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AMMUNITION FOR THE SELF-DEFENSE FIREARM
Shotgun ammunition falls into three general categories:
BUCKSHOT - shell loaded with large-diameter lead balls (.24" and up) used for big game hunting and self-defense. The number of pellets in 12 gauge buck-shot varies from eight .36" balls in "000 buck" to 27 .24" pellets in "#4 buck". Buckshot ratings are archaic and hard to understand (as are shotgun specifications and ammunition in general), but thankfully there isn't much you need to learn. Simply write down the recommended loads, walk into your local gunshop and announce your desired ammunition (note that "00" is pronounced "double ought" and "000" is pronounced "triple ought." Don't say "zero zero" or "oh-oh-oh buckshot" in front of gunshop employees. Then practice with both your selected defense load and low-cost birdshot to fully familiarize yourself with the operation of your gun and its terminal performance (e.g. patterns at various distances, the startling effects of buckshot on ballistic melons).
BIRDSHOT - small-diameter pellets used for bird hunting. Its stopping power is poor, except when used at very close range - out to 20-30 feet. For that reason it is not generally recommended, except for home defense use.
SLUGS - are solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12 gauge slug is .73" caliber and weighs 438 grains - a 9mm bullet is .355" and 115 grains). Slugs must be carefully aimed to be effective. It is important to remember, however, that shotguns must be aimed with shot, too. Do not for a minute think that you can simply point your shot-loaded shotgun at the foe and let loose. Shotguns must be skillfully aimed and fired just like hand-guns and rifles.
Two things to keep in mind about birdshot. The first is that birdshot is as lethal as buckshot at very close range. Don't believe for a second that you can just wound someone with birdshot and he'll go on to live another day. If you aren't justified in killing a man, you aren't justified in wounding him, either. Never "shoot to wound." I once again direct you to read Ayoob's 'In the Gravest Extreme' and learn the truth.
The second thing is that birdshot can make a lot of sense for home defense. I keep my home-defense 12 gauge loaded with two #4 birdshot rounds followed by 00 buck. Birdshot is less likely to penetrate multiple interior walls and kill innocent people on the other side and has lower recoil than buckshot for faster follow-up shots (I live in a thin-walled apartment house; however, if I lived in a solid house with a lot of land around, I would definitely choose buckshot instead). The stopping power of birdshot should not be under-estimated: at ranges out to thirty feet or so, birdshot is virtually a solid column of lead. Choose any #4 or BB high brass lead hunting load. I like the Federal "Classic Lead Hi-Brass" #4 birdshot (HI26-4) and Winchester "Super-X" #4 high brass birdshot (X12-4), but there is little difference between the various choices. Buy whichever you please. If you're a bird hunter, use your favorite hunting shells as long as they are #6 or larger.
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