Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choosing the best buckshot Part 1

 There is a county where I hunt that requires buckshot only. No shotgun slugs, no muzzleloaders, and definitely no centerfire rifles. I’m sure they would say no hunting at all if they could. This presents a problem. Deserved or undeserved, buckshot has a bad reputation. It has a reputation for wounding deer and destroying meat. It is a common perception that if you use buckshot, you are an unethical hunter.

I do not believe buckshot’s poor reputation is entirely due to inadequacies in the round. It is true that buckshot used on a deer out of range has a higher probability of wounding a deer than a rifle bullet, but that is the shooters fault, not the rounds. If you use buckshot you must be very conscious of you range. The problem is not necessarily with the wide pattern that is created at long ranges, it is with the loss in projectile energy at long ranges. The pellets just do not have the power to stop a deer in its tracts. I believe most modern buckshot can be used ethically within 40 yards. When I hunt with it I carry a rangefinder and am as careful with ranges as I would be with a bow.

There is no doubt that buckshot destroys more meat that a well placed rifle shot. I cannot think of anything to combat this problem. It is just the nature of the beast.

Buckshot does have some amazing benefits. No small arm is more devastating at short range.  A shot to the chest is similar to taking a full clip from a handgun, at once! On soft skinned animals at short ranges it is unbelievable. It also has the benefit of spreading out a little. At 30 yards your aim can be off by as much as a foot and still make a kill shot. Don’t depend on this though. modern buckshot creates a very tight pattern out to 20 yards. In some loads and in some guns, as small as a softball.

Not that any of this really matters. If I want to hunt in this county I have to use buckshot. What I need to find out is what type of buckshot is best.  Once I decide I will buy a few different brands and see which patterns best in my shotgun.

lets decide on the best pellet size for my needs. I have the following to choose from:
  • #4 Buck
  • #1 Buck
  • 00 Buck
  • 000 Buck
  • Tri-ball
There are other sizes, but these are the most popular. Actually, the #1 Buck and the Tri-Ball are rather hard to get a hold of, but I find them interesting.  Here are the specs for each pellet size. This chart is for 12 gauge 3” shells. Numbers will vary with different manufactures.

SizeDiameterGrainsFPSPellet Count

Again, this chart is not 100% fair. I just went to various manufacturers sites and got ballistic info from them. Not all manufacturers listed  all sizes, so the comparisons are not totally accurate. They come close though.

At first glance you can see that I have to decide between pattern density and individual pellet knockdown power.

In my next post we will look deep into the pros and cons of each pellet type.
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