The Myth In the Internet world of tactical Rambos, I often hear that homeowners looking for a home defense round should use a shotgun “with birdshot” because it won’t penetrate walls and therefore can't hurt family members who may be in the next room. But in my experience as a hunter, I have seen the devastating power of birdshot at close range. So I wanted to know, will birdshot penetrate walls?
The Test I built several false walls, made from 2x4s with vertical studs for the frame, and ½-inch thick sheetrock on both sides. I placed fiberglass insulation between them. Five yards behind the wall I placed a sheet of cardboard with a t-shirt over it to simulate an innocent bystander. Next, I loaded my 12-gauge Remington Versa Max with 2¾ inch, 1-oz. (the lightest) target loads, in No. 8 shot (it being among the most common “birdshot"). I fired multiple rounds from various ranges, from 5 yards out to 20.
The Results: • 20 Yards: Birdshot did not penetrate both sides of the wall.
• 10 Yards: Birdshot penetrated the full wall. Shot went on to strike the cardboard/t-shirt target behind it, but only made slight indentations that would likely result in multiple superficial “flesh” wounds.
• 5 Yards: Birdshot penetrated the full wall and fully penetrated the cardboard and t-shirt behind it. Even the shot wad was lodged into the cardboard enough to cause humanly damage.
The Conclusion Birdshot can penetrate a sheetrock wall (two pieces of sheetrock and insulation) from 10 yards and in. While the blast at 10-yards may not be mortal to a bystander standing several yards on the other side of it, it would necessitate medical attention and could certainly blind them. At 5 yards and in, it could be deadly. As ever, always know what's beyond your target.