Buckshot Sizes: A Complete Review and Buyers Guide

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Buckshot is becoming increasingly important, and their demand is significantly skyrocketing in these latter days than in the early years. You could be looking for ideal shots for hunting medium to a big game or defending yourself at home using your shotgun; then, buckshot would work just fine for you. You may also be military personnel looking for the best bullets for your shotgun and wondering which one to settle for; buckshot would still be the best option to consider.

When considering a buckshot for your shotgun, you should understand that they come in different shapes and sizes. They vary in terms of the shell itself, the number, size, and velocity of the pellets. While the 12-gauge shell length is the most common shell for the buckshot, you can still use a 20-gauge shell that will work for you perfectly. 

The 12-gauge shells come in four different sizes ranging from 1 ¾ “(mini shells), 2 ¾ “(standard shells), 3” (magnum shells), and the 3 ½ “(super-duper magnum shells). Of these shell sizes, the 2 ¾ shell is the most used shell size standard. This standard shell is ideal for self-defense against humans.

The mini shells are not ideal for most shotguns as they are made for specific shotguns. The 3 and 3 ½ inch shells come in handy when you use a barrel that explicitly says it’s chambered. Using a more extended shell gives you the advantage of more space for pellets and higher velocities. This means the longer shells are an excellent choice for hunting larger animals and when you want to extend your shooting range.

The Buckshot Sizes

Buckshot comes in various sizes, with the smallest buckshot being #4 buck, but you should not confuse this with #4 shot for birdshot. The largest of the buckshot in the market today is the #0000 though it is not very common to find. The most common largest buckshot is #000.

Commonly when referring to the buckshot sizes from the whole numbers 4-1, you will refer to them using their number then follow it with the word ‘buck’ to differentiate them from birdshot. For example, you can say ‘Number 4 Buck’ to distinguish it from ‘Number 4 birdshot, ‘ also known as ‘4 shot’ or ‘fours.’

For the zeros, the naming system of the buckshot changes to something more interesting.  Single zero is called an ‘ought’ so for ‘#0 Buck’ becomes “single ought buck.” The ‘#00 Buck’ becomes ‘double ought buck’ and so on.

In buckshot, like in birdshot and shotgun gauges, as the pellet’s actual diameter increases, the number of pellets in the shell decreases. This means that the #4 Buck remains the smallest buckshot, and you will use more of them in the shell. The #1 Buck, on the other hand, is the biggest in the series of the whole numbers, and you will need fewer of them in the shells.

When you get to the aughts, the trend changes as the size increases with the addition of zeros to the series. Here, the #0 is the smallest but still bigger than #1. So #0 buck is smaller than #00 buck, which is smaller than #000 buck, which is the second largest to #0000 buck.

Breakdown of Buckshot Diameters in inches

Let us have a breakdown of the buckshot diameter sizes below.

  • #0000 Buck measures .38 inches in diameter and is the largest buckshot you can find.
  • #000 Buck measures .36 inches in diameter.
  • #00 Buck measures .33 inches.
  • #0 Buck measures .32 inches.
  • #1 Buck measures.30 inches.
  • #2 Buck measures .27 inches.
  • #3 Buck measures .25 inches.
  • #4 Buck measures .24 inches in diameter and is the smallest buckshot you can find.

Using a standard 12 gauge shell to load these buckshot pellets, the shell will contain about 24 pellets of the #4 Buck and nine pellets of the #00-sized buckshot.

Buyer’s Guide to the Best Buckshot Sizes

If you are going to buy the buckshot for home use, you will undoubtedly need to grasp the buckshot features before settling for one. Here is a list of some of the things to look out for in the buckshot before you complete the purchase deal.

Number of Pellets

When buying buckshot ammunition, you will want to check the number of pellets your buckshot ammunition can hold. If you are purposing to use the ammunition for hunting birds, then you would want to consider one that carries more pellets. More pellets mean smaller sizes, which will not damage the birds you are hunting. The larger the pellet, the more damage it causes to the bird, scattering its meat all over when it hits the target. 

The pellets in each shell will vary depending on the size of the pellets and the shell’s length. For the 2 ¾ inch standard length shell, the #00 Buck, for example, holds up to 9 pellets. The #1 Buck will comfortably hold between 12 to 16 pellets while the #4 Buck comfortably carries up to 28 pellets.

Buckshot Speed

Buckshot in longer shells will give you more velocity as compared to those in shorter shells. This is because the longer shells accommodate more pellets that are smaller in size and weight. The lightweight of the pellets means they will achieve higher speeds as compared to the heavier ones.

So when you need higher buckshot speeds, you should start considering the 3 and 3 ½ inch shells for your shotgun as they tend to push the pellets faster. For the 2 ¾ inch shell, the velocity varies from between 1100 to 1600 feet per second when they come from the manufacturer’s test barrel. This range is ideal for self-defense loads.

So, for self-defense, you will work well with the low-recoil load rounds, which always range from between 1100 to 1200 feet per second. The low-recoil load rounds are a bit easier to control and were very popular with law enforcers in the 80s and 90s. Therefore, you can work well with this speed for close-range shots, and it will work as effectively as the high-velocity shots.

Speed of Buckshot sizes and their Performance

Let us look at how the buckshot speed affects the functioning of some of the buckshot sizes below.

#00 Buck

The speed of the buckshot affects their penetration into the target once you fire them. For example, #00 will penetrate 18 to 20 inches in a ballistic gel when you fire at a speed of between 1100 and 1200 feet per second. This is somehow a sufficient penetration for killing a bird or hurting a larger game and for self-defense.

Pushing the #00 pellets with a faster rate of 33% at a speed of 1600 feet per second, you are likely to achieve an over-penetration. At that speed, the pellets are also expected to penetrate exterior walls and other more robust barriers.

#1 Buck

If we were to compare #1 buckshot with the #00 buckshot from a ballistic point of view, then the results would be in favor of #1 Buck, thanks to the higher speeds. For this reason, the #1 Buck has had a high success rate with law enforcers than #00.

Unfortunately for #1 Buck lovers, the pellets are not as popular as you could wish them to be, with a low market demand making them hard to come by in the market.

#4 Buck

If you opt for the #4 Buck, then you must get ready to boost the speed as here is where higher speeds are required. The smaller mass of the #4 Buck makes it have a lower penetration when it hits the target if you fire it with a low-velocity shotgun. When #4 Buck moves at the same velocity as #1 Buck, #1 Buck will have deeper penetration since it has almost twice the mass of #4 Buck.

Most of the #4 Buck moves at a speed of 1300 to 1400 feet per second, which is averagely tolerable for hunting and self-defense. Many #4 Buck users have recorded success stories with it, and you can try it too for self-defense at home.

Buckshot Patterning

Before you settle for the buckshot you intend to use in your shotgun; you might want to test the patterning first. Buckshot patterning is when you fire a couple of rounds at different distances to find out how much the pellets spread at each specific range.

While testing the buckshot patterning, you should have in mind the area you are considering to protect from people, animals, or anything that may be a threat. Picture the longest possible shot you may have to take and the potential lane of fire. You can then start patterning your buckshot from a distance of about five yards and repeat it with slight increments of between three to five yards. You can do this until you reach the maximum distance.

Patterning helps you find out when your shots will start spreading and how big the pattern will be. You will be able to predict how your buckshot behaves, so you do not get surprises when you get to the actual shooting.

What Kind of Patterns Should You Look Out for?

You are not just going to be patterning blindly without some desirable results in mind. Smaller patterns are always desirable. Smaller patterns here mean displacement of between five to six inches apart from each shot you record on the board from a maximum distance. A lesser displacement that the five inches are even more desirable if possible.

Recording Smaller patterns means that you will have more accurate shots even from long ranges of shots, and you should settle for buckshot sizes that achieve this. Since you are going to use these buckshot pellets sometimes in public places, you wouldn’t want buckshot pellets that would spread so widely. 

Full spreading pellets are more likely to hit sideways targets that you never intended to hit, and these targets could be innocent humans.  This could attract some penalties, and you could end up losing your firearm or going to jail if the destruction of the shots are major.  

Most shotgun shells come with multiple pellets to increase your chances of hitting the target after factoring in buckshot patterning effects. The multiple pellets are great for hunting small game such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other animals that can fly or move quickly.

Controlling the Patterning

Most of the time, you will not like the spreading of the buckshot pellets, and therefore you may need a way of controlling this spreading. The most effective way of controlling widespread patterning is by using a constriction within the barrel of your shotgun known as a choke. The choke helps to effectively reduce the diameter of the end of the barrel, which forces the shot closer together as it leaves the barrel.

Choosing an ideal choke would mean picking a tighter choke for your shotgun if your intentions for the shotgun and buckshot pellets are for self-defense. However, if you intend to hunt small cheeky animals such as rabbits, you will need a much looser choke like the cylinder bore. This loose choke allows the easy spreading of the buckshot pellets, which increases your chances of hitting these types of animals.

If you use a full choke (which is the tightest), when hunting small game like birds or rabbits, your chances of hitting the target are somehow reduced. However, when you get to hit the target, the outcome of the buckshot pellet’s impact is extreme. You end up demolishing the animal and hence losing a lot of meat.

Buying the Buckshot Pellets

By now, you have already decided on what buckshot pellet size you want to purchase for your shotgun. Maybe you have settled for a single size or several sizes for different shooting experiences. The challenge now becomes where to find the ideal buckshot size for your shotgun. I consolidated some buckshot pellets brands and a store where you can buy them from for you below. Have a look.

Hornady #4 (.240″) Magnum Buckshot (5 lb. Box)

The Hornady buckshot comes coated with a lead alloy that is hardened using antimony to help prevent deformities after firing the gun. With this #4 Buck from Hornady, you can expect straighter flies and harder hits every time you make a shot towards your target. The company uses a strict roundness tolerance of +.001 inches to put more pellets into your targets.

Remington # 3 Buckshot (25 lb. Bag)

If you love the #3 Buck, you may want to give the Remington #3 Buckshot a shot. They are premium-grade pellets made of lead to offer deep penetration anytime you hit your target. These pellets are dense and evenly patterned to give precise accuracy for every shot. They are also 25% tighter than other normal lead buckshot.

Remington # 1 Buckshot (25 lb. Bag)

The number 1 buckshot can be a great option to look out for, especially if you intend to hunt more massive games or need a great gun for self-defense. This one from Remington does not disappoint your expectations. Being that it is a premium grade pellet, it offers deep penetration, dense, and evenly balanced patterns. It is also made to achieve 25% more tightness than other #1 Buck pellets from other companies in the market.

Hornady 00 (.330″) Magnum Buckshot (5 lb. Box)

Expect a different swag and taste when buying a #3 Buck from Hornady. Their number buckshot pellet is cold swaged using a lead alloy that is hardened with antimony to prevent deformities after you fire. With this, the pellet can fly straighter, and upon landing on the target, it hits harder and firmer. With the strict diameter of +.001 inches added to this brand, you can enjoy the services of more pellets into your targets.

Hornady 000 (.350″) Magnum Buckshot (5 lb. Box)

The #000 is the largest of the commonly available buckshot sizes you can find for your shotgun. The best option I could get for you is Hornady #000 Magnum Buckshot. It also enjoys coating the lead alloy to make it harder and prevent deformities after you have fired it. With its large size, you can rest assured that you will enjoy more accurate flights with this buckshot pellet.

The strict roundness tolerance of +.001 inches is the icing on the already sweet cake of accuracy. It helps to put more pellets in your target hence improving your shot accuracy.

Most Popular Ammunition Accessories

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Final Thoughts 

Not all Buckshot sizes are readily available in the market today. You have to search for some to get to use them deeply. However, the readily available ones are the ones you ought to concentrate on as they are the most useful ones.

It is advisable that when you are considering buying buckshot pellets that you go for a variety of sizes to cover various uses. For instance, the heavier ones like #000 would be ideal for self-defense and close-range hunting. On the other hand, the lighter ones would come in handy when you are looking out for pellets ideal for small game hunting like birds and squirrels. 

Try also to have different types of chokes to customize your shooting experience. Let the tighter chokes come into play when defending yourself or when hunting more massive game. The looser chokes would be ideal for spreading pellets, making them a perfect choice for hunting the small game.

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