Tag Archive: Self Defense

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Gunpowder Ballistic Weapons

This is the the post that all of you gun lovers and weapon knowledge seekers have been searching for. This is the one that regular readers have been waiting for. Guns. Our modern day world has an obsession with guns. We see them in movies and on TV. Our heroes are usually packing. Some people are comforted by them. Some people are scared of them. Everyone in the modern life has been affected by guns somehow. Now, its time to learn more about them.

In a survival situation, a gun is your most valuable tool besides your body. It can defend and feed you and your family. It can give a justified sense of security and a psychological boost. If used by the right people, it can bring peace, justice, and order. A gun is a must-have in almost any survival situation. Like any tool, you have to have the right gun for the job. Guns of all types need to be discussed.


Ah, the handgun. The first choice of weapons in any movie  or TV show. They are idolized by America. They can make for a good cinematic experience, but how effective is this icon of a weapon? Well, that depends on your situation. If you are on the move, then its light weight can be a blessing. If you need to arm multiple people, then the low price of some handguns can enable you to. There is something about carrying a pistol that makes someone think that they can do anything. This can be a false sense of security. With little or no training, a handgun is about as useful as New Coke was in the 1980s. All handguns have two major problems, though: poor accuracy and very short range. Accuracy increases significantly at short ranges (about 15-25 yards), so if you are defending a home or similar tight quarters, a handgun could save your life.


Revolvers are often associated with the Wild West era of the 1800s, but modern day revolvers are quite powerful additions to the handgun family. Revolvers can carry larger rounds than semi-automatic pistols, with the trade-off of not being able to hold as many rounds. One type of revolver made by Smith & Wesson holds the largest pistol round known to man: the .500 S&W magnum (They make a .66 magnum but good luck finding that!). The best caliber for a revolver would be a .357 magnum or a .45 that could also shoot up to a 3″ .410 shotgun shell (like the Taurus Judge).


These are common but somewhat left alone. People who use pistols want more than one shot. Single shot pistols have a barrel that breaks open at the breach, allowing a single round to be placed in the barrel. They do have an advantage over other pistols in one way, which is that they can be made to fit any type of ammunition. Whether it’s a shotgun, rifle, or pistol round, no matter what size, a single shot pistol can be made to accommodate any single type of round. Its use is mostly limited to hunting. In terms of home defense, it could take down a single attacker well. The problem with this is that intruders almost never come alone. The best part about a single shot? The price. They require the least materials and engineering of any gun, so they are very cheap.


These are the weapons that people think of when they think of a gun. They have a good ammunition capacity and a great rate of fire. In pistols, these are surely the top choice. The Colt M1911 was and still is the number one pick of handguns for many. The .45 ACP round it fires has great stopping power. The Desert Eagle (DE) is the biggest and baddest of the handgun group. The DE can be chambered for a .357 magnum, a .44 magnum, or the .50 AE. If you have a large amount of expendable cash (they are usually over $1500), then it is recommended that you buy the Desert Eagle in a .357 magnum. The only downsides of semi-auto pistols are the downsides that all pistols have. As a secondary or backup weapon, these guns are the number one choice.

On the right is the legendary Colt M1911 (a newer model of it) and on the left is the newer Desert Eagle (Different from the one first made by Israel in the 1980’s)


Handgun actions are the ways pistols operate, specifically revolvers and semi-auto. They can either have double or single action.

In a revolver, single action is the way that older revolvers operate, like you may have seen in a western movie. You have to pull the hammer back before you can pull the trigger each time. Modern day double action revolvers work similarly to semi-automatic pistols; it fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. A double action revolver can also work like a single action revolver and allow you to cock back the hammer, giving you something called a “hair trigger”. A hair trigger is easily pulled for better accuracy.

Below is a double action revolver with the hammer built into the gun. It does not allow for a hair trigger, but is slightly safer since hair triggers can be dangerous.

In a semi-auto handgun, single action and double action are very similar. A single action will have to be cocked after each clip is loaded, but it cocks itself after each shot. When a double action finishes its clip, the top part of the gun (the cocking mechanism) will remain in a backward position, and only a simple press of a button will cock the gun.

Below is a double action Desert Eagle that is unloaded, making the top of the gun slide to the unloaded position

-Hunting Rifles

Modern hunting rifles have many types and variants. These rifles are the most common types of rifles throughout America. Hunting rifles are the real power to American civilians. Civilians can arm themselves with these long-range weapons at a low cost. While they are not recommended for home defense, they can provide one of the most valuable resources in a survival situation: food. These weapons can be chambered for almost any kind of round to fit the type of animal you will be hunting. These rifles are split into two actions: bolt action and semi-automatic.


These are very common (there isn’t a gun store in the U.S. that wouldn’t sell one of these). They are all you truly need for hunting a single animal. If you can’t kill whatever you’re with one, well aimed shot, then you shouldn’t be hunting it. It has a slow rate of fire, making hunting more than one target at a time difficult, if not impossible. These rifles are strong and steady additions to any armory.

Below are two bolt action rifles. One is scoped (top) while the other shows the same rifle from two sides without a scope (bottom)


These rifles are slightly more expensive than their bolt action brothers, but the extra cost can be a life saver. Because they are semi-auto, they do make better candidates for home defense than bolt action rifles (preferably without a scope for home defense, as a hunting scope actually decreases accuracy at close ranges). It is recommended that you find a common caliber for a rifle such as this, like a .223 or a 30-06. choose your caliber carefully depending on what you will use it for. A .223 would be good for hunting small game and home defense, while a larger round such as a 30-06 would be for hunting large game, like deer. A semi-automatic hunting rifle is a tool and weapon that is highly recommended in any survival situation, and it can be a good investment for hunters as well.

Below is a semi-auto hunting rifle with a multi-purpose scope and an extended clip.


Most people who own any kind of gun own a shotgun. They are cheap, reliable, and powerful. Shotguns are not only an invaluable hunting tool, but are also the best choice for close-quarters combat. Shotgun shells are cheaper than many kinds of ammunition, and there are more varieties of shotgun shells than any other shell. There is a shotgun shell for any kind of hunting or defense. From squirrels, birds, and rabbits all the way to a grizzly bear, a shotgun can be effective against anything (assuming you can get close enough to whatever you are shooting at). Shotguns come in three main actions: break-over, pump, and semi-automatic.


Break-over shotguns include single and double barrel. While quad barrels are produced by some independent gunsmiths, they are not produced on a large enough scale to even discuss in this section. Break-over shotguns have three major advantages over other shotguns: they are cheap, reliable (it’s impossible to jam a break-over shotgun and you couldn’t break one unless you were trying to), and very easy to maintain and clean. Single barrel shotguns are sometimes called “snake guns” in Texas and other southern states because that’s about what they are limited to killing. You only have a single shot and reloading isn’t all that quick, but you can find a single barrel shotgun in some pawn shops for only about $20. They are some of the cheapest guns available, sometimes even cheaper than the cheapest of paintball guns if you find the right shop. Double barrel shotguns are a good choice in shotguns. The extra shot they offer over single barrel shotguns makes all the difference. The two types of double barrel shotguns side-by-side and over-and-under. Over-and-under is slightly more accurate while aiming down the sights. are  They are good for a variety of uses, but the shells are still slow to reload after you use those two shots.

Below are three pictures of break-over shotguns. The single barrel (top right), the double barrel side-by-side (top left), and the double barrel over-and-under (bottom). You can see that the double barrel side by side has its barrels aligned horizontally while the over-and-under has them aligned vertically for accuracy.


Pump shotguns are wonderful weapons, allowing you to load up to eight shots in some models and being able to chamber the next round rather quickly. These guns are not expensive in comparison to other guns, and are great additions to any survival situation armory. A pump action shotgun can do wonders for hunting, defense, and even morale to whoever is holding it. For the price, these shotguns reign supreme.

Below are pictures of  two shotguns. The one on the right is a combat pump shotgun, and the left is a typical hunting shotgun (the Remington 870)


If you can afford one of these, they are well worth their weight in gold in any disaster survival situation. These shotguns can fire as fast as you want them too, and can hold up to eight shells in their clips. It makes hunting incredibly easier and your home safer from intruders. It’s hard to beat someone with one of these at close range. Semi-auto shotguns hold one major disadvantage, though: they jam easily, especially if they aren’t cleaned properly. Cleaning weapons is always a priority after shooting them.

Below is a semi automatic hunting shotgun.

-Assault Weapons

Assault weapons are the height of modern warfare. The effectiveness of a country’s military and the strength of a country’s  political stance is partially held up by the effectiveness of their assault weapons. America holds the most expensive and powerful assault weapons, even though they are harder to produce and cost more per soldier than any other country in the world. Some countries are smart to mass produce cheap yet highly effective weapons (such as the iconic AK-47) to arm the masses, but the U.S. focuses on quality more than quantity. In many states in the U.S., assault weapons are available to civilians at the age of 18 and over, but these assault weapons are reduced to semi-automatic carbine versions only. It IS possible to obtain fully automatic assault weapons, but this requires a tier 3 weapons licence. A license like this is not only extremely hard to get, but you also have to find someone else with a tier 3 license to sell you a fully automatic weapon. Because of this, full-auto weapons will only be discussed a little, while the more practical carbine assault weapons will be the subject of choice.


These rifles are impractical for any use besides a full out battle or war against someone. Acquiring a license to get one is already hard enough, and on top of that, they are extremely inaccurate, especially in an inexperienced users hands. Almost everyone is inexperienced in the use of full auto weapons. These weapons also include burst-fire weapons, which are more accurate, but pose all of the other problems as the full-auto weapons. These guns would only be useful for defending against an army or large scale invasion of some kind, and are not recommended.

Below is the legendary AK-47 (AK stands for Automated Kalashnikov, named after the inventor who made it in the 1940’s for Russia)


These, alongside shotguns, are the best of the best when it comes to a survival situation. They fire only in a semi-automatic mode, making them perfectly legal for civilians ages 18 and over to buy. Their large clips allow for a wider variety of uses, their railings allow for effective accessories, they have a major positive psychological impact on whoever is holding it, and a major fear factor on whoever it is being pointed at. These can be effective for hunting as well, and the larger clips allow for you to take down things such as a bear more easily. A short to medium range sight is recommended for an assault carbine, along with an under-barrel flashlight. The great thing about these rifles is that they can be completely customized to your situation and liking. These are the most powerful of the civilian arsenal and have virtually no downsides except the very high price. If you can afford one of these, make it a priority to buy one.

Below are pictures of a Smith & Wesson MP-15 and an AR-15, both with accessories.


Airguns have been associated with children and the renowned Red Ryder BB gun for years. There is so much more to airguns than just that, though. There are 4 kinds of airgun operations: Spring loaded, multi-pump,  CO2 powered, and PCP (pre-charged pneumatic). There are three kinds of ammunition for airguns: .177 caliber BB’s, .177 caliber pellets, and .22 caliber pellets. Airguns are cheap and so is their ammunition, so do not discount these commonly overlooked weapons.

-Spring loaded

Spring loaded airguns should be all together forgotten in a survival situation. The only use they could have is for target practice. Red Ryders and spring loaded pistols have no place in a true emergency situation.


These airguns can be devastating against small animals and birds. If you purchase one, be sure it isn’t a youth airgun. Check to see if the maximum velocity is over 700, as this will fire accurately for over 100 yards and can drop very small animals in their tracks. If you can find a high powered .22 cal. pellet gun of this make, then that is preferred, but the common .177 cal. will also work well. The problem with these is their rate of fire. If you load a pellet, then you must carefully insert one into the breach after each shot. BB repeaters built into the gun make it slightly faster but you still have to pump the gun about 10 times before the next shot.

Model 880

-Single pump or break barrel

These air rifles are some of the best of their kind. The are usually break-barrel models, with the barrel itself being the cocking mechanism. Single pump air rifles can fire a pellet at about 1200 fps, the same as a .22 rifle. Basically, a break-barrel pellet gun is a .22 with really cheap ammunition. These are the most recommended of all air rifles.

-CO2 powered

A CO2 airgun (we aren’t talking about paintball guns) trades power for a valuable asset- high rate of fire. These are the only semi-automatic airguns. Their FPS is about 400, but some of the stronger models like the NightStalker from Crosman shoot at a stunning 600 fps while still shooting semi-automatic. While most CO2 airguns shoot small 12 gram CO2 cartridges, the NightStalker uses a large 88 gram cartridge.

Below are pictures of a CO2 powered pistol and the Crosman Nightstalker


-PCP air rifles and pistols

A Pre-Charged Pneumatic Air rifle is by far the strongest breed of airguns. It operates by pumping it several times with a small hand pump, filling a small tank built into the gun with air. This charge will last for several shots longer than a CO2 cartridge and shoot three times harder than a CO2 powered gun. Although they have the ability to be semi-automatic, the only models that are easily obtainable are a form of bolt-action. The common PCP air rifle shoots at a max velocity of a whopping 1100 FPS. That gives it enough power to bring down any small game (animals) or even some medium sized game. The uncommon PCP air rifles, made in South Korea, get even more powerful. So powerful, in fact, as to shoot a .50 caliber round (for those who don’t know, that is a HUGE pellet) at over 700 FPS. That’s enough to bring down a deer! PCP pistols are usually Single shot But have a lot of kick for such a small package

Below are PCP airgun pictures. The top two are common PCP airguns, and the bottom two are big bore .45 caliber PCP airguns capable of taking down deer or even a person.

Just like the other weapons posts, check back for future add ons to this post.

Non-gunpowder ballistic weapons

These weapons include bows and arrows, slings, and the modern crossbow. Non-ballistic weapons are silent, and their ammunition is usually reloadable, making them valuable assets in an ammunition-tight situation.

-The sling

-The sling was the first ranged weapon in history. It consists of a strap of leather or cloth, and fires a small, preferably rounded stone. It works by placing the stone in the strap, grabbing both ends, slinging it in a circular motion, and releasing one end of the sling. This can send a pretty good sized stone hurdling through the air. The sling is most commonly known from the Biblical story of David and Goliath, where David, a small boy, killed Goliath, a literal giant, with nothing but a sling by sinking a stone between Goliath’s eyes. So although the sling seems very effective here, we can’t always count on God helping us kill our enemies like David did. The sling poses some problems as well. Unless you’ve trained with a sling for years, you will have trouble getting the stone 20 feet in front of you, and you won’t be able to hit a target with it if your life depended on it.

-The modern slingshot

This is definitely a step up from its stone age ancestor. The slingshot can fire BB’s or larger shot at very high speeds with fairly good accuracy. If you don’t like the accuracy you are getting, then you can add as many more BB’s as you can fit for a shotgun effect. Some newer slingshots even have a magnet in its sling for easier loading of more BB’s. This weapon is particularly useful in bird hunting. Even though it may not penetrate some birds’ skin, it will stun them and drop them to the ground for long enough to run up and finish the bird off. You have virtually unlimited ammunition for it, as you can shoot rocks from the slingshot as well.

-The blowgun

Most people associate blowguns with American Indians and poison. What they don’t know is that most sports stores sell modern day, aluminum versions of the blowgun. These are particularly effective at short range against small game such as rabbits (I know, all of the girls right now are saying, “Aww! Don’t kill the rabbit!” but when you are starving in a survival situation, you will see animals MUCH differently). The longer the barrel, the more power you get out of the blowgun. Modern blowguns range in caliber from a .40 caliber barrel all the way up to a .625 bore (the size of a paintball). The larger bores carry broadhead blow darts which are, with a long enough barrel and a shot to the head or heart, capable of taking down large game. A blowgun is a very simple design. It is a long, perfectly bored tube in which you blow on one end to propel the dart inside forward at high speeds. Your ammo is reusable and the blowgun is fairly cheap (they range from $10-$60) so this weapon is a strong asset to a survival arsenal.

-The bow and arrow

When someone thinks of the medieval ages, it is impossible to not think about a bow and arrow. We see them in movies, we see them on TV, and they are sold in almost every store with a sporting goods section. Bows range anywhere from the wooden longbow to the modern compound bow,  and arrows can be wooden or aluminum.  The most effective bow is the compound bow. Along with the endless useful accessories you can get for it, it fires at extremely high velocities and can take down any living target you shoot it at. Modern arrows have varieties of replaceable tips which you can change out for different scenarios. for example, you would use a large broadhead for shooting a deer, a field tip for shooting a rabbit, and a dull practice tip for target shooting. A bow and arrow is silent, and all arrows are recoverable from whatever you shoot them at, so this weapon ranks high on the list of useful weapons. The only downside is that they are somewhat expensive, and along side the cost of the arrows and tips, be prepared to spend some money for this worthy weapon.

Below is a modern compound bow, a broad head arrow tip, and a field point, respectively.

-The modern crossbow

The crossbow got it’s first start in the medieval ages, and became modernized into a powerful killing machine. A crossbow can fire it’s bolt (a bolt is like an arrow but shorter) accurately and lethally for 40-100 yards, depending on the crossbow and who is shooting it. A crossbow can be fitted with a scope, adding to the accuracy. The crossbow’s bolt usually fires at about 300 fps (feet per second). To give a comparison, an airsoft gun usually shoots  at about 200-400 fps and a low caliber rifle shoots at over 1200 fps. So although the bolt may not be moving that fast, it is actually incredibly powerful for two reasons: 1) A crossbow bolt is 100 times larger than a bullet or airsoft BB, so to get it moving that fast is pretty strong, and 2) a bolt is very sharp and can penetrate a few feet (if not, all the way through) even the toughest of animals. A crossbow is at the top of the list for non-ballistic weapons. The downside is, more so than the bow, they are expensive, but definitely worth it.

Below are pictures of a modern crossbow and some crossbow bolts

Before we discuss guns, ammunition needs to be discussed. There is an ammunition type for everything, every job. A “caliber” is the size of a bullet, measured in decimal points. The larger the number in the caliber, the larger the bullet and vice versa. so for example, a .17 caliber (17 HMR) bullet is very small and a .50 caliber bullet is massive. Bullets vary in size between these two calibers. Bullets have different amounts  of powder in them, making some stronger than others. The following is a list of common bullets with their advantages and disadvantages.


.17 HMR- A small bullet usually used for hunting small game. It has the speed of a magnum bullet and can pass clean through most targets, but its tiny size severely limits what it is useful on. It is sometimes used in pistols.

.22 short cap, long, long rifle (LR), and magnum- Short caps are useless in most situations other than short range target practice. LR is generally associated with target practice because it is so cheap and is found everywhere, but it is actually a useful round for small game hunting. The LR is the most widely available ammunition in the U.S., being so easy to manufacture. The magnum is a powerful round for such a small bullet, and is used in many small self defense pistols. It has tremendous speed and will kill any small game in its tracks, and can stop an attacker with a couple shots, though it probably wouldn’t be lethal.

.223 or 5.56mmx45mm- The .223 is the civilian model of the 5.56 round. These rounds are the same size, but don’t confuse the two. Each is distinctive from the other and should not be used on weapons made for the opposite round. These rounds are the number one round used by the U.S. military and are used in all M16’s and some light machine guns (LMGs). these rounds pack a ton of powder for a relatively small bullet. They can penetrate body armor (something that you will probably not need) and still go through their target. For the purpose of hunting or self defense, this may not be the top round, but it is still a good round and should be considered depending on your situation.

.243- This is a popular hunting round and is used in many deer rifles. It is a solid round with good penetration and knockdown power.

.270 – Considered by many to be the best round for hunting, the .270 savage has a very flat trajectory making it accurate for ranges longer than almost any other round.

30-30 winchester- This round is most commonly used in the winchester lever-action repeater, and has a compact size but good stopping power.

.300 magnum- similar to the .243 except it has considerably more power and a larger bullet tip.

.308 or 7.62mmx51mm- The .308 is a common hunting round in the U.S, but the 7.62 is the most common and, some would say, the most loved round in the world. The AK-47, the world’s number one assault rifle, fires the 7.62 round. These rounds pack a good punch. Like the 5.56 and .223, these rounds are not to be confused with each other. It can ruin a weapon if a .308 round is fired from a 7.62 rifle or vice versa.

Below is a series of 7.62 rounds. All of them have different effects on their target, but each can fire from the same gun. Most ammunition calibers have varying bullet tips to choose from.

30-06- this is a relatively large hunting round that was used in the U.S. military for half a century. It made its debut on the well known M1 Garand, the military semi-automatic rifle used in the most famous and heroic invasions such as the U.S. army storming the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day. This rifle round, when compared most rounds, towers over them in power, speed, and kinetic energy (how hard the round hits its target). It has great accuracy at range, and can stop just about anything you shoot it at in its tracks. No wonder it was in service for 48 years.

.5/12.7mm round- This is the most powerful of all rifle rounds. No other bullet has ever come close to the shear power of this massive round. It is used by the U.S. military as a sniper round for the Barret .50 cal. rifle and is also used in U.S. military heavy machine guns (HMGs). This bullet’s awesome power has the ability to literally rip limbs off when fired upon. There is a major problem though. Why would anyone besides the military need a round this large? In a survival situation, a round like this is overkill for any hunting you may do (unless for some reason you are hunting an elephant). In self defense, you would usually be in close quarters, so a small rifle round or pistol would do the job much better. If you are in long range self defense, the 30-06 would probably be the best for the job. This round is ridiculously expensive and heavy, making it hard to carry multiple rounds. This round is so powerful that it renders it unusable for any survival situation.

This picture compares the .50 caliber rifle round to the 30-06, the .308, and the .223. Its definitely something you don’t want to be on the other end of.

There are many rifle rounds that were not included in this article, such as the .408 or the .470 nitro express, simply because they are rare or are not useful in survival situations. If you have any other rifle rounds that I may have missed, or if  I am wrong about something, please feel free to post a comment and correct me.


Pistols will almost always fire a smaller round than a rifle. These rounds are not meant for the same purpose as a rifle. They are meant for stopping power at short range, and as a secondary weapon.

.22 bullets- these are some of the few munitions shared by both rifles and pistols alike.

.32 caliber- This round was the bullet used all throughout the Wild West. It was the standardized bullet for all rifles and pistols, while few other bullet sizes were made. It has a low power and somewhat-good speed, but it does have one major advantage. It is lightweight and vary small, allowing the user to carry an abundance of ammunition. In the Wild West Era, whoever could sling the most lead at his enemy was usually the victor of a battle. Times have changed since then. Now we know that accuracy and power are keys to gunfights, which will not be found in this small round. It is useful in very close quarters, and is still popular in small self defense pistols around the nation.

.357 magnum- considered by some to be the best pistol round ever invented, this round balances out power, speed, caliber size, and size of the entire round. It has a good range for a pistol, and can be accurate for up to 100 yards in perfect conditions. This round was the start to the “magnum” era of handgun ammunition. If choosing a handgun, be sure to look over this round carefully as an option.

.38 cal.- This round comes in many variants, such as the .38 special, .38 Smith & Wesson (S&W) and the .38 super. It is one of the most popular pistol rounds in the U.S., second only to the 9mm. It packs a strong punch but does not have that much range. Do not let the range be a deterrent for you, though, because a handgun is not usually needed at a distance. This round is usually cheaper than most of the other pistol rounds.

.40 S&W- almost identical to the .38 except it is slightly larger and costs quite a bit more.

9mm- the iconic pistol round. Anyone who knows anything about guns has heard of this round. It is the most common worldwide pistol round, used by almost every country. It will usually pass through its target, leaving it wounded but not dead unless it hits the heart or the head. Being such a common round, it is generally very cheap and widely available.

.44 magnum- This was the most powerful handgun round in the world until the invention of the .50 cal. Action Express (AE) and the .500 S&W revolver round. The .44 has tremendous stopping power, and could kill anything it is shot at, besides an elephant or similar animal (again, why would you need to shoot an elephant?). Some might consider it overkill, but others would call it “assurance of death”.

.45 ACP- This round was made most popular by the Colt Model 1911 handgun. This all american round was also used in the Thompson sub-machine gun (SMG), used by the American military and made infamous by the mafia. This is a powerful round and can knock a target backward. It has very good stopping power and is still in service with all divisions of the U.S. military. This round has been in service for a century and is still going strong. It is something that must be looked into when looking for a handgun.

.50 caliber-Most commonly used in the Desert Eagle handgun made by Israel in 1985, this round has an awesome knock-back power that will blow your enemies away… literally. Much like the .50 caliber rifle round, it is definitely overkill. Forget about a good rate of fire, As this weapon will send the arms of even the strongest man flailing through the air when fired. To re-aim each shot after that would take some time. It is also the most expensive handgun ammunition and is very heavy. This round is much like its rifle round cousin, and is so powerful that it is too powerful.

If you think I missed a popular handgun round, or my information is incorrect, please feel free to post a comment and by all means correct me.


The shotgun is one of the most common weapons throughout America. Shotgun shells are cheap compared to other ammunition and come in dozens of varieties. The main thing they lack is range. There are some rare shotgun shell gauges (a measurement of the size of the shotgun shell) such as the 28 gauge or the 16 gauge. These will not be discussed as they are too hard to obtain. there are 3 main gauges, and one semi-common gauge. The lower the number of the gauge, the bigger the shell. Shotgun shells can be loaded with a variety of things, from tiny BB’s to a solid slug of lead. What is inside the shell is known as the shot. Shot sizes are similar to gauges in that the lower the number is, the bigger each BB or projectile inside of the shell is.

Below is the layout of two different basic shotgun shells.


.410 gauge- This is the smallest shotgun shell, sometimes used in revolvers such as the Judge handgun by Taurus. It has the same dimensions as a .45 colt pistol round, except it is considerably longer. This allows for guns like the judge and other single shot .410 guns to chamber both rounds without any modifications.

Below is the Taurus Judge with some .410 shells

20 gauge- A balanced shotgun shell, this round has a good amount of shot in it and good power. It is a favorite for many bird hunters, especially youth bird hunters.

12 gauge- The number one shotgun shell in America. This shell is big, bulky, and powerful. This round is used commonly in home defense and hunting alike. It is useful for any kind of hunting or self defense, given that it is loaded with the right type of shot at the right range.

10 gauge- This shell almost didn’t make the cut of common rounds, but there are plenty of gun stores out there that still sell it. If you shoot something with one of these massive shotgun shells, you have a heck of a mess to clean up. It’s hard to determine if this round is overkill, because it depends on what kind of shot you are shooting and what you are shooting at. If you are bird hunting with bird shot, than it is just fine, and you might even be able to kill two birds with one shell. Shooting a deer at close range with buckshot, however, might be overkill with this round.

Below is a comparison of many shotgun shells. Only the few discussed above are easily attainable, but if you already have a shotgun that uses a rare shell and you either already have plenty of the shells or a way to get more, then by all means, use it.

-Types of shot

All gauges of shells have different varieties of shot

Bird shot- This type of shell the most common. It is used primarily for hunting birds. It is very easily attained because any store that sells ammunition would keep bird shot shotgun shells in stock. The problem with these is that they lack the power to bring down a deer or similar animal unless you are within 20 feet of it (which is nearly impossible). When hunting small animals, however, this type of shell reigns supreme. In self defense it would definitely stop your attacker at short range but it would not be lethal, although that attacker would think twice about bothering someone with a shotgun the next time.

Below is birdshot (left) compared to buckshot


These are large steel or lead balls carefully packed inside of a shotgun shell and are primarily used for taking down large animals. Buckshot is also used by the U.S. military and police. It has more raw stopping power at close range than just about any rifle or pistol round. When fired, it acts as a wall of hard-hitting bullets that could bring down a charging animal with just one shot. In some scenarios, there is no better comfort than a good shotgun loaded with buckshot.


These are the heaviest of shotgun shells. They consist of one giant slab of lead neatly packed into a shotgun shell. When fired, it moves slower than most other rounds, but its impact could be heard from 200 yards away. Of course, it isn’t accurate at 200 yards. You would be lucky if you hit something at 50 yards with a slug. Although these rounds are meant to act like a giant rifle round that can be fired from a shotgun, shotguns lack good sights and the slug itself is too heavy to work at range. Whatever you wanted to use a slug on, buckshot could do the job better.

The picture on the right shows different slugs that can be loaded into a shell. They all have virtually the same effect.