#8 Lead Shot Explained
#8 shot is typically used for trap, skeet and sporting clays. This size can be used in everything from casual shooting to Olympic level shooting events because it offers good range and a dense pattern but still relies heavily on user skill to accurately break the targets. #8 shot is also a decent size for varmint control but you’ll probably want to stick within 30 yards to make sure you’re hitting something and not just winging it or scaring it off.
#8 lead shot has quite a bit more power than the same load with steel pellets and this is something to really consider if you prefer steel and are shooting on your property. Pros recommend using a steel shot up to two sizes larger as a substitute, but you will lose a few pellets.
#8 isn’t considered a hunting round unless you’re shooting doves, pigeons or maybe quail. You’re going to get quite a nice spread at about 30 yards and you should be able to take smaller birds down quite easily as long as you stay in range. However most hunters won't chance losing the bird due to lack of penetration, many hunters won't go afield with anything smaller than #7 1/2 shot. Larger birds aren’t going to be an option with this shot because they are simply too well padded by feathers and their skin is too thick.
Small critters like squirrels or rabbit can be hunted with #8 but you’re going to have to be right on top of them and if you’re planning to eat them, it’s going to be quite a difficult cleaning process if you hit them full on. With over 410 pellets in a one ounce load, care must be taken when preparing the game to cook. As with turkey and game bird hunting try to have your shot mostly in the head and neck region if you’re going for mammals. Many hunters will stick to a #6 or larger shot when hunting all but the smallest game.
Targets and Clays
This is where your #8 and similar sizes are going to really shine. You’ll need to pattern your shotgun first so you know exactly what your limitations and effective ranges are but once that’s done, you’ll find this size to be very enjoyable. The #8 can successfully hit and break all types of skeet and clays even at pretty high speed once you get the hang of things. If you have a little more experience you can drop down to a 7 ½ depending on where you are, what you’re shooting and who you’re shooting with. Competitive shooting will have various restrictions on pellet material and allowed sizes of shot.
This particular shot is ok for little critters and pesky birds and is quite effective on snakes if you live in an area prone to dangerous ones. Occasionally, you will hear tales of folks using #8 shot for rat control in barns and other similar buildings. While stunningly effective at indoor distances on small vermin, the idea of shooting a shotgun in a building with a concrete or hard packed dirt floor, just doesn't seem like the best idea. The #8 can be pretty effective if you’re covering a large area of land like a ranch or farm but keep in mind, you’ll have a much shorter range than if you were using a #4 shot or something similar.