I’m not a hunter, so I have to defer to experts when analyzing the Cheney hunting story:
The simple truth of the matter is that unless contact distances are involved (5 yards or less), most birdshot lacks the penetrating capability required to inflict meaningful wound trauma. Wounds from birdshot tend to be extremely gruesome, yet shallow. They often shred and destroy a large volume of tissue but don’t penetrate deep enough to damage critical cardiovascular or CNS structures required for incapacitation. Clothing can further amplify these poor penetration characteristics.
At 30 yards, the distance Harry Whittington was allegedly shot, 7.5 gauge birdshot carries an impact energy of less than two foot-pounds.
Is 2 ft-lbf enough to tear through hunting vest, clothing, bone, and tissue, and then to lodge in a man’s heart muscle?