The Best Defensive Shotgun Ammo Out There

The defensive shotgun used to be fairly simple. Load it up with buckshot, and you’re good to go. Times have changed, though, and our training has advanced and gotten better. Our tactics and techniques have improved, as have our ammo choices. The tactical shotgun is a very capable weapon and with a little thought, it becomes quite effective.

5. Fiocchi Defense Dynamics

If you need a good patterning defensive load that doesn’t break the bank, then the Fiocchi Defense Dynamics load is perfect for you. It’s a modern 2.75-inch 00 buckshot load that fires eight pellets at 1,325 feet per second. It’s specifically built from the ground up to be capable of home defense. The use of eight pellets ensures a consistent pattern without the 9th pellet flyer.

Fioochi defense dynamics
Budget defensive ammo doesn’t have to be crappy.

The way pellets are stacked inside a shell can affect how they pattern. When nine pellets are shoved into a 2.75-inch tube, you have a fairly high chance of a 9th pellet flyer. This flyer can be dangerous as it’s often a good way away from the rest of the pattern. Eight pellets are preferred for most defensive buckshot loads.

At 1,325 feet per second, the rounds aren’t quite low recoil but aren’t out of control, either. It’s likely due to balance and necessary to ensure they function with semi-auto shotguns without issue. The high brass is another bonus that’s tough to beat. This loads patterns nicely and delivers consistent patterns at home defense ranges. It’s cheap enough to buy in bulk and train hard with.

4. Hornady Critical Defense Triple Defense .410

I’m not a huge fan of .410 for home defense. I do feel like a rifle might be the better choice, but I still want to mention the absolutely best defensive .410 ever created and the only one I’d use for home defense. The Hornady Critical Defense Triple Defense .410 is a bit of a mix of buck and ball. Instead of mixing your typical anemic .410 slug with some buckshot, they mix a very specific slug.

410 shotgun ammo
The Triple Defense load is odd, but very effective

That slug is a .41 caliber FTX slug that’s backed by two buckshot pellets. Normally I’d scoff at such a load, but the Triple Defense loads pattern brilliantly and consistently. They are quite accurate, and within home defense ranges, they stick together fairly tightly. The .41 FTX slug hits hard and expands to provide a great big projectile to strike deep and hard.

That round has no penetration problems and consistently gets deep enough to hit something vital. If you are using .410, you are likely recoil averse. Don’t be frightened. The Hornady Critical Defense doesn’t hurt the shoulder and keeps the soft design of .410 intact.

3. Federal Force X2 12 Gauge Ammo

The Federal Force X2 ammunition was one of those things I really doubted when it appeared. I thought it was a bit of a meme and a gimmick. The X2 ammo promised to use nine pellets that had been nearly cut in half. When the pellets would hit soft targets, they would break into two pieces. The promise was twofold.

force x2 ammo
The Force X2 Ammo is odd, but highly effective if overpenetration is a concern.

First, the ammo would create 18 wound tracks instead of nine. It would act as what’s essentially a #1 buckshot load in terms of pellet delivery. When the X2 ammo broke apart, it essentially failed to maintain its weight as it penetrated and heavily limited overpenetration but would still penetrate enough to reach vital portions of the body.

While it was a big promise, it turned out to be true. Independent testing showed that the ammo lived up to its promises. Using properly calibrated gel, the pellets broke apart and reached minimal penetration with very little chance of overpenetration when aimed at the torso. The X2 ammo is a specialized home defense load, and it is made of premium components. Sadly it lacks the FltieControl wad.

2. Hornady Black

Hornady Black buckshot is my second favorite and the load I would turn to if my first choice was sold out. Hornady Black provides a full-power buckshot load made of premium components designed for self-defense roles. One of the big differences between Hornady Black and most other tactical loads is that Hornady leaned into a full-powered design. They use eight pellets moving at 1,600 feet per second.

Honrady black ammo
Hornady Black offers you the Versa-Tite wad with full power performance.

The 8-pellet design helps prevent that 9th-pellet flyer problem. The Black rounds also use the Versa-Tite wad that provides a very tight and consistent spread. This is second only to Flitecontrol loads. The Hornady Black load delivers consistently tight patterns and enthusiastic operation from semi-auto guns.

The load is incredibly reliable, and if you use a semi-auto that might be a little picky, it does lean to the fully powered side to help with reliable operation. That 1,600 FPS rating also contributes to a good bit more recoil, which is why it’s my second choice. A 1,200 FPS Black load would be a real contender for Number 1.

1. Federal Flitecontrol

Federal Flitecontrol is the best defensive shotgun ammo on the market. This load revolutionized the industry, and it changed the effective range of shotguns with buckshot. The Flitecontrol wad is the special magic to this load. This wad stays with the pellets as the shot leaves the barrel. Once the wad and pellets leave the barrel, the wad slows down drastically and lets the pellets propel downrange.

flitecontrol shotgun ammo
FliteControl is the absolute best ammo out there for defensive use.

This creates a crazy tight pattern. The old 1-inch for every yard is long gone with Flitecontrol. At 10 yards and even 15 yards, the Fltiecontrol loads create a 50-cent-sized hole in a paper target. That’s a crazy tight pattern. The benefits are total pellet accountability. This keeps you from having errant pellets striking something or someone else accidentally.

As the pellets hit the body, they continue to spread inside the body, giving that devastating shotgun effect on target. This modern load is a low recoil design for enhanced control. Typically a lower velocity does tie to a better pattern overall. The Flitecontrol load is my load of choice for home defense. It’s well worth the investment.

The Buckshot Solution

Buckshot has changed drastically in the last decade. If you work in the industry or pay attention to it, you’ve likely noticed a reemergence of the shotgun. I think this is due to a few reasons, and one of the big ones is high-quality ammo options. The range, effectiveness, consistency, and accuracy have improved greatly, and it shows.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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