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Repost: Shot Patterns of Different 12 Gauge Loads

Zombie’s anyone? 

Remington 870 Express Tactical


One of the big advantages to the shotgun is the ability to use different ammunition depending upon the application. Slugs can reach out and bird shot can cover a wide area at closer ranges. In an effort to gain a bit more knowledge over a few different 12 gauge shells – I decided to do a small test.

Up front – let me go ahead and state for the record I have always used #8 bird shot for inside the house, and 00-Buck for outside security.

OK – lets look at what I found……..


First -the ammunition selection:

I obtained samples of standard 2 3/4″ shells of #8 shot, #6 shot, 00-Buck, and a specialty defensive load made by Winchester  – the PDX1 Defender.

Here are some pictures of the actual boxes. Yes – that Federal 12 gauge #8 box is old and still works great.

Remington 2 3/4″ #6 12 gauge/box


Federal 2 3/4" #8 shot 12 gauge/box

Federal 2 3/4″ #8 shot 12 gauge/box


Remington 2 3/4" 00-Buck 12 gauge/box

Remington 2 3/4″ 00-Buck 12 gauge/box


Winchester 2 3/4″ PDX1 12 gauge Defender/box


Next – I wanted to see specifically what is inside each load:

What is inside a 00-Buck 12 gauge shell?               Click to Enlarge.

The 00-Buck (generally pronounced double-ought buck) in a 2 3/4″ inch shell holds 9 lead balls which travel in excess of 1300 fps. Each ball is .33 caliber.  Think about it………that is 9 .33 caliber lead balls traveling at over 1300 fps. Devastating.

What is inside a #6 load 12 gauge shell?                 Click to Enlarge.

The #6 shot load is typically used for taking small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and a variety of birds. The 2 3/4″ #6 12 gauge shell sends a load of .11″ mini-balls downrange at almost 1300 fps.

I did not get a picture of a #8 shot shell opened up. The #8 shells contains 1 ounce of .09″ lead shot and travels out the barrel at around 1290 fps. This shot is small – I mean very tiny. It would take more than 10 individual balls lined up next to each other to equal just 1 inch.

What is inside a 12 gauge PDX1 Defender load?    Click to Enlarge.

The Winchester PDX1 Defender is a unique shell in that it contains 3 00-Buck pellets along with a 1 ounce slug. This payload exits the barrel at 1150 fps. Here is a sales promo sheet for more information.


Mossberg 500 and my new Remington 870 Tactical

One of the main tasks that was planned was to document the shot pattern of these different loads at different ranges.

I ran several trials – 7 yards, 15 yards, and 25 yards. I took several pictures for each trial. Putting together this post I ran into a problem – many of the pictures just do not show the shot pattern unless the picture is HUGE.

With above in mind – I will summarize my findings and show some pictures that turned out good.

42″ inches cardboard target

All shots were taken at a piece of cardboard that measures approx 42″ inches across.


#8 12 gauge shot –  I shot from 3 distances……..7, 15 and 25 yards.

7 yards – At 7 yards the group was approx 16 inches and heavily peppered.

#8 – 7 yards    Click to Enlarge

15 yards – At 15 yards the group expanded greatly through the Remington’s cylinder bore barrel to close to 38 inches.

25 yards – I needed a bigger piece of cardboard  – many pellets impacted the cardboard however they were spread pretty thin.


#6 12 gauge shot – I shot from 3 distances……..7, 15 and 25 yards. Results very similar to the #8 shot.

7 yards – At 7 yards the group was approx 16 inches and heavily peppered – just a few rounds less than the #8 but larger holes.

15 yards – At 15 yards the group expanded to close to 36 inches or so.

25 yards – I needed a bigger piece of cardboard  – many pellets impacted the cardboard however they were spread pretty thin.


00-Buck – I shot from 3 distances……..7, 15 and 25 yards.

7 yards – At 7 yards the group was approx 7-8 inches.

00-Buck @ 7 yards    Click to Enlarge

15 yards – At 15 yards the group expanded to close to 14 inches or so.

00-Buck @ 15 yards

00-Buck @ 15 yards     Click to Enlarge

25 yards – Approx an 18″ inch spread. 

00-Buck @ 25 yards Click to Enlarge



PXD1 Defender

7 yards – At 7 yards the group was approx 10 inches. There are clear signs of parts of the wadding impacting the cardboard as well.

Winchester PXD1 Defense @ 7 yards Click to Enlarge

15 yards – At 15 yards the group expanded to close to 14″-15″  inches or so.

The PDX1 Defender load @ 15 yards                         Click to Enlarge

25 yards – The group opened up a lot. Spread was approx 28″ inches with the 3 00-buck pellets dispersed out and around the slug.

Winchester PDX1 Defender @ 25 yards Click to Enlarge


Thoughts on results:

First – I was wanting to include 000 and 0000-Buck in the trial but was unable to locate any.

Second – 00-Buck continues to impress me with its power and shot pattern. As long as the shooter does their part – the shotgun filled with 00-Buck will do its part. I honestly expected the group size of the pellets to be much larger at 25 yards.

Third – The Winchester PDX1 Defender is an interesting concept – but overpriced in my book. I would rather load up with 00-Buck.

Lastly – I still like #8 or #6 birdshot for in-home use. Over-penetration is a concern of mine and these two loads certainly helps control that. I am planning on some penetration tests upcoming.


– – Rourke


Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel

12 comments to Repost: Shot Patterns of Different 12 Gauge Loads

  • Slowjeep

    Over the summer I did a similar test using an 870 with a smoothbore slug barrel. The results were similar but not acceptable for my home defense situation. A large spread pattern would be more likely to hit my dog, so I am trying to get a 4″ pattern at 7-10 yards. I have been looking for a used turkey barrel instead of a smoothbore. The turkey barrel is both short and has removable choke tubes.

    • Rourke

      Slowjeep –

      I write this piece some time back and since then have learned more. “Most” cylinder bore barrels pattern at 1″ per yard – give or take. This is regardless of the load. One option you have if you want to tighten the pattern is simply place a slug in the gun.

      Thanks – Rourke

  • TexasScout

    I think the author will be suprised to find that even #9 bird shot will act like a slug at common “indoor” ranges and thus slice through the average sheet rock wall like a got knife through butter.

    Other than that, really good piece.


  • Leonard M. Urban

    Howdy, Rourke!

    Some years back I read an article in one of the gun magazines about a professional hunter in Central America that uses #1 Buckshot to stop charging Jaguars when a client’s shot placement is less than perfect. According to him, the spread and power of the #1 buck enabled him to “cut a charging Jaguar in half…”. Do what degree he may have been hyperbolizing, I can’t say, but I have added some of these to my bandolier…

  • highdesertlivin

    The box of truth, does a lot of mocked up wall penetration tests. Might be worth a peak.

  • Fred

    Nice article.

    Have you or do you know of anyone that has tested the Defense buck shot from Centurion.
    Firequest- Terminator,Rhodesian Jungle or Peper Blast shells.
    Lightfield-Hybred EXP 12 slug.
    Sportsmansguide has them for sale.
    I would like to know there effect and there range.

  • TOR

    +2 for Box of Truth. They do some testing with walls on a variety of rounds. The general theme is that weapons that have sufficient penetration to handle two legged predators is that they penetrate walls with more or less equal ability.

  • CaptTurbo

    I keep #4 loads on hand for defense. I appreciate the article and it makes me think it might be a good idea for me to pattern test my #4 shells. For me, the choice was between #4 and 00 for stopping bad guys.

  • Irish-7

    Sorry, I am a few days behind in reading online. Great article! I stock a mixture of #00, 1 oz slugs and Winchester PDX1 for .12 GA, 2BK, 3BK & 3/4 or 7/8 oz slugs for .20 GA, but mainly PDX for .410 GA. The 2.5″ round only holds 3 #00 balls in .410 and the slugs are not as accurate as a .45 LC bullet. Truthfully, I would not reach for a shotgun for any indoor threat. A .410 GA handgun (S&W Governor or Taurus Judge), yes, but any long gun would not be my first choice within the walls of my home. I have a mixed load of #00 buckshot and PDX loaded in my Mossberg 930 SPX for threats outside my house. Anyway, we have been putting off range time with the shotguns because my oldest son was on the football team. The season is over, so we can now meet the requirements to join the private gun club. My whole family is anxious to do some of our own tests. I’ll take some pictures.

  • Badger359

    I will have to add this to my do list.