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And now for something completely different. In this video, I’m deviating from the clinical testing of bullet performance to try something unusual — let’s see what happens to a gel block if you blast the living hell out of it with a handheld shotgun revolver? Accordingly, I’m putting two types of buckshot to the test — Federal .410 Handgun 5-pellet 000 buckshot, and Federal .410 Handgun 9-pellet 4 buck . . .

The testing idea is simple — how would the gun perform if you had to use it for self-defense against a home invader? I figure that a likely response would be the homeowner pointing the gun and pulling the trigger as fast as they can, so that’s how I tested these. I made a 20 lb. block of ballistic gel for each type of ammo, loaded the Raging Judge’s six-round cylinder full of buckshot and blasted away as fast as I could yank the trigger. Sure, some of the pellets are going to miss. Heck, maybe I might miss a shot completely, but in the end, the results might be entertaining, and maybe even educational, if not ideally scientifically structured.

I did pattern tests on each type of ammo. First I put six shells of 000 buckshot into a gel block. Then I brought out a new gel block and put six shells worth of 4 buck into that one. Since ballistic gel is a homogenous analogue for the general ballistic response of living human tissue, the damage done to the gel block could generally, reasonably be considered comparable to the damage that would be done to our hypothetical intruder. So once I’d blasted the gel blocks, I compared the results, and the results were very, very clear. It’s just no contest. Obviously one of these rounds is a brutal and devastating load, and the other is…not.

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  1. Great results! I always wondered why your videos are unlisted, do you make them specifically for TTAG?

  2. That 00 Buck is the first solid performer I’ve seen from any of the Judges. However, I would like to see what the damage caused by just one shot would be because anyone can destroy anything if they shoot it enough.

    • Agreed… I’ve never been a big fan of wheel guns, but something about being able to shoot shotgun shells out of a pistol intrigues me.

  3. I think the #4 buck is not stacked in the center of the round, so the centrifugal force from the rifling flings them everywhere, whereas the 000 buck is centered and isn’t effected. Federal should try testing their own ammunition once in a while. #4 can be pretty devastating in a 12 gauge. I shot a 3″ 41 pellet round at a silhouette once at 25 yards with a modified choke and that seemed to be about the edge of where you can expect all the pellets to hit the target. In a handgun, shot would be pretty useless even that far out.

    Actually the #4 might actually be a pretty good round for inside the apartment defense. That 15″ shot spread was at 7 yards which would be about the longest shot you could take in an apartment. I’d just consider it useless outside of 10 yards.

  4. Spoiler Alert!

    While the #000 buckshot rounds were obviously devastating compared to the #4 buckshot rounds, there are applications where the #4 buckshot rounds could be preferable. As the videographer stated, less penetration could be desirable for someone such as an apartment dweller. And that huge pattern at close range pretty much guarantees that the victim is going to hit their attacker with at least one pellet.

    Remember, over 90% of all attackers immediately break-off their attack when the victim merely presents a firearm. Of the less than 10% of attackers who continue their attack, I have to believe that most of them are going to beat feat when the victim starts shooting — especially if the attacker feels pellets hitting him/her. After all, the attacker has no idea what sort of rounds the victim is firing.

    So, if you expect a stalker or drug addled attacker who will continue their attack no matter what you do, the #000 buckshot rounds are the way to go. If you are seriously concerned about over penetration in an apartment or want to be virtually certain that you will score at least one hit on your attacker, then the #4 buckshot rounds are the way to go.

    Of course you can have your cake and eat it too — use #4 buckshot rounds in the first one or two chambers and then fill the rest with #000 buckshot rounds!

    • “Of course you can have your cake and eat it too โ€” use #4 buckshot rounds in the first one or two chambers and then fill the rest with #000 buckshot rounds!”

      I think if I was to do that it would be 000 buck in the first one or two chambers followed up with slugs in 3 & 4 and finish out with hollowpoint .45 lc in the last two. Just to make sure!

  5. Noob question: The pellets all looked flattened. Probably a dumb question, but was it hitting the gel that flattened them, or do they come that way in the shell? I have a mental image of a stack of watch batteries…

    • Yes, most if not all of them had some measure of flattening to them. But surprisingly enough, they flatten less than some other brands; Winchester Super-X buckshot, for example, is softer lead and flattens more, if I’m remembering my loads properly (I’ve tested a billion, but this is coming off the top of my head).

      Federal uses harder, copper-plated lead, which helps minimize the flattening, which is a good thing for patterning. The more the shot flattens, the more likely it is to fly unpredictably; flatter shot tends to spread more, and that’s what I experienced with the Winchester as vs. the Federal. However, there’s a lot to be said for the FliteControl wad that the Federal 000 uses also; it keeps the shot from contacting the rifling and keeps ’em all in line, which helps them fly a lot straighter.

      There’s varying degrees of flattening. Some are flattened only on one side, some are pancaked. I don’t have a 100,000-frame-per-second camera to verify this, but I strongly suspect that the ones that are flattened on one side, and rounded on the other, were the front pellet; the ones that are the most pancaked are probably the ones deepest in the cartridge. So, yes, I believe the flattening happens in the shotgun shell, not from the impact with the soft target.

      • “I donโ€™t have a 100,000-frame-per-second camera to verify this, but I strongly suspect that the ones that are flattened on one side, and rounded on the other, were the front pellet; the ones that are the most pancaked are probably the ones deepest in the cartridge.”

        Mr. Farago has been making noises recently about getting a 1,000,000 fps camera.

        Perhaps a bit of group groveling might sway him… ๐Ÿ™‚

        • There was some discussion about an ultrahigh speed camera, and the expense; I don’t know how the discussion ended (although I’d presume that if he’d got one, we’d have been seeing ultraslow videos already); but for just onesies and twosies, I’d suggest either renting or finding somebody that does it for a living and just work out a deal.

  6. @Rich Grise

    The pellets are round copper plated in my Federal 000 buck.
    Winchester’s PDX 1 loads have flattened disks with BBs in the same shell, but the spread is horrible.
    I run 2 Federal 000, 2 Hornady Triple Defense, and one Honady Critical Defense LC.

    Mine is a Public Defender Poly Judge.

    • Yes, PDX1 uses what they call “defensive discs”, but basically they’re just pre-flattened shotgun pellets. Which makes sense, really; they’re likely to get flattened anyway when they get shot, and pre-flattening them makes them take up less space in the shotgun shell, leaving more room for BBs or powder.

      The PDX1 discs in my testing have flown fairly straight and patterned well out to 7 yards, but the BBs spread as bad or even worse than the 4 buck did. I think PDX1 is an interesting load with limited usefulness; I think it would serve as a first shot in a home defense gun, kind of like what uncommon_sense was talking about above; the first shot would have some manstopping power with the discs, and the BBs would be useless and spray everywhere but maybe, just maybe, even if nothing else hits the attacker, maybe one or two of those BBs will. They wouldn’t have much if any terminal force, but maybe just the very pain of getting hit with something/anything just might flip a switch in the bad guy’s brain to inspire him to withdraw immediately. So maybe PDX1 for the first shot, followed up with some 000 buck or those wicked Lehigh Maximum Expansions…

      • Thanks STB410!

        I agree about the PDX1’s disk spread, but yeah that BB spread is ridiculous. Especially out of my 2″ (or however short) barrel Public Defender. Good for preventing carjackings, I guess.

        Nice idea about those Lehigh Defense 45 LCs. They look nasty.

  7. I wonder if someone could come out with a product similar to the “buck and ball” that was used in paper cartridges during the Civil War. The wounds caused by “buck and ball” were horrific. I think a 12 ga shotgun round with a single large 0.700 ball and three pieces of 00 buck could hold promise.

    • So far, the closest matches that I have found are:
      (a) The manufacturer NobelSport Italia makes a 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge shell with 6 pellets of #1 buckshot and a .65 caliber ball.
      (b) Winchester makes a 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge shell with 3 pellets of #00 buckshot and a 1 oz. rifled slug.

      I also found someone who evaluated the patterning of both of those loads as well as a similar hand load. Their patterns were on the order of two feet at 15 yards and rapidly degraded from there.

      If you want a devastating round from a 12 gauge shell, slugs already fit the bill. If you want a spread pattern for a higher probability of a hit (at the expense of terminal ballistics), then #000 buckshot only shells should fit the bill.

  8. ShootingTheBull410,

    Thank you so much for that testing. I loved the fact that you just blasted away which is as realistic as it gets. In other words your testing accounted for both pattern spread from the load itself as well as pattern spread from the shooter’s inconsistent shot placement.

    I am stunned that the Raging Judge’s barrel produced enough velocity to get that much penetration with the #000 buckshot. That is really good to know.

  9. Number 4 in a 12 gauge 18 inch, smooth barreled gun is very effective for home defense but completely off the mark in this pistol. Even 1.25 oz of #8 with a CUP of 10000 or more makes for a good intruder stopper but not in a .410 pistol.
    Lighter loads in a 12 gauge have lower recoil for more control than MAX loads of slugs. And a semiautomatic shotgun can deliver 5 or more rounds in quick succession.

  10. I use #4 in a judge to walk our dogs. We live near a swamp with lots of coyotes and foxes. But also near other houses. I think the 4 is perfect for that.
    You should remember that not all defensive handgun use is against people.


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