During the era of musket warfare, there were times when the musket was loaded with multiple projectiles. As an example, during the Boston massacre the British muskets were loaded with buck-and-ball loads. These loads were common during the 19th Century. Buck and ball is simply a mix of large and small shot. At short-range the spread might engage more than one enemy while the single, heaviest projectile would travel and do damage at longer range.
These loads were widely used as late as the War Between the States. Today, buck and ball more often means loading a mix of buckshot and slug loads in the same magazine. Loading the first two rounds of buckshot and the next two with slugs is a common practice among personal defense shooters that deploy the shotgun. Buckshot is for close range.
Slugs come into play if the defender needs to take out a threat behind cover. Today, Winchester offers a buck-and-ball load in the PDX line of personal defense shotgun shell loads. Some are for standard shotguns, the .410 gauge loading is specifically to improve the performance of the .410 gauge revolver.
The interesting, and potentially very popular, 12 gauge loading in the PDX line is of the most interest to this writer. With several Remington 870 shotguns and a RIA trench gun in use for personal defense, the ability to upgrade the load is worth a closer look. The PDX 12 gauge load features three 00-buck copper plated pellets over a one-ounce slug. There are three well designed wads protecting the shot column and ensuring efficiency. These include a .25-inch hard plastic wad over the powder charge, a 5/16-inch cushioning wad, and finally, a harder 3/16-inch wad.
While the wads have a ballistic purpose they also strike the target along with the payload up to about five yards or so. As a young cop. I well remember viewing photos of perps hit with the Remington Power Piston load. The wad often produced a Maltese cross effect at short-range. The Winchester load seems even more efficient.
I chose to test these loads at seven yards. Seven yards is the standard personal defense range and the truth be told, a long-range for the average shoot out. Home defense shootings will be at shorter range. The PDX load offers the hit probability of multiple projectiles with the hard-hitting effect of a solid slug load. In test firing, recoil was less than with the full power Super X line of buckshot, but the PDX line is no pipsqueak.
I clocked the PDX load at 1140 fps, which translates to 1963 foot pounds of energy. Despite this energy, the PDX load is designed as a low-recoil load. The PDX offers less recoil than standard full-power buckshot—an important advantage in home defense use. Buckshot strings in flight with one ball preceding the other. That is quite an interesting dynamic with many advantages. The pattern was very tight, which means the load is concentrated enough to have great effect on an animate target. The slug and two of the balls were aligned in a dispersion of 4 x 1-inch—four inches wide and one-inch tall. That is excellent!
The total pattern was enlarged to 4×6 inches with the third buckshot very consistently falling below the others. The slug alone would ensure good wound ballistics per my experience. The buckshot is good insurance, and this composite load is a first class addition to our defensive arsenal.
More testing with the 12 gauge loading
The slug still hits the middle of the target, while the buckshot has widened to some 7.25 inches.
The slug is a low on the X-ring but still centered. The buckshot rounds have expanded to some 15 inches of dispersion. This is the longer range at which this load will prove effective.
The .410 PDX
I am not one of those that have bought into the .410 gauge handgun package. I have serious reservations concerning penetration and effectiveness. Just the same, the new Winchester load offers a credible option. The load is somewhat more complicated and offers several options. If one payload doesn’t do the business than the other will is the philosophy. There are a total of 12 plated-BB shots in the .410 gauge load stacked in three each segments between the three 70-grain balls. Well, they are not balls although the common parlance for solid shot is balls. They are actually flat discs. They are approximately bore size.
They are reminiscent of the legendary old west load of a shotgun shell filled with flat spaced dimes. I believe that the load of dimes is more legendary than actual but the fact is, a load of bore-size discs flies fairly straight at short-range and provides a tight pattern at home defense range. As a defense load from a full-size shotgun, the .410 load has some merit. I fired my .410 gauge shells from a 28-inch barrel shotgun with modified choke.
.410 PDX results
The slugs and the BB loads struck the center of the target with the group measuring at just over four inches.
The slugs or discs are still striking the center of the target with the BB shot spreading out in a wide 10-inch pattern. This is probably the longer end of the effective zone for this loading.
Two of the slugs are within six inches of the other, but the third disc is far out to the right-hand side of the target at eight inches from the single slug that struck the X ring. The total group size has grown to 16 inches with two BBs completely off of the target.
PDX Pistol Loads
Recently, I coached two young shooters in firing the .45 automatic. One is a criminal justice major, the other is a soldier. Each time I see young women such as these controlling the .45 automatic, I wonder what was on the mind of the powers that be who decided the .45 was too much for soldiers to handle and adopted the inferior, and ineffective, 9mm pistol. And on top of this, the pistol the girls are firing is a 28-ounce aluminum frame pistol rather than the 40-ounce Government Model!
When firing this pistol, these shooters are in control of the handgun and back on target with the sights lined up while a spent case is in the air. I won’t embarrass them with praise, but the young friends are local heroes and were featured in the local paper for actions they took in an emergency on the road. Their ever broadening mix of experience includes mission trips, difficult college work, and military service in one case—and now in common firearms training.
I asked them to help with evaluating the Winchester PDX pistol loads. The PDX is the latest in a long line of Winchester innovations including the Silvertip, the SXT, and the FBI’s service load—the Bonded Core. These handgun bullets plump up and expand as designed. They feature a good balance of expansion and penetration. However, the primary requirement of any handgun cartridge is reliability.
During the firing of several hundred PDX loadings there were no failures to feed, chamber fire or eject. Beginning in 1916, with a failure rate of only one primer in 100,000, Winchester has set the pace for quality control. Winchester uses case mouth sealant and primer sealant that make the loads highly resistant to oil water and solvent. I have tested the PDX in 9mm, .40 and .45 calibers. The loads have given excellent results. They are loaded a bit faster than average without venturing into +P territory. Overall, the PDX is a winning combination from a respected maker.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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