6 Best Home Defense Shotgun Ammo

As one of the earliest firearms, shotguns have come a long way to the present day, changing their forms and purpose.

Although a shotgun is an exceptional all-around firearm, this robust piece of arms will always represent a remarkable defensive and self-protective weapon.

From Winchester’s “Trench Sweeper” in World War One, through Malayan and Vietnam jungles, shotguns have always proved deadly, full-blood combat weapons.

Looking at defense shotgun ammo from the business side of the barrel indeed isn’t a pleasant view for anybody, especially intruders. 

Why? The 12-gauge intimidating barrel can spit a 9-round burst of .30 caliber lead balls in a fraction of a second with one pull of the trigger.

Currently, it’s an impossible mission for any handheld firearm, to the best of my knowledge.

Firearm Type for Home Defense

Firearm Type for Home Defense

We have borrowed a few quotes related to the famous sheriffs for a more vivid perception and better explanation of a shotgun as a defensive weapon.

They blazed the trail westward across America and modern-day gunfighting lawmen.  

A small note: Being both long-barreled firearms, rifle and shotgun share many similarities in home defense scenarios.

  • “A handgun is only good to fight your way to a rifle.”
  • The old sheriff was attending an awards dinner when a lady commented on his sidearm. ‘Sheriff, I see you have your pistol. Are you expecting trouble?’ ‘No, ma’am. If I were expecting trouble, I would have brought my rifle.’
  • “The handgun would not be my choice of weapon if I knew I was going to a fight… I’d choose a rifle, a shotgun, an RPG or an atomic bomb instead.”

Without a doubt, weapon type and caliber are undoubtedly important.

Still, many experts in the field would agree that a 12-gauge shotgun is the most effective gun for home defense, particularly for someone untrained.

If you opt for a shotgun, you’re better off selecting a tactical-style 12-gauge shotgun (semi-auto or pump-action shotguns) with a shorter barrel (18 “-20”) over a classic double-barreled hunting scattergun.

Lethal or non-lethal ammunition 

Being a highly versatile weapon, the shotgun’s main benefit is firing multiple projectiles with a single pull of the trigger and a vast selection of shotgun ammunition.

The latter fact raises another question concerning the choice of adequate ammunition for a home defense situation.

There is less-than-lethal ammunition like bean bags or shells that shoot cayenne pepper, but they are not the subject of this guide.

There are also explosive and flashbang military-grade shotgun ammo, but these are also for another topic. 

In our overview, we’ll do some research and discuss the best 12-gauge lethal home defense ammo.

There is an abundance of 12-gauge loads and various handloading recipes out there designed and ideally suited for HD shotguns.

Birdshot, Buckshot, and Slugs

Birdshot, Buckshot, and Slugs

Choosing one of these three basic types of shotgun ammunition, your scattergun can reach different kill ranges, making it suitable for the defense of an apartment, home, or even ranches.

Discussing the shot patterns have less significance in a home defense role, as the typical range for this scenario is 7 – 15 feet, a very short distance for optimal shot spread.

It means that the pattern stays tight and produces devastating effects, but it requires accurate shooting for effective threat elimination.


As its name says, the birdshot is designed for bird hunting and clay pigeon shooting. 

The size of the birdshot ranges from 0.05 inches to 0.180 inches. Depending on shot size, a standard 12-gauge 2¾-inch shell may contain hundreds to thousands of tiny pellets.

Although the worst choice for home defense use, some gun experts recommend birdshot loads with larger pellets because of small chances for over-penetration of bad guys or through the walls.

The effective range of birdshot is just around 15-30 yards.


For most shotgunners, the king in a home defense ammo is buckshot. The buckshot has larger BBs than birdshot ranging in diameter from .24 inches to .36 inches.

A proof of the effectiveness of the buckshot was determined based on the FBI penetration test. Based on shooting at the ballistics gelatin block with clothes in front, the FBI protocol recommends penetration of 12 “-18” to reach vital organs. 

That said, the #1 buckshot (16 pellets of .30 cal) makes 16.5″ of penetration and the standard 00 buckshot or “double-aught buck” (8 pellets of .33-caliber) achieves considerable penetration of 20.5 inches.

The last alternative for all-purpose tactical applications is the #4 buck (27 pellets of .24-caliber) with an average penetration of 14.5 inches.

The buckshot has an adequate range for self-defense of 30-50 yards.


Unlike birdshot and buckshot, slug shells are loaded with just one solid metal projectile, usually weighing around 1 oz. These massive projectiles have excellent stopping power, and they come in two kinds.

Typical commercial loads are rifled slugs intended to be shot out of a smoothbore barrel. The second type is rifled slugs (sabot slugs) designed to be shot from the rifled shotgun barrels.

The first one has a maximum effective range of 70-100 yards, and later can be used up to 200 yards.

Like shooting the rifle, the slugs must be point aimed, but they provide much higher penetration of anything hardcover. An average hunting slug can penetrate close to 30 inches in ballistic gel.

Although some consider them overkill, slugs have their place as defensive ammo against dangerous critters or two-footed intruders.

CVLIFE Shotgun Sling Adjustable 2 Point Rifle Sling Holds 15 Shells

Other Gauges

Regarding the power, just behind 12-gauge is a “Sweet Sixteen.” Compared to 12 gauge, the smaller 20 gauge delivers 30% less lead with a 40-50% reduction in recoil.

However, 16-gauge shotguns are less popular, and there isn’t much of an HD ammo choice. 

Maybe it would be great for smaller stature people, however, it will be hard to run across an ideal 20-gauge shotgun for home defense. Plus, you will find a minimal number of loads that are appropriate for the task.

Some people prefer .410 caliber shotguns because they have minimal recoil. There is also 000 buckshot for .410s on the market, but most gun experts recommend avoiding them for home defense roles.

6 Best Defense Shotgun Ammo

6 Best Defense Shotgun Ammo

Now, we will review the six best defense shotgun ammo that comes with power, velocity, and energy features.

Besides, we consider the current user’s experiences regarding these products including recoil and better second shot recovery.

Federal Premium Personal Defense

MPN: # PD132 00


Federal Premium Personal Defense #00 buckshot FliteControl ammo with SKU number PD132 00 is loaded with nine pellets coated in copper and encapsulated in 2 3/4-inch shells.

The Federal’s nine-pellet personal defense 00 buckshot load reaches 1,145 FPS at barrel muzzle and generates 1,575 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Federal patented FliteControl wad and incorporated it into several of their hunting and defensive variants.

Federal Premium, Personal Defense buckshot, is designed just for personal protection and features increased velocity and energy compared to the Federal series intended for hunting. 

The Federal self-defense version has less recoil than the standard shotgun loads, making them a top choice for home defense shotguns.

The FliteControl ammo uses an unusual shot stacking arrangement to produce tighter patterns compared to common wad systems.

The shot pattern is predictable and measures about 1 inch at 10 yards while staying tight to 25 yards or more.

Hornady Critical Defense

MPN: 86240

Another blistering home defense option comes from the famous Hornady, and like Federal home defense 00 buckshot, you can find it in its sporting variant called Hornady Black buckshot.

Critical defense shells are constructed using a Hornady innovative versatile wadding to provide tight and consistent shot patterns every time without any modification to your shotgun.

Hornady’s Critical Defense 00 buckshot ammunition is loaded with eight pellets. It is built of high-quality lead alloy and antimony to prevent any deformities.

That is crucial because they leave the muzzle at an astounding 1,600 feet per second, generating enough stopping power to stop an intruder.

In fact, Hornady’s eight-pellet Critical Defense 00 ammunition produces 1,872 FPE (foot-pounds of energy). This is almost twice as much power as a revolver .44 Magnum round.

However, the destructive terminal effect on the target bears consequences like an intense muzzle flash and heavy recoil.

Winchester Super-X Buckshot Shotshells

MPN: 687170

$7.99/5 rounds

The Winchester has recently released a couple of exciting developments in home defense ammunition, such as a pre-segmented slug and buck and slug combo.

However, we’ll stick to the traditional, time-tested Winchester Super-X buckshot made for hunting and self-defense.

The Winchester Super-X Buckshot line of hunting ammunition has proven dependability that, combined with hard-hitting buckshot, provides required stopping power for personal defense.

The Winchester Super X Buckshot shotshell consists of high brass and quality hull containing nine pellets of double-aught (00) buckshot.

The buffered lead shot is housed in a one-piece hinged wad which produces consistent and tight patterns.

Winchester’s high-quality Super-X develops a velocity of 1,325 FPS. This provides greater energy transfer and devastating knockdown power.

The Winchester Super-X Buckshot shotshells are the perfect option for recoil-sensitive people as they deliver mild recoil compared to dedicated personal defense ammo.

Remington Managed-Recoil Express 

Ammunition 12 Gauge 2-3/4″ 00 Buckshot 8 Pellets

MPN: 20282 (5)

$10.99 ($2.20 per round)

Most shooters agree when shooting buckshot, sometimes they fear the recoil. Listening to the customers’ complaints, Remington has developed shotgun loads designed for reduced recoil and better second shot recovery.

The Remington Express Managed-Recoil shotgun ammunition is 12-gauge caliber #00 Buckshot with 8 pellets of a nominal diameter of .33″ packed in a standard 2 3/4″ shell.

This cartridge consists of Remington’s patented power piston shot cup with nested polymer buffering and eight hardened 3% antimony pellets.

This Remington 12 Gauge Buckshot load offers shot patterns up to 25% more compact. However, there is about 40% lower felt recoil compared to standard buckshot.

The Reduced Recoil Buckshot provides a muzzle velocity of 1,200 feet per second, generating excellent stopping power at typical self-defense ranges.

The reduced powder charge generates reduced recoil, muzzle flash, and noise.

At the same time reduces the risk of over-penetration, an essential consideration in crowded environments such as apartment buildings and condos.

While this 12-Gauge ammunition from Remington is a low recoil load, it is, without doubt, a hard hitter, particularly at typical HD ranges (inside the house, garage, or yard).

25 Round Shotgun Shotshell Reload Holder, Molle Pouch for 12 Gauge/20g

Aguila 12-Gauge 1-3/4 in 5/8 oz. MiniShell Buckshot 20/Box

MPN: 1CHB1288 (20)

$24.99 ($1.25 per round)

The last proposal may seem, for some people, entirely unsuitable for home defense.

However, the Aguila Ammunition has changed the dynamics and revolutionized the defensive shotgun with their series of mini-shell ammunition.

The Aguila Ammunition mini-shell lineup includes three birdshot, one buckshot, and one slug load.

All 12-gauge cartridge types are only 1.75-inches long, enabling you almost double the number of shots with your HD pump-action shotgun.

Another benefit of mini-shells is their recoil. This makes them closer to a .22 LR rifle compared to any low-recoil shotgun load on the market.

Aguila Mini shell buckshot shotshells use a combination of 4B and 1B weighing at 5/8-ounces and move them at 1,200 feet per second.

The mini-shell buckshot hybrid load provides perfect patterns and easy aim at close distances. This means you can fire closer, even 10 yards away!

Aguila’s mini-shells are designed to work with all break-action shotguns and they will work in all pump designs with or without slight modifications.

Due to the low velocity and low projectile weight, the mini-shells are not designed to function in semiautomatic shotguns.

Lightfield Home Defender Rubber Slug

12ga 2-3/4″ Rubber Slug 600 fps 5rds LHDRS12



With increased domestic unrest, less-lethal ammunition got high interest and demand in a home defense market.

People who may be reluctant to shoot at another person with deadly lead or copper projectiles decide on rounds like the Lightfield 12-Gauge Home Defender Rubber Slug.

It is strongly advised to use it only as a painful warning shot and the next round should be standard 00 buckshot.

Another recommendation is to shoot Rubber Slugs only in a cylinder or improved cylinder-choked shotgun barrels.

With a muzzle velocity of about 650 feet per second and muzzle energy of 130 ft/lb, this rubber slug can eliminate a threat with reliable, hard-hitting precision.

Although intended primarily for use at room distance and classified as ‘less than lethal shotgun rounds, the Lightfield Home Defender Rubber Slug can also be lethal under some circumstances.

Final Thought 


The shotgun has always been an impressive close-quarters weapon and shotguns for home defense make perfect sense. However, discussing the best HD shotgun ammo is a never-ending story.

Though manufacturers overwhelm the market with new, “revolutionized” designs every year, we have hesitated to recommend that load before we know if they will stand up to the other options.

That said, popular commercial offerings are still widely accepted among the civilian shotgun community as the best choice for a home defense weapon.