Buckshot, “The Hunters Edge"
“Ole Crook the Bluetick Hound, sounded like an on coming locomotive. The Big Buck glided through the green mansions of the Louisiana swamp like a grey ghost. It was going to happen right in front of me. I raised the Remington 870, it felt sweet in my hands”…..Uncle John
Buckshot goes back much further in history but during the Revolutionary War, both the British and Americans were armed with a .69 caliber smooth bore muskets called the “Brown Bess” that is essentially a 12 gauge shotgun. It fired any projectile or groups of projectiles you could cram down the barrel. The favored load was buck and ball, one big lead ball in front of about 6 or eight double ought buckshot of about .33 caliber. Using tactics of the day, lining up and firing at point blank at each other, thousands died.
Later in the War Between the States, technology had advanced, but not the tactics, as still they lined up and marched in lines before the gun. Cannons loaded with “Grape Shot” a larger form of buckshot wiped out entire units on both sides. Today we fight terrorism with the same concept from a rotating self loading shotgun for the infantry to a Cruise Missile loaded with small cluster bombs; the shotgun effect is most efficient.
Going from tactical to practical we have three uses for buckshot, Hunting, Target, and Police. Every police car has a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot. It is a short range weapon to deploy where more power is needed than the handgun. This is usually a short barreled pump or semi-automatic shotgun with a straight cylinder barrel (no choke). The normal load is a two and three quarter inch 12 ga shell with 9 to 12 double ought buckshot. Anything larger would cause too much recoil in a combat situation. Deployed at close range even a poor marksman can be assured of a hit.
The target shooter on still police targets engages multiple steel targets in quick fire competition. This is usually a tightly choked custom shotgun built for speed shooting. These guys are phenomenal sharpshooters and can do things far beyond the normal realm of police shooters. Few attain this skill and normal police really don’t have the time or the money to train to this skill level. So this becomes a test laboratory for the effectiveness of police shotguns.
Hunters use buckshot on deer, varmints, wild boar and even leopards and lions in Africa. With the hunting shotgun, bigger is better in all cases, and it is wise to leave the 20 gauge at home, it just isn’t enough gun. A 10 or 12 gauge 3.5 inch Magnum with 18 double ought buckshot pellets will train wreck the biggest buck in the country within 50 yards.
I was once told it is unethical to shoot a running deer with a shotgun. Well if it is stop shooting at flying ducks and running rabbits, a wild deer (not a cultivated one) is a challenging target with any weapon. When used correctly inside about 60 yards, such a shot is quite possible. As far as power, 3 lethal hits with 00 buckshot are about equivalent to a shot with a 300 Winchester magnum. Three lethal hits are about average at the 60 yard mark, although you can expect more with an accurate shot. Multiple hits with the .33 caliber buckshot quadruples the energy of each pellet, which is very effective in the field. To instantly judge buckshot range is simple, “If you can see the deer’s eye clearly, fire.”
If all you have is a full choke, that will work just fine, telescopic and red dot sights just make it better. I use Winchester Supreme 000 buck and 00 and occasionally number 1 buck racking up about 50 one shot kills. You can make a real study at www.nitrocompany.com and see the cutting edge of technology on the subject, but few outdoor writers have covered the subject in the hunting world.
So when do you use buckshot in a hunting situation? One of the ways I use buckshot is with a European combination gun. Mine is a CZ-Over and Under 12 guage/30-06, with a Burris 3X9 Scope. You sight in the 30-06 barrel for 100 yards and the shotgun barrel hits dead center out to 50 yards. These guns are available through CZ-USA by way of Bruno firearms.
In Louisiana or any other place buckshot is legal for deer hunting and you need a close in weapon on moving game this is the ultimate firearm. This particular shotgun barrel likes Winchester 000 buckshot. As most of my gun kills on deer are so close, it is usually half the max distance when I shoot buckshot at a deer. If I’m shooting at a meat deer it’s easy to make a head shot, more like shooting a turkey, and you don’t run the risk of destroying a whole shoulder roast with the 30-06 barrel.
Once while still hunting in a swampy area I decided to use my 10 gauge double 3 ½ inch magnum shotgun. A five point buck made an appearance at 70 yards and I gave him the right barrel. As expected he dropped in his tracks.
I called an Army buddy over to help me skin the buck and he asked me why I had shot it so many times. “I only shot it once with the 10 gauge,” was the answer. I then got a scolding from this guy who had never killed anything with buckshot. About the time he got into the lecture, Mr. Roshong walked in. One of the greatest Hound men of all time, he pointed out the 7 buckshot on the floor that were just under the hide on the opposite side of the deer. That shut up the know it all, right there. The shot had hit almost every vital area of the deer but still there was less meat destruction than a 30-06 round would have done.
Buckshot will go where a rifle bullet will not go at close range. I once had a doe run past me at 15 yards ahead of the dogs. I was shooting Number 1 buckshot in a model 1100 Remington 12 gauge. As the deer past me broadside I fired and the shot went right through a yopine bush that would have disintegrated or turned any rifle bullet. The buckshot however plowed right through the bush and hit the deer with all 16 pellets. I got a double flip out of that one before it crashed.
While hunting from a tree stand with the combination gun, a buck walked right underneath and stopped, his vital area block from a rifle shot by a pine bough. But not the shotgun, I just shot right through it with the 000 buckshot and hit the buck with 7 out of 10 pellets, for another Bambi vs Godzilla shot.
Yes the shotgun can be misused. You don’t want to take rear end shots with a shotgun and you don’t want to shoot beyond about 60 yards, 70 with the 10 guage. That’s about it really, other than sight in your shotgun just like a rifle and use a good sighting system. But when you hear the hounds in the distance, and suddenly the biggest buck of your life is running flat out right in front of you, and it’s a “no way” rifle shot, you will appreciate your shotgun and buckshot at the moment of truth….Pass it on.