Winchester PDX1 Defender
Travis Pike for TTAG
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Buck and ball loads have a pretty long history of success in the United States. However, that success was primarily from 1776 to the 1860s. New buck and ball loads haven’t been quite as popular since the invention of modern shotshells and cartridge ammunition.

Several years ago, Winchester introduced the PDX1 Defender load, which introduced us to the first mass produced buck and ball load offered in decades.

The PDX1 load (which Winchester seems to be calling just Defender these days) is a bit different than the buck and ball load from way back when. This is a 1-ounce slug with three 00 buckshot pellets packed in the shell. The pellets are plated, and I’d imagine its a must-have to prevent deformation when fired with the slug behind them.

Thats a big nasty fella (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The idea and purpose behind the round is to improve your chances of hitting your target at increased ranges. Throwing four projectiles instead of one seems to be an excellent way to catch at least part of your target at longer ranges, and in theory it should work.

This is a difficult review because I’m judging the round on its performance, but also it’s overall usefulness. If usefulness and performance were on the same graph, they’d be a good way apart with the PDX1 slugs.

What Works about the PDX1

The PDX1 slugs are quite accurate when fired from a smooth bore with a cylinder choke. I used a Benelli M4 and a Mossberg 590A1 for my tests. Both guns are equipped with ghost ring sights and allow precise slug shots. At various ranges, the slug hit right where I wanted it and grouped well.

At about 50 yards, I kept them placed perfectly in my 10-inch gong and scored a few hits as far out as 75 yards on the same target.

At 25 yards, I attempted some snap fire headshots from the low ready with the Benelli and landed two out of three rounds and dropped the third pretty severely. That was entirely my fault, I was chasing speed and forgetting that accuracy matters more.

My miss, my bad. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Accuracy is excellent for the actual slugs.

The slugs are moving at 1,150 feet per second. They are low recoiling rounds and very controllable in both pump-action and semi-auto shotguns.

I purchased and fired twenty rounds of the PDX1 and every single round cycled without issue. I fired ten in each gun and never ran into a malfunction. It’s a small sample size, but the ammo seems to be reliable and cycles well in semi-autos.

The intended function of these slugs (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I purchased two ten-round boxes for 13 bucks each. That’s a pretty good price for defensive slugs as far as I’m concerned.

The PDX1 Defender slugs have a lot going for them in some ways. They are accurate, reliable, and affordable.

The Downsides

The additional buckshot to our buck and ball load is the biggest downside. If I were in a firing line facing approaching English red coats, then buck and ball loads make a lot of sense.

If I’m using a slug to place an accurate and precise shot with a shotgun outside of normal shotgun distances, then the buck creates problems.

Look at this poor Q target. It took a round from 15 yards, 25 yards, and fifty yards. You can count three slug holes, but only six buckshot holes. Where are the other three pellets?

Look at the Flanks of the targets, there are two of the three pellets. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Here is the first shot at 15 yards. One pellet completely missed the Q target and hit the border. This would be unaccounted for in a real defensive shooting.

The Pellet to the far right could strike someone else. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Where are the other pellets for the 25 and 50-yard shots? They went into the ether. If this had been a defensive shooting, those pellets could wound a person or cause property damage. Or both.

Here is a headshot at 25 yards, which is a near miss, and for one pellet of buckshot, it is a total miss.

Not confidence-inspiring for me (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Those three pellets of buckshot might make it easy to hit your target, but they also make it easy for some of them to miss. Their spread seems to be unpredictable, and patterning the PDX1 load isn’t feasible.

Who is the PDX1 for?

If you used the round at home defense ranges, you aren’t likely to have a thrown pellet. None were thrown at 10 yards and closer. However, this does mean you need a perfect squared up shot. Lord forbid you have to take a shot at someone at a different than optimum angle.

For law enforcement, I can’t see a reason for the load. If you are taking a precise slug shot, you are likely 15 yards and beyond and don’t want random buckshot pellets flying around.

The only real use I can see is for invading Fallujah (or other battlegrounds) where errant pellets would be less of an issue.

I appreciate the PDX1’s performance, but it’s not a round I have a real use for.

Specifications: Winchester PDX1 Defender 

Caliber: 12 Gauge
Shot Type: 1-ounce slug three 00 pellets
Shell Lenght: 2 3/4
Price: $13 to $17 a box

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * *
The slugs hit the target, but the buckshot is unpredictable from about 15 yards and further. Slugs are meant to be used beyond buckshot’s range.

Reliability * * * * *
The round never failed to go bang. The length of its shell is consistent, and they shoot fine in semi-auto guns.

Shootability * * * * *
These are soft shooting slugs, and even used in pump-action shotguns, they are plenty comfortable and usable.

Overall * *
The slugs work in most ways, but the addition of the buckshot pellets really brings down their score. I can’t think of a good defensive use for them. Maybe they would be okay for hunting. The good news is Winchester makes standard PDX1 segmented rounds. Those are a much better option.

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  1. I like the Winchester Defender for .410 (has three 00 pellets). I agree with the author that I don’t think I’ll ever want this load for 12-ga, though. Straight 00 buck for defensive shots out to 30 yds, and 1-oz slug for precision shots beyond that.

    Never did like Benellis. I grew up with 870s, so when someone offered to let me try his Benelli Nova to run a timed course, I found that the slight differences in pump action plus the different orientation of the controls messed me up. I went back to my 870 and passed the course.

      • Didn’t mention an M2/M4. I said it was a Nova. In any case, the controls were in different locations as compared to a Remington 870’s, and the pump action’s release is different than an 870’s, so if you’re accustomed to one, you’re going to have difficulty using the other.

        • Haz, pretty sure he was talking about this part of your comment. “Never did like Benellis”

        • Jeff,

          Benelli makes the Nova, the M2 Tactical, and the M4 Tactical. All Benellis. Pretty sure he was referring to the B-M4, not the (AR style platform) military M4.

        • Haz, I know what shotguns Benelli makes. I just reviewed mine on here recently. Your comment saying you didn’t like Benelli made it seem like you don’t like any of them them. Your comment would have been different if you had stated you didn’t like Benelli pump guns. Or if you didn’t like the Benelli M4, after David said “to be fair…” You could have responded that you didn’t like those either.

          Im not arguing, I was just pointing out that David was providing a comparison between the Nova and the M4.

        • K. I’ve re-read his comment a third time, and I still can’t tell if he meant a Benelli M4 or a 5.56 M4, but I’ll politely acquiesce in order to end the thread, since David himself has not provided follow-up clarification.

          To provide my own, I’ll say that I didn’t like the Nova at all. Granted, it was the only Benelli I’ve had the privilege to review, but it left a bad taste in my mouth and colored my opinion of the brand. You could say it’s akin to driving a Mercedes for the first time, not liking it, and naturally walking away with that opinion about the company’s entire product line.

  2. An errant pellet is a risk you take with any buckshot load as the range increases. .223 55 grain SP. Risk of overpenatration is low and if a round goes down range past the target it’s on you. Not the ammunition.

  3. I did some experimenting with several different 12 gauge shotgun shells a couple of years ago. And the Winchester PDX1 was one of them. They are outstanding in my Mossberg 590. The low recoil allows for several follow-up shots. This should help encourage home Defenders to fire several shells at any invader.

    Any home Invader will look like red colored Swiss cheese with several pulls of a Shotgun trigger using this ammo. And no homeowner shoulder pain after use.

    • Would it be true that an invader would be “red colored Swiss cheese” after several pulls of pretty much any 12-ga ammo? Even several shells’ worth of bird shot at hallway distance would permanently ruin his day. 🙂

      • IMO, that would be true.
        Personally, I wouldn’t use birdshot, for the simple reason that 00 buck is so much better at ending the threat, and is as easily available as birdshot.

        Home defense is something I’ve put a fair amount of thought into. (As I’ve said before, and will say again, each persons situation is different. I live alone, in a suburban detached block home.)
        My thinking tells me that 00 or #4 buck shot loads are best. If I use slugs, and happen to miss and the slug goes through a window (the block construction will stop a slug), that slug can do some serious damage, and cost me a lot. I don’t like birdshot, simply because there are better options. Even slugs are better, IMO.
        But buckshot seems to be the optimal load; spread is about 1″ per yard, and my longest shooting alley is about 10 yards, with most encounters probably within 5 yards. 8 or 9 pellets of 00 buckshot in a shot column of about 5-8″ or so is devastating. (I’ve seen a lot of videos of this type of load in gel on YouTube.)

        I’ve tried the PDX1/Defender shells on the range. They act just as Travis says in the article. The slugs work as advertised in my Mossbergs, but the buckshot balls had a much wider dispersion than regular buckshot loads did. At 10 yards, their spread was easily over 15″, about 50% more spread than straight buckshot loads. (This is out of both 18.5″ and 20″ bbls.) That makes them much easier to miss with when I’m shooting under stress, and I’m responsible for any damage those missing pellets do, even if it’s just patched wallboard (and that’s the best case scenario).
        I still have some of those rounds, but they just stay in the can with other ‘novelty’ defensive loads.

  4. Remington accupoint Copper sabot rounds. 455grain hollow point with pinpoint accuracy. 5 rounds for 12 bucks.

    The damage done is complete.

  5. Is the spread due to the buckshot being loaded in front of the slug?

    I ask that because a few years ago I picked up a few boxes of Herter’s Select Defense (Cabela’s house brand) multi-defense shotgun shells [they don’t appear to be offered online anymore]. Novelty purchase for me to play with. These were 2 3/4” 12-gauge, 1,300fps shells loaded with one .650 round ball & six #1 buck. The ball was in the front with the buck behind it next to the wad. Shot this stuff out of a Benelli Nova 28” with an IC choke. [I know, not a home defense set up. As I stated, for novelty…] At 20 yards, all of the shot was on target and impressed us.

    As for the regular Winchester Defender slugs, we put a few into some 1-gallon jugs filled with water & then frozen. The slugs pretty much pulverized them into nothing. One would not want to be on the receiving end of those…

  6. First picked these up in 12ga in 2014. I found the pattern reliable in home defense ranges out of a Mossberg 500 with 18in barrel. The past 2 years they’ve been almost impossible for me to find locally and online. I used to be able to buy them at Academy.

  7. My HD shotguns carry these specifically because they are of questionable value beyond 10 yards.

    inside the house, I don’t have a 30 foot sight line I’m willing to shoot across.

    Outside the house, I’m gonna have a hell of a time explaining my 30 foot “defensive” shot.

    This round feels like the best balance between heavy recoil slugs and easily scattered buck, especially from an SBS- or “tactical”- length firearm in my wife’s hands.

    • Inside the house, I’d much rather have regular buckshot. I’d prefer 9 projectiles of 00 over 3 and a slug. If I was trying to go longer range, I’d just prefer a regular slug. I don’t see a point to the buck and ball in the post 1860 world.

      • Art out West,

        In my humble opinion the ideal in-home self-defense shotgun load is a 20 gauge slug. Remington makes a 5/8 ounce (273 grain) slug with a muzzle velocity of 1580 feet-per-second. No human being on the planet (no matter how stoned on drugs) will remain upright on his/her feet and able to function after taking one of those anywhere even remotely close to the centerline of their torso.

        Why mess around with 00 or 000 buckshot when that 20 gauge slug (and reduced recoil compared to 12 gauge) is superior?

        Note: that 5/8 ounce 20 gauge slug at 1580 feet-per-second should generate less recoil than 1 ounce 12 gauge loads at 1100 feet-per-second.

        • I’m sure the 20 gauge slug will do the job. I also think 9, 33 caliber projectiles will do the job.

          I don’t have a 20 gauge, but do have a couple 12s. I should add a 20.

  8. I think a much better idea would be something like three or four .50 caliber pellets in a self-defense shot shell.

    Each pellet would weigh about 186 grains (0.426 ounces) and a single pellet landing on target would definitely have to hurt a lot. And if you managed to land all three or four pellets on target, that would have to be downright devastating.

    For anyone who wants to dismiss the wounding potential of a .50 caliber pellet that weighs 186 grains, think of that as having basically similar velocity, frontal area, and sectional density as a 180 grain .357 Magnum bullet. Now imagine three or four such bullets hitting simultaneously. Yikes.

    • Like Dixie Tri-Ball? Those .6″ balls pattern pretty tight (like 4″ if memory serves me) even at 25 yards. I haven’t tried them myself yet. I hear recoil is notable:-)

      • Are those 3.5” shells? I have some Herter’s “Double Round Ball” shells. 2 3/4”, 1,200fps, two .650 lead balls. Between the load, wad, & powder…there isn’t any room left that I can tell through the translucent hulls.

        • They (DixieSlugs dot com – one dude I think) sell 3 & 3.5″. The effective difference being velocity. He has a website but only takes orders via mail and money order or cashiers check or that sort of thing. Maybe he does that to keep the sales to a minimum;-) The balls are 315gr each and from a fairly long barrel reach an MV of 1100fps.

      • Vic Nighthorse,

        I’ll bet recoil is quite significant in that load that you described: those three 0.60 caliber “pellets” should weigh in total about 2.16 ounces (946 grains)! That is heavier than .50 BMG bullets, although at significantly less velocity of course.

        That is why I suggested three 0.50 caliber pellets which should weigh in total about 1.28 ounces (559 grains). At a muzzle velocity of 1200 feet-per-second, that produces stout although doable recoil.

        Come to think of it, I wonder if a single 0.62 caliber pellet (20 gauge) or 0.71 caliber pellet (12 gauge) would be quite the potent self-defense round under 20 yards? That 0.62 caliber pellet would weigh about 344 grains and the 0.71 caliber pellet would weigh about 544 grains!

        Or we could just stick with the 20 gauge (273 grain, 0.62 caliber) slug that I highlighted above in response to Art out West!

      • Okay Vic, I just thought of the perfect 20 gauge self-defense projectile: an aluminum cylinder that is 0.60 inches in diameter and 0.60 inches height. That should weigh 1.07 ounces (466 grains) and would punch a HUGE hole in any human attacker at close range. It would basically convert a 20 gauge shotgun into something like a 1-inch coring tool. (The totally flat front face of that cylinder would make a significantly larger diameter permanent wound channel than the diameter of the projectile.) I cannot think of any human attacker who would remain on their feet after that projectile leaves a 1-inch diameter permanent hole through their torso.

        I think the only problem would be finding a way to stabilize the aluminum cylinder to ensure that it does not tumble through the air or upon impact. Maybe we can only fire it through rifled shotgun slug barrels?

        • I am new to shotguns. I got my first one last year as a gift (bear defense gun) for my wall tent in the Shoshone Natl Forest (or edge there of). So I haven’t shot or even thought about shotguns much. I just have some 1oz 1300fps (though probably not from my 18.5″ barrel) slugs. Inexpensive Hornady stuff I think. I have only fired five slugs so far just to sight it in and check to see that it functioned. Anyway, I don’t know if I will go full Taofledermaus or not yet.

        • Vic: I could be mistaken here, but barrel length in shotguns matters much less than pistols or rifle. If I recall, a typical 12 ga load gets complete powder burn within about 12 inches. Longer tubes are for legal and “pointing” purposes.

        • Taofledermause has tried several cylindrical rounds in his vids.
          They are not stable in flight out of a non-rifled barrel/choke. This makes them very unpredictable in accuracy.
          IMO, they would not make good defensive rounds, given that much more accurate loads are so easily available, including in reduced recoil loading.
          I don’t see any practicality in using anything other than what is proven to work when my life could depend on it.
          I find novelty loads to be fun at the range. (I wish I could go more, especially now with the whole coronavirus thing keeping me away from the range.) But compared to the usual buckshot or slugs, I find them to be unsuited to a situation where I know there are better options easily available.

  9. Plating buckshot is always a good thing. However; it isn’t any more necessary in a buck and ball round than in straight buckshot. The bottom layer of shot in a cartridge have to endure about 10,000 psi kicking them in the ass simultaneously with having half a dozen of their little friends piled on top of them. The buckshot would be squashed flat if the had to endure this punishment for more than a millisecond. The buckshot in this load need to endure about 1/4 of the force applied to them.

    It should be noted that the rounded nose of the slug applies a radial force outward against the buckshot. I would expect this to result in more dispersion than the nominal 1″ per yard of range. Keep in mind that standard buckshot has a pattern width of about 8 feet at 100 yards. That is about 50 square foot of pattern or one pellet per 5.5 square feet against a human body that has a profile area of maybe 10 square feet. A pattern of 9 pellets have a significant probability of not inflicting a hit on a human even if the pattern is centered on the person!

    Buck and ball loads obviously are inappropriate for hostage situations or for densely populated urban areas. However; they obviously are useful in more rural areas where errant projectiles are extremely unlikely to hit anyone. I would find them very useful for engaging multiple assailants, but I would prefer my Ruger Mini-14 or HK-91.

  10. 25 yards is not “self defense” range. Very few people have houses with a 25 yards room in them. This is clearly a load for traditional self defense ranges inside a home. A “self defense” shooting with a shotgun at 25+ yards is an extreme rarity.

  11. Not seeing the utility of the load either.

    Currently I live in a small townhouse. I’d need to take a chainsaw to some walls to create a 25 yard shooting situation.

    My main shotgun for home defense is a Mossberg 500 (Newhaven 600AT by Mossberg, a K-Mart Blue Light Special back when that was a thing all over the country). This is loaded with #4 Buck. Not 00 or slugs, not bird shot. Just #4 Buck.

    The reason is simple. At possible defensive range where I am the shot column is not going to be all that wide. At the same time the smaller shot has less travel to it. Such as thru windows and walls and across the street to go thru the neighbor’s windows and walls. Not that missing is planned for, but hey, shit happens.

    So, devastating load at bad guy distance where I live, reduced risk of damage to non-bad guys nearby.

    On the other hand my Mossberg 590A1 SPX is still configured as it was when I lived in bear country. Alternating shells of 00 Buck and slugs.

    So, good to have options.

  12. There are also a couple of other Defender shotgun rounds available from Winchester. One for 12 gauge and one for 20 gauge. Both are slugs without buckshot. However, they are very segmented slugs which break into pieces on impact. Just saying.

  13. I switched to an AR(and handgun’s) for home defense. Especially after 3 or 4 young punks apparently tried a home invasion across the street. I figured 30 rounds would do it and not a pump shottie. Fun time’s in the apocalypse😃

  14. 25 yards, or 75 feet, is easy to have in modern open concept homes, especially on a diagonal.

    But there isn’t (normally) that much of a shot spread at 25 yards. And a slug will punch through a lot of walls before it stops. So I’m with the “what is the point of this load?” group..

  15. Agree that this Round is not optimized for home defense or LEO’s use. But for a Combat Shotgun I think they have merit. Look at your paper targets. If your head shot missed you might get a Mulligan when the bad guy gets a 00 Buck Pellet in the face. And I think that is what they are intended for .

  16. My federal high brass 2 3/4″ 00buck 9pellet 12ga shot,and Winchester super-x high brass 2 3/4″ 00buck 12ga. Shot both do some damage and will change things 100%gauranteed 25yrds back to 3yds will ruin the perps day and 90% possibility end their life from limbs to head and torso….good placed shot on any of the above is critical ,vital and is a game changer to life &death and will be dextramental &harmful to ones health being on the receiving end of both 00buck will be nasty devastating,catastrophic so go with what you are familiar with and buy in bulk and pile stock it …. Ammo shortage is hard on a buyers pocket , I have 12 gauge #6birdshot Remington low brass ,#6winchester super-x bird,Winchester super-x,federal premium,9pellet 00buck shot,Winchester pdx1 defender 12 1oz slug triple copper plated 00 buck pellets so I think I’m a force to reckon with in a dire or drastic situation it’s all about shot placement,and whom has the drop on whom is gonna be the game changer stay sharp , percise and smart protect the lives of you and yours ….have home emergency home offensive/defensive plans just in case you and your family and so fourth find themselves in a home invasion robbery type situation where the Intruders intentions and motives of causing harm to either one or all of the victims in that dwelling…

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