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Buckshot is one of those words that just sound manly and country. Rural folks have been known to name their dogs, “Buckshot”. To the neophyte, the word buckshot sounds devastating. “The magazine tube is packed full of buckshot.” Boom! Nothing seems more tactical or deadly.

But just how effective is 00 buckshot when it comes to the home defense shotgun? More specifically, how large, or perhaps not so much, is the spread or pattern of buckshot when launched from a home security fowling piece?

Buckshot Shells

Buckshot Pizza Box Challenge.

“Get yourself a shotgun. You can’t miss with a shotgun.” That advice, and similar words of spurious wisdom, has/have been dolled out in gun shops and now on Internet forums for as long as I have been alive.

When someone says “You can’t miss with a shotgun”, the image they are selling is some type of massive hornet’s nest of buckshot belching forth from the blaster. The new guy or neophyte might imagine that dozens or even hundreds of pieces of buckshot will fly forth from the home defense shotgun, mowing down any and all things in the way. If you have a home defense shotgun loaded with buckshot, you need to have the facts not mythology. How do you find the facts? I’m glad you asked.

I have a simple test for you; take the Buckshot Pizza Box Challenge. It is really not all that difficult or time consuming. It also just might open your eyes regarding the size of the shot pattern that your personal defense shotgun will produce with the buckshot load you have chosen. Seriously, this is a simple test. It’s also an excuse to eat pizza tonight, and hit the range tomorrow.


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Step 1: Buy a Large Pizza.

This is the easy and enjoyable part. Go ahead and purchase a large pizza. It does not matter which toppings you chose. Unless you put pineapple on the pizza. Then you’re gross. Now, enjoy the pizza and share it with your loved ones. Easy day. Save the box. Do not throw it away. You are going to need it later.

Buckshot Pizza Box

Step 2: Pace off Your Longest Shot.

Take an honest look at the inside of your home. Consider what area of your house might be the longest shot you would take with your home defense shotgun. Now, pace off the distance from where you might have to take the shot to where the home invader(s) might be standing. Depending on the size and design of your house this will vary greatly from person to person. Remember the number of paces.

Remember this pace-count. You’re going to need it later. Also, you can do this while you eat your slice of pizza.

Step 2.5: Grab your Shotgun and Buckshot.

Go to your gun safe or wherever you have your home defense shotgun. Grab your shotgun and the 00 buckshot load that you use for home defense. Take the pizza box, gun and ammo out to the field or your local outdoor shooting range. Remember to pack your eye and ear protection. Double check for you pizza box before you get in the car. You do not want to forget it!

I went through the Police Academy many moons ago. While I was there, our Firearm Instructor explained the buckshot spread from the average 12 gauge police shotgun. He advised us that a normal buckshot load from a cylinder-bore (no choke), 18 inch shotgun barrel would spread between one-half and one inch per yard from the muzzle.

Step 3: Live Fire Testing.

If you have an outdoor range with target boards or target frames, you can staple your pizza box up and secure it. However, if all you have is an open field out in the country, that’s okay too. Take the pizza box, open it up about eight inches and stand it up on the ground like a little cardboard Teepee. If you’re in a field, make sure you know you have a safe back-stop as well. Remember kids, knowing is half the battle. The other half is violence.

Pace away from the pizza box the number of paces that you counted back at your house. Shoulder your fowling piece, take aim and fire at the center of the box. Just one shot. Now go down range and closely examine the impact of your shotgun blast. I recently did this with my Mossberg Model 930 semi-automatic 12 gauge. Check out the results below.

Buckshot Results Paul

Take a close look at the realistic pattern/spread from your Home Defense Shotgun.

Step 4: Consider the Results.

If you have a ruler or a tape measure, calculate the distance between the two pellet holes that are the farthest apart. Keep in mind that there will likely be odd shaped holes in the pizza box from the cardboard or plastic wads in the shell. We want to focus on the nice round, buckshot holes. You can also lay your hand down over the pattern for reference.

Unless you are using some type of super-short barreled gun or a hunting gun with a choke, I would bet money that your results will be similar to what my instructor said all those years ago. Let’s say that your longest anticipated shot in your house would be seven paces (approx 6 yards) the buckshot spread for 9 pellets will only be around 4 to 6 inches.

As you can see from the results, just point a shotgun in the general direction of a threat in no way guarantees a devastating result. In fact, you can indeed miss with a shotgun. Keep in mind the closer the threat, the tighter your pattern will be. A 2 ¾ inch 12 gauge 00 buckshot shell is going to have 8 or 9 pellets, depending on the manufacturer, not 50 to 100 as the Hollywood mythology leads us to believe.

The Good News with Buckshot.

The disappointing reality is that a home defense shotgun will not fill the hallway with a meteor storm of buckshot. However, the good news is that, as long as you shoulder the gun and take aim, a shotgun is a devastating power tool. The impact of 8 or 9 .32 caliber, 00 buckshot pellets is the torso of the monster who just kicked in your front door is tremendously destructive.

In December of 2019, a Texas homeowner was called upon to use a 12 gauge shotgun to stop three home invaders. The armed attackers fired at the homeowner and wounded him, but the defender used his shotgun to shoot and stop all three monsters who expired on the scene.

A home defense shotgun is not a magic wand that mystically vaporizes attackers. Nonetheless, in the hands of a skilled operator, a 12 gauge shotgun, loaded with 00 buckshot, is a serious power tool you can use to secure your castle.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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