Winchester Defender Close Range 12-gauge loads are optimized for the home defense mission.

I recently met the new Winchester Defender Close Range 12-gauge rounds at the Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous held in the shadow on the Grand Tetons mountain range. This high-tech shotgun ammo represents 19th-century martial technology optimized for use in the Information Age. Men have been using 12-gauge shotguns to shoot each other for 200 years. However, Winchester Defender Close Range 12-gauge ammo brings the classic scattergun into the modern era.

Winchester Defender Close Range

These new Defender loads push around 100 copper-plated Number 2 shot to around 1,150 feet per second out of a standard shotgun tube. This won’t do you much good at grid square distance. In the sorts of intimate spaces where Bad Things most typically occur, however, Winchester Defender Close Range is some of the finest scattergun fodder on the planet.

Defender Details

The good folks at Winchester make ammo for a living, and this stuff embodies more technology than the space shuttle. In the case of Winchester Defender Close Range, they have slathered a little Information Age science across the top of the classic shotshell. The end result is breathtakingly powerful.

We’ve all heard the campfire tales that birdshot is fine for up close home defense. Well, maybe and maybe not. At really close ranges any shot load is going to leave quite a mark. However, once you start considering distance to target, intervening material like clothes and jackets, and the individual constitution of the threat, birdshot can run out of steam. By contrast heavy loads like 00 buck and rifled slugs can often over-penetrate. Winchester has determined that the ideal compromise is #2 shot.

The lead shot is copper-plated for long life and packed into Winchester’s state-of-the-art hulls. Top-quality primers and black oxide shells ensure that these rounds will be ready to go even if they spend a decade or two sitting in the darkness waiting. Everything about these Defender rounds is designed for optimum performance.

The payload is around 100 copper-plated #2 lead shot.

The #2 shot is 0.15 inches in diameter. By contrast, BBs are 0.177. At appropriate ranges, #2 shot produces an unstoppable cloud of pain. At across-the-room distances all 100 balls will remain comfortably inside a typical man-sized target.

Opting for shot of this modest size also helps prevent over-penetration. Birdshot can be slowed down by heavy clothes, while buckshot can sometimes produce unacceptable penetration through barrier materials. While each is appropriate for certain applications, when there might be friendlies sleeping on the other side of the wall it behooves us to be ever mindful of a load’s performance through sheetrock. Winchester Defender Close Range strikes a balance between downrange thump and appropriate restraint.


Any 12-gauge load is going to make a mess at close range. Additionally, a 12-bore kicks more than a Modern Sporting Rifle, and the ammo is bulky. However, don’t lose sight of the mission. If you get into trouble and have to expend more than a couple of rounds to dig yourself out, something terribly unexpected has already happened.

Most defensive engagements in America are come-as-you-are affairs, and Bad Guys are most frequently scavengers. Once you have demonstrated the capability to fight back most bottom feeders will retire and seek easier pickings elsewhere. For the sorts of scenarios we might actually experience, Winchester Defender Close Range run through a quality 12-bore scattergun is arguably the perfect tool.

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