.410 Loads for Self-Defense — A Carjacker’s Worst Nightmare and More

Federal American Eagle .410/.45 Long Colt ammunition combo pack

I have always loved the .410. At a young age, I was introduced to it as an alternative to the .22 long rifle for rabbits and squirrels. Due to the shot pattern, it was easier to harvest the fast moving little critters. Later, I was introduced to bird hunting and quickly realized those old men were not shooting the .410 to gain an advantage. Instead, it was a show of skill on fast-moving Bobwhite’s. However, it was when I was first introduced to the .410 for self-defense that I gained a respect for the cartridge.

White haired woman in light brown shirt with sunless points a silver Taurus Judge straight in front of her for target practice against a background of miscellaneous items and greenery.
The Taurus Judge is fast on target and plenty accurate enough for personal defense.

At the time, one use I never considered the .410 for was self-defense. My thinking at the time was, “Who would want a .410 when you could just as easily use a 12 gauge?” At a minimum, for those with recoil issues, you would want a 20 gauge. I, like many who worked behind the sporting goods counter at one time or another, thought of the .410 as a cartridge with little utility beyond rabbit-sized game.

Then, one day, I fell upon the Springfield M6 survival rifle. Talking to an old timer, he assured me the .410 had more punch than I was giving it credit for. While I was not planning to wait for an actual survival situation, a local game farm with hogs, goats, and sheep seemed an appropriate testing grounds.

Still unsure of the .410, I had a buddy with me as a backup. The plan was for me to take a goat or ram and he would follow up with a .243—so much for plans. We made the stalk to within 20 yards, and I lined up a Corsican ram. I was planning to make a neck shot, but got caught up in the moment and took a heart/lung shot. The ram took off at the shot and my buddy was so startled at my shot that he forgot to back me up.

Smith and Wesson Governor revolver right profile on blue background
Capable of shooting a .45 Long Colt or .410 cartridge, the Smith and Wesson Governor is a top choice for self-defense.

Fortunately, the ram fell about 30 yards later. The little .410 slug proved it had more than enough punch, so we headed back into the hills to try it on a hog. I have taken more than a few hogs and no intention of trying to bust through the shoulder plate, so this would be a neck shot for sure. It took us a day to stalk close enough for the iron sighted M6, but once in range, a neck shot to a 150-pound sow dispatched her in short order. In fact, she dropped in her tracks.

We know there is more to the .410 story than hunting game. However, it took the innovative minds at Taurus to show us that it was a viable cartridge in a revolver when it introduced the Judge—nothing will clear a would-be carjacker’s head from your car’s window better in my opinion.

As the Taurus Judge, Smith and Wesson Governor, and other models of the ilk, gained in popularity, it was natural for the ammunition manufacturers to look for ways to maximize the cartridge’s potential for self-defense. Today, there is a host of purpose-built self-defense ammunition for the .410.

Winchester PDX-1 Defender

For over 40 years Winchester has continually been recognized as a leader in quality and innovation in shotgun ammunition. The latest development to build on their tremendous success is the PDX1 Defender Load. When considering the safety of yourself and your family, choose the shotshell load that delivers the ultimate threat-stopping combo of two distinct personal defense technologies at the same time. The PDX1 is a highly effective in both shotguns and .410 compatible handguns. PDX1 features three plated Defense Disc projectiles and 16 pellets of plated BB shot to delver the one-two punch that you need, when you need it. It’s the ideal personal defense load for short range encounters with the terminal performance that you need to stop the threats. It is also an excellent hunting round suitable for predators, varmints, and pest control!

Winchester PDX1 Defender
PDX1 features three plated Defense Disc projectiles and 16 pellets of plated BB shot to delver the one-two punch that you need, when you need it.

S&B Self Defense

Sellier & Bellot has been making high quality ammunition for a number of years. S&B maintain a state of the art factory overseas where they make high quality ammunition and components. This particular defensive load is designed to perform well out of .410 bore shotguns, or Taurus Judge-style handguns.

Federal .45 LC/.410 Bore Defensive 70 Round Combo Pack

Want reliable performance, realistic practice and amazing value? Federal Premium’s new .45 Long Colt and .410 Bore combo packs feature two of its bestselling ammunition lines combined in one convenient package at a great price. Each Combo Pack includes American Eagle .45 Long Colt defensive ammunition and Premium Personal Defense 2-1/2″ 000 Buck .410 gauge ammunition. This combo package is ideal for owners of the Taurus Judge, the Taurus Public Defender, or Smith & Wesson Governor.

Federal American Eagle .410/.45 Long Colt ammunition combo pack
Each Combo Pack includes American Eagle .45 Long Colt defensive ammunition and Premium Personal Defense 2-1/2″ 000 Buck .410 gauge ammunition.

Hornady Critical Defense

Ten bullets through one hole is the philosophy that brought Hornady Manufacturing from a two-man operation in 1949, to a world-leading innovator of bullet, ammunition, reloading tool and accessory design and manufacture today. Hornady outperforms their competitors by ensuring the products they make are what the customers want right now, and then accurately predict and manufacture what theyll want and need in the future.

Delivering effective shot patterns that place all projectiles on a man-sized target at seven yards, the Critical Defense 410 features a unique Triple Defense projectile column consisting of two .35 caliber round balls topped with one non-jacketed FTX slug. Unique to the Critical Defense 410, the .41 caliber FTX slug actually engages the gun’s rifling, and contacts the target nose on; enabling the patented Hornady Flex Tip technology to assist in expansion for greatly enhanced terminal performance. Each .35 caliber round ball is made of high antimony, cold swaged lead to resist deformation and provide excellent penetration.

American Tactical Imports

American Tactical Imports (ATI) now offers premium quality .410 ammunition for self defense. I had the opportunity to run a few magazines through ATI’s Omni Hybrid 410 “A one of a kind shotgun wonder.” While the ammunition isn’t in wide distribution yet, the street price is set to be cheaper than most .223 ammunition. As for performance, I was impressed enough to add it here and will be doing further testing using a Taurus Judge in the following weeks.

Do you own a .410 for self-defense? Which model? Which ammunition are you using? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (26)

  1. I love reading the comments,… except for the troll. I really don’t think a carjacker seeing the size of the Judge & barrel pointing at him…is going to continue forward.
    My guess, he’ll run & be shouting as he goes

    A Judge revolver is reliable at going “BOOM!”💥, and by the time that can happen 5 times, I don’t think the carjacker will want to return to see if you do NOT have something else,
    — especially without changing his undershorts first. Carjacking just wouldn’t feel right all damp & mushy in the pants.🤔🙄

  2. I have a 3″ barrel, 3″ camber Judge. I use 45LC and .410 000 5 pellet. The real advantage is the ability to reload the 3″ .410 hulls just like any other shotgun hull. In theory you can create any type of projectile you wish including improvised survival or home cast with a lot of safety margin and flexibility using a plastic hull versus the precision of a brass casing on a 45LC or other typical handgun caliber. With a little internet research I put together a nice reload formula for 000 5-pellet using Ballistic Product .410 Manual, a stubby wad, Lil Gun Powder and a drill mounted roll crimper. I have also made shorts at 2.5″ 3 pellet 000 and even a few 2 pellet 000 when the reused hulls had damage and required cutting down to be safe.

  3. Thanks a lot for giving me that lead. I going to try it right now. Would anyone else have anywhere else to look?

  4. I like carrying my Judge, it gives me a big variety and combinations I can use for different occasions I find myself going to. I do find that wearing my shoulder holster with a horizontal draw is the most comfortable for me. I would really like to find some non -lethal rubber bullets for it, can anyone help me with that? Thanks

  5. I carry a Taurus public defender, short barrel n nubbed hammer. First round, number nine birdshot. I probably won’t kill you on the first round, but I damn sure won’t miss. At 7 yards, it covers the silhouette. If you are not sobered up by that, the next two are PDX1’s, followed by 2-45 LC Federal jacketed hollow points for the coup de grace. Nuff said!

  6. Marlin .410″ lever-action shotgun with XS rear aperture, white front sights installed, leather butt-cuff with extra .410 shells, cord-wrapped lever. Loaded with Remington “ultimate home defense” 2-1/2″ 00 buck: four x 00 buck pellets @ 1,300fps. from a 20-in. cylinder bore barrel.

  7. I have a 2½ with a 4″ barrel Tracker and a Raging Magnum with the 6½. I was surprised to learn the shorter the barrel, the tighter the pattern on every shot shell. Guess it makes sense because more rifling makes more spin and scatters it. I’ve shot Cor-Bon 265gr +p out of the tracker, pretty sure pushing it to the limit. Loaded my own 3″ shells for the RJM. Used the slug and buck from Hornady Critical Defense and added some copper plated #4 buck and BB shot. Looks devastating on paper but haven’t tested on meat yet. Underwood hard cast is my bear protection in 454. Would like to try some Garrett 365gr Hammerheads eventually. Just so many options. Hunting squirrels and bear defense with the same gun.

  8. I have raging judge magnum I love it. It’s the best gun I have for a home intruder I use all of the ammo talked about above but also have one 45 colt hornady 225 gr FTX and one 454 casull hornady 300 gr XTP those are my last two shots. The 454 is the only one I’ve found to make this gun kick but still love the fact that it will shot 454.

  9. Another Rossi Circuit Judge lover chimes in! I got this for my wife to use as her home defense weapon. Five shot, easy to grip and point, don’t even need to shoulder. Range use allows lots of practice with .45 Colt, but slugs are loaded for defense. Winchester and Remington provide the easiest to find anywhere. It was also easy to get a padded ammo holder for the stock that added to the rather small length of pull. Best of all, my wife found the recoil controllable and therefore no flinch. Shootable in any sense of the word.

    1. Amen Randy!

      ANYONE can shoot the Circuit Judge!

      Line up Shooters from first-timer shooting a gun
      to a 30 year expert
      to a WWII combat vet
      and they ALL will enjoy shooting the Circuit Judge!!!

  10. Good article!

    Anyone dissing the .410 should take a look at the Mossberg 500 in that caliber. The company sells an 18-inch CYL bore barrel for it, making for a very trim, light shotgun with mild recoil. Perfect for the recoil shy or for those with back or shoulder issues who can’t take the recoil of the 12 or 20 gauge.

    The .410 M500 is very inexpensive and delivers buckshot loads with more authority than short-barreled revolvers or derringers, although there’s a place for those guns as well.

  11. I have both, the Judge AND the Circuit Judge. I enjoy them both and think they are a very good defense weapons. However there is just one drawback with both revolvers. When ejecting the spent rounds (410), the cylinder does not swing out far enough and you always get a shell that will not eject all the way. You have to rotate the cylinder to empty it completely. least you have five shots before having to reload.

  12. Hornady Critical Defense – Triple Defense .410 rounds in My American Derringer M1, is my self defense weapon of choice against car jackers.
    There is also the option of using .45 long Colt in the same gun, if you so choose. Or …mixed rounds- one .410 and one .45 colt. Compact POWERFUL and certainly effective at car jacking range. Not much need for more than two rounds in that situation.

  13. I purchased a Tarus Public Defender for my wife and she loves it. My only concern is the photos and accounts from friends that were shooting factory loaded 45 long colt ammo and had the cylinders blow up . Staying with shotshell ammo.

  14. You forgot one of the main reasons the pistols and derringers were chambered for .410, snakes. Loaded with #4 shot my Taurus Judge produces a very good pattern at 10-12 feet that will dispatch copperheads and rattle snakes. My only complaint to use it as a self defense weapon is that it is not easily concealable. Otherwise for self defense in situations where concealment is not required it is excellent, especially where penetration through drywall is a factor such as young children in the house. A load of #4 shot to the head or face will stop most intruders in their tracks without over penetration which allows for a quick second followup shot if needed. Additionally the weight of a pistol chambered for .410 reduces the recoil tremendously without being too heavy to accurately shot.

  15. Love my Judge in the 3 X 3 size(3″ cylinder and 3″ barrel). Love the different kinds of ammunition that can be shot out of it, very versatile for many situations.

  16. I like the article and concur 100%.
    You did leave out the Federal Premium .410 loads which seem to be the best performance with buckshot in .410 pistols. The testing ive done with the Judge show them to have the best pattern by a wide margin over most others.

  17. Sigh. Reading that is a few minutes of my life wasted that I’ll never get back.
    Yes, a .410 slug can take game larger than a rabbit – it you want to get into rock throwing range – and, of course, so will nearly any serious centerfire pistol cartridge.

    And, yes, due to the cult following of ridiculously heavy, unwieldy revolvers chambered in .410/.45LC we now have several otherwise-reputable ammunition manufacturers pandering to the market with “defensive” loads for the .410.

    But the notion of any of the .410 revolvers as an anti-carjacking gun? OMG, No!

    I suppose if a Taurus Judge (or any of the copies) happened to be the ONLY gun available, then yes, any gun is better than no gun. But even then, .45LC makes more sense than most of the .410 “defensive” loads; and more to the point, just about ANY OTHER centerfire pistol would be a better choice than any of the .410 revolver behemoths.

    1. I own & carry a 2.5″ Judge.
      I am a slim built 6′ 200 lb. 64-year-old.(big-bellied)
      I find the gun easy to wield and not impossible to conceal.
      As my vision is no longer that sharp, 4 .41 cal. buckshot give me the accuracy I hope I never need.

    2. hurray.!
      After reading your critique and knowing how well 45lc and 410 works in the judge/Governor platform,
      it’s easy to go smiling through my day realizing how wrong you are.

    3. Tom C, I wonder if you’ve ever actually measured a Smith and Wesson Governor, or done any research into the actual fps or weight of a .410 slug. I have 1/5th ounce slugs moving at 1800 fps. The size of the Governor is a whopping .7 of an inch longer than a 1911. It’s not a bazooka. And the defensive loads have several 30 cal balls moving at near 1000 fps. Spare us the non-experienced rhetoric please. “Cult?” “Behemoths?” I think the author was only using car-jacking to emphasize the fright some might feel when confronted with the fat-fisted Judge.

    4. Gee, wouldn’t using a hand gun for self defense be rock throwing range or closer? I believe you are a troll.

  18. Firstly let me state that you will NOT go wrong with ANY of the Federal .410 handgun Loads… I use the 2.5″ & 3″ buckshot and am ALWAYS pleased with the results (meanwhile Winchester PDX-1 is arguably the most disappointing Load I’ve ever shot in .410) so now that you know what ammo I prefer let’s talk guns! S&W Governor for everyday briefcase carry & nightstand use (Loaded with Federal Handgun 4 pellet Buck) for Fun or as a Backup gun I like my Bond Arms Derringers (also Loaded with 2.5″ or 3″ Federal Handgun Buck) Lastly my Favorite Gun, the Rossi Circuit Judge – anyone in my family from 10-100 years old can shoot it (I can even shoot it accurately one-handed!) that gun sits at the foot of my bed Loaded with (you guessed it: Federal Handgun 5 pellet Buck) even a bad shot like me can’t miss with that gun at any defensive distance & the carbine form factor makes it very maneuverable inside the house or out of doors… Finally the Revolver Action makes it safe & very reliable to use… to put it mildly, I Love that Gun & it would be my 1st recommendation to a new gun owner for Home Defense! (did I mention ANYONE can shoot it from older children thru the Elderly, show me a gun that can service that wide a spectrum of shooters)

    1. I, too have the Rossi Circuit Judge, and it too is at the head of my bed with both shot loads in 3inch, and Corbon colt 45 + P. The + P is a 300grain jacketed soft point, rated at 1300 fps from a proper Colt revolver. I have no clue what the figures are for the carbine, but it is by far the heaviest load I have seen, and would be pure devastation for any target.

      They are expensive, but what is your price for your life?

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