Critical Cartridges: 12 Gauge Shot Shell.

12 gauge has established itself as the ideal shot shell cartridge. Particularly 2 3/4″ and 3″ loads are the most prolific and useful shotgun loads available. 12 gauge is the shot cartridge of choice for the following reasons: It is common and economical, it is effective beyond debate, It is versatile to a fault.

The common cartridge…

12 gauge is the most common shot shell on the market today. While cartridges like 20 gauge are common as well, 12 gauge is ubiquitous. 12 gauge has become so common that it is cheaper than the other shot shells.

12 gauge consumes more materials to manufacture than most other shot shells. It is so prolific that even with the increased materials cost it still costs less for personal protection ammunition than 20 gauge. When it comes to game loads 12 gauge is roughly the same as 20 gauge. When comparing cartridges like 16 gauge, 28 gauge or 410… 12 gauge is clearly less expensive.

For some smaller folks 20 gauge might be a viable option, but for most the added effectiveness of 12 gauge is worth the added time cost of training.

Tactial Shotgun
Remington 870 Home Defense gun with various types of ammunition.

Effective beyond debate.

In the arena of close quarters battle the Shotgun is the most effective weapon shot for shot. A single 12 gauge shot shell is capable of delivering multiple pistol diameter projectiles on target in a single shot. When it comes to delivering slugs. Shotguns are able to deliver a devastating single expanding projectile with amazing efficacy.

A one ounce 12 gauge foster slug traveling at 1600 feet a second will deliver 2400 foot pounds of energy on targtet and expand to over one inch in diameter. compare this to a .55 grain 223 bullet, which will deliver about 1250 foot pounds when traveling at 3200 feet a second. A 9mm JHP weighing 124 grains will deliver about 365 foot pounds of energy when traveling at 1150 feet a second.

A single cartridge of 12 gauge buckshot containing 9 pellets of 00(.33″) buckshot contains a total payload of 486 grains. Compare this to a 9 pellet 20 gauge load of #1(.30″) buckshot contains a total payload of 369 grains. That’s about 25% more weight in shot.

When comparing #4 buckshot loads in each we find that 12 gauge can load 34 pellets as compared to 24 in 20 gauge. That means 12 gauge is firing 34 .22 caliber pellets with a total weight of 714 grains. the 20 gauge fires 24 pellets with a total weight of 504 grains. In that case 12 gauge is delivering 30% more weight in shot, and 30% more pellets.

Tac-14 12 gauge firearm


12 gauge has high efficacy in combat or hunting. Typically any shotgun has limited range, 12 gauge is no different. When it comes to the idea that one cartridge might be called on for multiple roles, 12 gauge is a clear choice. While the maximum range for 12 gauge is in the 150 yard range, a 12 gauge can be called upon to take small or large game.

Bottom line

12 gauge is cost effective, a combat performer and has the versatility to perform in a hunting role. It is an important cartridge and aught to find a home in the preparedness minded individual’s toolbox.

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Dave is a seasoned law enforcement officer with years of sworn experience. Dave is also a competitive shooter, firearms instructor, enthusiast and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner. Dave has been actively cultivating personal preparedness since the early 2000's.

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