Shotgun Shot Size Information

Published by the Author on June 7, 2008 at 1:49 am > How-To Guides and Other Info > Shotgun Shot Size Information

I see quite a few visitors searching for information on the size of shot in the various shotgun shells, such as 00 buck, #1 buck, #4 bird, etc., and the number of pellets in a one ounce 12 Gauge shell This article provides that information for lead shot.
Remington 11-87

Shot Size Pellet Diameter (inches) # of Pellets in a 1oz Shell
000 Buck .36 6
00 Buck .33 8
0 Buck .32 9
1 Buck .30 11
2 Buck .27 15
3 Buck .25 19
4 Buck .24 21
BB .18 50
2 Bird .148 90
4 Bird .129 135
5 Bird .12 170
6 Bird .109 225

I would recommend 00 Buckshot for self defense, since it tends to be the smallest shot size that will reliably penetrate deeply enough to stop an attacker right away. Birdshot is generally not recommended for self/home defense. A balance needs to be struck between the number of pellets and the size of each pellet, and for home/self defense, that balance is properly struck with 00 Buckshot.

Also, for those who are newer to guns, some pronunciation tips:
“000 Buck” is pronounced “Triple Ought Buck.”
“00 Buck” is pronounced “Double Ought Buck.”
“0 Buck” is pronounced “Single Ought Buck.”
“4 Buck” is pronounced “Number 4 Buck,” and the same is true for the other buckshot and birshot numbers.

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  • Pat

    I beg to differ on your choice for the optimum self defense load……..I choose #4 Buck.

    Plenty of penetration (especially at any distance that can be considered “self defense”), and lots more shot than 00.

    Ask the FBI.



    Thanks for the comment. I hope you'll come back and leave more in the future.

    I respectfully disagree, and stand by 00 buckshot as the ideal load. #4 just doesn't reliably penetrate deeply enough:

    Even if the FBI chooses #4 buckshot, I don't think that means it is an ideal home defense load. The FBI, when storming homes, may be more concerned about overpenetration than a home owner who knows which direction he or she will likely shoot, and is in a position to better guard against having unintended victims down range. The FBI may also be in a better position to tackle a wounded but still living criminal, while a home owner generally needs to stop the criminal right away, as they can't count on having federal agents on hand who can tackle the criminal.

    • hicus

      Lethal penetration has nothing to do with personal civilian self defense. Deterring an attacker in the quickest way possible from inflicting harm is all that matters . Lethal penetration does not mean instant deterrence. A shot preferably # 4 to the face or knee is about the only way to instantly deter an attacker.For example. The Judge is an excellent weapon for an untrained civilian with little shooting skills. With each pull of the trigger the type of projectile can be changed.

  • Arturo Mtz

    I agree again about 00 buck. It is what police and army uses but I love the patterns of No. 2 shot with some duck guns and that make me feel more confident of the hiting probability in a shootout with such weapons. You can shoot them above your head, protected by concrete walls and still have a chance to hit your target. And yes, maybe he will survive to came back for revanche other day but won't be able to get away very healty and could be hunted in the hospital!

    • hicus

      What the police and army use or do has nothing to do with personal civilian self defense.

  • Matt

    Getting back to the subject of stopping power, there are other factors to take into account, like lead shot vs. steel. Steel shot will cut deeper than lead in some cases, like a hit to the chest/rib cage. (This could be a good test for the Myth Busters.) And if for some reason your attacker is waring a vest or just standing behind something, that steel shot stands a better chance at getting through. Basically anytime a hard target stands between you and your attacker, like a bed room door for example, steel shot would be better than lead. However a lead slug would trump steel shot in terms of total damage. But then you lose your wide shot pattern…. and on that note, your choke could be a factor too.

    The other import factor is the size of the shell combined with the weight of the load. Obviously, 3.5 inch magnum with a 2oz load will hit much harder than a 2.75 inch shell with a 1oz load.

    But honestly when it comes down to it, just pointing the shotgun at someone will make them back down or run away in most cases. It a common fact that people don't like being shot at….with ANYTHING. But if I find myself buying ammo for home defense, steel shot over lead will always be the first factor in my choice.

    • hicus

      Unless of course they are pointing a shot gun at you. Shooting them in the heart will not stop them from unloading into you. You might want to rethink your defense strategy.

  • Larry

    has anyone else tried shooting the PDX1 at a paper target? I own a "poor man's judge", A 45 LONG COLT/410 double barrel derringer made by lienad/.cobray. It is a hand held derringer/shotgun. A helluvalot of fun to shoot (though my right middle 1st knuckle would protest). I was allowed to shoot at an indoor range (due to the fact that all projectiles are FMJ…a requirement at this indoor range) and the effect on the zombie target was phenominal!!! A sure bet for self protection!! This is my main concealed carry handgun though I own a short frame 45 auto. Google the lienad/cobray 45/410. She is intimidating to see!! Give her a shot! What a blast!!

    • hicus

      Yes I have shot the XPD in 2.5 to 3 inch. It is the best civilian deterrence round to date. I am referring to the law abiding untrained civilian that does not spend his waking hours going around in a crouching position looking for evil doers.

  • Michael

    My brother shot a doe at 30 paces with a Federal 3" 12 gauge OO buck shell. The buckshot picked the smallish doe up, spun it around and it landed flat on it's side. End of story. OO is awsome as a defensive tool and has been since the shotgun was invented. I would NOT go below #1 buck for home defense and NEVER use birdshot. I use Remington 9 pellet and Nobel Sport 12 pellet shells. I keep a stash of #1 buck on hand but the 00 is my first choice. If your life depends on it don't screw around with something iffy…..