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All About 12 Gauge Ammo

12 gauge feature

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Hey all, we here at True Shot Academy are going to talk all about 12 gauge ammo today. Shooters of all types have utilized 12 gauge ammunition for a variety of purposes such as hunting, self-defense, and recreation. Our goal with this blog post is to provide a brief overview of the 12 gauge shotshell while delving into its traits and more. Without further ado, let’s talk all about 12 gauge ammo.


What is 12 Gauge?

In the world of firearms, the term “gauge” is used to describe the bore diameter of a firearm, specifically a shotgun. The use of the term in this context can be traced back to a time when people bought lead by the pound to produce their own ammunition. This led to the term “gauge” referring to the amount of lead balls one could produce from a single pound of lead that matched the diameter of a firearm’s barrel. With this historic context, a 12 gauge shotgun would require 12 lead balls of the same size as the firearm’s bore to equate to a pound.

In the modern context, when you think of 12 gauge ammo, you will likely envision some form of conventional shotgun cartridge. Since the mid-1800s, shotgun shells have been come in a variety of forms and utilized different types of materials. Common shotgun shell materials have included brass, paper, and plastic. These cartridges feature distinct rims and are of a cylindrical, straight-walled nature. These shells usually feature some form of crimping or sealing to contain the payload they carry. Some loadings such as birdshot and buckshot feature substantial crimping shells while some feature caps or minimal, rolled crimping to contain something like a slug.

12 gauge shotgun loadings generally feature a stout and authoritative recoil impulse and report. The specific loading employed by a shooter will also have an impact on the report and felt recoil they experience. For example, a general-purpose target loading will feature a lower report and recoil impulse than something like a 3” buckshot loading. Recoil is generally felt more on manual action firearms than it is when firing autoloading firearms. This is particularly true with shotguns as companies such as Beretta and Benelli have semi-automatic offerings designed to tame 12 gauge recoil and feed smoothly.

Fiocchi 12 Gauge #8 Shot
Fiocchi 12 Gauge #8 Shot

Diverse Types of 12 Gauge Loadings

12 gauge ammunition can be found in various styles and forms, often tailored towards specific use cases. These types of loadings can come in a variety of lengths such as 2.75,” 3”, and 3.5” shotshell sizes. Naturally, the larger shells feature larger payloads and generally yield a more significant recoil impulse.

  • Birdshot – Simply put, these loadings feature multiple small projectiles. These types of loadings are well-suited for bird hunting, pest control, casual clay shooting, and recreational shooting. These loadings tend to be some of the most common loadings one will find on the market.
  • Buckshot – Buckshot loadings feature multiple large projectiles. These projectiles are considerably larger than the projectiles found in birdshot and target loadings. For example, a 00 buckshot loading will feature 8 pellets which are about .33” in diameter. There are also some buckshot loadings which feature more projectiles and utilize smaller projectiles. These types of loadings are well-suited for hunting use and for self-defense.
  • Slugs – These types of loadings feature single, solid projectiles rather than multiple projectiles. As these loadings feature solid projectiles, one does not have to consider a potential pattern or spread of multiple projectiles. These loadings are available in traditional solid and rifled form. Rifled slugs are designed to be utilized in conjunction with rifled shotgun barrels, allowing an end user to extend the effective range of their shotgun.

The aforementioned loadings are just some of the basic types of 12 gauge ammo one will encounter. Some companies even offer specialized loadings which combine types of shot, such as hybrid slug and buckshot offerings.

Shooters will easily be able to find loadings optimized for self-defense, hunting, and shooting sporting clays. Among these categories and more, shooters will find that there exist even more specific options regarding shot size, velocity, projectile material, weight, and more. Additionally, many lead-free 12 gauge ammo offerings are also produced which allow end users to comply with restrictions on lead ammunition. At the end of the day, shooters are afforded a wide variety of 12 gauge loads to select from when selecting ammunition for their use cases.


What is the Availability of Firearms Chambered in 12 Gauge?

At this point, there are a variety of firearms on the market which will accommodate 12 gauge ammo. These types for firearms can be found in both vintage, old production form and in the form of modern production offerings. Historic examples of shotguns such as the Winchester M1897 and Remington Model 10 in 12 gauge are still popular and sought by many shooters today. Additionally, many old production break action shotguns in single barrel and double barrel shotguns are commonly seen in use and for sale.

Modern production offerings can be had from companies such as Mossberg, Remington, Beretta, Benelli, and Browning to name a few. These offerings are most commonly found in pump action, double barrel, and semi-automatic form. Most shotguns which are capable of holding more ammunition than what is in the chamber utilize tubular magazines to facilitate feeding. In a departure from the norm, there are also a number of magazine-fed pump action and semi-automatic shotguns available for sale on the market. The modern production shotgun offerings of today can be found in a variety of forms such as hunting, sporting, competition, and tactical and home defense configurations. The various 12 gauge shotgun offerings allow and end user to select a shotgun which best fits their needs and preferences. All in all, one will be able to find a firearm in 12 gauge if they truly want to.


How Available is 12 Gauge Ammunition?

At this point in time, one will have no issue finding 12 gauge ammo. 12 gauge loadings can be found in most places where ammunition is sold. One will generally encounter birdshot, buckshot, slug, and target loadings on shelves and at online retailers. As far as more specialized loadings go, such as hunting and optimized defensive loadings, one may have to look a bit harder to find ammo of this type. This is not to say that these loadings are unobtainable by any means, they just might take a bit more effort to locate than some more contemporary offerings. Companies across the globe produce 12 gauge ammunition in a variety of configurations. These companies include Nobel Sport, Rio, Federal, Winchester, and Remington to name a few. All in all, one will definitely be able to find some 12 gauge ammo if they are looking for some.

12 Gauge Ammunition
12 Gauge Ammunition

What Can You Use 12 Gauge For?

There is a myriad of uses for 12 gauge ammunition. As mentioned above, there are many purpose-built 12 gauge ammo options tailored to specific use cases. Many shooters employ 12 gauge ammo in target shooting and competition roles. Generally, birdshot and target loadings tend to be quite cheap when compared to other loadings, making them well-suited to plinking and general purpose shooting. Everything from sporting clays to steel and cardboard targets are commonly shot by recreational shooters and competitors who utilize 12 gauge shotguns. The caliber is also commonly used by hunters, especially when after winged game such as waterfowl and dove. In addition to winged game, shotguns are also utilized for varmint hunting, predator hunting, and general hunting applications. The use of shotguns for general purpose hunting is common in some states and areas which disallow the use of rifle rounds due to things such as geographic considerations. Beyond hunting, many have employed 12 gauge ammo in defensive roles, selecting the gauge for home defense or duty use. Common 00 buckshot and specialized defensive loadings have demonstrated exceptional fight stopping capability, making 12 gauge shotguns a viable choice for self-defense. All in all, 12 gauge ammunition is viable for a wide range of purposes and uses.



All in all, the 12 gauge shotshell continues to persist in common use with shooters of all types. The variety of loadings and widespread support by companies across the globe aid in making 12 gauge a prolific shotgun chambering. We here at True Shot Ammo carry a wide variety of 12 gauge ammo in addition to our wide variety of ammunition for sale. Whether you are looking to feed a 12 gauge shotgun or something else, we have got you covered. As always, happy shooting.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587, or you can email us at [email protected] for more ammo options.


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