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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.