There are three most used types of shotshells used for shotguns: birdshot, buckshot and slugs. This makes shotgun very versatile weapon.

Also, shotgun can be used to fire less lethal and exotic ammunition.

Shotgun Ammunition Explained

Shotgun Ammunition Explained

Birdshot: Lead, Steel, Bismuth and Tungsten

Birdshot is typically called shot or BB shot. Because of environmental concerns steel, bismuth and tungsten is replacing lead shot, for bird hunting. The problem with steel shot is the hardness, which can cause damage to the bore and choke in older shotguns. Unlike lead there is no give to steel and it can damage the bore especially if the choke is on full. Tungsten is also very hard, but it is often alloyed with other metals making it softer causing less damage in older models shotguns. Bismuth falls in between tungsten and steel, being the softer of the two by far.


Buckshot is very common and the most commonly produced buckshot shell is the 12 gauge 00 (“double-aught”). Buckshot is used for large game and home defense. Double-aught buckshot, having nine pellets, is also ideal for self-defense because there is no question of stopping power and penetration.


The slug is for large game and it can be used for home defense, as well. With home defense, you have to consider over penetration. You want stopping power yet do not want the slug penetrating and exiting (through and through) an intruder and striking someone else.