The Under Appreciated 410
"That's for kids," said Robbie, my long-term hunting buddy when I pulled out my old .410 H&R out on the dove field. "Looks like more dove for me, buddy." He finished with a shrug.
I smiled and gave him an openhanded shrug. Then proceeded to reach my bag limit faster than he did with his Remy 1100.
What is a .410 anyway?
Humble and unimposing, the .410 bore is the smallest gauge of modern shotgun made. When you stack up shells today, you run from 28-gauge through the 10-gauge with the phenomena of the smaller numbers being the larger shells. Cast out from the rest of the shotgun world, the .410 is not even allowed the respect of a 'gauge size' (it would be 68-gauge if so), but is instead referred to by its shell's caliber.
The .410 is still a shotgun shell, just smaller than the rest. This means only that it carries a fewer number of pellets in its payload. But do not make the mistake of thinking it's underpowered. Pellets from a .410 and a 12-gauge travel at the same velocity, which means the same energy is imparted when said bb's impact downrange. Nevertheless, since a smaller charge is used, the felt recoil on guns chambered for it is far less.
Many hunters are first exposed to the world of shotguns specifically, and hunting in general, through the gift or loan of a .410. With recoil more like a medium caliber rifle than a shotgun, this Lilliputian scattergun is easy on the shoulder. This is where the .410 excels. Let's face it; if a new hunter's first experience with a gauge is scary or uncomfortable, then the odds of them having a second hunting trip plummet.
Sadly, some skip over the .410 and start directly with a 20 or 12-gauge, simply intending to use low-brass shells until 'they get bigger'. This is a mistake as the smallest gauge encourages more practice through less bruises and has the bonus of making students work harder to ensure they hit what they are aiming at since it carries less shot.
Lots of choices
Since it was first introduced in the 1890s, the .410 has been made in just about every form and by every manufacturer. There are the classic single-shot hinge-break shotguns made by Rossi, NEF, H&R, and Stevens that can be had for under a hundred dollar bill that are most common. Then there are .410 chambered versions of popular shotguns like the Mossberg 500, Remington 870, and Browning BPS than start at $250 and run north from there. At the top of the line are "Field Grade" over-and-under and SXS double barrels by Perazzi, Beretta, and others that can run the cost of a good used car.
A big hit in the past few years are Taurus's series of .410 caliber revolvers with rifled barrels. Known as the Judge series, these five-shooters are effective in the woods for both game and pests. One variant, the Circuit Judge, is a 4.75-pound carbine with an 18.5-inch barrel that still keeps the revolver action. Better yet, these Brazilian made curios also accept .45 Long Colt so you get two guns for the price of one.
Finally, there are small special-purpose .410s like the Snake Charmer and the American Derringer for those special moments in the woods when you may come face to face with one of the wood's fanged wonders.
Is it effective?
They may look small, but the .410 shows up downrange with proven results. Legions of squirrel and rabbit have been taken with the caliber. Whitetails at close range can be taken with slugs or 000 buck (packed five pellets of .36 caliber ball to the shell).
(The 410 come in a staggering amount of loads)
When hunting at night for raccoon, nuisance animals, and alligator, many states, such as Mississippi for instance, approves all shotgun sizes under 20-gauge, which gives the .410 another challenge it can shine. Besides that, how many snakes have been successfully charmed by these guns?
While it may not look it, the .410 is big medicine for small birds. When you think about it, the 3/4-ounce load of No.6 shot found in your standard-sized 2.75-inch shell gives you 169 nice little pellets. If you downgrade to 7 1/2 shot, you are looking at 260 pellets, and that amount goes up to over 400 in a 3-inch shell. More than half of those are still in the pattern at ranges out to 25-yards.
Overall, it is not hard to see why the .410 has been around for 120 years. Odds are, it's just getting started.
As my buddy Robbie found out in the dove field that day.