Gun Science: Should You Use Birdshot for Home Defense?

How much does birdshot spread and how deep does it penetrate at home defense distances? We put it to the test.


here are a lot of myths floating around when it comes to shotguns and their abilities as a defensive firearm. Every once in a while you hear the old saw that you just have to point a shotgun in the general direction of someone trying to do you harm—the spread of the pellets means you hardly have to aim. Sometimes you'll hear that, at the distances you encounter inside a home, birdshot has more than enough power to defend against an attacker. We decided to put these myths to the test and see what we could see. We patterned birdshot at home-defense distances to see how much you actually have to aim, and did the same with ballistic gelatin to see what kind of penetration birdshot yields at 10, 20, and 30 feet. See what we found out: