Letter Re: Advice of Shotgun Shells and Shot Sizes

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I look forward to reading your blog every day.
One of the nice things about a shotgun is the wide variety of ammo available for them, but that does bring up a question: what type of shells should one stock up on? I currently keep about an even mix of 00 buckshot (primarily for defense)
and #8-bird-shot (for practice, pest control & small-game hunting). I also have a small quantity of slugs, but not many; I figure that a situation that would best be served with a slug would be even better served with a rifle. Do you think my mix is alright? I would appreciate any input you and/or my fellow blog readers would wish to add. Best Wishes, – James K.

JWR Replies: The ratio of shells with various shot sizes will depend on what sort of hunting you plan to do, and whether your shotgun will be your primary defensive long gun.

For two legged predators, I generally prefer #4 buckshot. (Not to be confused with the more commonly available #4 bird shot which is much smaller.) Why? With most commercial 00 buckshot loads, each 2-3/4″ shell only contains 9 pellets of roughly .33 caliber. With #4 buck you get around 27 pellets of .24 caliber. Thus, your chances of getting multiple vital organ hits are much better with #4 buckshot.

BTW, the foregoing advice does not apply if you live in bear or wolf country. For large predators, you’ll want the better penetration provided by 00 buckshot, 000 buckshot, or slugs.