in the test shotgun, surprising dispersion was noted in the gelatin media (one pellet was not even recovered). We speculate that is related to the moderate shot deformation observed in the pellets recovered.

This 2¾ inch load of Remington Tactical Managed Recoil 00 buckshot fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum surprised us with it’s considerable penetration of 20.5 inches. Temporary stretch cavity measured approximately 8.5 inches in length. Shot recovered exhibited some moderate deformation. The first 5 inches of the permanent crush cavities were all interconnected by tearing effected by temporary stretch.

Reduced recoil buckshot loads are becoming more and more popular they tend to pattern significantly tighter than the higher power loads in addition to being easier to shoot. Not as much a trade off in the penetration department as one might imagine, we would have no hesitations recommending this load for use in a defensive or tactical situation requiring buckshot.

#00 Buckshot (Federal Classic)

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Complete penetration and generally tighter wound tract pattern.

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Block #2 illustrating the resting place of all 9 pellets.

As compared to the Remington express load the pellets exhibited approximately 50% less dispersion withing the target media.

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Perspective of Block #2

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Perspective on the entrance hole and wound tract.

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Closup of the entrance hole.

Tested was a 2¾ inch Federal Classic load of 00 buckshot (9 pellets) fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

As with most unplated buckshot, some mild deformation of the shot was observed. We believe most of this deformation occurs during firing, and plays a large role in how the shot will pattern. We do not believe general deformation of the hardened lead pellets is significant with respect their performance in target media. We do believe federal’s wad configuration is superior to most others, and as a result most of their buckshot loads tend to pattern tighter than those of their competition. Patterning can vary greatly from shotgun to shotgun….the only way to know how your shotgun will perform with any given load combination is to get out and pattern it yourself. With our caveat out of the way, we will state that it has been our observation that federal buckshot loads typically pattern tightly across a large variety of different shotguns.

#00 Buckshot (Remington Express)

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Composite photograph illustrating total penetration of one round of Remington Express 00 unplated buckshot.

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The first block illustrating the temporary stretch cavity and the dispersion of the shot within the target media.

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Relatively uniform penetration of all 9 pellets was observed.

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Perspective on the entrance hole and wound tract.

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More perspective on the entrance hole.

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Closeup of the wad at it’s resting place in the first block.

Tested was a 2¾ inch Remington Express load of 00 buckshot (9 pellets) fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

As with most unplated buckshot, some mild deformation of the shot was observed. We believe most of this deformation occurs during firing, and plays a large role in how the shot will pattern. We do not believe general deformation of the hardened lead pellets is significant with respect their performance in target media.

#00 Buckshot (Federal Classic Magnum)

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2¾ Federal 00 Buck Magnum (12 pellet) shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 marine magnum

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Details of the large temporary stretch cavity and the entrance aspect.

The temporary stretch cavity measured approximately 11 inches in length

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Wider perspective of testing rig. 2 blocks of gelatin, each 17 inches long, were used for this test.

Up for observation was a 2¾ inch magnum load of federal 00 buckshot fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum. Considerable penetration on average of 20 inches was noted, with the temporary stretch cavity measuring approximately 11 inches. Shot recovered exhibited minimal deformation and we speculate this is due to both buffering and the unique wad configuration of this particular load. The first 6 inches of the permanent crush cavities were all interconnected by tearing effected by temporary stretch.

If excessive penetration is not an issue, performance as observed in this test would likely be strong in a tactical application.

Reduced Recoil Slug

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2¾ Remington Reduced Recoil 1oz Slug shot out of an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 marine magnum

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Total penetration of the load was longer than our gelatin photographing light fixture. As a result we photographed each block separately and spliced the two together for the first photograph. Here is a photo of the first block.

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The second gelatin block showing the slug and wad material.

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Closeup of the slug. You can how it has yawed slightly, however the proximity and similar orientation of the wad suggesting that tumbling of the slug is unlikely as it travels through the target media.

Because the slug is as wide as it is tall, it is difficult to determine tumbling via examination of the permanent wound channel.

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Cross section of the 1st gelatin block approximately 8.5 inches in. Visible are the large tears of the temporary stretch cavity.

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Slight perspective on the cross section.
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Closeup of the 3 lobed tears.

Wow! If you can live with the approximate 15 to 20 yard decrease in maximum range (85 yards as compared to approximately 100 with a full power slug), this load exhibits phenomenal penetrating capability…especially when you consider the projectile’s poor sectional density.

Reduced Recoil Slug (14″ Barrel)

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2¾ Remington Reduced Recoil 1oz Slug shot out of a 14 inch barreled Remington 870 hybrid. Our light table is not long enough to capture the full tract, thus the composite photograph.

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As with most slug testing, total penetration of the load was longer than our gelatin photographing light fixture. As a result we photographed each block separately and spliced the two together for the first photograph. Here is a photo of the first block.
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The first block rotated 90 degrees, illustrating with slightly more clarity the temporary stretch cavity.

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The second gelatin block showing the slug and wad material. In comparison to the same load fired out of an 18 inch barreled remington 870, the 4 inches of barrel length missing effects an overall penetration reduction of approximately 2.5 inches.

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Closeup of the slug….in this case the cardboard wadding wound up pressed into the back of the slug.

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Perspective on the entrance hole.

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The slug and wad combination extracted from the gelatin.

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Closeup of the recovered slug.

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Closeup of the recovered slug. Similarly to the same slug load fired from an 18 inch barreled 870, there was little to no slug expansion evident.

Evidence of the slightly lower muzzle velocity when fired from a barrel 4 inches shorter than our standard 18 inch test barrel is approximately 2.5 inches of total penetration reduction. Are the benefits of the reduced recoil slug and a short barreled shotgun worth this type of performance penalty? Our experience has been that on animals weighing less than 500 lbs there is nothing lacking at all in this slug/barrel length combination.

We highly recommend reduced recoil slugs, as they certainly are easier on the shoulder in practice and as such you are likely to practice more and feel more confident in your ability to hit. In our patterning exercises we also found these slugs to be very accurate across a wide variety of guns.

****NOTE**** Based on experience with a yearling cow we were requested by it’s owner to shoot, we DO NOT RECOMMEND REDUCED RECOIL SLUGS FOR DANGEROUS GAME OR ANIMALS THAT WEIGH MORE THAN 500lbs.

Foster Slug

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Composite photograph illustrating total penetration of a 1600fps Winchester foster styled slug.

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This photograph illustrates the deflection of the slug as it traveled through the target media…likely caused by the high degree of slug deformation observed.

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The slug only barely penetrated into the second block.

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A fragment of the slug was recovered at the very tail of the first block.

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Closeup of fragment and exit hole in the first block.

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Closeup of remaining slug…only about an inch into the second block.

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Perspective on the entrance hole.

Tested was a 2¾ inch Winchester regular foster styled slug fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

A 1 oz soft lead slug blazing out at approximately 1600 fps yielded some surprising observations in our ordinance gelatin. What makes the results surprising is when they are compared with those of the reduced recoil loads; the higher velocity of the regular loads (such as this one by Winchester) produce less penetration as far more energy is invested in deformation and deflection of the slug.

Brenneke R10 Slug

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Composited combined tracts of a 2¾ Brenneke R10 slug fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.

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As with most of our slug testing, total penetration of the load was longer than our gelatin photographing light fixture. As a result we photographed each block separately and spliced the two together for the first photograph. Here is a photo of the first block.

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Rotating the block to emphasis the temporary stretch cavity, note that it is significantly more developed and longer as compared to the regular foster style slugs we’ve tested.

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The second gelatin block showing the slug and affixed wad.

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Exposing the slug.

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Slug detail.

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Perspective on entrance.

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Entrance hole.

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Slug and wad combination as recovered from the gelatin.

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Significant expansion of the slug at it’s head.

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Detailed photograph of expanded slug head.

Brenneke slugs are frequently discussed as having significantly superior penetration characteristics as compared to other high velocity slugs. Our gelatin testing support these claims and uncovers some other interesting performance characteristics that merit consideration when selecting a slug.

The nose design of these slugs is such that very controlled expansion occurs with the slug retaining 97% of it’s original mass. The slight expansion and geometry of the expanded head are such that as the slug travels through target media it cuts a larger diameter wound tract. As compared to most regular foster styled slugs cast/swagged from soft lead, the brennekes are manufactured from a harder alloy that largely accounts for the slug holding together better at the higher velocities.

When pushed in the neighborhood of 1600 fps, the softer lead slugs tend to deform significantly; losing their penetrating potential as the slug either expands so much as to present huge cross sectional area or breaks up into smaller, less efficient fragments. As the brennekes hold together better, they are a more appropriate slug when deep penetration in dangerous game is required.

International Frangible Slug

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2¾ International Frangible slug fired from an 18 inch barreled Remington 870 Marine Magnum.
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Primarily designed as a non lead training round with minimal ricochet or spatter potential, these rounds are designed to disintegrate on impact.

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Perspective on the entrance hole.

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Closeup of the entrance hole.

Likely an excellent load for those concerned with over-penetration in a crowded urban environment while still needing the relative accuracy associated with a single projectile, we’d have no reservations endorsing this load as a medium range precision 12 gauge round.

This being said, poor penetration characteristics of the slug should be taken into serious consideration.