The most formidable of home defense weapons is the 12-gauge shotgun. Powerful and fast handling, the shotgun gives a trained shooter every advantage. A problem, however, is recoil. Another consideration is magazine capacity.
Federal Cartridge Company has introduced a new loading that neatly solves most of these problems related to recoil, capacity and even over-penetration. Shorty shells are 1¾ inches long, rather than the traditional 2¾-inch shells.
They offer less power and velocity, but a level of power that is deemed adequate for personal defense. Let’s look at the shells and their performance.
Federal Short Shells: The Cons
First, the downside. These shells will not function in most semi-autos. Perhaps fiddling with the gas system may convince them to run, perhaps not. The shells are at their best in a break-open shotgun, double barrel or a modern pump-action shotgun.
The majority of testing for me was done in a Remington 870 shotgun.
Federal Short Shells: The Pros
When loading the proven 870 (a custom version with Adaptive Tactical stock and forend and XS night sights), the first advantage came to light. The tubular magazine normally holds four 2¾-inch shells. With the 1¾-inch loading, the Remington accommodates seven shells.
Shotguns with a magazine extension will hold even more. Be careful when using these shells, as pump-action shotguns will sometimes short-cycle. I short-cycled the first shells when loading the chamber.
Be certain to give the shotgun a strong pump-action or you may end up with two short shells in the carrier. But, then again, improper handling will cause a shotgun to short-cycle with any loading.
After the initial familiarization, I found the shotgun reliable with these loadings. I ran a full magazine through the shotgun as quickly as possible. Control is excellent.
Setting a man-sized silhouette up at seven yards, I tested the shorty shells for pattern and velocity. The #4 buckshot load clocked 1161 fps in my Remington’s 18-inch barrel. The load is 16 balls, less than the full-size loading, but still a formidable payload.
The pattern was a consistent 5×4 inches at 21 feet. This makes for the kind of effect on an adversary that is desirable in a home-defense situation. Moving to 15 yards, I fired several shots. The pattern stayed in the primary outline of the target.
This load would be useful against predators (such as coyote) to about 50 feet, perhaps a bit longer range in a shotgun with a longer barrel or a tighter choke. Next, I moved to the shorty slug. This is a one-ounce slug that broke from the Remington shotgun’s muzzle at 1120 fps.
While this is slower than a standard 2¾-inch loading, the slug averages 1393 ft-pounds of energy, far superior to the .45 ACP’s average of 400 ft-lbs, for example. I put the slugs into a single ragged hole at seven yards and had no problem making headshots at 15 yards.
These slugs from Federal are a powerful defensive tool and, in this case, both accurate and powerful. I think Federal really has something with these loads. The occasional shooter will find a load that doesn’t beat them up at all, but which offers true shotgun effect at close range.
The slug load, in particular, is an impressive choice for defense use. These loads are affordable and offer one of the best options for personal defense currently available.
What’s your go-to shotgun load for personal defense? Let us know in the comments below.