a dismantled buckshot 12 gauge cartridge

How Many Pellets In Buckshot?

With different gauges of a shotgun, it can be confusing enough to try and work out what you want. Many buy a shotgun for home defense, many for other reasons, like sport or hunting. 

So with different gauges, and different types of cartridge, it might be nice to know how many pellets are in the cartridge. For birdshot, it’s just under 300, but many want a larger pellet so look at buckshot.

Which then makes for an interesting question, exactly how many pellets are in buckshot?

12 gauge buckshot shotgun cartridges range from #4 to #000 in size. The typical #4 buckshot has 21 pellets of 6mm shot and a #000 cartridge has around 6 to 8 pellets of 9mm shot. Gauge and cartridge size ae two factors than can alter the number of pellets per cartridge.

Shotgun Gauge And Pellet Numbers

Before discussing what buckshot is and the various sizes, let’s first review the available shotgun gauges.

If you’re an avid shooter, you may already know this, but shotguns come in several gauges, but the most popular are the 12-gauge and the 20-gauge. 

a close up of a 12 gauge buckshot cartridge with pellets

12 gauge shotguns make up 50% of the market in the US.

The gauge, in this case, refers to the diameter of the bore. A 12-gauge shotgun has an 18.5mm gauge (.729 inches), while a 20-gauge shotgun has a 15.6 mm (.62 inches). 

Based on these dimensions, the 12-gauge is larger than the 20-gauge, is often heavier, and has more recoil. 

The 12-gauge also seems to have more users than the 20-gauge and is easily is the most popular gauge.

What this means is that a 20 gauge cartridge will naturally have fewer pellets in it than a 12 gauge shell by nature of the reduction in cartridge size.

Also, cartridges come in different lengths like 2 ½ inches or 3 inches so more pellets will be used in the longer style cartridges.

What Is Buckshot?

Buckshot is one of the main ammunition used in shotguns and some revolver handguns. It’s similar to birdshot in the sense that they both use pellets (small steel balls that are usually of the same size). 

However, the buckshot pellets are often larger and create more wound channels. 

Its effect may not be the same as that of a regular bullet. But at close range, it can be very lethal. 

It also has a high penetration rate which makes it popular for home defense use, and it works great when hunting big game like deer and elk. 

A see through 12 gauge buckshot cartridge with pellets

If you’re looking for ammunition with less damage, like when hunting birds, the birdshot may be a good fit. 

Buckshot has two main purposes. People use it for self-defense and fur hunting to want to know what number of pellets they are firing.

What Are Buckshot Sizes

Buckshot comes in different sizes, and each size can hold a certain size and number of pellets. 

Gauge and cartridge lengths are the two main factors affecting the amount of pellets per cartridge.

The larger the buckshot, the larger the pellets it will have, and it will contain fewer pellets. The largest buckshot is denoted as #000 Buck (Triple aught), while the smallest buckshot is denoted as #4 Buck.

These ammo may often be referred to as number 1, number 2, 3, and 4. Don’t get confused. The “#” sign was known as the number sign before the hash-tag name was introduced. Other sizes include #3 Buck #2 Buck, #1 Buck, #0 Buck, and #00 Buck. 

Below is a table showing a couple of buckshot sizes, their pellet size, and the average number of pellets.


Size Diameter No. Of Pellets
#000 Buck 8.4 to 9.1 mm 6.2 to 8
#00 Buck .330″ (8.38 mm) 8
#0 Buck .32 (8.1 mm) 9
#1 Buck 7.6 mm (.30″) 11
#2 Buck 6.9 mm (.27″) 14
#3 Buck 6.4 mm (.25″) 18
#4 Buck 6.10 mm (.240″) 21


How Many Pellets In #000 Buckshot?

This is the largest buck with a pellet diameter ranging from 8.4 to 9.1 mm and gives around 6 to 8 pellets per cartridge.

It’s also the heaviest and delivers the highest amount of damage and penetration. The sizes vary depending on the manufacturer, but the US size has 8 pellets, and it’s .36 inches in diameter. 

5 standing buckshot cartridges

Due to their size and impact, this buck is often used for home defense and hunting big game. 

I may have mentioned that the buckshot may not fare well in home defense because of the pellets’ splattering, but if you know how your shotgun splatters, you can control it.

The UK size has three variants of the #000.

  • LG which is 9.1 mm in diameter and has 6.2 pellets
  • MG – 8.79mm – 7 pellets
  • SG – 8.44mm – 8 pellets

The Federal 410 000 is a common #000 cartridge for shotguns. It holds four pellets.

How Many Pellets Is 0 Buckshot?

Also referred to as the single aught buckshot, this ammunition is smaller than the 00 Buckshot and very lethal in its own right. 

It’s .32 inches in diameter, has nine pellets, and weighs 48 grains. 

It’s fair to say that it combines the 00 buckshot’s power and the ability to cause more damage with the higher number of pellets. This makes it a better choice when compared to the #000 buckshot, which has fewer pellets.

When hunting in areas with a lot of brush, it’s very useful. 

a 20 gauge buckshot cartridge with pellets

However, it has a 50 yards effective range, limiting you to shooting at short-range targets. It’s known to have enough power to penetrate wood and metal sheets. Therefore, you need to be careful with it when using it as a home defense weapon. 

But animals like deer, boars, and foxes don’t stand a chance when dealing with this beast.

How Many Pellets In #1 Buckshot?

The #1 buckshot is .30 inches in size and contains around 11 pellets. 

It has a higher number of shots than the #0 buckshot and is equally effective in hunting and home defense. 

As in all other buckshot ammunition, the #1 is still as effective as the 30-60 ammo, a standard hunting ammunition when shooting in a short-range.

There’s still some debate on which ammo is the best for home defense, but the #1 buckshot works great. 

For instance, the Federal Flight Control #1 buckshot has 15 pellets and offers excellent accuracy and enough power to stop an intruder. People may prefer this ammo for home defense because it has less penetration than the #0 and #000.

How Many Pellets In #4 Buckshot?

This is the smallest buckshot with a 6.10mm diameter and 21 pellets. 

The high number of pellets gives it an edge over the others since it has high stopping power even though it doesn’t penetrate much. It’s also strong enough to take down a deer, making it good enough for home defense and hunting.

If you live in a crowded area, then this number 4 may be the ideal ammunition for home defense. 

an exploded buckshot 12 gauge cartridge

It strikes a balance when it comes to penetration power, pellet size, number of pellets, and stopping power. You won’t have to worry about it penetrating the drywall, destroying property in subsequent rooms, and even injuring the occupants.

Its performance in hunting depends on what you’re looking for. Those looking for a “clean kill” will love this ammo since it doesn’t splatter the kill’s meat like the larger buckshots and doesn’t deposit any “dirt” as regular bullets would.


Clearly, buckshot comes in different sizes. They are all effective in outdoor usage and home defense. 

But the size you choose depends on the impact you want to have. 

For both high penetration and high stopping power, the larger #000 would be ideal. 

For less penetration and high stopping power, you can always go with the smaller sizes like the #3 and #4. 

Since the type of rifle you’re using also matters, make sure you test the ammo’s ballistics and tweak your shotgun to make sure it suits your needs.

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