How Does Buckshot Perform at 50 Yards?

Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing recently conducted an eye-opening ballistic gelatin test of buckshot at 50 yards distance. The rounds were shot from a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun with a 20-inch barrel length and full choke. This video shows the results.

Ammunition Tested

# Pellets
Federal (F127 4B)
#4 Buckshot
2 3/4″
Federal Tactical (LE132 00)
00 Buckshot
Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote (42209)
Hornady Critical Defense (86240)
Remington Express (12B000)
000 Buckshot

Have you tested buckshot at 50 yards? Share your results with us in the comment section.

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Comments (11)

  1. I just found this; thank you! The application referred to here is exactly the one I was looking for and also the exact distances: perfect! I’ll have to find out if my shotgun will accept a choke to tighten up the pattern as none of us can afford new guns.

  2. 12 gauge 00 buck IS READILY AVAILABLE with 12 pellets. I have never seen an 8 pellet load in 00 buck for 12 gauge.

    Something no one has mentioned with multiple hits, there is a factor of squaring the damage per hit. If I remember correctly.
    No one in their right mind should use a long barrel shotgun for in home security/protection, unless that is all they have. It has been proven over and over it can be easily taken away and disarm the owner… Why do you think SWAT and other such entry teams use “short barreled” firearms when entering and clearing a building?

    Bird shot at close range does not have time to spread and will it as a also has the wad cup going to hit the person the target as well.

    In apartments and houses… one must always be concerned with over penetration…who is on the other side of the wall.

    One need not be concerned about such while hunting deer, for example. Personally I prefer #4 buck (NOT to be confused with #4 shot) for home defense. Yes I have slugs readily available as well. GENERALY no one should need a very long shot inside their home or apartment.

    There are also frangible slugs made for home defense.

    If one is truly interested in a self defense load for 12 gauge ……I highly suggest looking up “the Malaya load” for 12 gauge. A load the Brits developed years ago.
    What buckshot does at 50 yards or choke of the barrel, is really not relevant (other than over penetration) inside one’s home or apartment.

  3. I’m glad that you all like the video. It was a lot of work to put together but I think the results are worth it.

    #1 buckshot is likely the optimal load for self-defense with a shotgun. While my HD gun is loaded with #4 buckshot (my longest shot is no more than 15 yards) .. #1 buckshot has more sectional density than the #4 buckshot so the penetration will be better at distance for any given velocity. And its nasty at close range.

    A follow-on test would include #1 buckshot and standard velocity 00 buckshot.

  4. Rio’s Game Load C20 (20 ga 2 3/4″ 00 Buck) has rather optimistic ballistics. But something to consider!

  5. When I began deer hunting we ran deer with dogs and used only shot guns with buck shot. Most used full chokes and my guns always shot best with #1 buck. Killed a lot of deer with that combo. I think if I had used a more open choke, the 00 would have shot better. Times have changed since then.3

  6. Very interesting – thanks. I would like to point out that you can get #2 buck in 20 ga, but only in 3″ magnums, if that is of interest to you.


  7. One issue is that no one uses a full choke on a defensive shotgun, IC is the tightest that is practical for defensive use. Hunting maybe, but that was not his focus

  8. The 00 buckshot he used was not standard velocity, but actually reduced velocity. 1150 fps buckshot is reduced recoil, full power 00 buckshot loads of 2 3/4 12 gauge are actually around 1350, interestingly enough, his under powered tests actually reinforces the effectiveness of the cartridge.

    When hunting land animals with spreading shot, the only choke in existence for the task is full choke. Close patterns and solid hits are ideal, the spread is nice, but a good central hit with a tight group brings out the true effectiveness of the round. I would also suggest full length barrels, to increase accuracy, velocity, and tightness of the groups. The idea you need to have a short barrel is foolish, you gain a slight amount of maneuverability for a great sacrifice in accuracy and effectiveness.

    Don’t be tempted to buy the big 3 inch shells with more shot. You have more pellets, but less energy per pellet. Buckshot is small enough, and with a loss of velocity it loses a lot of hitting power and penetration. To many pellets can ruin the effectiveness of the ones you hit with. No point in hitting him with a few more pellets if none of them have the juice to keep going and kill whatever you are shooting at. Penetration is key. Same thing with #1 buckshot at longer ranges, more pellets, but less energy and damage per pellet. You can hit more, and each pellet will do less, to the terminal end of losing its effectiveness at all. The same concept of bird shot applies here, you can hit with more pellets that will do nothing, or not enough.

    000 is impressive. Big, fast, and mean, they keep their energy and danger quite a ways. The big question has been, is the gain of the weight and effectiveness of each individual pellet worth the loss of one whole pellet? 9 pellets of 00 buck, only 8 of 000. Is the slight gain worth the loss of that extra, potentially lethal pellet? It seems that in the oldest question of weight vs. number, 00 buckshot has been the drawn line in the sand. For most, 00 is effective enough, and the individual increase in performance is not worth the loss of a whole pellet.

    Do notice that at longer ranges, the shotgun loses its ability to kill very rapidly. Velocity drops rapidly, energy of course sky dives, and the pellet will soon be eating dirt, or failing to penetrate much of anything. Will buckshot kill at 50 yards? Easily. But this is about the effective range of it, any further you are taking risks of under penetration, and vast spreads that may not hit anything, at least effectively. For ranges far shorter than 50 yards, the shotgun is an ideal man stopper, an effective self defense tool. If you can guarantee ranges shorter than this for your situation, the shotgun should be the first choice.

  9. As lightly noted by the presenter, the gauge doesn’t matter much as far as energy delivered to target by projectiles.
    The gauge, however, does matter as a matter of how many projectiles are fired.
    A 12 gauge shotgun shell holds 8-9 pellets of 00 shot, 8 pellets of 000 shot.
    A 410 bore gets only 3 pellets of 000 shot per 2 3/4 shell, though there are some 5 pellet shells in 3 inch shells.
    Forget about 20 gauge with anything larger than #3 buckshot.
    I try to keep with the same length shell, 2 3/4 inch, as a common factor. Otherwise, one ends up all over the map.

    The more pellets, the greater chance of a killing shot.

    Of course, all of that is moot if one is using a rifled slug or even the venerable pumpkin ball.

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