Shotgun Ammunition Guide

Shotgun ammunition is the bullets/shells that are used in shotguns. Shotgun ammunition is typically available in the form of big, lead slugs or cartridges consisting of hundreds of tiny little pellets. A single projectile contained in a shotgun shell is known as a slug, while a shell filled with several tiny pellets is called a shot.

Shotgun Ammunition Types

There are many different types of shotgun ammunition out there. Some of the more common types are:

Buckshot Loads

Buckshot loads are shells that contain lead balls with a large diameter. They are commonly used for self defense and big game hunting. These loads can contain up to 27 balls or pellets measuring .24 to .36 inches. Because of their large lead pellets, they are considered all-around defense shots. Buckshot loads are offered in different diameter sizes with 000, 00, 0, #1 and #4 considered the most popular of the bunch. Larger models offer effective penetration and a greater range whereas those used by law enforcement officers offer fast follow-up instead of full power.

Birdshot Loads

Birdshot loads are shotgun shells that contain small diameter pellets. Commonly used for bird and waterfowl hunting, these are considered field loads. These loads have poor stopping power, but work well at close ranges (20-30 feet). Birdshot loads are usually recommended for self defense and behave like buckshot loads when shot at close range.

Rifted Slug Loads

Rifted slug loads are shotgun shells that contain bullets made of solid lead. These are single projectiles similar to rifle bullets. They have ridged sides that provide stability and rotation during flight. These loads offer excellent stopping capabilities, but do not offer accurate hits because of the careful aiming required. Rifted slug loads come in different types including sabot-type slugs, Foster and Brenneke. These loads are ideal for target shooting in long distances.

Buying Tips


For a more powerful and acurate shot, choose shotgun ammunition with a length of 3 1/2 inches or more. As a rule, the longer the shotgun ammo, the more powerful the shotgun ammo is. The length of the shotgun ammunition is measured in inches based upon the firearms hull length.


Due to environmental issues, many states and areas prohibit the use of lead ammunition in waterfowl hunting and upland bird hunting. For environment-friendly shotgun ammunition, choose those that are made with non-toxic properties such as steel, tin, bismuth, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-iron, and tungsten-polymer materials.