There is a little confusion among folks just getting into shotgun shooting where ammunition is concerned. 

A shotgun can fire a wide variety of projectiles enabling you to take anything from possums to bears or even two-legged varmints.  Here is how it works.

A shotgun has three primary loads: Birdshot — a bunch of small pellets like BBs ranging from dozens to hundreds depending on the particular load used.  These are for hunting birds, shooting clay pigeons, and other small game, but not very effective for home defense.

Buckshot — a load of larger pellets commonly ranging in caliber from .24 (No 4 Buckshot) to .36 (000 Buckshot). The number of pellets varies per load and caliber of the ball used.  These are for medium game and tactical applications.  The most common is 00 (“double aught”) buckshot.

Slugs — Solid projectiles, often quite larger, heavy and powerful. They allow you to extend your effective shotgun range. There are also “specialty rounds” that are more designed with tactical applications than hunting in mind. 

Now, the smaller the number of the gauge, the more powerful the shotgun is. Out of 10 gauge, 20 gauge and 12 gauge, the 10 gauge is the most powerful. With shells for bird and small animal hunting, the loads come in various sizes. 

The sizes are numbered, but remember the “larger” the number, the smaller the size of the shot. So for example, No. 9 shot is very small while No. 000shot is large. ... As a general rule, the smaller the game, the smaller the shot pellets need to be. 

Oh, and by the way … there is a .410 which can be called the .410 bore or .410 gauge. It is the second-smallest caliber of shotgun shells commonly available (The 28 gauge is the smallest.) A .410 bore shotgun loaded with shot shells is great for small game hunting and pest control.

The .410 shells have similar base dimensions to the .45 Colt (or .45 Long Colt) cartridge. This allowed the new hybrid guns like the Taurus Judge and Public Defenders, the Smith & Wesson Governor and the Bond Arms derringers that shoot both the .410 AND .45 Long Colt rounds.

I hope this helps to clarify shotgun ammunition for you. Still have questions?  Let our friendly and knowledgeable sporting goods staff help.  All you need to do is come on down to Orscheln’s.

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