Travis Pike for TTAG
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Federal Flite Control buckshot ammunition
Travis Pike for TTAG

I’m still a proponent of the 12 gauge shotgun. I think in a home defense role, it’s a formidable weapon with no equal. It’s the best weapon for me during a home invasion situation.

I didn’t choose the shotgun based on any implicit bias, but through training, experience, and time. I’ve found it to be the right choice for me.

Having a shotgun, however, doesn’t mean much if you aren’t pairing it with the right ammo. And I’ve found that the right ammo is Federal Premium Law Enforcement loads with the FliteControl wad. Why?

The round solves most of the problems people seem to have with the defensive shotgun. At least as far as buckshot goes. If your problem requires a slug, that’s a different solution altogether.

Let’s look at the three primary issues people have with shotguns for home defense and tactical use.

  • Recoil
  • Low ammunition capacity
  • Shot spread (you are accountable for every single pellet you fire)

Other complaints can be based around the pump shotgun itself like the tendency to short-stroke it, or the fact that semi-auto shotguns took a long time to be considered reliable shotguns in a home defense role. These days reliable semi-autos are more of the rule than the exception.

Federal’s Law Enforcement Tactical round with the FliteControl wad solves two of the above problems, recoil and shot spread. Low capacity will always be a trade-off, even when you are firing eight projectiles at one time.

Federal Law Enforcement Tactical, specifically the eight-pellet buckshot load, makes all other shotgun ammo seem somewhat outdated. At least as far as defensive and tactical roles go.

Why only 8 pellets?

Maybe it’s because I’m OCD and like even numbers. Perhaps it’s because eight-pellet buckshot is more stable and reliable overall. Yes, nine-pellet buckshot rounds give me one more pellet, but they also tend to throw a flyer. Not always, but with nine pellets, a flyer is more common.

In eight-pellet buckshot loads, that just doesn’t seem to happen. Federal’s FliteControl line has nine-pellet buckshot. However, the tendency for a flyer to occur is still there. It doesn’t happen all the time, so it’s not predictable.

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

Eight-pellet buckshot is just more predictable, and I like predictability when it comes to my guns. The ninth pellet in nine-pellet buckshot loads often sits in such a way that when fired, the other pellets strike the ninth ball. That deforms it and causes it to fly in an unpredictable manner.

What does the FliteControl wad do?

Federal Law Enforcement Tactical buckshot is loaded with Federal’s unique FliteControl wad. It’s a specialized wad that holds the pellets together better as they travel downrange.

Federal Premium

The wad has fins and stays with the shot much longer than a normal wad. It remains stabilized and gives you much better longer-range as well as short-range performance.

The ‘Tactical” load I’m using has an 1145 feet per second rating with a 2 3/4 inch length with low(ish) brass. 

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

How well does FliteControl work? 

Let’s see how well FliteControl compares against standard shot loads. I used Winchester  Military Grade OO buckshot and compared it to a blast of FliteControl. I fired from a cylinder bore shotgun with a 20-inch barrel at 15 yards. The results are self-explanatory. 

Here’s the Federal Law enforcement with FliteControl:

Pirate Target… (Travis Pike For TTAG)

And here’s the Winchester Military . . .

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

The FliteControl load is like a punch to the face on the target. At 15 yards, it’s one devastating hole.

If you could imagine this blast striking a bad guy, it would be lights out. It wouldn’t matter if it were a headshot or center of mass, that guy is having a rough day. At 15 yards, this makes the weapon slightly more rifle-like, and there is no worry about stray pellets since they are easy to account for. 

The tightl spread is perfect for ultra-close quarter’s use at 15 yards or less. I’ve seen criticism that the load stays too tight together, and this reduces the effectiveness of the shotgun. That shot spread can be a benefit for a shotgun.

It’s easier to catch a moving target with shot spread and easier to hit a target in the dark as well, some argue. 

Of course, in a home defense scenario, the quarters are too tight for trying to “catch” someone with spread. At 15 yards and in, it’s easy to hit any man-sized target, including one moving in the dark. 

If you back off to 25 yards, hitting a moving target is more challenging, but the FliteControl has a somewhat decent spread at 25 yards. Enough so to give you a shot spread about the size of two fists. This allows you to catch a moving target, even at night, at these ranges. The question is, would you ever need to ‘defend’ your home outdoors at 25 yards? 

Maybe not from a human attacker. I live in the country, and a shotgun is my go-to for four-legged pests. Coyotes and wild dogs seem to love chickens, pigs, and even horses and cattle. A blast from a shotgun tends to change their minds.

I’ve engaged a feral dog and coyotes with FliteControl at 25 yards and 35 yards on two different occasions. One was chasing my dog, the other was trying to get into the chicken coop. 

The FliteControl spreads when it needs to and sticks together when it needs to. It’s a bit of the best of both worlds. Here’s the performance at 25 yards. 

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

For fun, I took the ammo out to 50 yards and was still impressed at the round’s performance. It delivered an effective group on a headshot target. 

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

I wouldn’t recommend, however, trying to explain a defensive gun use at 50 yards.

How much does it reduce recoil? 

Fair question. I typically don’t buy the argument that 2-3/4″ 12 gauge shells are too much for smaller framed people. However, a lot of shooters claim the 12 gauge shotgun has too much recoil for some women or smaller individuals.

The Federal Law Enforcement FliteControl OO rounds are downright pleasant to shoot. If the 1145 FPS rating didn’t give enough away, you would be happy to know it’s plenty controllable. 

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

It’s fun and comfortable to shoot out of a standard pump shotgun. Best of all, it’s still capable of cycling a semi-auto as well. It functions perfectly in my Mossberg 930 SPX without issue.

(Travis Pike For TTAG)

The shotgun cycles this easy-kicking stuff flawlessly.

To show how comfortable and easy this ammo is to shoot, I loaded three rounds into my Remington TAC 14 Hardwood and hit the range. My goal was to fire three shots in under 5 seconds with three hits on a torso target. I did it in under 3 seconds. Watch and see . . .

In a shoulder-fired pump-action shotgun, the FliteControl is wonderful and plenty controllable. Follow-up shots are fast and accurate. It won’t cause you to develop a flinch and will still decimate a target.

The ammunition runs reliably in every shotgun I’ve put it through, pump and semi-auto. It’s massively popular and easy to find. It’s affordable, light-recoiling, and stays tighter than any other buckshot I know of. 

In my opinion, the Federal Premium’s Law Enforcement Tactical 8-pellet buckshot rounds with FliteControl wads is the best defensive and tactical shotgun round on the market. 

Specifications: Federal Premium Buckshot With FliteControl Wad

Caliber – 12 Gauge
Shot Type –
00 Buckshot – 8 pellets
Shell Length – 2 3/4 and 3 inches 
Price –
about $5 per box or about .60 cents a round in bulk

Ratings (out of Five Stars): 

Accuracy * * * * *
It’s shotgun ammo that stays together well beyond what’s normal for a shotgun. It’s incredibly accurate and consistent and gets you out to 50 yards if need be. At 50 yards the entire payload seems to drop a bit, but is still within reason.

Reliability * * * * *
I’ve yet to have a round fail to fire or eject in a Mossberg Shockwave, Mossberg 590, Remington 870, Mossberg 930 SPX, Tac 14 or any other shotgun I’ve put this ammo through. It fires, feeds, ejects and extracts with 100% reliability.

Shootability * * * * *
This ammo exhibits light recoil and is controllable in even small and difficult to shoot platforms. It takes most of the 12 gauge bite away. It does an excellent job of extending the buckshot’s range and giving it a tighter spread for close quarters use.

Overall * * * * *
I have zero complaints. It’s rock-solid ammo that is controllable, does what it advertises and goes bang with every trigger pull.

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  1. We used to use the 9 pellet flight control 00 buck, and our department switched back to the mediocre Winchester 00. The Federal 9 pellet 00 is awesome. I personally think the 8 pellet load patterns too tightly.

    I’ve got a 930 SPX set up with 40 rounds of the Federal 00 and 12 rounds of the Brenneke Barrier Penetrating in a bandolier with another 5 rounds on the buttstock. I’m a fan of high quality ammo.

    • +1

      My department that I was with issued both the LE132 00 (reduced recoil 9-pellet) and the LEB127 LRS (RR Truball slug) or LE127 RS (RR Hydra-Shok slug). I still use this combo. I like the slug’s blue hulls for easy identification. Both of these function in my Benelli M4 flawlessly.

      So, can I pose this question to everyone? These buckshot rounds typically penetrate 18”-24” in 10% bare gel. I keep hearing over and over again all the experts saying to never use slugs for home defense because of “over-penetration.” If you look at the data books, both of these slugs typically penetrate 12-14” in bare gel. (le.vistaoutdoor.con)

      It is a .72 caliber slug traveling at 1,300 FPS. They are soft lead high expansion slugs. How is this any different than a 9mm .357 Mag/Sig round going at 1350-1450 FPS? I’ve asked this question on a whim to people before, and the answer I always get is that they “over-penetrate” despite what the data tends to show.

      • Well, I’m no ballistics expert by any stretch, but I’ve shot standard 2-3/4″ slugs at 3/4″ thick 6061 plate aluminum at 25 yds and they always punched clean through, continuing downrange to blow through wood studs before slowing down. To me, that spells over penetration for typical household defense. At least, in a “ballistically transparent” house with common sheetrock walls. I’d rather go with 00 buck any day…and it doesn’t matter one bit to me whether the load has 8 or 9 pellets. An intruder would have his ticket punched to the Hereafter no matter what.

        That being said, I have shotguns and enjoy them, but I’ve found that my go-to nightstand weapon is my handgun. Easiest to reach for and manipulate, and allows me to hold a phone with the other hand to keep on the line with 911.

        But kudos to anyone here who chooses a shotgun for themselves. Always a good choice if you can effectively use it.

        • Most slug data I’ve seen have slugs penetrating anywhere from 20” to 40+”. If a specific slug only penetrates 14”-18” then I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for self defense.

          I am a fan of low recoil buckshot in an HD situation. My current loadout includes the herters 2 1/4 6 pellet buckshot load that I’ve heard is no longer in production. I liked that i had one extra round in the tube with the short shells. But I’ve long considered switching to 8 pellet flight control wads.

          I keep some slugs on the buttstock as well. JIC.

        • @Joel You can view all of the Federal data here:

          They have all the FBI protocol testing. Through heavy clothing, bare gel, and auto glass, the LE slugs (soft lead and rapid expanding from Federal) dump a lot of energy, expand and stop. Through steel, they don’t open up as much and you will see 18-22”, but this is no different than most handgun hollow points. Especially in that low 1,300 FPS range, it seems more like a really wide, rapid expanding Magnum handgun cartridge (but with obviously 5-6 times the energy). On the flip side in that same publication, look at the penetration levels of the copper plated buckshot.

          With this in mind, I’m just not so sure that there is anything wrong with these low recoil LE slugs from Federal for home defense. If you miss with the slug or the buckshot, you’re going through interior walls (just like you would with a handgun or even a .223).

          I can say from experience with those TruBall slugs and many qualifications over the years, they are incredibly accurate for a smooth bore slugs! Shotgun qualifications went out to 50 yards for us.

    • I have 12 ounce tactical and barrier-penetrating slugs. The barrier penetrating Brennekes will punch through 1/4″ mild steel plate and a long ways through gel. The tactical slugs won’t penetrate as much and have a lot less recoil.

      • I have some of the Brenneke Maximum Barrier Slugs, and those things go 45”+ in gel, and the mild steel is no issue. They’re also rated at something like 2,800+ ft-lbs of energy. The Benelli helps with the recoil a little, but they are still pretty wicked to shoot!

    • Two different cameras at different angles, It was only three shots but the camera angles shared the final shot. Figured it looked nice while doing a quick edit.

    • Mostly I concur with your conclusions…I don’t see much difference between the 9 shot 00 buck with flitecontrol and the 8 shot 00 buck. lf it groups better it is not a dramatic difference or most of the time even an obvious difference. It is however less expensive in most places. Before I retired from the Border Patrol they were mainly issuing the 8 shot, and reduced recoil rifled slugs. Where I live it is very suburban and the homes are very close together. 00 buckshot is a much more penetrating round than I am comfortable using considering the thin walls and close proximity of other homes and walls and floors in my own home. The round I have compromised on is Federals 12ga # 4 buckshot self defense loading. It has 34 pellets instead of the usual 27 and in this loading is also reduced recoil yielding about 1100 fps. It is well buffered and groups commendably tightly at 15 yards and it has what appears to be the same ‘FlightControl Wad’ but under the proprietary name of ‘TightWad.’ (Unlike the name they are using for the shells wad they are not cheap) At home defense ranges I believe they would be a very destructive stopper but not as over-penetrating as 00 buck in a home.

  2. I’ve used these rounds before and the Flite-Control is impressive. A shotgun is impressive too. At close range. Seen two people decapitated with them. One a 12 with a rifled slug. The other a 16 with bird shot. Saw another guy decapitated with a 7mm-08. The rifle works equally well at 20 or 200 yards. Shotguns are for something with feathers on its back. Rifle, rifle, rifle!

    • 200 yards? Only a cop can engage at that distance and not wind up in prison. Here in CA our benevolent overlords have decreed criminal save rifles. So I use a shotgun for home defense.

      • tsbhoa,
        1. Rifles. The pro gun community often points to the Sutherland Springs, TX shooting as an example of what an armed citizen can do. I haven’t read a forensic report of the shooting, but from what I saw in media reports if Willeford had been armed with a shotgun I don’t believe he would have been able to successfully engage Kelly.
        2. Randalls. There is an upscale gun store nearby that I frequent. When I come in the owner often asks if I have any Randalls I’d be willing to sell or trade. I know this will come as a surprise, but he has never asked if I have a Buck Folding Hunter I would part with.
        3. Reloads. Back to Texas. Kelly ran through approximately 700 rounds. I never felt like I too much ammo when I was facing a DGU.

        But hey! If you want to use a twice barrel with no reload and a Case XX? Have at it.

        • 18″ 37ds with a folding stock is gonna work if i need it.
          i haven’t climbed the knife ladder to five bills yet, but i could see it and certainly don’t blame anyone. the chris reave was spendy, but not as much as the “big” chris berry chef’s knife hand forged in 10v.
          the randall’s are mostly larger than what i want and too many clip points and bowie blades. i’druther my kukhri and a smaller fixed.
          but i have stanabak’s (?) site bookmarked and peruse some. never know.
          nothin’ wrong with a buck. carried 112 for years.

    • That’s certainly true on the versatility of a rifle. However, I’ve also personally witnessed a Taliban fighter soak up a half dozen rifle rounds in the torso and crotch area before he stopped fighting. Our Corpsman patched him up and he was alive when the Medevac bird came. A shotgun tends to have a more permanent punch

      • Travis,

        With respect to that Taliban fighter, were his wounds from 5.56 x 45mm NATO full-metal jacket cartridges? And out of a short barrel (maybe a short barrel M-4 with suppressor)?

        5.56 x 45mm NATO full metal jacket bullets are notoriously ineffective at stopping human attackers, especially beyond 100 yards or so.

        Contrast that with an AR-15 with at least a 16-inch barrel, loaded with 62 grain soft-point expanding bullets, and a maximum range of 15 meters: no human will absorb multiple hits to the torso and be alive by the time medical evacuation shows up.

        Now, I will concede that it would probably take at least two torso hits from the rifle (chambered in 5.56 x 45mm NATO with 62 grain expanding softpoint bullets) to absolutely guarantee that an attacker was immediately incapacitated — whereas it would only take a single slug or #00 buckshot load to the torso to immediately incapacitate an attacker — at inside-the-home ranges.

        Since the rifle works nicely well out to 300 yards (compared to the shotgun which is limited to 50 yards at most), I would tend to take a rifle over a shotgun as well.

        Having said all that, I was able to purchase two inexpensive pump-action 20-gauge shotguns for less than a single AR-15 rifle. I therefore keep those at the ready for home-defense. And if a criminal happens to find one of them and steal it, I am only out $200. (Losing a $600 to $800 AR-15 to a thief would really suck!)

    • Sorry bud but watching movies doesn’t count. I highly doubt you’ve found yourself in a position to witness the shootings described. Hyperbole is a sickness in the gun community and tends to be used to provide evidence to support bogus claims.

  3. I my opinion that Federal Flight Control 8-pellet load is too tight unless you want to shoot out to 50+ yards.

    I also agree that the “standard” buckshot load opened up too much at 15 yards.

    Personally, I would want to see something like a 5-inch pattern at 15 yards and a 10-inch pattern at 30 yards. However, it appear that there is no such load. That is why I will stick to slugs: they are devastating at any range inside of 100 yards.

    • I think if you will use half choke or 3/4 choke on your shotgun you will have pattern desired. It is truly sad that most self-defense shotguns in this country are with the cylinder barrel. The cylinder barrel is absolutely shitty for patterns. Also, using #4 buckshot will help with the pattern or if you need #00, use buffered (meaning there are some stuff like starch in the load) load.

  4. Personally I’m kind of partial to 3″ 41 pellet #4 buck, but it does kick a bit. It will keep all 41 pellets in the torso of a full size silhouette at 25 yards from my 22″ w/ IC choke. Generally though I’d be facing Mr. Bad Guy with my .30-30 (loaded with 125hp) in any such situation where it mattered. Still, 41 pellets will leave quite a mark.

    • Still, 41 pellets will leave quite a mark.

      Ya think?

      But you have to deliver that through a modified choke, or better yet a full choke!

      • I use modified for pheasants with #5 bird shot. I’m guessing buckshot might be a bit hard on a modified choke (though I have no empirical data to back up that assertion). Anyway, IMHO, if you’re trying to get more than 25 yards out of a defensive shotgun you’re doing it wrong (ergo the go-to .30-30).

  5. Blood splatter is also a problem with CQ home defense shotties besides recoil, smoke, noise, etc. It WILL get all over your house and YOU then it will set off ALL of the smoke detectors in your house further disorienting you.

    Give me a suppressed .556×45 SBR or an MCK with a Glock inside anytime.

    I LOVE my Tac14 with folding pistol brace and Surefire M910 foregrip light affixed to the Magpul cocking handguard via Magpul M-Lok two position rail system. Add a GG&G Side Saddle and just hold with the silver bead… kaboom.

    Good review of this great ammo.

    • Hang onto it! My understanding is that Federal has officially stopped producing that round. It is impossible to get any these days!

  6. Slugs are great engine stoppers, break a block toot sweet. For in home human intruders a .45 acp will captivate one, but for group invasion 12 gauge short barreled low brass birdshot will work nicely spreads wonderfully not much unwanted penetration. A real mind changer and attitude adjuster. For the purpose mentioned, the cheapest available. No sense wasting money on a dead guy.

  7. A super-X single ought buck deer hunting load will get the job done just as good..or a s&b twelve pellet load..

  8. My own go-to is LE132-1B. Yes, it’s hard to find. That’s why I bought all I could, when I could.

  9. Perhaps one should consider; energy/force/foot pounds of a given caliber.
    The following are approximate to reduce space.

    9mm = 400 foot pounds at 1000 fps
    223 = 600 foot pounds at 2500+ fps
    308 = 1800 foot pounds at 2500+ fps
    Sabot Slug = 2900 foot pounds at 1600 fps

    Brute force is what makes a shotgun so formidable home protection weapon. It will go through several walls…unless you use engineered projectiles…the projectile can be manufactured to do different things when hitting an object.
    Example: “barrier” and “non-barrier”…

  10. Thanks for the video and review. It had lots of data that just about anyone could test to confirm on their own. And you managed to test two parts of the equation that I am interested in – a shorty “non-shotgun” firearm and the Federal Flight Control ammo.

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