Rediscovering the .410 Shotgun

Rossi Tuffy .410 shotgun on a box of Winchester shotshells with a NRA Safe hunter patch

I admit to being of an age where I’ve switched from .45 ACP to 9mm for my defensive pistol. I also shoot a lot more .22 and a lot less centerfire. In the shotgun world, my 12 and 16 gauge guns are staying in the safe, while the 20 gauge guns are more appealing for bird hunting and skeet shooting. Why not the .410 Bore?

Well, the .410 throws such a small amount of shot, it’s more difficult to connect with a bird or clay pigeon. But you know, that’s a challenge that might make things a little more interesting. Getting good with a .410 should make hitting things with the larger bore shotguns a breeze.

Rossi Circuit Judge .410 shotgun atop Remington and Winchester ammunition boxes
Rossi took the Judge revolver and added a longer barrel and stock to make it a rifle/shotgun. Like the Judge pistol, it can chamber .410 shotshells and .45 Long Colt cartridges interchangeably.

When I was seven, we moved to a small farm in Mississippi. My dad wasn’t a farmer, but he was an outdoorsman who took advantage of the large pond and thick woods on the property to begin teaching me to fish and hunt. At the beginning of hunting season, he gave me a single-shot break-action .410 shotgun that had been his as a boy.

It was a rather inexpensive gun made by the Crescent Arms Company, but I didn’t know that — nor did I care. I was so proud of that gun because it was my very own gun, and it was capable of knocking a squirrel out of a tree. We ate those squirrels, too. Usually baked in the oven wrapped in bacon, but occasionally in a stew.

The .410 was first popular in Europe where in some countries it was called a 36 gauge. The .410 nomenclature differs from that of most shotguns as it is a bore diameter rather than a gauge. The gauge of a shotgun is the measurement of the inside width of the barrel. The number refers to the weight, in fractions of a pound, of the largest perfectly spherical ball of lead that could fit into the barrel of the shotgun.

A 12 gauge, for example, can fit a ball of lead weighing one-twelfth of a pound into its barrel. There’s a complicated formula used to calculate this, and for a .410 using that formula, the gauge comes out to be a fraction close to .68. I don’t know where 36-gauge came from because it doesn’t fit the calculation.

First standardized in Britain as early as 1885, the .410 shotshell took a few years to catch on in the United States. Harrington & Richards claimed to be the first company to manufacture a .410 Bore shotgun in the United States, when in 1907, it offered its model 1905 shotgun chambered for .410. In about 1915, Winchester and Peters both started producing .410 shotshells. 

American Tactical Milsport AR .410 shotgun
The American Tactical Milsport AR .410 is a delight to shoot, plus it can be converted to a rifle by swapping the upper.

I hunted squirrels with the .410 until I turned 11 at which time my dad relegated his 16 gauge Winchester Model 12 pump to me because he wasn’t using it. The .410 went into a closet, and there it sat until just a few years ago when I decided to restore it as a gunsmithing project.

Because I first owned a .410, I like them — especially since modern-day .410s come in such variety. I’ve acquired a few. Some were opportunity purchases, and some were the result of a sincere desire on my part to own such a gun. The most recent addition to my .410 inventory is an American Tactical AR Platform .410 semi-auto shotgun.

I shot this gun last fall at a writer’s conference and immediately put in an order to get one. ATI was in the process of setting up its facility in South Carolina to make these shotguns here rather than importing them. I anxiously awaited getting one of the U.S.-built shotguns.  I’ve not had the opportunity to shoot this one yet, but look for a story in the future in which I enjoy it along with some of my family member shooting buddies.

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun
Henry’s Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun is almost too pretty to shoot, but it does shoot quite well, and the author’s family likes to use it for skeet shooting.

Another ATI .410 shotgun that’s a favorite of mine is the Cavalry Over/Under, a really nice 6-pound. shotgun with intricate laser engraving on the action, ribbed barrel, and a set of interchangeable chokes. This one we’ve taken to the field for skeet.

One of the guns I dreamed of owning when I was a kid was the Savage Model 24 over/under with a .22 rifle barrel on top of a .410 shotgun barrel. When I reached a point in life where that would be something I could afford, Savage had changed the gun. Today, it is now a Model 42 with a composite stock survival gun.

That is not what I wanted, so I bought a Chiappa Firearms Double Badger that is a blued steel with wooden stock. That gun would make an ideal squirrel gun or a rat or snake eliminator. Living in town, the opportunities to dispatch such critters don’t come like they did when I was younger, but I still like having the gun and my grandkids enjoy shooting it.

Chiappa Firearms Double Badger .410 shotgun
The Chiappa Firearms Double Badger that is a blued steel with wooden stock would make an ideal squirrel gun or a rat or snake eliminator.

In 2006, Taurus introduced the Judge revolver designed to shoot both .410 shotgun shells and .45 Long Colt cartridges interchangeably. Because I was a pistol instructor in those days, I encountered a Judge from time to time but never owned one. What I did get is a Rossi Circuit Judge.

To build this gun, Rossi took the Judge revolver and added a longer barrel and a stock to make it a rifle/shotgun. Like the Judge pistol, it can chamber .410 shotshells and .45 Long Colt cartridges interchangeably. Winchester came up with some very creative ammo for the Judge and Circuit Judge, and for our home personal defense needs. I load our Circuit Judge with Winchester’s PDX-1 Defender shells, which combine four plated Defense Disc projectiles and 16 pellets of plated BB shot.

I also add a couple of .45 Long Colt cartridges for good measure. The Circuit Judge’s responsibility is to stand guard over the back door and be ready for action should we need to dispatch a bobcat or coyote intent upon eating our little Pomeranian “Terror” (Did I spell that right? I think I did, based on who she thinks she is when confronted with a delivery man, mailman, or the occasional a real coyote.)

Being a lever-action rifle fan, I couldn’t help but be a fan of the Henry side-gate lever-action .410. It is one of the most attractive guns I’ve laid eyes on and handles more like a rifle than a shotgun. Henry makes its lever-action .410 in several configurations. The one with the brass action is the one I elected to buy.

ATI Cavalry .410 Over/Under shotgun
The ATI Cavalry .410 Over/Under is a beautiful shotgun, challenging at skeet, a good squirrel/rabbit gun, and more.

Initially, I thought I wouldn’t shoot the gun because it was so pretty. I didn’t want it to get scratched up. Rather than hide it in the safe, I hung it on the wall for all to see. Then one day, the motivation to shoot it came about, and it didn’t melt or attract a bunch of scratches. Now it’s available for any shooting mission needing a .410. Once we started shooting the Henry, it has become a favorite of many family members.

I’m wondering whether you have a .410 or two and if they are getting active use? Or, like mine until recently, if they are in the back of a safe or closet somewhere? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Rossi Tuffy .410 shotgun on a box of Winchester shotshells with a NRA Safe hunter patch
  • ATI Cavalry .410 Over/Under shotgun
  • Chiappa Firearms Double Badger .410 shotgun
  • Rossi Circuit Judge .410 shotgun atop Remington and Winchester ammunition boxes
  • Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun
  • American Tactical Milsport AR .410 shotgun

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (31)

  1. I got the judge handgun love it because it can be a good defense gun .Only if you can handle a small cannon but it will get the job done .My other bigger bother is a BMF 10 inch revolver in 45/70 love them both reason I can handle them is I worked a jackhammer for 25 years in the subway of nyc

  2. FYI – I was able to purchase .410 ammo several years ago, when it was available, and inexpensive. Sorry to say those days are long gone. Still have several boxes of (3) ball “handgun” rounds. To follow up on my earlier comment, Most younger shooters would be better off with a 20 gauge versus a .410, For us “older” shooters, the .410 will let us still enjoy shooting, and can be effective at typical home defense (<7 yards). As to reloading, black powder roundball molds are available, and lead balls can be cast easily. Foam "meat trays" work for making wads. IF you want to use .45 LC ammo, note that 1.) Only a single shot newer shotgun should be used, and 2.) Stick to Cowboy action (low pressure) ammo and be aware that accuracy is not existent. Cowboy ammo is typically loaded to a lower pressure levels than current .410 shells.

  3. Dad bought me my first shotgun for my 13th birthday a 410 Ithaca single shot lever break action. I still have it and I’m 65 now. I used this gun for squirrel, rabbits and quail it took a bit of practice but once you had shot it quit a bit it was very accurate. Great starter shotgun and I will pass this down to my son so he can pass it down to his

  4. the .410 is a great starter shotgun, low recoil/muzzle blast, this makes it great for beginners but in the game fields it becomes an experts gun. Why you ask? with a small payload it leaves little room for error, i love the .410 and the .28 gauge but they both can frustrate new shooters, I have been a 2 time all-american at sporting clays, playing with the small gauges is a blast for me but not so much for a beginner. Start them with a .20 gauge.

  5. To ALLAN ZIMMERMACHER – I don’t know where you’re getting this $3 a round. I’ve found 410 ammo from multiple online sellers from 47 cents to a little over a dollar per round just depending upon what type of round I was looking at.

  6. I bought a Henry lever action tubular magazine 20 inch barrel .410 about a year ago. Love the light weigh, easy manuverability and low recoil. But like everyone else, ammo is expensive seems only available in slug, defense loads, or in #8. Does anyone know where I can get loads other than #8? Email me.

  7. I still have my single shot “Pawn Shop .410” sitting in the bedroom closet. I got it back in the 1970s. Being in construction most of my life, that gun put bunnies and other edibles on the family table during layoffs. It more than paid for itself. For us now, like those commenting above, the price of the shells has become prohibitive. Hand load brass shells? The 45 Long Colt can be reloaded. Why not .410?
    Stay safe everyone!

  8. Like the author, the first gun I used was a single shot, break open, .410. I own it today. It was given to me by my Dad. It is an Excel, probably made in the early 1900’s. The serial number is etched on the bottom by hand. It is still in excellent condition.

  9. I have been buying.410 shotguns for each of my grandkids when they turned 10 years old. I also bought them for my children. I received my first shotgun at 10. What is the deal with .410 shells these days. I haven’t been able to find any locally lately or online? I have thought about buying a Judge or Governor but am worried about finding shells. Thanks

  10. An older friend of mine told me he and his brother use to reload for their .410 single shot shotgun. With the high cost and rarity of finding factory loaded .410 ammo you might want to look for reloading equipment in the form of something like the very simple Lee loaders that work using a mallot and their simple kits. They use to cut the over shot wads out of suitably thick cardboard using a simple hand held preformed cutting tool. You simply used a hammer and the cutting tool to cut out felt and over powder wads. See if you can find a simple reloading kit from Lee or another manufacturer. Best of luck in getting back into shooting your .410s.


  11. I have a New England Firearms single shot .410 shotgun. It stands by the back door and is my nighttime ” When there’s trouble in the chicken coop ” gun. With a 2 1/2″ shell loaded with birdshot it’s taken many a racoon and a couple of foxes.

  12. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s shooting my dads Winchester model 37 steel built 410 which has a thick barrel like a rifle . I remember my dad saying we could shoot 45 colt ammo in it although we never did. That gun over the years has accounted for hundreds of squirrels, rabbits, doves, quail, etc. I haven’t shot in years because the shells a more expensive than 12ga. I also have my uncle Joe’s Steven’s 410 that I’ve never shot but hopefully one day will be able to take both guns to CA. and teach my grandkids the joy of shooting a 410.

  13. A 410 double barrel side by side was my first gun. My father gave it to me when I was ten. It was brand new. When I went to college I left it at home. When I tried to retrieve it later my dad claimed it was his,, It has sat in his gun case next to my brothers 12 gauge for years. My brother told me at least we know where they are, he sold my other brothers gun. It did leave temporarily when he felt my sister needed some protection at her home. Unfortunately my dad recently passd, so it will be coming home soon.

  14. I bought my father-in-law who is 95 now a .410 for his birthday three years ago. The larger bores were getting too much for him to handle when shooting clay pigeons. Now we can’t find ammunition for a .410. What is with that? Twelve and 20 gauge are available, but where is .410?

  15. I have a Mossberg 3 shot bolt action 410 chambered for 3″ shells that belonged to my dad. According to model number, no serial number on it, this model was only produced between 1951-1953. This was the first firearm I ever shot. Like others, due to current costs of 410 ammo it sits in my safe. Would like to be able to shoot it again but can’t afford to spend $3 per round.

  16. I have a single shot .410 that I love and I used occasionally to rid my property of invasive critters, but the shells for .410 are almost impossible to find now and if you do find them they are insanely too expensive. So I relegated the invasive critter duty to 22LR and 22WMR as the price is right and they get the job done just as well. Sad to say but that’s the facts.

  17. Most readers will know that, as an “older shooter”, I have become a fan of the .410. With the trend of “handgun” loads for the .410, I can have a “home defense” load that I can use that doesn’t beat me up if I have to use it. With the rise of radical groups taking over our cities, the .410 using these “handgun” loads, is another option for a “truck gun”. Take the Mossberg Cruiser or Henry Axe model .410, add these modern loads, and I believe an even stronger case can be made for the .410 as the ideal “city” version “truck gun”.

  18. I love .410’s! Unfortunately all shotgun ammo, especially .410 hard to find and ridiculously priced. I have several, all old except the Judge. My favorite is a Model 42 left to me by my Grandfather that I still shoot doves with.

  19. Like you I started shooting with my dad’s vintage Stevens .410 single shot shotgun. It was an early model marked Monitor and the extractor was missing so I had to use my thumbnail to extract empties. Later I made an extracted and repaired it. I got my first pheasant with it as well as many squirrels and cottontails. One of my grandsons will soon own it.

  20. I have a Noble 70D 410 pump action shotgun given to me by a client who was cleaning out a storage locker. I call it my 6 shooter, 5 in the tube and one in the chamber. Probably from the 60s no serial number the company went out of business in 1971. I like it but worry about replacement parts if it goes down, but the price was right!

  21. I own an H & R single shot .410 and i have gotten quite a few squirrels with it. I discovered shortly after purchase that this same gun can be fitted with a 20 gauge barrel and so I sent it back to the company to be fitted with one. Not long after, I learned that the same gun could be fitted with a 50 caliber barrel. So, I sent it off again. Now I have 3 guns in one, albeit in single shot. Quite a versatile combination!

  22. I have a JC Higgins 410 bolt action shotgun which takes a clip. I do not have a clip for it. Do you where I could get a clip for it?

  23. I own a Henry lever rifle in 45-70, a Henry AXE in .410, S & W Governor 45 colt revolver and .410.
    All great guns and fun to shoot.

  24. At the price of a 410 round who can afford It with gas prices. Back to 410 has anyone found it for under 80 cents a round. if someone does let us know please. At The Cat Alley or here.

  25. I have a converted Enfield .303 that fires .410 shotgun shells. I was told that this gun was given to the Beaters during hunts in India. The problem I am finding is the scarceity of the .410 Ammo.

  26. One reason 410 is not one of my favorites is cost in relation to other gauges. It uses less shot and powder than other gauges but costs almost twice as much. If costs were more reasonable it’s use would certainly increase. I own two but choose to shoot other gauges because of costs and availability. Regulating it to a starter gun/gauge for young shooters, in my opinion.

  27. This past Christmas (2021) I gave my 8 year old grandson the .410 single shot break action shotgun my parents gave me for MY first real firearm in 1962 (it was new at that time). I killed many a mourning dove, squirrel and rabbit with that gun and we ate every one of those kills. You should’ve seen his face! Of course, I had to give him ammunition for it so we could go fire it so he could start getting used to it. It’s a little to long for him right now, but he’ll grow into it. My grandson, son-in-law, and his other grampa are planning on going dove hunting together this coming season.

  28. My son and I purchased the new Stevens/Savage double barrel 410 shotguns, made in Turkey, to use for shooting preserve quail over pointing dogs. As long as you keep your shooting within 25-30 yards It is quite a hoot and wish we did this years ago. We are usually 20 gauge fans.

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