Along with chasing the best firearm, the collective “we” chase the best in calibers and bullets. Like pretty much anything else in life, the better can be subjective. It all depends on who is being asked or offering their opinion.

One of those areas is shotgun ammunition. Shooters want a consistently tight pattern delivering enough projectiles with minimal adverse effects – almost a unicorn.


While we have discussed the evolution of shotgun ammunition – from Billings Choke to Federal’s Flite Control and VersaTite from Hornady – the focus previously was on the 00 buckshot. At one time, Federal manufactured a #1 Buck using the Flite Control shot cup. Unfortunately, that was discontinued a couple of years ago. Since then, there have been consistent rumors that Federal stopped making that load because of difficulty getting consistent performance.


The previous #1 Buck Flite Control load contained 15 pellets with an 1100 feet per second (fps) muzzle velocity. Dr Gary K Roberts described it as offering “ideal terminal performance for (both law enforcement and self-defense use.” When shot into calibrated ordinance gelatin, these pellets would penetrate to a depth of 14-18”. Roberts noted that this led to 35% more tissue damage than one would get with an equivalent 9 pellet 00 buckshot load.

Comparison of the #1 Buck and 00 Buck projectile performance in ballistic gelatin (Courtesy – Dr Gary K Roberts)

After that conversation, Roberts sent images depicting the performance of the old #1 Buck in testing.


There was a lot of interest in the idea of Federal resurrecting that load for commercial sales.

And then last year at SHOT, Federal announced they were bringing back #1 Buck loads. By the fall of 2023, those loads were making it out to end users.

Federal’s #1 Buck Power-Shok load with Beretta’s A300 Ultima Patrol.

I reached out to Federal about getting some of those loads to review. And recently, I received a package containing shotgun ammunition from Federal. Included in it were boxes of #1 Buck Power-Shok and Cooper Plated Premium as well as Personal Defense Premium 00Buck.


Their copper-plated Premium #1 Buck has sixteen (16) pellets buffered by their Grex salt-like material. The listed muzzle velocity is 1325 fps. The PowerShok #1 Buck load is also described as having a muzzle velocity of 1325 fps with 16 pellets and the grex buffering material. The 00Buck Premium Personal Defense load contains 9 copper-plated pellets buffered by their Grex with an 1145 fps muzzle velocity.


Rather than shooting a single shell or two at several distances, I fired five shells of each load at 15 yards. Gunsite’s option target was used with the point of aim being a fluorescent orange dot in roughly the center of the thoracic cavity – an 8” wide by 8” gum drop-shaped scoring area. All the shots were fired from a stock Beretta A300 Ultima Patrol 12gauge, semi-auto shotgun equipped with an Aimpoint Acro P2 on a rest.

In addition to those loads, for comparison, I used Hornady’s TAP Light Magnum Defense 00 Buckshot loads. Hornady’s TAP launches 8 pellets at 1600 fps, while the Barnes 9 pellet load is described as having a muzzle velocity of 1325 fps.

All of the shots, including these Premium copper plated #1 Buck loads, were fired using Aimpoint’s Acro P2 optic.

All these loads functioned in the A300UP as designed. There were no stoppages or other issues with any of the ammunition – not when loading, feeding, chambering, extracting, or ejecting.

#1 Buck Performance

Out of the 80 copper-plated pellets from the Premium #1 Buck load, I was able to count 74 of them on the paper target. I don’t know if I missed the other six because they struck in the same place as other pellets or if they bypassed the paper.

Copper-plated pellet pattern from 5 rounds of Federal’s Premium #1 Buck load. The dollar bill is there to help with the pattern’s dimensions.

As for the #1 Buck Power Shok, I counted 78 of the 80 pellets on the paper. The spread was both side to side as well as up and down. Neither of these #1 Buck loads exhibited any indication of a donut hole – that is a circular gap in the pattern indicating no pellets would hit in the center area.

5 shell pattern from Federal’s Power-Shok #1 Buck

Has the increased muzzle velocity from the previous FliteControl to the current offering impacted the pattern?

Other Loads

As for the other loads – the Premium Personal Defense load had four of the 45 copper-plated pellets outside the scoring area. They struck high or slightly to the right.

Federal’s Premium personal defense load threw this pattern with 5 shells at 15 yards

The buffered 00Buck projectiles in the Barnes load resulted in a wider pattern, with 18 of the 45 pellets hitting outside the scoring area. As is common with 9 pellet loads, there were obvious flyers.

15-yard pattern from 5 shells of Barnes Defense 00Buck load

Except for three pellets, everything from the Hornady shells struck within the gum drop on the high chest. The Billings’ designed shot cup does not include any buffering material.

Hornady’s 5-shell pattern at 15 yards

After firing each five-shot group, I cut apart one shell from that offering. It was interesting to see what shot cups and buffering materials were used.



For home or business defense, with generally shorter ranges and greater foreknowledge about backstop issues, I have no concern about using Federal’s #1 Buck loads. I look forward to their evolution of the load and seeing how it performs in other platforms.