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A responsible home defense shotgun owner should want to minimize the risk of penetrating walls and hurting people on the other side with having effective bad-guy stopping power. Is there a shot size that is not likely to penetrate drywall while still being likely to stop a dangerous home invader with one shot? Google is fraught with websites posing this question and there are a bunch of controversial answers. Some say #4 buck. Others say #1 buck.

I emailed a nearby firearms safety training school a short while back with this question and the only thing I have gotten so far is static. Do they they want me to pay money to take their course so I then can get an answer?

Is there a resource where gun owners can ask technical firearms questions and get expert advice?

I have been keeping #4 fowl loads, not buckshot loads, at home for my defender scattergun but I ran into some web article not long ago stating that this is a bad choice for defense. I bought these from a gun shop because the guy there recommend them. Now I'm rethinking this over. Certainly what I have now beats a baseball bat or mace can but still.
 

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what you have are fine.
any bigger and you certainly run the risk of getting through the drywall with enough energy to hurt someone on the other side.

not to say the 4's won't do that at closer distances, but they do give you the best chance at both options of dealing with the intruder and minimizing the chances.

take a handful of your shells and a box down to the range and shoot into the box at 'across the room-down the hall' type distances and look at the pattern.

I'd be surprised if it were much larger than about 6"s with a very tight cluster in the center no matter the choke at 15-20yds.
 

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While going through the police academy, at the shotgun range they had us shooting AA trap loads at 20 feet. From a non choked Remington 870 they patterned about 6 inches with the was going through the cardboard targets. 00 buckshot at that distance went through like a slug with maybe 1 pellet going outside the main hole an inch, 2 at the most.

As a guess, those trap loads would probably stop most people without over penetrating and all the energy would be dumped in the bad guy. I know I don't want to personally experience it.
 

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I agree with my fellow Idaho Spud and I generally alternare #4 / #6 & keep some 00' buck shells in the shell holder on the stock for quick reloads
 
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Another thing to keep in mind, a 12 gauge slug has enough energy to kill a human wearing a bullet proof vest with the shock plate in place at 50 yards .. There's no bullet hole in the individual, just about a 4 inch bruise
 

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Discussion Starter #6
While going through the police academy, at the shotgun range they had us shooting AA trap loads at 20 feet. From a non choked Remington 870 they patterned about 6 inches with the was going through the cardboard targets. 00 buckshot at that distance went through like a slug with maybe 1 pellet going outside the main hole an inch, 2 at the most.

As a guess, those trap loads would probably stop most people without over penetrating and all the energy would be dumped in the bad guy. I know I don't want to personally experience it.
here are the shells I have now #4 heavy field loads
 

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I always had birdshot in my HD shotgun when I lived in apartments, but I used Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #6. It's a much hotter load that I didn't get to use for grouse hunting. It sure shreds a watermelon, though.
 

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A few years back a young Marine hunting doves on Ft. Sill military base in Oklahoma had a large hog running toward him in Johnson grass which was 3-4 foot high so the hog did not see him until it got close. When the hog got about 20 feet he yelled at it, thinking to scare it away. Instead, the big boar charged him. He jumped backwards and fell on a dead tree, sending a 1 inch branch completely through his left arm at the bicep.

The hog attacked and while down trying to get the branch out of his arm he kicked it in the head. That did not work, he then shot it point blank one time with 7 and 1/2 doves shot from his 12 which stopped the hog.

It was kind of legend for a while. He was known as the guy who survived the hog attack. But his injury was from falling, not the hog. His arm has about a 3 inch scar top and bottom but fully recovered. He was lucky to have a nearby buddy who got him help quick. I got the story from those two as I inquired about the scars, although it was already a local legend I just did not know the specifics .

Hogs are hard to stop, but any load of shot coming out at say 1,200 fps and weighing 437.5 grains is going to stop any further activity by the guy receiving it. I was a cop who only carried 00 Buck but my home gun has #6 Heavy Field Loads, sometimes called Duck/Pheasant. FWIW
 

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Hear we go again!!!:rolleyes: BIRD SHOT IS CALLED BIRD SHOT FOR A REASON!!! DO NOT use bird shot to TRY TO STOP AN ATTACKER, period! There are to many variables in these dynamic situations to risk your life. and lives of your loved ones, on BIRD SHOT!:rolleyes: To answer your question, nothing smaller than BB shot, more bigger than #4 buck in the 'apartment' or a trailer park. REAL LIFE shootings have proven this MANY times!:) When considering shot gun ballistics you MUST look at the INDIVIDUAL pellets ballistic characteristics, primary depth of penetration in MANY different situations, when deciding what 'shot' to use.
 

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Hogs are hard to stop, but any load of shot coming out at say 1,200 fps and weighing 437.5 grains is going to stop any further activity by the guy receiving it. I was a cop who only carried 00 Buck but my home gun has #6 Heavy Field Loads, sometimes called Duck/Pheasant. FWIW
^^^ +10 on this... ^^^
In distances typically encountered in a home or an apartment a direct hit even with #9 shot has a very good chance of being lethal. The one I have positioned near my front door though has 1-3/4 oz. of #5 shot and nobody wants to encounter it.
 

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Living in an apartment and living in a single family home is a little different. In your own home you have to be careful going through walls and injuring a family member. In a apartment you have strangers on the other side of the walls. You damage their stuff or injure them then you are looking at law suits and charges on you. I look at it this way. Most robbers, thieves or home invaders don't expect any resistance. If they did expect it and knew you had a weapon then chances are they would not pick your place. Also if you are in the predicament to where you have to shoot an invader then chances are he or she will flee if they can. My self I use a double barrel 12 gauge with the shorty Aguila slugs.
 

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Hear we go again!!!:rolleyes: BIRD SHOT IS CALLED BIRD SHOT FOR A REASON!!! DO NOT use bird shot to TRY TO STOP AN ATTACKER, period! There are to many variables in these dynamic situations to risk your life. and lives of your loved ones, on BIRD SHOT!:rolleyes: To answer your question, nothing smaller than BB shot, more bigger than #4 buck in the 'apartment' or a trailer park. REAL LIFE shootings have proven this MANY times!:) When considering shot gun ballistics you MUST look at the INDIVIDUAL pellets ballistic characteristics, primary depth of penetration in MANY different situations, when deciding what 'shot' to use.
Depends on what your objective is. For example, what is taught in law enforcement schools/hostage training is you take the shot you have when you have it, provided there is a good hit probability and there is limited risk to the hostage. Think about that, anytime you escalate there is the likelihood that the bad guy will kill the hostage on purpose, or he may fall while dying and his gun may go off since his hand is already on the trigger and it may kill the hostage, so what to do?
The typical home defense scenario is a bad guy comes into your home at night. If he is armed it is probably a handgun. So, you have a guy in your hallway who knows somebody is home and he comes in with gun in hand. How much time does it take him to fire when he sees you? The answer is somewhere around 1/2 second. The only way you can insure a hit before he starts his mechanical movement to fire, is to shoot him before he sees you. That throws him off, lots of noise, a sudden flash and something hitting him in the chest and maybe a couple more hitting him in the chest before his legs fail him. And how long before he loses the ability to get off one shot that hits you in the brain, or in the knee crippling your for life, or a poor shot that just castrates you? My point is the plan is to stop the threat without getting shot.

I once shot a fox and other time shot a jack rabbit with bird shot both at about 10 feet. Devastating, shredded them. At 10-15 feet the bird shot pattern is not much. Gun Digest did an article (see below) and found 7.5 shot spread from 2.5 to 10.5 inches at 5-20 feet. What that means to me is that if you come into my home with a gun in hand and I can aim my 12 at your hand and fire before your gun goes off, then your hand is shredded and it is unlikely you are going to do anything but drop the gun and cry out in pain. Could I do that? Probably because I was trained to shoot quickly at a person holding a hostage, but the same quick aim and fire is really no different than shooting a quick rabbit running in a thicket. Hunters who do the sporting clay course with rabbits can do it easily. Remember, you have a shotgun, 18 inch tube or so, and you only need to put that front bead on to a target the size of a hand with a handgun in it at 20 feet or less, easier than you think. So, while it may sound goofy to shoot the gun out of the hand, that is not the deal, the goal is to shred the hand. Do I teach that in CCW classes? Of course not. The question is what would I do, and to me it just a matter of planning. I am not afraid of the guy, I am afraid of the gun.

When I train new shooters, I give them a dowel rod and make them promise to take it home and walk through their house with it in the gun as if searching for a prowler. The eyes stay aware of the front of the gun/dowel at all times. Then I have them practice pointing the gun/dowel at various doors, hiding places, etc in their home as they move. It becomes pretty easy to point and fire at a small object in your home, like a gun in the hand. Myself, I am confident with a procedure like that. The next guys might want 30 rounds in an AR for the same purpose or the excellent 1911 with laser and light. I have all 3 at the handy. Different strokes for different folks.
https://gundigest.com/gun-reviews/s...ome-defense-too-much-too-little-or-just-right
 

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Ranger, you can WHAT IF all day long, but that does not change the facts/truth about ballistics. I have witnessed people shot with bird shot and it DOSE NOT PENETRATE, especially if the person is wearing heavy clothes.! IF, which is a big IF, you shot them in the face it would probably 'stop' the fight. But at close range the 'pattern' of a shot gun is VERY tight, so you have to consider the fact that, contrary, to common belief, it will not 'spread' and get 'them all' (which you hear all the time from the uneducated/inexperienced)! The question here was about use of a shot gun in an apartment. Thus my answer (which is backed by both ballistics and reality) stands. I have shot two people with a shot gun loaded with 00 buck, and it even lacks good penetration when compared to handgun and rifle rounds unless you have a TOTALLY uncovered target with a perfect frontal presentation.
 

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Ranger, you can WHAT IF all day long, but that does not change the facts/truth about ballistics. I have witnessed people shot with bird shot and it DOSE NOT PENETRATE, especially if the person is wearing heavy clothes.! IF, which is a big IF, you shot them in the face it would probably 'stop' the fight. But at close range the 'pattern' of a shot gun is VERY tight, so you have to consider the fact that, contrary, to common belief, it will not 'spread' and get 'them all' (which you hear all the time from the uneducated/inexperienced)! The question here was about use of a shot gun in an apartment. Thus my answer (which is backed by both ballistics and reality) stands. I have shot two people with a shot gun loaded with 00 buck, and it even lacks good penetration when compared to handgun and rifle rounds unless you have a TOTALLY uncovered target with a perfect frontal presentation.
I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on whether bird shot is an option to stop a threat when all shooting is inside an apartment. The discussion the OP presented is about his choice to use #4 heavy field loads as a defensive round, in an apartment when over penetration is a primary concern. Perhaps I am older than most but back in the day, I was in federal law enforcement and sky Marshall duty was the fad of the day. If you are 33,000 feet in the air and a couple guys pull out box cutters and start slashing passengers, what round do you use to stop them? Sky Marshals usually sit toward the rear and any miss or penetration would go toward the back of the pilots head, right? So, in addition to some secure cabin for the pilot what could we do to stop the bad guy and not have bullets penetrating the cabin or killing the electronics in the plane. Similar issue here. MY comment is I can teach anybody to hit a coke bottle size object at 5-20 feet with a short shotgun, and that level of accuracy would shred the hand of any bad guy with a gun. Could other people do that under stress? Who knows?

Truth about guns did a shot test years ago looking at penetration. They recommend #4 Buck or larger for actual penetration into the vitals of a human torso, I agree. But I also agree with OP, His choice is reasonable for him, and if he can hit that hand the first shot, he is even better off.
https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/shotgun-penetration-with-various-rounds/

If not he can just keep shooting at that gun in hand, knowing that the bad guy will be soaking up those little shot, and each time getting his eyebrows singed by the muzzle blast. Most people have never been inside a house at night when a gun is fired, it changes the environment a bunch. Nothing like a shooting range.

His choice may not be the best for stopping a direct attack, but given the over penetration worry, it is reasonable. The Marine I mentioned that killed the big hog with # 7.5 dove shot said he did not need a follow up shot. He shot the hog in the head.
Just my humble opinion.
IMHO.
 
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