The 9th Pellet Flyer – Get Out There

More is better, especially when it comes to shotguns. The strength of the scattergun is its ability to throw multiple projectiles with one pull of the trigger. Our goal with a shotgun is to throw as much lead as possible per trigger pull while balancing shot size for adequate penetration, shell size for ammo capacity, and recoil for control. That often leads to a 2.75-inch shell holding nine pellets. But what if I told you that isn’t the best option due to something called the 9th pellet flyer?

What Is The 9th Pellet Flyer?

The 9th pellet flyer is a random occurrence of one pellet separating from the rest of the pellets and ending up several inches away from the rest of the pattern. The distance can be as far as 6 inches, in my experience.

When you start choosing defensive buckshot, you have to test and pattern your ammo. The 9th pellet is that random pellet that separates itself from the rest and can skew a pattern’s dimensions. It’s worth mentioning that it doesn’t always happen, and you can shoot ten rounds of the same buckshot and never see it, but then, that 11th round will give you an odd, off-pattern flyer.

It kills averages and has made nine pellet loads of buckshot unpopular with shotgun enthusiasts.

What’s The Big Deal

We pattern our buckshot loads so we know where the pellets are going. We want to know what the pattern looks like at specific ranges and what it’s doing so we can be best prepared for our engagement. When I pattern my chosen buckshot load at 15 yards, I want to consistently perform the exact same way. Same spread. Predictable area of effect.

The problem with the 9th pellet flyer is that it creates a random, inconsistent flyer that makes it difficult to fully predict what your pellets will do. The 9th pellet could be completely off target, flying haphazardly, and could randomly strike an innocent person by not staying where the rest are.

Why Does it Happen

The general consensus is that it has to do with how the pellets are stacked. You are shoving a lot of pellets inside a small plastic hull. The 9th pellet often sits on top of the other eight pellets and does so in an odd way. When the shotgun gun fires, the other eight pellets smash into it, causing it to deform, and that is why many theorize it flies oddly.

It’s also likely why it doesn’t always happen. It’s more or less bad luck and potentially bad shell design. Not all buckshots are equal and cheaper buckshots with unplated lead pellets commonly throw the flyer, at least more so than the good stuff from name-brand companies.

How Can You Prevent It

The best way to prevent the 9th pellet flyer is to use 8-pellet buckshot. That tends to be the favorite of most serious defensive shotgun users. It’s the most popular Flitecontrol load for a reason. In general, nine-pellet Flitecontrol works better than most, and while I have never seen it personally, I have heard that it does happen even with that particular load.

The optimum defensive buckshot load seems to be an 8-pellet, 2.75-inch load, loaded between 1150 fps and 1250 fps. Prevent that 9th pellet flyer by just not having a 9th pellet.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.