Gun Digest

Bet Your Life on It! Defensive Shotgun Ammunition

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Hornady Critical Defense 410 Triple Defense
Finding the right defensive shotgun ammunition can be a matter of life and death.

Equal parts knockdown power, intimidation factor and ease of use, the shotgun is the ultimate personal defense weapon. But to get everything out of a smooth bore when it matters most means feeding it the right loads. Here's are some top choices for defensive shotgun ammunition certain to come through in the most dire situations.

Federal Personal Defense Shotgun No. 4

Introduced in 2010 and finding plenty of fans since then, Federal’s Personal Defense Shotgun 2¾-inch No. 4 loads are available in both 12-gauge and 20-gauge versions. Tested extensively for home defense situations, these No. 4 loads are designed to generate optimal 15 yard patterns through an improved cylinder choke and are made to dissipate energy upon hitting walls to help you avoid pass-throughs on missed shots. (

Federal Personal Defense Shotgun 00 Buck

Federal’s Personal Defense 00 Buck loads are heavier hitting than No. 4s for improved lethality at slightly greater ranges, yet deliver tight patterning courtesy of Federal’s patented FLITECONTROL wad. This special shot cup holds shot tight until it has exited the muzzle and then separates from it to allow it to fly true toward the target at 1,145 fps. (

Hornady Critical Defense 410 Triple Defense

Smaller gauge guns can be more user friendly for smaller shooters, such as women, but there is no reason these guns shouldn’t be as lethal as larger gauges. The Hornady specialized load is packed with a triple projectile stack that consists of two 35-caliber round balls topped with a single nonjacketed FTX slug. (

Winchester PDX1 12 Defender

Winchester mixes a devastating defensive recipe with their PDX1 12 Defender loaded with three pellets of Grex buffered 00 plated buckshot set atop a 1-ounce rifled slug. This load provides the ultimate mix of well-aimed punch with scattergun forgiveness. (

Winchester PDX1 410 Defender

Like it’s 12-gauge big brother, the 410 Defender load packs plenty of punch launching three plated Defense Disc projectiles and 12 pellets of plated BB shot. While it was made for use in the famed Taurus Judge, this is also an ideal short-range engagement load made for a long gun that is more compact than larger shotguns and doesn’t generate as much recoil. (

Remington Defensive Buckshot

To be effective at self-defense, a gunowner needs to practice shooting and that means time at the range. Remington made it more affordable for shotgun owners to do this in 2013 by packaging their top defensive load—the 2 ¾-inch 12-gauge load of Express 00 buckshot—in 25- or 100-round packages. Inside the shell, a Power Piston one-piece wad enhances consistent patterns, while polymer buffering around the shot limits pellet deformities for better flight. Suggested retail for the 25-round box is $22 and a 100-round box sells for just under $90. (

Remington Ultimate Defense Combo Pack

We’ve covered it in the pages of Gun Digest before, but it’s worth another mention. Remington has met the needs of Judge and other combination revolver fans by creating a pack that combines 10 .45 Colt cartridges with 10 .410 shotshells. The .45s are loaded with Golden Saber High-Performance jacketed bullets while each .410 load is packed with four 000 buckshot. Suggested retail is $34. (

Lightfield Home Defender Rubber Slug

Greatly reducing the risk of wall pass-throughs and even lethality, while ensuring an anchoring transfer of energy to an immediate threat, Lightfield’s Rubber Slug is a 12-gauge 130-grain projectile that leaves the muzzle at 600 fps. Designed to be nonlethal when fired at a distance, the load can penetrate a body at extremely close range and can be lethal in those situations. (

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 12, 2013 edition of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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