Ammo Review: Winchester Defender 12 Gauge Buckshot


Is it worth the money? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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I’ve come to really enjoy reviewing shotgun ammo. I’ve talked about my favorite, Federal Flitecontrol, and reviewed the four dollars a round Barnes, mini shells, and more. This week, I ran into Winchester Defender buckshot at my local Academy and grabbed a couple of boxes to review. They cost roughly two dollars a round and look pretty stock standard as far as buckshot ammo goes.

I’ve been wary of Winchester defensive shotgun loadings in the past. Their buck and ball slug load seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. Winchester also has a load of defensive birdshot, which undoes a lot of work the shotgun community had put into proper defensive ammo selection. Plus, the .410 load with the disks would be great if it didn’t have that silly load of BBs behind it.

In my experience, Winchester ammo has been meh when it comes to defensive shotguns. Would the Defender buckshot load escape their sillier escapades?

Winchester Defender Buckshot – The Basics

For roughly two bucks a round we get a box of ten rounds of buckshot. At first glance, there isn’t a lot that screams anything out of the ordinary. It’s a nine-pellet, 00 buck load.

I prefer an eight-pellet load. Nine pellets tend to have one flyer. That’s not something you want with .33 caliber projectiles. Those flyers are often thought to be due to how nine pellets are stacked inside the shell.

Looks pretty standard (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Defender pellets are copper-plated. That’s great for resisting deformation and helping with penetration through soft targets. The shells have a high brass base. Higher brass tends to feed more reliably in older semi-autos, so that certainly doesn’t hurt. The wad doesn’t seem to be anything fancy, and cutting the shell open revealed some Grex buffering.

The velocity is reported to be 1,145 feet per second. It’s a low recoil load, and low recoil makes sense for fast follow-up shots. Shotgun shell velocities tend to be interesting topics. In the modern era, it seems like lower velocity equals somewhat tighter patterns. In a home defense situation, tighter patterns result in better pellet accountability.

It’s the correct 2.75 inch length (Travis Pike for TTAG)

It appears that Winchester took their Double X load, lowered the recoil, and billed it as a self-defense load. I’ve taken a few deer with Double X loads, so that isn’t a knock by any means. However, how does it compare to modern defensive buckshot loads?

To the Range

I took the Winchester Defender Buckshot to the range with a few different shotgun platforms. I wanted to see how it cycled in a semi-auto and a pump gun, so I brought a Mossberg 940 Tactical and a 590A1. Alongside those shotguns, I brought a TAC-14 to see how it handled in the shorty, stock-free 12 gauge.

The loads cycled perfectly in the semi-auto Mossberg. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I used the 940 Tactical first, and it ran without a single issue. The gun cycled flawlessly, and the shells flung out consistently and easily. The same could be said with the 590A1. It ate through the ammo without any reliability issues at all. As I shot the guns, I patterned the loads and observed any noticeable issues.

Here is my Winchester Pattern. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I honestly wasn’t impressed with the patterns. They were consistent, which is nice, and in 20 rounds, there wasn’t a single 9th pellet flyer. At 15 yards, the patterns ranged between eight and ten inches. That’s not terrible by any means, but it also doesn’t hold a candle to Federal Flitecontrol or even Hornady Critical Defense/Black.

Here is the Monarch load (Travis Pike for TTAG)

For control purposes, I utilized a couple of rounds of Monarch buckshot. Monarch is cheap and fairly standard buckshot. The patterns were tough to tell apart, to be honest, and the Monarch cost far less than the Winchester Defender.

Is it worth the money? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Performance was, well, pretty standard. If the rounds were .50 to .75 cents a pop, it would be a great budget option. But at two bucks a round, I have a hard time justifying this load, especially when Fiochi Defense Dynamics buckshot tends to be about equal for a lot less money.

What About the TAC-14?

I really enjoyed how low recoiling Defender was in the TAC-14. While the advertised velocity is 1,145 feet per second, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s even lower. Through the TAC-14, it felt downright comfy and controllable. This load is softer recoiling than the Federal Flitecontrol load through the TAC-14, and that makes it super easy to control and shoot.

It was quite pleasant through the TAC-14 (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Maybe the best place for the Winchester Defender buckshot is in a TAC-14? It certainly doesn’t perform on par with other premium loads, but it’s soft through the micro cannons that like the Shockwave and TAC-14.

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