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12 Gauge Ammo Common Uses

A 12 gauge shotgun has a bore of about .73 in (18.5mm) and (depending on the model) fires shells measuring from 2-1/2" to 3-1/2", with 2-3/4" being the most common middle ground. 12ga shotguns are a useful and popular tools for any defensive or sporting purpose, and the 12 gauge ammo available reflects this versatility.

12 gauge hunting ammunition fires buckshot (usually the relatively large 00, with 8 or 9 pellets in the hull) at a muzzle velocity of 1,325 feet per second. This produces relatively heavy recoil but excellent penetration and effective range--both critical advantages for hunters. In a defensive situation, "tactical" loads firing similar payloads at a lower muzzle velocity of approximately 1,200 feet per second are generally preferred, as they produce less recoil (which facilitates rapid fire) and less risk for overpenetration.

Shooters looking to bust clays or hunt small game and birds with 12 gauge ammunition should check out birdshot loads, which typically fire 1-1/8 ounces of shot at a muzzle velocity of 1,100 to 1,400 feet per second, with recoil varying accordingly. Birdshot's low penetration makes it inappropriate for self-defense; however, the high density of the shot is very useful for ensuring multiple hits on small targets.

Shotgun slugs are the best option for taking deer and other game at ranges beyond the reach of buckshot. 12 gauge shotgun slugs typically weigh one ounce (437.5 grains) and are fired at a relatively high muzzle velocity of 1,600 feet per second or more. At these speeds, soft lead slugs will expand and bring down targets quickly even at 75 yards or more. For longer distances, saboted slugs firing a smaller, lighter projectile with greater stabilization should be used.