20-Gauge Shotgun Loads: Slug vs Buckshot

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Duration: 2:54

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The “buckshot vs slug” question has often been discussed in terms of 12-gauge loads, but in this video, Rob Pincus uses 20-gauge shotgun loads because there aren’t as many specialty loads with controlled expansion or controlled spread of the buckshot. Also the buckshot that is commonly available in 20 gauge isn’t as heavy of an individual pellet as it is in 12 gauge.


Rob has a custom Remington 870, and the first of the 20-gauge shotgun loads he shoots is a #3 buck, a 20-pellet load. He’s shooting at a steel popper target about 30 feet away, admittedly farther than would be commonly needed for a home-defense weapon. He holds dead center on the shot but the spread puts a couple of pellets out over the shoulder.


However, with a 20-gauge slug load, Rob doesn’t have to worry about that spread or about missing the target with the lighter load. This is one reason he prefers slugs. Similar to a rifle, he has one point of aim. In any home-defense scenario, if he puts the reticle at the top of the bad guy’s eyebrow line, the slug is going to fall somewhere in the head as long as he does his job. If he puts the reticle on the high center chest area, the slug is going to fall in this vital area.


Rob tries the buckshot again and we can see dirt flying off on the side, so it’s not a fluke. You’re going to lose a few pellets of the buckshot load on a human-size target. Try this during your shotgun training and practice to verify it yourself. Pattern your shotgun and see where the stray pellets go. In Rob’s 870, the pellets are going off to the right.


With 20-gauge shotgun loads, one concern with slugs is overpenetration. Rob uses the Winchester Defender segmented slug (available in 12 and 20 gauge), which breaks into three parts and generally stops at about 15 inches of penetration, exactly where we want it. So with this specific load, overpenetration is not an issue. In addition, a 20-gauge slug is less likely to overpenetrate.