Now Tell Me That Birdshot is OK for Home Defense

Pumpkin peppered with number 6 birdshot and one shot of 00 buck (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

I journeyed to Best of the West the other day to test out a Lone Star Arms-modified Saiga 12 shotgun. The gun cycled Wally World number 6 birdshot like a champ. It did not, however, like Federal 00 buckshot. Well, the gun did. The magazines most decidedly did not. “The Saiga fires double-ought in SGM eight-round box mags and PRO MAG 12-round drums,” gunsmith Michael Rogers assured me. “Flawlessly.” The XXXL-size mags customer Tom brought to Liberty Hill were not feeding well. So we’re giving Lone Star a mulligan until Tom himself makes the scene with a mas macho VEPR 12. Or two. Meanwhile, a visual demonstration of the devastational difference between birdshot and buck. Click here to go to our Facebook page for the pumpkin demolition. And like us, please; we’re knocking on 10k.

comments

  1. Some #6 at under 20 feet would be DEVASTATING!!

    1. avatar Joseph says:

      To your furniture, home and possibly family members or pets as well. Bird Shot is not OK for home defense.

  2. avatar Adam says:

    Is bird shot deadly? Yes, but so is a big mac but there are better choices for home defense.

    1. avatar Nate says:

      It doesn’t mean you need those better choices. The chance you’ll need to use something is already low, and birdshot would be fine for most home invasions anyway.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        @Nate, you’ll have a lot more credibility if you don’t try to predict our future or tell us what we need.

        1. avatar Peirsonb says:

          .45 OR NOTHING!!!11one

          Sorry, thought this was a caliber war…..

          Anywho, I am big a big fan of the deterrent effect of a pump racking in the dark. That stance always gets me the question “what if the intruder isn’t scared?”

          To which my standard reply is “That’s what the buckshot is for….”

        2. avatar Swarf says:

          “Sorry, I thought this was a caliber war…”

          Not until Cletus the memo writer shows up. Or whatever his name is.

        3. avatar Taro Tsujimoto says:

          “Anywho, I am big a big fan of the deterrent effect of a pump racking in the dark.”

          I’d love to hear of an actual case of an intruder being scared off by the sound of a pump racking.

          I’m a fan of having a round chambered BEFORE the threat is in hearing distance. I’m sure the sound of a pistol slide being racked is discomforting as well, but I never hear people advocate waiting for a threat to materialize before you do that.

          Maybe Crimson Trace can make grips for pistols that have a sound chip in them that mimics a pump shotgun sound.

      2. avatar Accur81 says:

        I’ll take buckshot, thanks. There’s always #1 and #4 buck when over penetration is an issue. I’ve got slugs set up on a shell holder in the stock as well.

        1. avatar Pat says:

          #1 Buck is, well, #1 for shotguns.

      3. avatar ropingdown says:

        I can’t help but imagine Tippi Hedren under siege in her living room, valiantly fighting back, Perazzi in hands.

      4. avatar Pat says:

        As has been said many times, birdshot if for the birds.

      5. avatar Jill K says:

        @Nate You defend yourself with birdshot… those of us who don’t want to just piss off the bad guy, we’ll choose something a little better… like my 9mm

    2. avatar dwb says:

      hmmm. I have been toying with the idea of creating loads with confetti and glitter just for kicks (fired from a monster air cannon of my own design). I might have to load it up with some big macs to see how deadly they are, and if they are more deadly fired from 4″ schedule 40 PVC.

      1. avatar Denny says:

        Video at 10 please

      2. avatar Peirsonb says:

        I know a smith that has set up several defensive shotguns specifically for women. He told me one customer was worried about killing someone. So he built her a handful of rounds filled with black powder and sawdust….roughly a 30 foot flame thrower….

        Buckshot is definitely more humane…

        1. avatar adam n says:

          Isnt that w hat the point of a defense shotgun is? To stop the threat and not worry about their safety?

      3. avatar RLC2 says:

        I spoke to this smith on the phone several years ago while researching 870 vs Mossy and what to add to the weapon. http://aiptactical.com/
        i’ve tried to keep mine simple, according to his suggestions.

        He was very down to earth and patient with my noob questions, and said that I might find this suggestion odd, but he felt strongly that where you were concerned with the possibility of shooting someone you might regret- like a neighborhood teenager (cops have told me 70% of residential burglaries are by people who know the house- teenagers) or your own kid sneaking in drunk, then you should load the first shell in rubber shot.

        I listened carefully- his experience was his credibility.
        http://www.keepshooting.com/rubber-buckshot-12ga.html

        1. avatar Hasdrubal says:

          Sounds like a not terrible idea that has been ruined by lawyers. If your situation isn’t bad enough to justify regular ammo, then using less lethal out of a firearm will likely cost you either in criminal or civil court.

    3. avatar MacBeth51 says:

      Ever picked up the results? I have. #6 at twenty feet leaves a hole through a mans chest I can stick my hand through, in his back and out the front. And I have large hands. Tell someone who hasn’t seen it that it doesn’t work

      1. avatar KingSarc48265 says:

        People have frequently survived close range blasts of birdshot to the FACE. Birdshot is for birds. Check out http://www.boxoftruth.com, he even tests a shell loaded with dimes.

        1. avatar MacBeth51 says:

          The ones I hauled to the morgue didn’t. People have survived .45’s to the head, are you going to say their inadequate for self defense. I saw a video of a Taliban getting part of his skull blown of with an M4, and running off, and jumping a fence. And I’ve seen the blood run twenty feet across a parking lot, and out of sight down the gutter after a charge of bird shot to the chest. And it wasn’t the wad that did the damage

      2. avatar adam n says:

        by hole in the chest and out the back do you mean paper? There is no documented case of birdshot at 20 feet going through anything human sized. Ever. They get 2-3 inches of penetration on a good day. I dont know any 3 inch thick people, do you?

  3. avatar jwm says:

    That’s a mighty wide pattern of birdshot on that pumpking. Unless you live in Yankee Stadium the range is going to be less with less of a spread. In most apartments and a lot of houses the pattern will be one raggedy hole.

  4. avatar The Last Marine out says:

    Question are we talking two different shotguns?? Saiga and Vepr are two different makes, I reread not sure is this a factory model and modified model test??

    1. avatar Hasdrubal says:

      Very closely related, Saiga is built off an AK receiver, and VEPR is built off an RPK receiver, slightly stronger and heavier. Operating system is the same, but tolerances may be different and parts probably not interchangeable.

      A not too good parallel might be DPMS vs Armalite pattern AR-10 receivers, many of the parts don’t interchange and there’s no standard spec like for the AR-15, so even on the same pattern receiver, you can get substantially different guns.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        My bad. I referred to the test gun as a VEPR in the second sentence. Text amended.

  5. avatar benny says:

    i use birdshot because i live in an apartment. as much as i hate hearing procreation next door, id rather not send 00 buck through my wall, a walkway, and THEIR wall while correcting late night visitors. its a one bedroom, so its close enough that the birdshot will do its job.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      I live in California on a migratory bird route, so I use bird seed…..

    2. avatar Pat says:

      Benny, use #1 buck and don’t miss. Birdshot is for the birds. You want 10-12″ of penetration (with clothing) for two legged critters. Better judged by twelve than carried by six.

      1. avatar Taro Tsujimoto says:

        “Better judged by twelve than carried by six.”

        Where does accidentally killing a neighbor fit in?

        1. avatar Pat says:

          10-12″ of penetration (with clothing) is the first question regarding performance, and there is no way your flawed logic can escape that. Make sure you aim before you fire.

    3. avatar adam n says:

      you do know sheetrock wont stop birdshot right? This magic, no penetration round doesnt exist. You dont shoot unless you have too and you dont shoot unless you wont miss. You cant just go around blasting birdshot into the walls and feel safe.

    4. avatar Kevin in CO says:

      If birdshot will go completely through a 12″ thick body, why can’t it go through 1/2″ apartment drywall?

  6. avatar MentalCelt says:

    Go to Gunblast.com and watch his video on the lethality of birdshot. I feel he pretty much proves that, at most room sized scenarios, birdshot is quite effective.

    1. avatar The Last Marine out says:

      I read a news report years ago about a man being killed with 410 Ga. bird shot # 7 ,shot at 3 to 4 feet away…hit his heart.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Gunblast? I’ll bet Jeff said that it was a “joy to shoot.”

      1. avatar Jesse says:

        I was just thinking the same thing.

    3. avatar ropingdown says:

      I refuse to watch further reviews on Gunblast. Every time I heard “The Battle Cry of Freedom” I wanted to buy just one more item. That had to stop.

    4. avatar Pat says:

      MentalCelt, as long as your birdshot penetrates 10-12″ (with chothing) then it should be used.

      1. avatar MacBeth51 says:

        I’ve seen it go in the back, and come out the front of the chest, taking the heart with it. I’d say that was enough penetration. Real world. Real murder. Called in to testify. Nothing theoretical, nothing on the shooting range. All on the bar room floor

        1. avatar Pat says:

          410 Ga. birdshot #7 at 10 feet with man wearing heavy clothes? Sounds like 00 buck to me.

    5. avatar cyrano says:

      I just did a workup on watermelons and #4 birdshot and I offered TTAG the pictures with commentary. So far no takers. Bottom line… It is quite effective at room ranges, even with three layers of insulated coveralls.

      1. avatar Pat says:

        10-12+” (plus clothing) is effective. You are shooting humans, not birds.

        1. avatar MacBeth51 says:

          Ever seen anybody that was shot? I mean while they were still bleeding. Or draining as the case may be

        2. avatar Pat says:

          The penetration stats are clear for all to see on the various forums. You can choose what penetrates humans most effectively (without over penetration). You want roughly 10-14 inches with heavy clothing.
          If the stuff your talking about does that, then great.

  7. avatar Dave says:

    Birdshot is OK for Home Defense.

    1. avatar Pat says:

      Only if it penetrates 10-12″ (with clothing).

      1. avatar cyrano says:

        It does penentrate 24 inches with layers of clothing in the way.

        1. avatar Pat says:

          Then it over penetrates (huh). #1 Buck works best on humans (around a foot of penetration). Strange that #4 birdshot would have over twice the penetration of #1 Buck, don’t you? I thought the goal was to not over penetrate?

  8. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    I tried to decorate a pumpkin with my pistols and 00 buck. It didn’t work out very well.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      It helps if you hit the pumpkin LOL

    2. avatar Ing says:

      It helps if you use a rifle. Last year I made a pretty decent looking smack-o-lantern with my .22. Fun times. 🙂

  9. avatar S.CROCK says:

    birdshot is probably an ok choice for hd if you live in an apartment or are supper concerned about over penetration. if you don’t worry about over penetration, i don’t see a reason why you wouldn’t use #4 buck, or something even bigger.

  10. avatar ropingdown says:

    RF, as you no doubt already know, buckshot rounds and slugs (both nominally 2 3/4″) are usually not the same length. Try loading them in a “California Speedloader,” for example.) Shotgun shells in a detachable box magazine are more sensitive to the variation than in a tube magazine, in part because of the rim on the hull. With different length shells the top shell rim can catch on the rim of the one below it. Stick to your Benelli M4 when function really matters, please? After all, who’s going to edit if you get toasted? (No volunteers, please. That would be in bad taste….)

  11. avatar 505markf says:

    I know the gunsmith, Mike Rogers, or rather I do not know him personally, but interacted with him once at the range for a very interesting time. He re-makes and slicks up Saiga shotguns for LEOs and others. BUT he also makes some Saiga 12 gauges full auto. Yes, full auto. Go to lonestararms.com and look at some of his videos. They were shot at my local private gun club.

    Yes, the recoil is ferocious, but he dampens it somewhat with the stock which is sprung internally. He just showed up at the range one sunny day and walked up to my buddy and myself and asked if we wanted to shoot something interesting. Well, that word was an understatement. More like, “how would you boys like to experience a transcendent, Thor-like moment?”

    I only shot about three magazines before I was done, but my shooting buddy must have gone through 300 or more rounds. Eventually more people congregated from other parts of the range, which is common when an NFA gun lights off, but Mike was awesome – very nice, very professional, and exceedingly good at controlling a Saiga 12 in full auto. He asked everyone to shoot it as much as we wanted – he had 3 or 4 cases of Federal #4s – because he wanted to get it broken in nicely before an upcoming demo. My buddy had an astonishing bruise the next day, but couldn’t stop smiling.

    RF – if he only brought a semi-auto Vepr, he cheated you. 😉

    1. avatar Jesse says:

      I am stealing the “how would you boys like to experience a transcendent, Thor-like moment?” phrase.

  12. avatar ropingdown says:

    505: If, in the incredible excitement of such an opportunity, there was a chance you noticed: Did you take care that the shells were loaded in the magazine with the next shell rim forward of the one below for smooth feeding? Or does his handwork somehow make that a non-issue?

    1. avatar 505markf says:

      I don’t recall us doing anything special to load the magazines, which I thought held 7 or 12 rounds, both of which worked perfectly. But we weren’t shooting slugs, only birdshot. That said, the way the magazines curved almost required the rim of each round to be in front of the round beneath it. I did not use any of the larger drum magazines, though others did and those worked fine. Besides the one full-auto, Mike was also breaking in four more semi-auto Saigas, and all of those worked well. The only issue I remember is that if you didn’t really pull the shotgun back into your shoulder and get aggressive with your hold under recoil, they might jam, sort of like limp wristing some pistols (I remember thinking at the time).

      The semi-autos were truly nice weapons – much more than I could spend on a shotgun, but then he mostly sold to government buyers.

      1. avatar ropingdown says:

        Thanks for the detail. Obviously that was a fun day.

  13. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Birdshot is OK for self defense if you’re expecting an attack by pheasant… *tongue in cheek*

    I prefer buckshot, but I wouldn’t want either flying at me, both will get your point across.

    1. The pheasants are revolting?

      1. avatar What about Bob says:

        Nice reference!

      2. avatar ropingdown says:

        Only if you dry them out when you cook ’em. Keep liquid in the roasting pan. Baste them.

    2. avatar cyrano says:

      Who shoots bucks with buckshot? I live in one of the biggest shotgun deer hunting states and all we use are slugs/sabots in our shotguns. Buckshot is a novelty, it does not kill deer.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        I live in a rifle hunting state, the only way I’m shooting a deer with a shotgun is if one breaks into my house at night high on drugs and looking for some trouble.

        1. avatar cyrano says:

          Shoot a deer with a rifle in a shotgun state and you can do some time along with losing everying including your vehicle. Knew a guy who had to buy all his stuff back at auction. I have a rifled shotgun that patterns sabots in a 2 inch group at 100 yards with iron sights.

  14. avatar Rich Grise says:

    I see a facebook page, but where’s the “pumpkin demolition?”

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Here ya go.

  15. avatar rca_cajun says:

    Box o truth tests. They suggest birdshot is for birds.
    http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot3_2.htm

    1. avatar rca_cajun says:

      Th outdoors9 did some ballistics tests with #8 and they only penetrated 6-9″ Fbi reccomends 12″ in ballistics gel for reliable threat stopping ability.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIfilArIHlY

      1. avatar Pat says:

        Bingo. 10-12″ of penetration (with clothing). Why in Gods name are people worried about being attacked by Pheasant/Duck/Turkey/Goose, etc…?

      2. avatar cyrano says:

        Maybe he should have gone with #4 shot instead. #8 shot is for doves and pidgeons.

        https://cyrano.shutterfly.com/pictures/8

        24 inches of penetration at 20 feet through thick clothing.

        1. avatar Pat says:

          I am no expert on #4 birdshot, or any shotgun load, for that matter, but though that #1 Buck (around a foot of penetration, I think) would penetrate more that #4 birdshot.
          Is this clothed Gelatin we are talking about?

      3. avatar M says:

        I sincerely doubt that the FBI tests took into account a full ounce or more of lead shot delivered to a concentrated area. The FBI’s standard round is a 10mm, 180 grain, delivered at around 1300FPS.

        Compared to a 12 gauge round this is pure apples vs. oranges.

        At self defense distance – generally held to be about 21feet, (give or take), No. 6, 7 1/2, 0r 8 shot really doesn’t matter. A 12 gauge shotgun with an 18″ inch barrel, delivering 1 oz. target load (ca. 440 grains), will pattern at about 3″ inches with minimal spread beyond that, and the highest concentration of lead at the center of that pattern. While it is possible an assailant may survive a round of birdshot at 21 feet, it is very unlikely they will be able to continue to advance/attack. From there, even a pump shotgun will deliver a second round within a very short period of time.

        For dealing with an assailant in the wee hours, I will take a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with just about anything of consequence, over a 10mm single projectile semi-auto handgun.

        As the shot really begins to spread, even body armor is not effective. Think about it.

        M

  16. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Fv*k birdshot – 41 pellets of #4 buck will perforate a bad guy like baby swiss!

    At inside the house distances, if you absolutely need a one shot stop, make it a 12 gauge. Otherwise a couple of rounds of 9mm, .40 S&W, .45ACP, .357 magnum, .223, .44 magnum, etc. will do just fine.

    1. avatar Pat says:

      .223 vastly outperforms the handgun rounds. #1 Buck destroys.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        I figure a .223 from a 16″ barrel is roughly equivalent to a .44 magnum, at least one of the hotter loads. The others are bit lighter (you can throw a wet kleenex over 9mm(+p), .40, or .45) but 2 or 3 rounds will still rearrange you spleen quite well. And 2800 ft/lbs. of energy spread out between 41 pellets (or 15) is definitely a match for 2 rounds @ 1100 ft/lbs.

        1. avatar Pat says:

          Yes, the real beauty of a proper HP .223 is that most if not all of the energy is dumped into a human torso, vs most of the energy of an equivalent .44 going into the wall behind the perp.

  17. avatar MDC says:

    My regular Saiga 12 stock is finicky with the Federal Buckshot. All else a go. Rio Royal, Winchester,Rem etc.

  18. avatar Ken says:

    I note that this video very neatly side steps telling how far away that shot was from. No one has ever claimed that birdshot will penetrate like buck at range, but INSIDE OF A HOUSE, which is the definition of “home defense” even #8 shot is devastating! The reason is that the wad has not even released the shot charge yet at short (inside a house) range. The shot hits as one mass and then expands inside of the target. Devastating is the word! But not so once the wad has separated. One can tell this shot was at range, as note the pattern has already started to form. The other good thing about birdshot is that, since it expands rapidly inside of the target, it will not over penetrate through almost anything. Even drywall will absorb most of the energy, meaning even interior walls will stop the shot if one misses.
    But I will still stick to my habit of loading shotguns with #6 turkey loads, then buck, then slug, then turkey, etc. til the mag is full. That is the order they will feed in, NOT the order they go in the mag.

  19. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

    My shotgun at home is loaded with #4 or #5 Birdshot, not because I think it is any more or less effective for home defense, but because I just don’t own any buckshot. I use my shotguns for hunting birds, so all I buy is birdshot. I never really anticipate using my shotgun in a self defense scenario as my primary HD firearm would most likely be whichever handgun I happen to have on the nightstand (usually the 686). After reading the comment here it probably wouldn’t hurt to go and buy some 00 buck just in case I guess.

  20. avatar R T says:

    3″ #4 Steel in my HD shotgun.

    Anyone that were to break into my home would be a dead duck……lol!

  21. avatar Joseph says:

    I made a call one night to find a dude shot in the right thigh from about 6 feet away with 12 gauge # 6 birdshot. He was a big man with massive thighs, or at least one of them was still massive. The other was pure jello. He was utterly and completely out of the fight. Tell him birdshot at close range doesn’t work.

    1. avatar MacBeth51 says:

      Wasting your time. Some “expert” shot a block of jello and proclaimed the gospel. It don’t matter that none of them have seen anyone that was shot with bird shot in person. Theire brothers cousin on his grandmas side knew someone whos neighbor survived getting sh9ot with one, so that proves it.

      1. avatar Pat says:

        Penetration results are available on various forums for all to see. #1 buck destroys, my friend. Do your research, and leave the birdshot for the birds.

  22. avatar james quigley says:

    bird shot and 00 bothe leve the shotgun muzzle at the same speed. they are both deadly made to kill! du!
    as far as non leathal shot, that is stupid! If you arevready to pick up a shotgun and defebd yourself and others, plan to kill somone. be sure of your target.
    because wether you shoot bird shot slugs or 00 buck you when you pull that trger. you cant take it back. O and the guy who said buck shot doesnt kill deer is a moron. i have shot a lot of deer with 00 and 000 buck the afect is devestating. like the were hit with a train

  23. avatar Rich Metzger says:

    @ 1200-ish fps, damnear ANY one-ounce-ish projectile or package that DELIVERS ENERGY EFFICIENTLY into the target (bad guy) is going to be pretty debilitating. If an un-spread shotcup full of #9, #8, or even sand grains can remove a doorknob and the lock assembly, it’ll remove an attitude. As for penetration……well, there’s always voodoo in the physics. A truck @ 30mph is only traveling 44fps, and has pretty much 0 inches of penetration. And, any bad guy who can continue fighting after that impact should have been shot from a much further distance. 😮

  24. avatar Jarrod says:

    My home defense pick is #2 shot 3 1/2-inch turkey loads. You get decent sized projecties with the same speed. You could probably get around 6 inches of penetration easily, which is enough to destroy vitals. And nowhere near the amount of over-penetration as buckshot.

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