Are Flechette Shotgun Rounds Good for Hunting?

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Flechette shotgun rounds are no stranger to shotgun ranges, their praises have spread wide and far since the third world war to now. Back to the question: are flechette shotgun rounds good for hunting? Well, I’d say no; they really wouldn’t help you make a decent kill. 

For one, they have a small diameter, unconventional dispersion pattern, and are very light. With these features in place, they cannot penetrate the animals’ thick skins. They happen to also be painful, which is not very ethical.

Claims are that these rounds were much used in Vietnam. Their primary use in world war 3 was to take down snipers that were hiding in dense vegetation, and the flechettes were able to penetrate the thick environment. Rumors are that this weapon has enough penetrating power to penetrate multiple enemies in combat; however, no evidence has yet to back this.

These light-bodied small darts offer armor-piercing capabilities. At first, even I was not sure of this. However, it took me some tests to confirm this; I will gladly share the results later in this piece. I recommend that if you are to use these rounds, use an improved bore barrel cylinder as it may damage your barrel.

What Flechette Shotgun Rounds Feature

Unique Design

The flechettes in this round come with a pinpoint tip and a tail fin gracing its rear side. The fins, however, come in different versions: flatbacks, raindrop, and heart-shaped styling. They are then mixed randomly in a pack. All the flechettes are roughly equal sizes, resulting in a very light overall shell.

The darts are of hard steel, which offers excellent penetration even on dense bone structure. However, some of the flechettes tend to penetrate sideways instead of straight. They have a very sharp pointed tip, which plays a significant role in penetration.


Each of these small arrows is roughly an inch long, and all flechettes are of equal size and mass. The dart has a diameter of 1/16th of an inch, with the fin diameter being 3/16th of an inch across. This overall size adds up to a weightless dart that can cause severe damage to soft tissue.

The small darts have a high sectional density that plays a considerable role in the penetration of dense foliage. At least this is what the manufacturers claim the feature adds to the rounds. To weigh a gram, you will require 3 of the flechettes, and around 30 pieces load in a single shell.

Flechette Shotgun Rounds Field Test

I took the liberty to head on to the range and have a feel of these rounds. Three of the attempted experiments were successful, and I am glad to share with you the results. Remember that all this was to answer whether flechette rounds are suitable for hunting.

What is the Level of Penetration of the Flechette Rounds?

Shooting on Gel

The overall structure of high quality shooting gel is almost similar to vital animal organs. I was able to receive four inches of penetration (that was the tip of the furthest penetrated Flechette). 

Bird shots came as a surprise as I was not expecting them in this load. 

The bird shots penetrated further than the flechettes; however, they inflicted less damage. This measurement shows that flechette rounds might not penetrate that much on sturdy bone structure. This performance is contrary to what the product promises us.

A flechette design resembles a small missile, thus having a sharp tip and a tail fin. This structure is supposedly put in place to provide the projectile with great air balance. The rear faced missiles are supposed to rotate, with the aid of the fin, and meet forward before impact. However, this is not the case while on the field. The flechettes tend to flap around while in flight, causing a weak effect on some projectiles.

Another thing I found of concern was the overall layout of the projectiles in the shell. The dart design limits the arrangement of the flechettes; half of them are rear-faced to fit correctly in the round. The fins stabilize your projectile to achieve maximum penetration. You could observe that most of the missiles had not maintained on impact with the gel, penetration was either sideways or backward.

How Do Flechette Rounds Perform over Short Ranges?

Shooting on Dummy

In this experiment, the shotgun aims at a plastic human-form dummy. The results are to give us a general outlook of how the Flechette will respond in human combat. 

I placed a mannequin about 10 yards away, making this a close-range test. The small darts had a vast spread; most of them did not penetrate the material. The few that penetrated were mostly sideways, meaning that they had not yet stabilized at point of impact.

Only superficial wounds were inflicted by the darts that penetrated, and at very weird angles, which was a very disappointing result. The small arrows do not fly straight as promised by the manufacturers. While in flight, the flechettes tend to cluster together, crumbling through the air towards your target. I found out that the use of wax might help hold together your rounds until impact, but by adding wax to the shell, you lose stability but reduce the flechettes spread.

This performance is not what I expect when it comes to human encounters. In regards to self-defense, more accurate and useful rounds would be better to consider. The Flechette is overrated in every manner.

Are Flechette Rounds Ammo Piercing? 

Shooting at Armor

The primary goal here is to clear the arguments as to whether the flechettes have armor-piercing capabilities. We aimed our shotgun towards the body armor placed in front of the gel. The gel is to act as body tissue at a close range. The results were pretty surprising.

Several darts made it past the body armor and traveled quite a distance. The furthest projectile was four inches into the gel. The armor stops the rest of the darts. However, the shield does take in incredible damage. The tips of the stopped flechettes seem to protrude, causing a rough texture on the inside of the plate.

In general, the damage caused to a human with body armor is sure to be painful and bloody. The pointy projectiles tend to bring massive damage even at very low velocities. Its shape and hardness are what I believe plays the most significant role in providing this piece of art with its superb penetrating ability. We cannot term these projectiles as lethal, but it is not wrong to say that much damage will befall the victim.

Why are Flechette Rounds Not Suitable for Hunting?

Weird Dispersion Patterns

The performance of these rounds is very disappointing in close range and even more heartbreaking on long intervals. Broad weird dispersion patterns are visible. I was able to relate this to the packaging of the projectiles in the shell.

The projectiles that face backward in the shell are what cause these unappealing results. Upon firing, these projectiles’ priority will be to turn the head front. While turning, the chances are that they will distract the other missiles. This interference will result in the majority of the darts flopping around mid-air and bounce off their target.

When aiming at long ranges, the projectiles glide away from the target. Out of 30 units, only 5 of them obtain contact with the goal. This result is inferior if you compare the price you paid for the piece.

Unusually Cruel

According to my findings, the flechettes are not for maiming an animal and they seriously wound the victim. When it comes to hunting, the law tries to minimize the pain inflicted on the animals. Most states advocate for quick and less painful methods of taking down animals, and flechette rounds are the complete opposite of quick and painless killing. 

Damage Barrels

I cannot say this enough; do not use these rounds on your favorite shotgun. These projectiles, upon firing, tend to irregularly exit the barrel. The barrel might get scratches or even crack on the inside, since their exit formation.

Using Flechette Shotgun Rounds

Despite their terrible rating and performance, these rounds are in stock. Let’s look at why people still love them and what complaints users have against them.

What Users Like about Them

Hard Steel Darts

Unlike most shotgun shells filled with round lead shots, the cartridge is filled with sharp-pointed flechettes. These projectiles provide a higher penetration power as compared to standard lead shot filled shells.

Sectional Density

These small darts are very lightweight; however, each flechette dart has a high strength material. Even on low velocities, you will still achieve brilliant penetration. The whole layout of the projectile is averagely balanced to provide consistent performance.

The Not So Good

State Restrictions

Some states have banned the use of flechette rounds in any application or purpose whatsoever. Mind you; this is in states like Alaska, New York, and even California. So before heading for the fields with these rounds, keep in mind your state regulations as it can land you in trouble.

Poor Penetration

Although this product promises excellent penetrating performance, results collected by various enthusiasts, including me, prove otherwise. The projectiles are very light; this will lead to poor penetration. In my findings, most of the missiles seemed to pierce the target at peculiar angles. These Flechette rounds have no stopping power; it will only inflict superficial wounds.

Lack of Striking Power

Another disadvantage that comes with these rounds is the fact that they have no striking power on their victim. Yes, they might inflict some damage to the target; however, a staunch opponent might be able to escape. Some of the rounds on its price range have enough power to incapacitate their victims immediately.

Shell Layout

The shape and design of these small darts limit their arrangement in the shells. For the 30-40 darts to fit in a round, half of them will have to face backward. With this layout, the engineers expect the back-facing arrows to turn and stabilize before impact. On the field, most of these darts are unable to make the complete turn before hitting the target.

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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Flechette Shotgun Rounds.

Are Flechette Shotgun Rounds Illegal?

The Geneva Convention abolished the use of these rounds in some states. Most entirely agree with the use of these rounds for self-defense and private purposes. However, they are very lousy pieces of ammo to rely on self-defense. 

What do Flechettes Have over NATO Rounds?

NATO rounds are close competitors with flechette rounds. I believe that on paper the Flechette outweighs NATO. However, on-field performance differs. The NATO rounds are preferable in shotguns for close and long-range use.

Flechettes are small in size, unlike their rival; this makes them incapable of maneuvering through the strong wind. The flechettes are very small, and you can fit several of the projectiles in a shell. Although the Flechettes have a lighter overall weight, that is not enough to challenge the NATO rounds.

What are Flechette Rounds Used for?

These rounds, when first developed, were to be used in combat during world war 3. However, the military discontinued the use of this ammunition due to disappointing results all through. In the current millennial, Flechette rounds are for private use, mostly practice and self-defense. The use of these rounds is, however, limited to specific areas.


The flechette shotgun rounds have no place in the hunting scene. Their generally poor performance is seen in most shooting fields. If you are a serious hunter, then one shot of these rounds is enough to make you look for another alternative.

I agree that their unique design provides an excellent penetration power to puncture humans. However, animals have a slightly thick coat. Only a few of the flechettes are likely to penetrate the sturdy animal skin and cause minimum damage to its internal anatomy, not permanently incapacitating it. Also, most of the projectiles are improperly manufactured, and this can be observed in their not so uniform missiles.

These flechette shotgun rounds are not suitable for hunting the cons may outweigh the pros in this piece. However, as a collector, it is an important item to add to your collection. 

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