#5 Lead Shot Explained

#5 lead shot is a very popular and widely used load for pheasant and duck hunting around the world. The reason for this is that #5 is large enough to successfully kill at a range of 50 yards or more when used in a 12 gauge shell. The number of pellets in the shot can cover a nice 10-15 inch diameter of kill zone at this range (after patterning) and penetrates up to twice as much as steel shot of the same size.  You can get #5 lead shot with softer, denser pellets that penetrate better or harder “magnum” pellets that will give you a more uniform spread every time. However, you will lose a little power.

Hunting Use

Brass Cartridge CaseMost boxes of #5 will have a pheasant on them so naturally, that’s the primary use. Duck and turkey hunters also have great things to say about this ammo type so it’s actually pretty good for any types of game bird and small critters like squirrels. The lead gives a lot of penetration so you can hit pheasants on the run who dart behind bushes and other foliage and you get quite a bit of velocity so you can hit flying ducks well. The key advantage is the higher pellet count which averages about 170 pellets when compared to 135 in a one ounce load of #4 shot.

Clays and Targets

#5 lead is pretty nice for backyard clay shooting though some prefer steel for this particular application. It can depend on where you live and how you feel about using lead shot. If you have a well, you might opt for steel if you’re shooting shells on a regular basis. Target shooting with #5 can be a lot of fun and it can also help you determine things like the maximum effective range of your shotgun, different choke settings, and different shell sizes. All of these factors can make a significant difference in your approach to shooting and can give you an excellent feel for what would be best to hunt with later on if you choose to do so.

Property and Home Defense

#5 lead can penetrate into ballistics gel from between 2-4 inches at 10-20 yards and over an inch at 50 yards. Any trespasser, be it human or animal, will definitely be stopped at close range. Small, far away animals may be killed but this can depend on your familiarity with your weapon. Rabbits are especially destructive and fast so a #5 or smaller is definitely going to be your friend here. For home defense, anything classified as birdshot might not be your first choice as it does not penetrate as well as heavier shot, such as 00 Buck.

#5 lead shot is a great versatile bird and small animal shot but as with all ammo, make sure lead is ok to use where you plan to hunt so you don’t walk away with a hefty fine.