In this article, I’ll answer a reader’s question regarding shooting Shotshells in Revolvers for personal defense. Specifically, I’ll discuss the difference between revolver shotshells meant for pest control and shotshells designed for personal defense.
“I’ve been reading the Ballistics Series and your articles on personal defense with great interest. Good stuff! Where I live, there are many other people living in my home and there are other homes very close to mine. So, I’m very concerned about using ammo that would either over-penetrate an attacker’s body or go through walls if I miss. I’ve got a Smith and Wesson 686 4″ revolver in .38/.357. I practice a lot with the lighter .38 special rounds, but keep the gun on my nightstand loaded with .357 magnum hollow-points. I’m worried that using that much power may endanger my neighbors. Many personal defense articles highlight the benefits of using a shotgun for personal defense. I don’t have a shotgun, but I’ve come across a shotshell designed for revolvers. I think that I can get the best of both worlds by loading my .357 magnum with these shotshells that will do the job without worrying about shooting through walls. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.” – Anthony
Anthony, thank you for the question. You bring up a lot of good points worth highlighting here and I’m glad you’re going the extra mile by reading-up on personal defense and asking questions. In the following paragraphs, I’ll address the different aspects of this issue one topic at a time.
Personal Defense Solutions
First, you’ve highlighted an important issue… firearm/ammunition selection. There are many different opinions on this topic available through blog articles, books, and classes. However, there is no single “ideal” solution that will fit every individual and every situation. Every person has a different level of body strength, visual acuity, and training. Every person also has a different home layout, both inside and outside. And everyone lives in a different area with varying levels of criminal activity and concern.
In the most general terms, rifles are terrific stand-off weapons that can deliver powerful projectiles with a high degree of accuracy at a number of distances. This high power may be counterproductive in an enclosed environment. Handguns, on the other hand, are easy to operate and to conceal (throughout the house or on your person), but the shorter barrels produce less velocity and accuracy. Shotguns with a regular stock or pistol grip are a bit more unwieldy in an enclosed environment, but they offer significant power, a wider variety of projectiles or shot choices, and are easier to aim and achieve the accuracy required for the situation.
In the photo to the right, you can see the results of a number of different results from ammunition that was fired through four layers of sheet rock. If you click the photo for a larger view, you can also see that only the #4 birdshot did not fully penetrate the 4 layers. Although the test does not describe how much energy each projectile maintained as it passed-through the fourth layer, it is clear that there was the potential for some degree of injury to an innocent bystander struck by a projectile that continued to travel through the walls. To read Mr. Finn’s article click here.
The bottom line is that there is an ideal firearm/ammunition solution available to meet the requirements of each individual to address threats in their environment. Since you own a .357 Magnum revolver, but are worried about over-penetration, you are making the right considerations for your individual situation.
Shotshells for the .357 Magnum
In this instance, you are both right and wrong. You are right in the fact that there are .357 Magnum cartridges that contain birdshot instead of a solid projectile. CCI/Blazer produces such a cartridge. It is the Blazer Shotshell #3738, which contains a total of 100 grains (about 150 pellets) of #9 birdshot in a small plastic capsule. CCI lists the muzzle velocity at 1,000 feet per second.
At first glance, it seems like shooting an assailant with this cartridge would create a nasty wound. Hell, 100 grains of shot traveling at 1,000 feet per second also sounds like it would produce the result desired. Quick math tells us that this produces 222 ft/lbs of energy… if it was a solid projectile! However, it is not a solid projectile, but a group of small projectiles that weigh about 0.67 grains each and would only produce any degree of damage if they remained clustered close together. Continue Reading »
– Howard Hall
Howard has served for more than 20 years in the Marine Corps. He has served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander, Battalion Executive Officer, Regimental Operations Officer, and Battalion Commander. He has multiple combat tours to include serving as a military transition team member in Fallujah. He is an NRA Certified handgun instructor and holds numerous Marine Corps training credentials. An active competitor in action pistol (United States Practical Shooting Association), long range rifle (NRA F-Class), and shotgun (Amateur Trapshooting Association, National Skeet Shooting Association), howard has earned numerous accolades and medaled during DoD competitions with the 1911 platform in bulls-eye shooting.