The Best 12 Gauge Ammo for Home Defense
I've always said a shotgun is the best home defense firearm because of its reduced risk of over-penetration, increased stopping power, and accuracy.
However, much depends on the shotshells you load into your gun for personal defense. Various projectiles and brands have different ballistics.
Deciphering all this information is time-consuming and confusing because we're not constantly comparing apples to apples.
Lucky for you, I have spent many hours researching and testing the best 12 gauge ammo for home defense.
As you keep scrolling, you'll discover my findings!
Muzzle Velocity: 1,325 fps
Projectile: #00 Buckshot
Shell Length: 2 3/4"
- Trusted brand
- FliteControl wad
- Designed with law enforcement in mind
- Works in all shotgun types
- It needs a unique choke tube
Federal Premium is an ammunition manufacturer trusted by countless shooters, hunters, and law enforcement agencies.
They've gained a positive reputation through years of crafting high-quality ammo and exploring new ammunition technologies.
The FliteControl wad is unlike traditional wads because it acts similarly to a sabot for a slug. The FliteControl wad holds the pattern tighter for longer distances, which increases the rounds effective range.
This shotgun load was designed with law enforcement agencies in mind, which means you can trust it to be very effective in close quarters, as such is the case with home defense situations.
However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this load.
The first is it needs a special choke. Due to the unique wad, it doesn't perform well with most choke tubes. Luckily, many choke manufacturers, such as Carlson's and Patternmaster, make the needed choke tube.
The second drawback is the price. These rounds are not cheap, but when protecting my family and myself, the price is the least of my worries.
In my opinion, these drawbacks are minimal when you understand the increased performance you're gaining from the flight control aspects of the wad and functionality in any type of shotgun.
Rio Ammunition 00 Buck is worth mentioning as a viable buckshot round contender. As a brand, Rio is often less expensive than other brands, which is also the case in this instance.
Yet, just because you're not paying as much doesn't mean you're losing terminal performance or quality, as it reliably works in pump-action and semi-auto shotguns.
The main downsides are these rounds have a rolled crimp, which means they are too long for shell carriers used in 3-gun competitions, and it also cuts down on the magazine capacity.
The other downside is that the wad doesn't cover the shot, so your barrel will get dirty faster; but if you enjoy cleaning your guns, this isn't a big deal.
Rio 00 Buckshot is reliable, has a good pattern, and is reasonably priced.
If you're looking for a buckshot load with a few more pellets, check out Winchester Super-X 3-1/2" 18 Pellets 00 Buckshot.
The longer shell has more room for the double-aught buckshot pellets and powder, so don't expect this to be a low recoil 12 gauge ammo for home defense because it will kick much more than the 2 3/4" shells.
Longer shells are always more expensive, so if you're trying to be budget-friendly, I wouldn't recommend choosing 3 1/2" shells. However, these are worth looking into if you're needed more knockdown power.
Muzzle Velocity: 1,300 fps
Muzzle Energy: 1,642 ft-lbs
Projectile: Rifled Slug
Shell Length: 2 3/4"
- Trusted brand
- Designed for reduction of recoil
- Multiple uses
Hornady is one of the most trusted brands for self-defense ammo, with choices like the Hornady Critical Defense for handguns. However, they didn't stop with handgun ammo.
Hornady has successfully ventured into shotgun ammunition. The Hornady American Gunner Reduced Recoil Rifled Slug is perfect for those who find shotgun slugs uncomfortable to shoot because of all the recoil.
While you will sacrifice a little muzzle energy and velocity for reduced recoil, the slug won't have any trouble penetrating the vital organs of bad guys.
The Hornady Reduced Recoil Rifled Slug is an excellent defense load, but it can double as a solid hunting slug at close range.
The biggest drawback is the price. Because they're designed for defense purposes and they're a reduced recoil load, they are expensive compared to other rifled slugs.
The Federal Tactical Truball Low Recoil 2-3/4" 1 oz is a cheaper option. Rifled Slug. Its ballistics are identical to the Hornady Reduced Recoil load but at half the price.
However, you must buy in bulk to get this price. The price doesn't reflect the quality of these rounds, as law enforcement agencies trust these rounds in training and real-world situations daily.
Muzzle Velocity: 1,610 fps
Muzzle Energy: 2,521 ft-lbs
Projectile: Rifled Slug
Shell Length: 2 3/4"
- Trusted brand
- Reasonably priced
- Must buy in bulk to get the best deal
- Will easily penetrate drywall
A rifled slug makes an excellent defense round because it is accurate and creates a big hole in the intruder. Pair that with Federal, one of the top ammo manufacturers in the world, and you have a high-quality round at a surprisingly affordable price.
These rifled slugs are more accurate at close and long range because the slug spins as it travels down the smoothbore shotgun barrel.
The one-ounce lead slug is sure to stop any threat; however, it will have a higher risk of over-penetration that you must keep in mind for the safety of your family and neighbors.
When you compare the velocity, muzzle energy, and price, these rounds are tough to beat.
The Winchester Defender 1 oz. Segmented Rifled Slug will help you stop the threat with similar ballistics as the Federal Power Shok shotshells. So if you're semi-auto or pump-action shotgun cycles Winchester shells better, you have a viable option.
However, these loads are more expensive due to the unique design of the segmenting slug. This slug breaks apart into three pieces once it hits cloth, which causes more wound channels and increased trauma.
Segmenting also reduces the risk of over-penetration.
For a round priced in between the two above, check out the Fiocchi 1 oz. Rifled Slug. The Aero Rifle Slug is designed as a self-defense shotshell for auto-loading shotguns. So if you're a pump-action lover, this probably isn't the round for you.
However, if you use a semi-auto shotgun as a defense gun, then the Fiocchi Aero Rifle Slug is one load you should consider.
Once you've bought your home defense shotgun, it's time to load it with the best home defense shotgun ammo, but how are you supposed to know which is the best when they all claim to be the best?
There's no simple answer to the question: "what is the best 12 gauge ammo for home defense?" However, there are several factors to remember when buying ammo that will help you make the best decision possible.
Learning which brands and loads your shotgun likes best will take time and testing. However, if the need ever arises, you'll be glad you took the time and spent the money to find the rounds that cycle and shoot best out of your shotgun.
Self-defense loads are often hotter rounds, meaning they have more kick. I suggest finding a reduced recoil round if you're sensitive to recoil.
Defense shotshells are often expensive due to the time and testing needed to perfect these loads before the manufacturers ship them to the public.
I'm typically tight-fisted with my money; however, when protecting my family and myself, I'm willing to spend more to ensure I buy a high-quality product.
The beauty of owning a shotgun is the wide variety of ammo types you can shoot from the same gun without changing anything except the shell.
This can also be a drawback because it's difficult for beginners to understand the various shot sizes and types.
Once you understand the differences between the shotgun ammo types, choosing a self-defense shotshell becomes much more manageable.
Shotgun shells used for personal defense are expensive; however, there are several ways to save money.
When you buy bulk 12-gauge ammo, sometimes you can save $0.15 per shotshell. This is a significant savings if you practice often and burn through ammo.
The amount of savings will depend on the brand and amount of ammo you purchase. Purchasing 250 rounds will save you more money per round than buying 20 shells at a time. However, buying 1,000 shotshells will give you more significant savings per round.
Shotgun shells are reloadable, which means there's an opportunity to save money by reloading instead of buying factory ammo.
This costs more money upfront because you have to purchase the reloading equipment and supplies, but once that initial cost is over, the amount of money you save depends on the speed at which you can pump out shells.
If you can't find the perfect home-defense round, you might try crafting your own by handloading.
To double up on your savings, try buying shotgun shells in bulk and then reloading them!
As I mentioned earlier, there are various types of projectiles in shotgun shells. There are two primary types I consider home defense rounds and a third that can be used if it's all you have on hand.
Buckshot is by far the best home defense load because it's less likely to penetrate, you have multiple projectiles to increase your chances of hitting your target, and it's reasonably priced.
There are different shot sizes of buckshot. Double aught or 00 Buck is most people's preference; however, don't be afraid to go with smaller pellets because there will be more per shell.
You might be thinking, what do those little slimy creatures have to do with shotguns?
No? That's just me?
Well, they don't have anything to do with shotguns, but a rifled or sabot slug does, and they make good personal defense rounds.
A rifled slug has the rifling on the slug instead of the barrel. The rifling causes the slug to spin, making it more accurate.
The sabot slug has a plastic case or sabot around it that causes it to spin in a smoothbore shotgun; there's much debate as to which slug is best, but many consider the sabot slug to be technologically superior.
Birdshot is not a recommended load for home defense; however, if it's all you have, use it, especially if it's a turkey load.
Birdshot has much smaller pellets than buckshot; therefore, it doesn't have the same stopping power, but if you have a good choke that keeps a tight pattern, birdshot is deadly, especially at close range.
Shot size selection will be the primary determining factor of the knockdown power of birdshot. The smaller the number, the larger the pellets. For defense purposes, choose the smaller numbers or BB.
Choosing the best 12-gauge ammo for home defense doesn't have to be overly complicated. You should make an informed decision, which you've made by reading this article, but in the end, you should test out several different brands and projectiles to determine which you like best.
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