BallistiClean 00 Buck Review

Federal’s new load enhances the practicality of shotgun practice.

posted on November 30, 2022
BallistiClean 00 Buck

Patterns and recoil of Federal’s new BallistiClean 00-buckshot load are similar to more expensive defensive ammo, making it a great choice for training.

There’s less training conducted with the defensive shotgun than with any other defensive firearm. This is partly because shotguns recoil the hardest, and recoil is not something shooters typically enjoy. It’s also partly because shotguns—at least compared with handguns and carbines—are a bit expensive to shoot, especially if you’re training with 00 buckshot. And finally, it’s also partly because that for all but a cult-like few who find shotguns the equivalent of Harry Potter’s wand, shotgun practice is considered a waste of time: you just point it and shoot, right?

The first two reasons folks do not train a lot with shotguns are true and understandable, the last one is not. If used inside a home for defense, a shotgun will most likely be employed at a distance of less than 30 to 35 feet. Few homes have rooms larger than that. At those distances, the best-patterning 00-buck loads will only cover a couple inches, and the worst will spread to about 10 inches. Most shooters cannot just point a shotgun and hit a 5- to 10-inch target at 10 yards without some initial and sustainment training and practice. With Federal’s BallistiClean 00-buckshot load, you can now practice with a load that emulates duty or self-defense ammo, but is also safer to shoot and costs less. It’s even suitable for indoor ranges with lead restrictions.

The Federal BallistiClean 12-gauge, 00-buckshot load is a 2 3/4-inch load that contains nine pellets just like most conventional 00-buck 12-gauge loads. However, there are several differences with the BallistiClean 00 buck. For starters, it is part of Federal Premium’s Law Enforcement line of ammunition—it was designed specifically for law enforcement training. Another difference is that BallistiClean 00-buck will cost about 12 percent less than standard Federal 00-buck loads. Buy in bulk and you might even save more.

But, there are other differences that are more important than these. With BallistiClean 00 buck, Federal uses its Catalyst primer, which is 100-percent lead free. This makes these loads ideal for use on enclosed, indoor ranges. The compound used in these Catalyst primers is also non-hygroscopic, which means it will not retain moisture. This means that BallistiClean 00-buck loads have an indefinite shelf life. If you “buy in bulk,” you can store this stuff for as long as you like.

Another unique—and maybe the most important aspect of Federal BallistiClean 00-buck—is it utilizes a lead-free, frangible shot made from a copper/tin alloy. This makes it much safer when shooting steel targets, because the 00-buck pellets break up on impact with hard surfaces. This reduces splashback and the risk of injury when shooting steel targets, indoors or out. Because the copper/tin alloy pellets are lighter than lead pellets, the muzzle velocity of the BallistiClean loads is faster; they’re rated at 1,600 fps as opposed to around 1,300 fps, which is pretty standard for 12-gauge 00 buck. However, from an external ballistics standpoint, trajectory and recoil are supposed to be nearly identical, which is critical for training.

So, in essence what you have with BallistiClean are 00-buck loads that are long-lasting, lead-free, less expensive, steel-target safe and will provide the external ballistics and recoil you would expect from personal-protection or common duty 00-buck ammunition. This might be better than Harry Potter’s wand, which, as hard as some might find it to concede, is fictional.

Admittedly, I ended up with a supply of BallistiClean 00 buck by accident; Federal provided me a quantity of 12-gauge ammunition to use while testing Mossberg’s new 940 Pro Tactical shotgun. I was so impressed with the performance and range-safety aspect of BallistiClean that I spent about as much time testing the load as I did the shotgun. You could say this review or information I’m sharing here is about as much accidental as intentional.

Over the course of a couple days, I fired 100 rounds of the 00-buck BallistiClean load through Mossberg’s new 940 Pro Tactical shotgun and experienced no feeding, firing, extracting or ejection issues of any kind. I also found the recoil impulse indistinguishable from conventional duty and self-defense 00-buck ammunition. In fact, when compared with Federal’s Power-Shok 00-buck load, I could not tell any difference in functioning or recoil. Also, the two loads patterned quite similarly up close and at distance. 

Out of the Mossberg—outfitted with a screw-in, cylinder-bore choke—the points-of-impact and the patterns produced by the BallistiClean and the Power-Shok 00-buck loads were very similar at 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. BallistiClean pattern sizes were about what you would expect from common 12-gauge 00-buckshot ammunition. At 10 yards, the 18.5-inch cylinder-bore-choked barrel produced an average pattern size of 5 inches. At 15 yards, the pattern opened to an average of 8 inches and beyond that distance (out to 25 yards), pattern size increased by about 2 inches for every additional 5 yards. A lone flyer printing slightly high at each distance was common, but this is more than adequate patterning for practical defensive-shotgun training out to 25 yards.

It’s common for a lot of shotgun training to be conducted with low-recoil, small-pellet shotshells. They are inexpensive and not as hard on the shoulder. This is not really a bad thing, as there are elements of shotgun training where this type of load makes good sense. However, for serious self-defense shotgun training it makes more sense to use a load that will match the felt-recoil and on-target performance that you can expect in a real-life self-defense situation. For that, the BallistiClean 00-buck option is ideal and, as stated, much safer on steel targets. Federal also offers a BallistiClean 2 3/4-inch, 325-grain frangible rifled slug. Though I’ve not tested it yet, that might also be an excellent training round to consider.


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