10 Gauge Vs 12 Gauge Vs 20 Gauge Vs 410 – Home Defense Shotgun Ammunition Gauges

Home Defense Shotgun Ammunition Gauges shotgun ammunition

Shotgun sizes have always been measured in a way that confuses most everybody. You would think that the “12” in a 12-gauge shotgun means some sort of measurement. Instead”12-gauge” means you can make 12 lead balls, each of equal diameter to the gun barrel, out of 1 pound of lead. This is from where you could buy lead in one pound blocks to make your own ammo. The gauge told you how many rounds you could make for the gun from 1 pound of lead.

The smaller the gauge number, the wider the barrel to handle those big balls. The largest shotgun is a 4-gauge. With a four gauge, you only get four balls from a pound. It’s going to take a really large barrel to handle pellets that big. The one exception to all is this is the 41o. It actually has a .41-inch barrel diameter.

I know it’s pretty confusing!

On top of the gauge you have different loads. Normal home defense loads are buckshot, birdshot and slug. The others get a bit funky. Performance can be iffy and you could get yourself in a legal bind if you are using some esoteric load and shoot someone with it.  I recommend you stay with buck, bird or slug. To cap it all off, shotshells come in different lengths with three common sizes – 2 3/4″, 3″, and 3 1/2″.

So let’s get down to it 10 Gauge Vs 12 Gauge Vs 20 Gauge Vs 410 for Home Defense

Here’s a cool video watching someone fire the different gauges. Notice the recoil and her ability to get back on target.

You can easily take off the 10 gauge off your list for a home defense gun. The bigger barrel and corresponding powder load will put a lot of people on their butts after the first shot. It is way to much of a gun to expect anyone to use for home defense.

Many if not most of the home defense shotguns you find will be 12 gauge. Now if you ask the owners why, most will not be able to tell you why they chose 12 gauge. It is simply the best known and therefore the most sold.

The 12 gauge has a lot of the problems of the 10 gauge.  The 12 gauge can be brutal to shoot for a grown man, not to mention a smaller woman or a teen in the house. If you plan to use it, think about taking up a position with butt of the shotgun against a wall for bracing.

Much better for a home defense gun is a 20 gauge. Many people described the recoil as half of that of a 12 gauge. The 20 gauge with #13 shot throws out 10 .30 caliber pellets versus a 12 gauge with 00 buckshot with 8 pellets of .33 caliber.  This gives you 20% more pellets at only 10% less density at 50% of the recoil.  The real advantage of 20 gauge is being able to hit your target for multiple shots or multiple targets.  The lower recoil and almost same amount of lead going down range makes the 20 gauge the best choice.

.410 is a bit weaker than the 20 gauge. For a very weak person, this might be a good compromise. Otherwise there is no reason not to go with the 20 gauge and get the fuller pattern that comes with it.

If you take anything from this brief discussion, take this – it doesn’t matter how powerful a gun is if you can’t hit your target repeatedly with it under stress conditions. If you wan to know more about shotguns, check out the Home Defense Shotgun Guide.

Let us know in the comments what gauge you use for home defense.


Photo credit – from video 10 Gauge Vs 12 Gauge Vs 20 Gauge Vs 410

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