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Over the years, there has been a certain amount of novelty ammunition devised for various purposes. Some are created ostensibly for concealed carry and/or self-defense, and others are created for different purposes. Some seem to have been created purely for fun at the range and that’s where such ammunition should reside. There are some fun ideas out there that just wouldn’t work in real life.

You may remember the HBO series “The Wire.” It was set in Baltimore and was about the lives of inner city criminals and the cops who pursue them. In one episode, a hired gun informs a gang member that he’s no longer welcome in a particular part of town.

As said gang member – played by Method Man – readies to assault the man for telling him this, the hired gun shoots him in the shoulder with rat shot. He then tells him what it is, but that the next round would be a 125-grain “jacketed hollow point hot street load of my own design” and warned him not to test him.

That’s all well and good for television and it was a great scene. In the real world, though, you wouldn’t want to do that and for two very good reasons.

First, rat shot pellets are tiny (usually #12) and aren’t going to do much to a human being in a violent frenzy, so the ploy isn’t likely to work. Secondly, it’s tantamount to a warning shot since it’s a less lethal round. Since a warning shot signifies the threat was less than immediate, there’s no legal justification for pulling the trigger.

9mm shot shell rat shot #12

Incidentally, if you watch “The Wire” and the first season of “True Detective,” you’ll never be able to watch any major network cop shows again. They were the pinnacle of the genre. But back to our subject.

The same goes for rock salt loads. Not only will it not penetrate flesh (much), it likewise could be taken to mean a less than immediate threat. Less lethal rounds are a great idea in principle – i.e. hopefully stopping an attacker without killing them – but circumspection isn’t a quality that district attorneys always possess. If a person shoots another person but didn’t mean to kill them, they could very well conclude that it wasn’t really self-defense situation.

The idea of a tactical pump shotgun loaded with Dragon’s Breath is fun, but you’re just as likely to set your house on fire as stop a bad guy who’s broken in.


Then there are those seasoned duck loads. Go ahead if you want…but I wouldn’t.

And there are plenty more out there like these…novelty ammunition promising all sorts of things is released every year. While some find a few buyers, the reality is that the wheel isn’t going to be reinvented any time soon.

Bonded hollow points are the most-used, best pistol ammunition for self-defense for very good reason. Good old Buckshot is best in shotguns, also for very good reason. There are some better versions of each that come along from time to time and improve the breed, which is a good thing, but the wheel isn’t likely to be reinvented any time soon.

So let’s restrict the novelty ammo to the range.








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  1. “He then tells him what it is, but that the next round would be a 125-grain “jacketed hollow point hot street load of my own design” and warned him not to test him.”

    “‘The Wire’ – Brother Mouzone shoots Cheese”

  2. Huh. The “dragons breath” I shot at the range had a better disbursement.
    Maybe it’s box to box.

    So, yeah. I agree with you Sam. Leave the novelty stuff at the range.
    Use what the local PD or SO uses. Much better in defense court.

    • “So, yeah. I agree with you Sam. Leave the novelty stuff at the range.”

      I can visualize being in the middle of Bum-Phuque-Nowhere duck hunting and firing that “Seasoned Duck Load” and that cloud of hot pepper blowing back into my eyes…

  3. So you comment on so-called novelty ammo without mentioning the shotgun shell in the pick?!? Go to Taodledermaus for a “real” review. I’ve never used novelty crap except Zombiemax. Just a different color.

  4. When I read the title of this article I thought “Somewhere, somebody has a pistol grip only Mossberg 500 loaded with Dragons breath, just waiting for his chance to become a legend in the trailer park.” I doubt that you’ve changed his/ her mind.

    • Same here. Mossberg 500 in my case, loaded with #4 Buck. At any distance in the home the shot column is still close together and that would be devastating. But, far less likely to go thru a wall, across the street and thru another wall.

      The Mossberg 590A1 on the other hand, that’s loaded with 00 Buck and slugs.

  5. What? No Infidel counter-jihadi shotshells with extra crispy bacon bits?

    Or doesn’t anybody make it yet?
    Or is it to non-PC to sell in real life?

    • “What? No Infidel counter-jihadi shotshells with extra crispy bacon bits?

      Or doesn’t anybody make it yet?”

      I’ve seen it.

      There’s also gun oil with pig fat in it for the ‘Faithful’.

      Every round you shoot, no virgins in Heaven for them…

  6. I don’t even use that shit at the range but I also don’t go around telling other people what to do. If somebody wants to load electron deficient pork jerky and Madagascar cinnamon into their EDC rounds who are we (meaning Mr. Hoober) to tell them not too?

      • With no notice that it was simply opinion, I assumed it was a normal article. Mr. Hoober also always comes off as quite preachy to me even when I agree with him as I do here. I guess “opinionated” is a better way to look at it. Myself, I don’t write because I can’t think of anything I could say that hasn’t been said already six ways to Sunday. I comment mostly as an attempt to practice not being an a$$hole – a task at which I often fail.

  7. In Brother Mouzone’s defense, I’m pretty sure his intention was indeed for the rat load to be “tantamount to a warning shot.” The idea being that a smaller man in a suit and bowtie trying to strong-arm a group of drug dealers could get further with a word and a gun, instead of just a word. In any case, since I’m not planning on pushing any dealers off of any corners, I’ll stick to just the hollowpoints.

    However, I do know some family friends who keep their HD shotguns loaded with the same thing they hunt dove with. Not because it’s cheap (although I don’t doubt that helps the decision) but because of some misguided ideas about overpenetration indoors. If it’s heavy enough to stop a bad guy, it’s heavy enough to go through a few walls. Nevermind how little damage that #7 1/2 shot does to a 4-ounce bird, and what they’re expecting it to do to a 180-pound man.

    • At ten yards, a center of mass hit with an ounce and an eighth of ‘dove and quail’ will probably make him very angry or very afraid.
      At ten feet, it’ll probably put a hole in him you can store a softball in.

      • Yup, at very close range any load of shot from a 12ga is so tightly packed it is not going make much difference. Massive damage, big ugly wound, bad guy should have slept in that day.

      • I’m pretty sure that “wall of lead” concept has been debunked and there are videos about it. It’s not a wall of lead, and it doesn’t act like a slug. It’s a bunch of tiny pellets hitting a person as individual pellets.

        And no, I wouldn’t want to get shot with 7-1/2 12ga.

        I prefer not to be shot with anything, but that doesn’t mean everything I don’t want hitting me is a valid self defense weapon.

      • This. I have shot groundhogs using BB steel with federal flite control wads up close and the results were catastrophic. The shot normally does not separate from the cup for several yards. That said I would suggest #4 buck for that application but up close it will do tremendous damage.

  8. “Let’s Leave The Novelty Ammunition For The Range”

    I leave the novelty ammunition on the shelf and buy real ammo instead. But, like J.G. Wentworth says, “it’s your money.”

  9. “The idea of a tactical pump shotgun loaded with Dragon’s Breath is fun, but you’re just as likely to set your house on fire as stop a bad guy who’s broken in.”

    True. But I kinda want to see that one played out. Especially the bad guy running around screaming on fire, setting other things on fire. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

  10. So a warning shot in which the projectile is a jhp is in fact the deployment of “lethal force” and I can see where that might be problematic for the purpose of establishing imminence from the prospective of a DA. Rat shot on the other hand isn’t “less lethal”, it’s “non-lethal”. I can’t even imagine a circumstance where it would be likely to produce death or even serious injury unless it struck an eye (perhaps if the firearm was in direct contact with the perps head) given the non-lethality of hand gun rounds generally (something like 85% survivibility rate).

    Given that without exception every YouTube video I’ve ever seen (admittedly anecdotal and not conclusive) showing the defensive use of a firearm shows the perp fleeing at the report of the first shot, why would a non-lethal first round be legally problematic?

    Certainly its efficacy might be questioned in some contexts where the first round fired might need its full threat stopping potential, but it occurs to me that this “rat shot” scenario could conceivably mitigate downstream legal liabilities that stem from civil lawsuits resulting from the death or injury of the perpetrator or bystanders.

    Perhaps this would represent a reasonable escalation of force in many if not most scenarios.

    I’m assuming that most here will disagree, but I should like to hear why. Bear in mind that I’m not advocating for this, just curious.

  11. “Incidentally, if you watch “The Wire” and the first season of “True Detective,” you’ll never be able to watch any major network cop shows again. They were the pinnacle of the genre.”

    No, that would be Miami Vice and The Shield.

  12. I always take self defense advice from TV gangbangers. I am sure that if the event described in The Wire took place in the real world that the participants would strictly follow the laws related to the use of force. /sarc

  13. I think I still stick with my opinion that it makes more sense to judge someone for their actions rather than their tools. If the purpose of drawing my weapon is to prevent harm to myself or my family, it shouldn’t matter if I use pepper spray, a baseball bat, or a gun. If that is true, and there is precedence for all of those options (some folks can’t even have firearms due to restrictions / safe spaces), than I don’t think less lethal rounds matter.

    I can see a sleezy lawer making just as big a character out of someone bludgeoning someone else to the edge of death with a bat, calling it inhumane, and wanting to fight that a gunshot would have been nicer since the bad guy now has a lifetime set of disabilities.

  14. If I could afford to waste my ammo budget on novelties, I suppose I’d buy some for plinking time. Nothing else though. Handguns get good quality hollow points. Shotguns get buckshot or slugs.

    I do wonder though what that rat shot wound channel would look like in ballistic gel? Fired at an arm’s length thru clothing like that? Just as a curiosity is all. No way in hell I’d ever use that stuff for defense.

    Oh and I have shot both rattler snakes and rodents with a 9mm pistol and plain old 115gr FMJ. Because it is what I had.

  15. Rock salt is for 2 legged predators that could just be the local kids stealing melons or turning over outhouses. It teaches a lesson without having a local funeral for a child of a neighbor. It would be a load that you use because this trouble has been going on too long and you don’t want to hurt a kid permanently. The pain would be a great reminder of what to stop doing.
    Other than that, firearms are “real protection” and should be used as designed. “Less than lethal” will not stop someone in their tracks. I do not wish to kill anyone, but to protect myself and family, I could and sleep every night very soundly.

    • yep it is a load traditionally kept under the counter by shop keepers. often they would give the thief both barrels in the ass as he/she went out the door. then the thief would not be able to sit down for a week and if still with decent parents would get a belting at home as well

  16. There is a bit of an old, fuddy-duddy tone here. Most, if not all designs, start out as a novelty at some point. Things will never progress until we keep shooting “weird” stuff at the range/lab and then have it make its way to the “real world”. Also, how do you define novelty? Are wad cutters novelty? AP ammo? Oversized buckshot? Depending on where you go some people would consider fmj or hollowpoints novelty. Somewhere near 500-1,000 years ago a guy with a sword looked at a guy with a fire lance and said, “that will never work”.

    • Most likely reason because it wasn’t! The first Iron Bullet wasn’t used until the mid 14th century. Before that common stones were used, which usually Shattered once the Gunpowder ignited…

      • I’m not sure what you are trying to state but mid 14th century is at/around 1350. That is within the 500-1,000 range I stated. Your objection is what exactly?

        • The “Arquebus” of the 14th century has a maximum effective range of ~5-years in ideal weather conditions and with a Solid Projectile. Not with a Rock that Broke Up into Smaller Rocks once the Gunpowder was ignited…

        • What is your point exactly? How does that in anyway take away from what I stated?

        • @ Samuraichatter.

          The fact that the 14th century Musket was notoriously inaccurate at anything beyond 5-yards w/Solid Shot. With a Barrel full off Loose Gravel, it was no more effective than a Noise Maker in killing the enemy…

        • Yeah, but it lead to what we have now (or even 100 years ago) and that is highly effective. More effective than bows or swords. Something had to be be the first and the first often sucks. That is my point. Some novelty ammo will never be effective; some will. Some types are designed for novelty or less-than-lethal. Some people are just genetically wired to poo poo new ideas.

  17. I remember as a teenager in 1967 watching ” The St.Valentines Day Massacre” movie. One scene has a gangster unloading the shot from shotgun shells and replacing them with ball bearings. I thought this was a great idea and I loaded the paper hulls with the bearings. I wasn’t impressed and concluded that buckshot was just as good and Hollywood has some stupid ideas.

  18. Yes, lead shot deformed on impact and increasing it’s circumference. Lots of tissue damage here. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of either.

    • But even a Stray Ball Bearing Shot could Ricochet off the Walls or other Object and come at the Victim from another direction…

        • Flechette’s! Great at Close Range, Not So Great at Long Range, considering they have the habit of following a differing path while in flight…

  19. With the possible exception of Texas ….

    Shooting someone with rock salt would not have the results under law that people imagine from long ago. If you try that it is going to be looked the same as if you used regular ammo. Did you face a deadly threat or didn’t you? If the law evaluates you were not in a reasonable fear of death, you will be charged with assault.

    So, times have changed. Somebody is running away from your store with a case of beer, or running away from your chicken coop with a couple of hens, you are going to be in loads of difficulty shooting them with anything at all.

    • Put some hearing aid batteries in the rounds with the salt. Shooting them in the rear means getting… AssSalt and Battery! 😆

  20. “but circumspection isn’t a quality that district attorneys always possess. If a person shoots another person but didn’t mean to kill them, they could very well conclude that it wasn’t really self-defense situation.”

    How’s about “I didn’t know he/she was going to play asshole today, so I fucking shot him/her with whateverthefuck I happened to have in my gun at the moment. And, yes, the razor-wire and confetti-sprinkles round was in my gun at the moment.”

    FUCK ALL Y’ALL. You’re the fucking problem. Anyone questioning you after the fact is just the secondary attack from perp #2, 3, 4, 5, to infinity. Fuck all of them, and fuck all the idiots who stand for a second of dick-head Monday morning quarter-backing when capital force is called for. Make sure you have enough rounds for all of the MFrs out there, and yes, I recommend the razor-wire and confetti-sprinkles round, without a choke.

    • gotta agree here…legal DGUs are not in the business of killing the bad guy, they are in the business of stopping the threat.

      If a rocksalt load stops the threat, then the job is done. There should be no room for a jackboot to argue that use of a less-than-lethal round is somehow proof that no true threat existed.

      To argue that the use of LTL is problematic, it would reasonably follow that one should put every round available into the bad guy.

      This is how a poorly constructed self-defense law that makes brandishing illegal results in carry instructors telling students to mag dump into any threat that gets within 20 feet.

  21. “The Shield” was better than “The Wire”, and was one of the best shows ever made (Deadwood, Carnivale, Vikings and currently running Knightfall also).

    • “Vikings” seems to have run out of plot lines…although there’s still plenty of historical stuff they can explore…noticed how quickly they adopted crossbows after the siege of Paris…”Deadwood”‘s still a pretty wild place today…and wild bill and calamity are still resting under big tombstones up on top of that hill……

  22. Eh, never watched any of the dramatic cop shows. I would turn on MeTV and watch old reruns of Adam 12, Dragnet, maybe even Chips. Sure they were silly, but I liked happy endings to my TV shows. Still do. Reality is dark enough, why would I escape into something just as dark or even more so?

    • NYPD is still running strong in syndication…always worth a look…so was” Hill street blues”

  23. Don’t knock rock salt loads. I use them in 12 gauge regularly. They’re great for teaching stray dogs whose yard to stay out of. If they had a bit more range they’d be perfect.

  24. Somehow I don’t think Brother Mouzon is too worried about “legal justification”. What’s Cheese going to do? Call the cops, lodge a complaint, press charges and testify?


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