Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing
The 20 Gauge shotgun is in the middle of ‘power’ among the commonly-available shotguns. 12 Gauge shotguns are powerful but not everyone is physically capable of dealing with the recoil and subsequently shooting accurately. 410 Bore shotguns are shootable by anyone but there are simply not enough shot pellets per shell to allow for any leeway in aim error. Great 20 gauge shotguns are made by Remington and Mossberg among many others and are very affordable self defense firearms.
My home defense firearm is a 20 gauge shotgun. When I used to live in a ‘bad neighborhood’ my home defense firearm was an AR-15. This neighborhood looked ’ok’ during the day, but became way too ’active’ when the sun went down. The majority of shots inside of a dwelling will take place at close distances. Distances so close that the compensation for aim error that makes shotguns famous … is virtually negligible as the shot pellets do not have enough time to spread out. When the target is struck, the shot pellets will then spread out more rapidly and this is a very positive occurrence for increasing hit probability. The benefit in using shotguns instead of rifles inside of crowded areas is that in the case of a miss, or an over-penetration of the target by the pellets, the shot pellets will travel through fewer objects than a single rifle bullet at 3000 ft/sec is capable of. Having narrowly dodged a robbery and a home invasion in the span of a month, I decided that my security situation at the time overrode any concerns of overpenetration. This is how the rifle made its appearance until I moved the following month.
Your mileage will vary, but if you go with a shotgun, allow me to suggest the 20 gauge as it is usable by almost any member of the household due to the moderate recoil.
When one speaks of ‘gauge’, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, etc, this is an archaic measurement of the diameter of the barrel. The smaller the number of the gauge, the larger the diameter of the barrel. It is fortuitous that 410 bore, 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotguns all propel the shot pellets in the 1200 ft/sec to 1600 ft/sec range. That makes it possible to say that the shot pellet doesn’t care what launched it, just what velocity it was traveling at when it hit the target.
The optimum shot pellet diameter is #1 buckshot if your target is in the 0-50 meter range. If shooting at ranges considered ‘extreme’ for buckshot, such as the 25-50 meter range, then a 12 gauge is a better choice than a 20 gauge as the 12 gauge propels considerably more pellets per trigger pull, increasing hit probability.
In 2010, I was fortunate to be contacted by Robert Carlon, the owner of NML Custom Ammunition to do verification testing of his new line of 20 gauge shotgun shells. What I liked about them is that they loaded their shells hot and loaded nothing but 20 gauge in shot sizes that are so rare, I had to look some of them up. Particularly, I like the #4 and #1 buckshot loadings.
Bob was one of my first customers when I incorporated Brass Fetcher. I consider my business to have grown parallel with his. Unfortunately, Bob passed away in mid 2014. He will be sorely missed. The summary tables are filled with terminal ballistics data from his line of ammunition.