Firearms

The Henry .410 Side Gate Lever-Action Shotgun

Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410, box of Winchester AA shotshells, hand thrower and two orange clay pigeons

If you think of a .410 shotgun as just a tool for teaching youngsters to shoot, I’ve got news for you. Some of the coolest firearms available these days are chambered in .410. Even us old gun guys get excited about some of today’s .410 offerings. One of those is Henry’s Side Gate Lever-Action .410 Shotgun. This shotgun is almost an exact copy of Henry’s .45-70 clone of Marlin’s popular 1895 rifle.

The .410 Shotgun

I had a .410 shotgun as a kid. By the time I was a teen, I had “graduated” to a 12-gauge for hunting. I’ve owned large-bore shotguns in pump, double-barrel, over/under, and semi-automatic models. I never had any real interest in a .410 until two things entered my life — grandkids and arthritis. Some of you are nodding your heads with understanding.

Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 right profile
In addition to all the useful functions, the Henry .410 side gate lever-action is a darn beautiful gun to hang on your wall.

It’s much easier to teach a grandkid to shoot skeet or hunt rabbits, squirrels, quail, or dove with a .410 Bore, and it’s certainly easier to shoot those yourself if shouldering a 12-gauge or even a 20-gauge is painful for you. In recent years, I’ve fired both an over/under .410 and an AR platform .410 with a smile on my face.

So, when I saw Henry had followed up on its side-gate lever-action rifle with a side-gate lever-action .410 shotgun, I was interested. I became even more interested when I saw it with a brass action. It was a bit of a stretch for me to get one. However, when I did, my first thought was, “This gun is too pretty to shoot.” So, I hung it on the wall.

Time passed, and the itch to shoot the brass beauty won out. I began thinking of how the gun could be useful when introducing some of my grandkids to the fun of skeet shooting. I also thought of how the .410 could serve as a defensive firearm in the part of the house where I spend most of my time. We already have a .410/.45 Colt Circuit Judge near the kitchen door, so another .410 loaded with a mixture of Winchester PDX Defender rounds and slugs made sense.

Henry .410 Lever-Action

The first thing I notice when hefting the Henry .410 lever-action was how nimble it was. Even with a stock of American Walnut, it weighed only 7 pounds. Shouldering it felt just right. The length of pull was 13.5 inches.

Although sights play a minimalist role in many shotgun activities, the sights on this shotgun were something to behold. The rear sight was a fully adjustable semi-buckhorn with a small white diamond at the base of the notch. The front sight was ramped with a small ivory bead.

Front loading tube on the Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410
The loading tube, which works the same as a tube-fed .22 rifle, is generally considered the primary loading method for the .410. Full capacity is six 2.5-inch shells.

The barrel was deeply blued. The action was shiny brass. A brass band at the front of the forearm had a sling attachment point, and there was another attachment point for the sling at the bottom of the stock.

There are two methods of loading the tubular magazine. One is by loading it the same way you load a tube-fed .22 rifle. You twist the tube insert to unlock it and pull it out to uncover the reloading port in the tube. Drop your shells in the hole, then reinsert the tube insert. The second method is to push the shells in through the loading gate on the side of the action. I used both methods and did not really have a preference.

The lever, bolt, and hammer were black which made for an attractive color combination. After convincing myself that shooting the gun wouldn’t detract from its beauty, I rounded up a son and a grandson to accompany me on a .410 shooting extravaganza. Well, I did kind of make a big deal of it, so I thought of it as an extravaganza.

Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 showing action and side loading gate
The shotgun has two methods of loading; one is the side gate that makes it easy to top off a load after firing a round or two. Notice the semi-buckhorn sight with a small white diamond.

At the Range

We are fortunate to have a private range for our shooting activities. I bought a box of bright orange clay pigeons, a handheld thrower, and some Winchester AA #8 shot. The Winchester ammunition was specifically designed and built to bring down clay pigeons. Shortly after arriving at the range, we proceeded to poke holes in the sky.

Occasionally, the arc of the clay pigeon and the flight path of our #8 shot converged and the pigeon’s flight was terminated. Admittedly, we missed a whole lot more than we hit. I’m a NRA Shotgun instructor and long-time bird hunter. I know the principles involved in skeet shooting.

My transition to shooting from the left shoulder, while seated in a wheelchair, did not offer the results I was expecting. I was not able to provide proper instruction to my other shooters by way of example. We were all convinced it wasn’t the gun, and we’re going to do a lot more practicing until we get it right.

Henry’s Side Gate Lever-Action .410 resting atop four boxes of .410 ammunition
There’s so much variety in a gun that shoots slugs, double ought buckshot, Winchester’s PDX Defender rounds, and shot shells from sizes #4 to #9.

Meanwhile, I wanted to test the shotgun for its other role — personal and home defense. I set up some splatter targets and fired one shell at each target. First was a slug which resulted in one big hole in the center of the bullseye. Next was double-ought buckshot. Theoretically, there should have been a close grouping consisting of nine shots with holes about the size of a 9mm, and that was the result.

Next fired was a Winchester PDX Defender round. This round has three plated discs and nine plated BBs in it. Based on the way it tore up the paper target, you wouldn’t want that pointed at your chest or belly when the trigger is pulled. No, sir.

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As a close-range defense round, that one looks pretty effective. I liked it so much, we keep the Circuit Judge (my wife keeps it by the back door) loaded with three PDX Defender rounds and two .45 Colt rounds.

The last shell I shot for my defensive testing was #4 shot, which is a common load used for turkey and geese — at least in my part of the world. The shot was well-distributed across the target making it a very effective man stopper in my book. So, if you’re thinking of using a .410 as a home defensive firearm, there are some interesting choices for loading it — all of which should do the trick.

Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 shotgun with a box of Winchester PDX Defender shotshells on a yellow splatter target
While at the range, the author and his crew tested the Henry lever-action .410 as a home or personal defense gun. Obviously, it’s not suitable for carry, except when you’re meeting a known threat. However, for home defense loaded with Winchester PDX1 Defender rounds, this gun packs an awesome punch. Three disks and 9 BBs grouped within an approximate 6-inch circle did the trick.

Now that I know shooting it isn’t going to destroy the beauty of the brass that adorns the Henry .410 side gate shotgun, I’ll be enjoying it from time to time, especially as I figure out how to bust clays (with more success). There are some interesting varieties to this gun I might also consider. They come with a standard blued action, and there is also the Axe model which is one of those shotguns with the stock cut off like a pistol handle and a 15.14-inch barrel.

I would think handling a .410 in that cutoff model would be much easier than handling a 12-gauge cutoff. Maybe you’d like to give it a try, or maybe you already have and can give us some feedback on using a .410 for personal defense, kid training, or just plain fun.

Few set out to shoot clay pigeons with a.410, but the ability to shoot a clay out of the air or a running rabbit target with the diminutive recoil of a .410 and the coolness factor of a lever-action is a afternoon well spent. On the other hand, the Henry .410 Side Gate can serve double duty on medium-sized game or self-defense. The real question is whether and how you would use the Henry .410 Side Gate. Share your answer in the comment section.

  • young man wearing a green t-shirt shooting a Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 at a clay pigeon
  • Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 showing action and side loading gate
  • front bead sight, white
  • Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410, right quartering to with brass and wood
  • Front loading tube on the Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410
  • Henry’s Side Gate Lever-Action .410 resting atop four boxes of .410 ammunition
  • Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 right profile
  • Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410 shotgun with a box of Winchester PDX Defender shotshells on a yellow splatter target
  • Henry Side Gate Lever-Action .410, box of Winchester AA shotshells, hand thrower and two orange clay pigeons
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Comments (17)

  1. Cheaper Than Dirt has .410 of all flavors. I’ve found the cartridges available at four other online retailers after just a quick look. Regarding shooting 45 LC in the Henry, why would you shoot any ammo in any gun that’s not specified on the gun barrel? It’s a safety issue as much as anything else.

  2. One of my sons asked the question the other day, “If we get really good at shooting skeet with a .410, shouldn’t we be able to nail it with a 20 gauge or 12 gauge? I don’t know but we’re going to find out. I just picked up an ATI over/under .410 from CTD and have a bunch of clay pigeons.

  3. shot shell loaded 45LC,either factory or using Speer shot capsules probably equal 410 shotshells,plus the 45LC has a much better single projectile vs the 410 slug.In 45LC[Ruger Redhawk]I load cast projectiles over 300grains.I’d rather have the Redhawk 45lc[or 45ACP] vs the Taurus/S&W 410/ 45lc’s,albeit at heavier weight.I wonder if the S&W “Mountain Gun” in 45lc is still around[it would be lighter than the Ruger Redhawk,albeit not sturdy enough for -regular- use of full house loads]?

  4. JC, the simple answer is no. The standard 45 Colt chamber pressure is 14,000 psi. The 410 operates at no more than 13,500 psi. I suspect the Henry is strong enough to take the pressure, but there also is the issue of bore restriction. I don’t have a Henry in stock, so I checked a Savage 410 instead. At the muzzle the bore is only .412″ across. A modern 45 Colt projectile is nominally .452″ in diameter. If Henry wanted both cartridges to be fired in their gun, they would have indicated so on the barrel and in the literature. However, for both rounds to operate safely, they would need to open the bore enough to accommodate each, as well as adding at least some light rifling to help stabilize the 45 projectile. Another probable reason why they did not do this is the difference in lengths of the two cartridges. The Henry is chambered for the 2 1/2″ 410 shell. This cartridge is actually about 2 1/4″ long when originally loaded, but opens to 3″ once fired. This requires an oversized chamber and elongated ejection port. It probably requires a special lifter (elevator) as well. The much shorter 45 Colt cartridge tops out at 1.6″ in overall length. Getting a lever action to reliably feed and eject cartridges with such huge differences in length would be quite an engineering challenge.

  5. H&R, before REMINGTON took over, had a single shot .410 that would handle the 3″ .410 and .45 LC round. Accuracy was so-so with the .45 LC. Could also get a version in either .223 or .308. Got my .410 version with the idea of adding a .357 barrel, but by then H&R (Remington) would no longer supply any additional barrels. Then thought about a .357 ROSSI lever action, but doing a deep dive into the ROSSI, found that unless you had the means to “slick up” the action, it was hit or miss if they would properly function. Local gun store had one new on the shelf that wouldn’t cycle. Not so with the HENRY. A HENRY .410 should not be shot using a .45 LC round, but would bet that if you tried it, it would work. As to accuracy, wonder if you could hit an 8″ circle at 21 feet. Just don’t tell HENRY!

  6. Can’t find .410 that I can afford. 50.00 for 5 shots (sluggs). Can’t find shot shells, wadds so Can’t reload my own. At this point it’s cheaper to shoot my bushmaster.

  7. Grumpy, I live in big bear country so the smallest 357 loads I use are 180 grain flat point solids in a 16″ Rossi 92. My daughter loves it, but my wife complains about the recoil, so I loaded up a different Rossi 92 with 44 Special 240 grain flat point solids. This she can tolerate. It actually does recoil less than the .357 and the bullet is still going close to a 1000 FPS.

  8. Col. K – Lost my 20 gauge 1100 many years ago. But I still have my Mossberg 500 in .410. As to the HENRY “X” in .357 being junk, try H110/296 and a 125 gr. Hollow point, and then add a Linear Compensator and Laser. Just don’t let the wife shot it, as you may never get it back.

  9. Dear Grump, yes I have a comment. The 357 Henry X is pure trash. Allow me to take it off your hands.

  10. Readers of these posts know that I have strong opinions after shooting for 50+ years. With that said, the .410 shotgun is and never was a round used for anything other than stationary game. Sitting rabbits, YES. Birds flying, Not Likely. However, with the wave of “handgun” ,410 loads, like the PDX or similar loads, the .410 shotgun has a new and somewhat better role. In the “home defense” role, using the “handgun” loads, the .410 is now a good option for us older shooters, or those who don’t consider themselves as “gun people”. A HENRY “X” model .410, with maybe a Laser, appears to be a great choice for the “home defense” role. As it would appear to be a major caliber rifle to anyone seeing it from the muzzle end, should also have a certain “fear factor” effect. NOTE – I have swapped out my 12 gauge for a .410, using Critical Defense loads. But I also have a .357 “X” model Henry with a LASER as back-up. Comments???

  11. FOR THE HIGH PRICE AND LIMITED AVAILABILITY OF 410 AMMO,I’LL GO WITH LOW BASE 20 GAUGE..AND 20GAUGE PATTERNS BETTER

  12. The 410 is very difficult to master when shooting clays. When I was a Boy Scout we used something even worse, rat shot .22LR fired from a single-shot smoothbore “rifle”. Eventually the BSA figured out that a low recoiling gas operated 12 gauge gave much higher hit probability than the 22LR rat shot or 410. This is what we used when I received my NRA shotgun instructor certification. Few boys have problem with the soft recoil. For those who do, I recommend a gas operated 20 gauge. My wife was using a Remington 1100 in 20 gauge for bird hunting when I met her. She was only 5’1″ and 105 pounds, but she could nail the birds every time. I have never found the 410 to particularity good at anything, but there must be plenty of people who think otherwise because the Taurus Judge continues to sell well. To each his own.

  13. I guess I am one of those who looks at “long” firearms and mechanical loading systems as fundamentally archaic although fun to shoot at times. My lone exception to that is the 22WMR lever action Ruger. A semi auto 410 configured as a self defense, short barreled weapon would be a very popular and useful platform in my view. Not thrilled with lever action, loading gate defense in a 410 or really anything else.

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