Top 5 Shotgun Ammo Options For Home Defense

Choosing the right home defense shotgun ammo can be the difference between life and death. When it comes to home defense, the ammo you choose is widely considered to be more important than the gun you choose. The main decision you will face will be choosing between 12-gauge , 20-gauge , or 410 bore .


12-Gauge is the most popular choice among home defenders, bringing more power but also more recoil. 12 Gauge Ammo is generally the most widely available shotgun ammo, meaning the likeliness of finding 12 gauge defense ammo in stock is high.


20 Gauge defense ammo is a good low-recoil alternative to 12-gauge. Although it packs less of a punch, 20 gauge ammo is still more than adequate for home defense.

410 Bore

410 Bore ammo is best kept to specialized firearms like the Taurus Judge or Mossberg Shockwave.

Shot Types

The next decision will be deciding between buckshot, slug, or a combination of shot types.

  • Slugs – Slug ammo offers the most energy potential among shotgun ammo types. Although it does carry the most energy, a slug is only a single projectile and will not have a spread like other ammo types.
  • Buckshot – Buckshot offers the benefits of both single projectiles and traditional shot. Buckshot offers big enough projectiles for deep penetration while retaining the benefit of spread in a defense situation.
  • Combination Shot – Combination shot offers the benefits of slugs, buckshot, and other types of shot in one shell. Most loads include a slug followed by buckshot or other shot types to give the ultimate blend of power and spread that gives confidence to home defenders.
  • Less Lethal – Less Lethal Shotgun Ammo provides plenty of power to stop and deter intruders or wild game while providing a less lethal alternative. These loads are intended to offer maximum protection without having to use lethal force. You'll generally find that rubber ammunition is the most common style of less lethal ammo, generally featuring rubber buckshot and slugs.

Here is our list of the Best Home Defense Shotgun Ammo. You’ll find products from trusted brands like Hornady, Winchester, and Reaper Defense.


Winchester Defender 12 Gauge Rifled Slug 2-3/4" 1/2oz

Winchester Defender Ammunition was tested by the FBI to see if it can stand up to real world, life threatening situations. This ammunition has impressive expansion and notable velocities at various ranges thanks to Winchester's proprietary bonding process. In Defender ammunition, Winchester engineers have created a self defense load that exhibits controlled expansion and a higher weight retention.

In addition to the 3 pellets of Grex buffered 00 buckshot, this load also features a 1 oz rifled slug which creates a tight pattern for extra protection. Loaded in black hulls with a black oxide high-base.

What Customers Are Saying

Not bad at all

I had my reservations about these rounds due to the low velocity rating and was worried about the accuracy of the slug with buckshot, but I saw them at a local shop and purchased a box just to test at a range. Fired two shells from my 20in Maverick 88 at 20 meters and had both slugs right on top of each other and the buckshot spread just over 7 inches at the furthest points of impact. Needless to say I was pretty impressed and decided to load the rest of the shells and let loose just to see if my first two shots weren't a fluke. Slugs all stayed in a nice group and the buck shot never strayed past a 7 inch spread. This is now my round of choice when it comes to home defense, and I might even try it the next time I go hog hunting to check its knockdown power.
- Mike, 8/28/2013

About Winchester

Winchester is The American Legend, a brand built on integrity, hard work, and a deep focus on its loyal Customers. Considered one of the world’s leading ammunition and firearms manufacturers, Winchester has built its reputation on delivering innovative products, providing top-shelf Customer service, and demonstrating industry leadership. Along with ammunition and firearms, Winchester offers many gun parts and accessories as well as tools, apparel, safes and storage, air guns, and more. We offer a huge selection of Winchester products, including the Model 70 Rifle, Super-X Ammunition, SX4 Shotgun, and AA Target Ammo. From our research and development efforts to our manufacturing processes, we understand the value of product quality and performance. With a reputation steeped in tradition, we have earned the moniker ‘The American Legend’ by delivering on our commitment to excellence in everything we do.

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G2 Research R.I.P. 12 Gauge Fragmenting Slug 2-3/4" 303 Grain Box of 5

G2 Research is a premium self defense, and environmentally conscious defense/hunting ammunition manufacturer. G2 Research's vast understanding of material properties and utilization of complex geometries renders predictable and consistent results that maximize the effectiveness of its projectiles. The G2 Research R.I.P. (Radically Invasive Projectile) features a unique petaled-trocar design which gives it the ability to not only penetrate deep into a target but also fragment in fluid. Upon entering a gel or fluid the petals break from the base and create individual wound channels as the base continues on course. This penetration and separation delivers not only a maximum shock wave but wound path as well. In years of ammunition design there has always been a trade off between mass and velocity to accomplish the goal of effective stopping power. G2 Research added a third variable with the patented trocar design. The surgically designed trocars offer better barrier penetration thus maintaining a higher velocity when hitting a target, transferring more energy into the target.

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Federal Premium Personal Defense Force X2 12 Gauge Buckshot Ammo 2-3/4"

Federal Premium Personal Defense Ammunition is designed just for personal protection. The loads feature increased velocity and energy compared to standard shotgun loads. These loads also feature excellent penetration and stopping power making them a top choice for home defense shotguns and law enforcement use.

Protect yourself and your family if the unthinkable happens. Our variety of reliable buckshot loads use specialized payloads to produce patterns and penetration optimized to meet the unique needs of self-defense situations.


  • Copper-plated shot
  • Buffering prevents deformation
  • Size and weight of buckshot and deformation of soft lead dissipate energy as the payload passes through walls, minimizing danger to bystanders

What Customers Are Saying

Well designed for personal defense, especially indoors.

This is my staple ammo for Personal defense. I tested it at 21 feet (outdoors) and it consistently had an approximate 8-inch pattern.
- Al, 12/19/2022

About Federal Premium

Federal Cartridge Company, as we know it today, started in 1922 when Charles Horn purchased Federal Cartridge and Machine out of receivership. Federal’s first products were shotshells, followed by rimfire in 1924. In 1976, Federal Premium was launched, combining boutique bullets with premium propellants and nickel-plated brass to create the “best of the best” in centerfire ammunition. Over a century later, MidwayUSA offers a complete spectrum of Federal ammunition, ranging from shotshell offerings like: Top-Gun, High Over All, Game Loads, Gold Medal Grand, and Prairie Storm; and centerfire rifle ammunition such as Fusion, Power-Shok, Gold Medal Match, Meat Eater; to centerfire pistol ammunition: HST, Punch, and American Eagle. Federal continues to manufacture rimfire ammo in the form of AutoMatch, Champion, and Game-shok. Federal supports handloaders with standard: small pistol, small rifle, large pistol, large rifle, 209 shotshell primers, and the Gold Medal-series match primers.

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Reaper Defense Group Pit Bull 12 Gauge Slug 2-3/4" 1oz 3PK

The Reaper Defense Pit Bull 12 gauge shell makes use of classic 00-buck paired with a heavy-duty slug. These 2.75" shells pack one serious punch, and make for an excellent defensive load or even hunting cartridge! Many consumers would describe this as the absolute best possible 12 gauge home defense round available! If you want to use a 1 oz slug for home defense, paired with 00-buck, make sure you pick a few boxes of these Pit Bull shells up!


Note: Color of shotshell hulls may vary.

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Lightfield Home Defender Less Lethal 12 Gauge Rubber Slug 2-3/4" 130 Grain Box of 5

The Home Defender Rubber Slug load is intended for serious defensive use. The Rubber Slug is the most energetic of the Home Defender loads. Its rigid design will not deform on impact . The Rubber Slug will hold its velocity and energy over greater distances and has greater penetration potential. Though the Home Defender line of products is geared towards ‘room distance’ encounters, the Home Defender Rubber Slug load is effective at much greater distances.


Some level of injury should be expected and can range from serious injury or death to painful welts or bruising. Results can vary based on the weapon used, distance to target, clothing, body weight and part of the body hit.


For Cylinder or Improved Cylinder bores ONLY.

What Customers Are Saying

I would for home defense.

Bought these as less lethal option, test fired at 15 yds. & 30 yds. into new 1/2 inch chip board target back, penetrated both shots with ease, very lite recoil and accurate, but I would not consider them as less lethal. Would be very good for home defense.
- James, 2/8/2019 Shop Now