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Shot Size Chart

Recommended Shot Sizes for Waterfowl and Game Hunting

Shotgun shot is manufactured in a variety of sizes for different applications. The size of shot decreases as the number of the shot increases. A No.8 shot is going to be smaller than a No.2 shot. Certain shot sizes are traditionally used for hunting different types of game—although, shot selection for hunting is influenced by subjective preference. The shot size chart below serves as a general guide and starting point for shot selection for hunting various game animals. (Note: The size of shot presented below, whether lead or steel, is based on the American Standard shot sizes.)

Game Species Shell, Gauge and Shot
WATERFOWL
Small Ducks small duck
Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 3,4,5,6

Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 3,4,5,6
Large Ducks large duck
Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 3,2,1

Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 3,2,1
Geese geese
Shell: 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 2,1,BB,BBB,T

Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 2,1,BB,BBB,T
UPLAND GAME BIRD
Pheasant pheasant
Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 4,5,6

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 4,5,6
Quail quail
Shell: 2-1/2 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: .410 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8,9

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8
Grouse ruffed grouse
Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 20 gauge
Shot: 4,5,6,7,7.5

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 12 gauge
Shot: 4,5,6,7,7.5
Doves doves
Shell: 2-1/2 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: .410 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8,9

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8
Turkeys turkey
Shell: 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 4,5,6

Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 4,5,6
Woodcock woodcock
Shell: 2-1/2 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: .410 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8,9

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8

Shell: 2-3/4 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 6,7,7.5,8
SMALL GAME
Squirrel squirrel
Shell: 2-1/2 inch, 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 4,5,6

Shell: 2-1/2 inch, 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 4,5,6
Rabbit rabbit
Shell: 2-1/2 inch - 3 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 5,6,7,7.5

Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 5,6,7,7.5
Coyote coyote
Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: 3,4,5

Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 3,4,5
LARGE GAME
Deer mule deer
Shell: 2-3/4 inch, 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 20 ga
Shot: OO Buck (or slug)

Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: OO Buck (or slug)
Elk elk
Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: Saboted slug
Black Bear black bear
Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 00 buck, 000 buck, slug (self-defense only)
Grizzy Bear grizzly bear
Shell: 3 inch, 3-1/2 inch
Gauge: 12 ga
Shot: 000 buck, slug (self-defense only)

Shot Size Charts for Hunting

When selecting shot size for hunting, range from game and penetration should also be considered to ensure a humane kill. Size and type of shot may also be specified by local hunting regulations. When selecting shot for hunting, it's important to remember that relative to a bullet shot loses velocity fairly quicky. Additionally, larger shot typically carries farther and spreads much less than small shot.

Lead shot sizes

For upland birds and small game, lead is regarded as the ideal material for shot. Lead shot is dense, allowing it to retain energy and flatten on impact. For hunting smaller birds, such as doves, pigeons, quail, woodcock, rail and snipe #8 and #7-1/2 lead shot is ideal. For upland game birds, including grouse and partridge, and short-range uplands birds (woodcock and ruffed grouse), #7-1/3 lead shot is recommended. For game, such as squirrel, prairie dog, rabbit, pheasant (short range) and grouse (long range) a #7-1/2 or #6 is the go-to shot size. Hunting pheasant or chuckar long range usually requires a #6 or #4 lead shot.

lead shot size chart

Steel shot sizes

In a side-by-side comparison, steel shot does not perform as well as lead shot. Steet shot is lighter and harder than lead. However, when hunting migratory waterfowl non-toxic shot, such as steel shot, Tungsten or Bismuth, is mandated by federal law. Steel shot is the most popular non-toxic shot for hunting waterfowl. For hunting ducks short range, #4, #3, or #2 non-toxic shot is recommended. For hunting long-range ducks, the larger #2, #1 or BB shot sizes are most common. For hunting larger waterfowel, specifically geese, BB or BBB shot is recommended at short range, and BBB or T size shot performs best at long range.

steel shot size chart

Buckshot sizes

Buckshot is manufactured to larger diameters than either lead or steel shot. It can be used for hunting larger game such as deer, elk or moose. While still commonly used for hunting deer, single-projectile loads known as "slugs" are far more common now for hunting deer and larger prey animals using shotguns. The 12 guage "oo" ("double-aught") buckshot made up of approximately 9 .33 caliber pellets is still used for hunting medium-sized game species such as whitetail or mule deer at close range. 00 buckshot can also be used for killing larger game including elk or moose, but is only effective at close range. Hunting bear, including black, brown and grizzly bear is not recommended using buckshot. However, the large "ooo" ("triple-aught") buckshot can be used for self defense against bears.

buckshot size chart

Shot Size, Type and Length by Gauge

Find shot size, type and length by gauge including 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 and 410 shotgun gauges.

Gauge Length, Shot size and Types
10 Gauge Length: 3-1/2"
Shot size: #2, #4, #5, BB, BBB, #00 Buck, T
Type: Slug, Buckshot, Waterfowl, Turkey
12 Gauge Length: 1-3/4", 2-3/4", 3", 3-1/2"
Shot size: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #7.5, #8, #9, BB, BBB, #00 Buck, #000 Buck, T
Type: Slug, Buckshot, Waterfowl, Upland, Turkey
16 Gauge Length: 2-3/4"
Shot size: #2, #4, #5, #6, #7.5, #8, BB
Type: Slug, Buckshot, Waterfowl, Upland
20 Gauge Length: 2-3/4", 3"
Shot size: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #7.5, #8, #9, BB, #1 Buck, #2 Buck, #3 Buck
Type: Slug, Buckshot, Waterfowl, Upland, Turkey
28 Gauge Length: 2-3/4", 3"
Shot size: #5, #6, #7.5, #8, #9
Type: Waterfowl, Upland
410 Gauge Length: 2-1/2", 3"
Shot size: #4, #6, #7.5, #8, #9, #000 Buck
Type: Slug, Buckshot, Upland, Turkey

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.