Previous Post
Next Post

Ammo reviews can be difficult to do, what with all the gel blocks and other gear required for an objective evaluation. Shotgun ammo can be a bit different. Rounds like Federal’s Personal Defense with Flitecontrol are worth a look and comparison to competitors. What makes Barnes Defense Buckshot eye-catching is its cost of almost $4.00 per round. 

Barnes describes the new load as being “produced with the uncompromising precision and reliability” and having a price of between $17.99 and $21.99 for a five-round box. Most of the big box stores carry it and price it in that range. I’ve found it for $3.60 a round, but you have to do some looking. It’s safe to say that Barnes Defense is not inexpensive.

Given the options for buckshot out there, the price alone made me curious. What exactly does an almost $4.00 shotgun shell do? I don’t mind paying a premium for good defensive ammunition. That being said, my favorite defensive buckshot load is, without a doubt, Federal Personal Defense with Flitecontrol and I can find it for less than half that price. 

Four bucks a round is pricey, is it worth the squeeze? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I was perusing my local Academy Sports recently, looking for a new pair of running shoes, and as always, I drifted through the ammo aisle. There I found Barnes Defense Buckshot on sale for half off. 

High brass is a promising feature. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Ten bucks a box — $2 a round — is a substantial saving, so just for fun, I grabbed a few boxes. The sale price put it in within my price/curiosity threshold, and if I can get some half-off high-quality buckshot, I figured I owed it to myself to give it a try. I wanted to see what $4-a-round buckshot does in the real world. 

Breaking Down the Cartridges 

Each box holds five 2.75-inch shells. They’re rated at 1,325 feet per second and each round contains nine pellets of OO buck. Barnes Defense are high brass rounds which will please owners of picky shotguns.

A 2.75-inch shell isn’t 2.75 inches until it’s fired and uncrimped. If you’ve compared different cartridges, you know that the length of different brands varies before they’re fired, and that can be problematic in some guns. 

It’s pretty standard for shotgun ammo on the outside. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Some shells are longer than others, to the point where a 2.75-inch shell may be quite long and can even reduce a shotgun’s capacity by a round. That’s not a problem here.

The Barnes Defense rounds fit perfectly in the tube, and a seven-round tube will hold seven rounds of Barnes Defense. It all looks pretty standard.

The crimp is solid, and the length is consistent. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I don’t care much for nine-pellet buckshot for defensive use. Nine-pellet buckshot rounds often exhibit what’s called a 9th pellet flyer. That means a single pellet frequently flies a fair bit away from the main group. That’s something to be aware of when each pellet is a .33 caliber projectile. 

To The Range 

I loaded the Barnes Defense Buckshot a round at a time and patterned them at 10 and 15 yards. Ten yards is within home defense range. Fifteen yards is on the far end, but still well still worth patterning. I patterned five rounds at each range. 

A six-inch pattern isn’t exceptional and isn’t worth $4 a round. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Sadly I was not impressed with the results. The ten-yard pattern was six inches wide. Not exactly impressive. At fifteen yards, the pattern opened up to 9.5 inches. Again, not particularly impressive. In fact, it’s downright poor compared to other defensive loads I’ve tested. Hornady Critical Defense and my favorite Flitecontrol produce much tighter groups.

At 15 yards I got a 9.5 inch group. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

In fact, I have some basic, garden variety Federal 2.75-inch buckshot. It’s nothing special, but at ten yards, the Federal load patterns at 3.5 inches.

As for those 9th pellet flyers, they occurred more often than not at fifteen yards with the Barnes Defense load. 

The Barnes Defense loads pattern more like what I’ve seen from cheap foreign-made loads, like Rio or S&B. It simply doesn’t pattern particularly well…or even above average. What about other factors?

The R&R Of Shotgun Rounds 

R&R for shotgun rounds means recoil and reliability. In terms of reliability, there wasn’t a single issue. Every round fired, ejected, and cycled without a problem. I fired them through my new favorite shotgun, the Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical, and every round fired and cycled. 

Can Barnes make good self defense ammo? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

In terms of recoil from the Barnes Defense rounds, it was exactly what you’d expect from a 1,325 fps shell. Recoil wasn’t rough or shoulder-pounding. It was fairly average and was easy to shoot rapidly without much muzzle rise. The Barnes Defense shotgun rounds performed as you’d expect. 

Overall the Barnes rounds fed fine and shot fine. But they were decidedly underwhelming for a round that costs four bucks a pop. The shuck-shuck noise of a punp shotgun is replaced with the ka-ching ka-ching of sending four dollars downrange with every squeeze of the trigger.

If this was your average 70 cents-per-round buckshot round I can get in my local big box store any day of the week, it’d be no big deal. Barnes Defense Buckshot performs much like that cheaper bulk stuff, but at $4 a round, you’re just not getting any extra bang for your additional bucks. 


Previous Post
Next Post


    • I am making effectively tirelessly $15k to $20k basically by doing coordinate work at domestic. Multi month once more i have made $45890 from this development. astounding and smooth to do work and standard pay from this can be stupefying. i have propose each last one of you to connect this advance right specifically as moo security and get than full time compensation through take after this affiliation.
      ) AND Great Good fortune.:

      • Working from domestic, I win $100 each hour. The truth that my closest companion makes $16,000 a month working from a portable workstation is fantastically astounding to me, so she prompted me to deliver it a attempt. I had no thought it was dws truly conceivable.
        Presently is the time for everybody to undertake this work by utilizing this site.

    • When looking to buy pull-out couches, there are several options to consider. You can check furniture stores such as IKEA, Ashley HomeStore, and Wayfair. Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay also offer a wide range of choices. Additionally, consider local classifieds, thrift stores, and online classified websites like Craigslist for potential deals. bvc


  1. Chamber round,
    Think about price Dechamber round
    Hit bad guy over head with shotgunm
    Pick up shot shell
    Load gunm
    It’s a very cost effective and efficient shotgunm load if you add things up.

    • “What makes Barnes Defense Buckshot eye-catching is its cost of almost $4.00 per round.”

      When you care enough to send the very best. Perhaps.

  2. Thanks for an obviously honest review. That 15 yard pattern looked well left of center also. Were you using bead, open, or ghost ring sights? I’ve got more buckshot than I’ll shoot in my lifetime, even if the villagers show up with torches and pitchforks tonight. However, I’m prone to buy ammo anytime it’s on sale. Think I’ll pass on this though.

  3. There was a reason they were on clearance at a big box store.

    You aren’t the only one saying, “Hey, no thanks.” to $4/round buckshot.

    I like Barnes and I know some peeps that work there. But in this case, they either need to up their game on either price point or performance, or simply drop the line altogether.

    When cheap S&B buckshot perform as good or better than your company’s product at 1/5th (or 1/10th when I bought them) the price, you’re not doing something right.

    • Mr. Boch,

      There was a reason they were on clearance at a big box store.

      Speaking of clearance pricing, I just came home from a large grocery store chain and the typical price for a case of carbonated light barley beverage was $18.49–except for a certain brand that has recently received a LOT of negative attention which was on sale for $3.49 after rebate.

      Manufacturers “speak”, and the market responds.

      • Uncommon, that was one person that acted unilaterally on the Bud Light thing. (I have a very good C.I. in Anhauser Busch). That person’s career is now sucking wind. One good thing came out of this though. The corporate world is learning that it’s not a good idea to piss off the majority of the population to apiece a small portion of the population. If only the government could learn the same lesson. Of course, the government is not for profit.

        • Government be, in theory, a Not-For-Profit, but the politicians, elected office holders and other non-elected bureaucrats sure make money- hand over fist, and from any source available.

  4. I have two uses for a shotgun. Birds and small game. And house defense. And since I live in CA I will not be taking my shotguns to the street.

    At house ranges any decent buckshot load will work. Whatever is cheap and on sale fills the bill.

  5. My tweaked Warthog Tac Semi is loaded with Hornady Critical Defense however it runs on most anything. The Barnes shows reliable and the wider pattern is not a deal breaker but the price is.

  6. From Travis above:

    “I don’t care much for nine-pellet buckshot for defensive use.”

    Methinks just about anyone would be happy to have a 12-ga shottie loaded with classic 9-pellet 00 buck if the baddies were pounding in the front door. I have a difficult time imagining how it can be dismissed as not being good enough.

    • I Haz a Question,

      I imagine the primary concern with a buckshot load is:
      At some point the pattern opens up so fast in a typical home-defense distance that some of the pellets fail to strike your attacker–or worse land on bystanders.

      Needless to say, pellets failing to strike your attacker or hitting bystanders is undesirable.

      I also imagine that nine buckshot pellets striking in a very tight pattern are more likely to incapacitate an attacker faster than a significantly more open pattern. (Think of nine buckshot pellets all confined to a 1.5-inch diameter circle as approximating the tissue destruction of a 1.50 caliber projectile in a single wound channel–versus nine separate .33 caliber pellets creating nine separate .33-inch diameter wound channels.)

      • Travis explained why (same as your first point). I understand your second point as well, but I’m inclined to agree with Haz.

        I remember a review of a “buck’n’ball” load where it performed exactly as designed, but the reviewer dismissively mocked “why would you want a bunch of pellets impacting in an X” radius circle when you could just shoot him once center of mass with the slug?” To me his criticism was like saying “Why would you load down your magazine with all that extra weight when you could just kill him with one shot?” He missed the whole point of the load (and of buckshot in general), which is accommodating human fallibility under life-and-death stress.

        Might a pellet or two miss? Sure, just like pistol shots might miss. That’s why one of the rules includes “and what’s behind it”. A 1.5″ projectile is practically a guaranteed stop if you put it in the exact right place, but nine (or even six) .32ACPish wound channels are still a fairly likely stop for us fallible human beings who might not – or, at the very least, extremely likely to make the threat pause enough for another shot.

      • “I imagine the primary concern…”

        That, or Pike actually prefers 3.5″ 15 pellet rounds, and fliers be damned…😜

  7. Thanks for the guinea pig report, and I’m glad you didn’t pay full price. Sorry Barnes, not gonna trade off my Flite Control. I have some regular Federal too, and like yours, it does better than the Barnes did for you at a fraction of the cost.

  8. I take it buckshot is back on the shelves? I stopped looking. I still have some from the pre-Dr. Science era.

  9. Geez nearly 4 bucks a shell? Yeah buying a bit for my new shottie made me wish I’d bought more Herters shells for next to nothing prices several years ago. Good stuff Maynard🙄

  10. From the picture posted of the target it appears some of those buckshot were tumbling. That may be the reason for the pattern spreads?

  11. This is great information. But it brings up a pet peeve of mine. Besides machine guns. And that is ammunition selection.

    I’ve only recently discovered “wadcutters” for revolvers. I wish I’d known about them 10 years ago. The “gun business” wants to sell lots and lots of guns.
    But they don’t really match the correct gun with the correct ammunition for that particular gun owner.

    The Lucky Gunner pocket pistol series and the “Gun Sam revolver officianado” YouTube channels are really outstanding for discussing the correct ammunition, low recoil ammo, in both semi autos and revolvers.

    From my shotgun I personally. Experimented and purchased 20 different varieties of shotgun loads. To see which ones weren’t gonna destroy my shoulder.

    l found that Flight Control shells were very pleasant to shoot and very accurate.

    • I used to hand load for a .357 with 148gr.wad cutters turned backwards.
      They really made a big hole in my ballistics mud test, penetrating to11inches.

      • I’ve gotten pretty friendly with a local gun store owner here. Apparently, so much so that he gave me his 357 Lee loader kit!
        And loaned his ammo reloading books out to me for a month to read.

        After reading his books and watching some videos about using this reloader. I have to say it seems that loading your own ammo is pretty easy.

        He has shown me his pictures of the results of his rifle reloaded ammo. His Accuracy is amazing. With bullets holes laying almost on top of each other on the paper targets. At 50 to 100 yards.

        I didn’t know that by loading your own ammo. You can actually assist in adjusting the accuracy of the rifle. This is the kind of science I can really get into.

    • @Chris T in KY

      “I’ve only recently discovered “wadcutters” for revolvers.”

      Welcome to the Wadcutter Brotherhood.

      I love taking my Smith Model 52 to the range…there’s almost always a younger shooter who is confused by a semi-auto firing .38 Spl wadcutters. After trying a couple of magazines, they generally say that they might be on the lookout for one if it presents itself. The 148 gr HBWC over 2.8 gr of Bullseye is a tack driving, low-recoil combination….whether it is fired from a revolver or the S&W M-52.

      • My friend I had to look this S&W 52 gun up. Wow! A semi-auto designed to shoot revolver ammunition. Amazing!

        Yep, Wadcutters are the solution to making a revolver easier and friendlier to shoot for new shooters.

  12. I suspect, as with most consumer products, most of the cash went towards marketing. I tend to look at products that spend LESS on marketing, and more on the product itself.

  13. I’ve some old Winchester Western 00buck with a plastic card over the pellets, thems the real deal.

  14. When being attacked by rampaging mobs of ANTIFA/BLM/LGBTQIA+/Biden supporters, seemingly excessive pattern spread can be a virtue rather than a vice. At a hundred yards, that pattern is probably about eight feet in diameter. When shooting from an elevated position, projectiles in that pattern will be able to impact rioters in the second, third and fourth ranks . While 00 buckshot doesn’t retain enough energy for a single projectile to have as much lethality or incapacitation capacity as pistol or rifle bullet, it can be fatal or debilitating. More importantly, the psychological impact of a half dozen or so rioters being hit with every round fired from a full magazine tube will be an emotionally significant event that will inspire the vermin to reevaluate, reconsider, and maybe modify their behavior. A few follow in rounds of slugs targeted at obvious leaders will convict the rank and file to repent or at least bravely run away.

  15. INVECTOR BUCK KICKER 12G choke will tighten up groups on the cheapest stuff. Unfortunately my Mossy 930 cylinder bore is not threaded for a choke and no one makes a 18.5″ barrel that accepts a choke.

    • The Mossberg 940 Turkey is the improved 930… with an 18.5″ barrel, threaded for chokes. Same for the Tactical, but the Turkey looks a lot less intimidating.


  16. Federal 13200, 8 pellet w/flight control wads out of a cylinder/improved cylinder bore. If you can find it. I’ve yet to find anything that holds tighter groups at distance. Out of my guns, all hits within a torso-sized B-21 target out to forty yards.

Comments are closed.