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21st Century 12 Gauge

When we talk about the shotgun, whether for personal combat or sport, it’s always been a matter of ammunition.  That is, the gun itself, particularly the pump/slide action is a relatively simple, uncomplicated instrument.   Shotgun performance, whether positive or negative, is largely based on the choice of shotshells.  Yes, I know all about the Perazzi, the Kreighoff, and premium-grade Berettas, but for the working cop we are talking about Remington, Mossberg, and Ithaca pump guns.

From my vantage point, there are two companies today putting a lot of research and effort into the development of new and improved 12 gauge fighting shotgun ammunition.  These companies are Federal Cartridge and Winchester.  Let’s take a moment to consider loads from each of these makers.

Federal Cartridge PD132

While the catalog number is pretty generic, the Federal PD132 is taking the 00 buckshot world by storm.  Specifically, the PD132 shotshell cartridge is a Federal Premium® Personal Defense® load using 9 copper-plated 00 buckshot pellets and their patented FLITECONTROL® wad.  The round is loaded to full power and listed at 1145 FPS at the muzzle. 

What makes this load unique among modern 00 buckshot loads is the fact that it does indeed contain 9 pellets.  Historically it has been pellet #9 that strayed from the path and took off on its own some ten to fifteen yards out of the bore.  Many excellent shot patterns have been ruined by pellet #9 deviating from the others.  The solution many makers had was to make 8 pellet, reduced recoil loads for law enforcement applications.  This new 8 pellet 12 gauge ammunition generally worked well.

The irony of using the FLITECONTROL® wad in a fighting load is that it was initially designed for bird hunting, not combat.  Having great success in duck and goose shells, the engineers at Federal decided to try it with larger shot and I’m glad they did.  The result is near miraculous.

For fighting shotguns with cylinder bore barrels, the wad is even more critical than in sporting guns with myriad screw-in choke options.  I remember the days when the 00 buckshot pellets were separated from the propellant powder by a simple cardboard disc.

Fired from an 18-inch cylinder bore Remington 870 shotgun, the PD132 patterned into a large, ragged holes at 3, 5, and 7 yards.   At ten yards the pattern averaged in the two to three inch range.  At twenty-yards the best pattern was right about 3.5 inches with the average being four inches across.  Most importantly Pellet #9 stuck with its brothers and didn’t stray from the pack.   This kind of performance is tremendous when compared to previously available loads.

Winchester Segmented Slug

When the subject of shotgun slugs comes up many veteran officers praise them for their fight stopping capability.  At the same time many administrators fear the slug citing “over-penetration” concerns.  Throughout my law enforcement career I found a mix of emotions and uses for slugs.  Some agencies forbid them, others required slugs to be carried separate from buckshot while other departments left the choice up to the individual officer.

 Winchester’s banner line up of personal defense ammunition is the PDX1.  During the late summer of 2011 I was introduced to several brand new products in the PDX1 line during a Winchester live-fire press event.  One item that truly caught my attention was their new “Segmented Slug”.

Taking a close look at the projectile, it appears to be the same one-ounce lead slug we’ve been using since Karl Foster designed it in 1931.  The solid projectile is indeed based on the Foster-type slug.  What the Winchester engineers have done is “score” or “pre-fragment” the soft lead projectile by running the slug through a special press before loading it.  The shotgun slug is “Segmented” into three parts.   Like a modern hand grenade, the single piece comes apart in pre-fragmented segments.

What you have here is a single, solid projectile when it leaves the barrel and flies to the intended target. Upon impact with something solid, such as the flesh of an animal or felon, the slug breaks up into three segments and spreads out.  

From a ballistic standpoint the Segmented Slug is loaded at the same velocity as Winchester’s standard Super X solid Foster slug: 1600 FPS.  For you guys that like to talk about “Energy” that calculates to 2480 FPE at the muzzle and 2250 at fifty yards.

At the Winchester range we were treated to a ballistic gelatin demonstration. The Segmented Slug penetrated approximately three inches before the segments took off on their own individual wound channels.  The three segments stopped approximately fourteen inches into the gelatin.

Parting Thoughts

The police shotgun is still a viable and effective fight stopping tool when employed by a trained operator.   When combined with either the new 00 buckshot load from Federal or the Segmented Slug from Winchester, the old pump gun should see service for decades to come.


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About The Author:

Mr. Markel is a former United States Marine, Police Officer, and has worked as a professional bodyguard both in the U.S. and overseas. A Subject Matter Expert on Small Arms and Tactics, Markel has provided instruction to law enforcement and U.S. Military troops.

As a recognized author and writer, Paul has penned several hundred articles published in numerous professional journals and trade periodicals. Topics include firearms training, use of force, marksmanship, less-than-lethal force options, product reviews and evaluations, emergency medical care, and much more. Sought after as a public speaker, Mr. Markel is at home in front of an audience large or small.