.410 Bore Shells

410 Bore Shotgun Shells: In Depth

The .410 bore is a unique and versatile shotgun caliber that has carved out a special place in the world of firearms. Known for its mild recoil, adaptability, and effectiveness in various applications, the .410 bore has become a favorite among hunters, sport shooters, and home defense enthusiasts alike. Despite its small size - being the smallest commercially available shotgun caliber - the .410 bore packs a surprising punch and offers a level of versatility that larger gauges struggle to match.

History and Development

The .410 bore has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century. Its development can be traced to the 1870s, when various small-bore shotguns were being experimented with in England. However, it wasn't until 1915 that the .410 bore as we know it today was standardized.

Originally, the .410 bore was developed as a garden gun, designed for pest control and small game hunting on estates and farms. The Eley Brothers, a prominent British ammunition manufacturer, played a crucial role in standardizing the .410 bore cartridge. They introduced the 2-inch version in 1857, followed by the more popular 2½-inch shell in 1874. The 3-inch shell, which remains common today, was introduced in 1902.

In the United States, the .410 bore gained popularity in the early 20th century. Winchester was among the first American companies to produce .410 bore shotguns, introducing their Model 42 pump-action shotgun in 1933. This helped solidify the .410 bore's place in the American firearms market.

Over the years, the .410 bore has evolved from its original use as a garden gun to become a popular choice for small game hunting, clay target shooting, and even self-defense. Its mild recoil has made it particularly appealing to younger shooters, women, and those who are recoil-sensitive, while its accuracy and versatility have kept it relevant among experienced shooters.


The .410 bore, despite its small size, offers impressive performance in the right hands and for appropriate applications. Here's a breakdown of its key performance characteristics:

  • Velocity: .410 bore loads typically propel shot at velocities ranging from 1,100 to 1,300 feet per second (fps) for 2½-inch shells, and up to 1,500 fps for 3-inch magnum loads. Slugs can reach velocities of up to 1,800 fps.
  • Trajectory: Due to its lighter payload, the .410 bore generally has a flatter trajectory than larger shotgun gauges. This can be advantageous for accuracy at shorter ranges but may lead to a more rapid loss of energy at longer distances.
  • Recoil: One of the .410 bore's most notable characteristics is its mild recoil. The felt recoil is significantly less than that of 12 or 20 gauge shotguns, making it comfortable to shoot for extended periods and ideal for recoil-sensitive shooters.
  • Pattern Density: The .410 bore typically produces tighter patterns than larger gauges due to its smaller shot column. While this can be advantageous for accuracy, it also means that shooters need to be more precise with their aim.
  • Effective Range: The effective range of a .410 bore is generally shorter than larger gauges, typically around 25-30 yards for shot loads. However, this can vary depending on the specific load and choke used.
  • Energy: While the .410 bore delivers less energy than larger gauges, it's still quite effective within its intended range. At close distances, it can be surprisingly potent for its size.


The .410 bore's versatility has led to its adoption in various shooting applications:

  • Small Game Hunting: The .410 bore excels in hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and birds. Its lighter payload and reduced recoil make it ideal for quick, accurate shots in brushy environments.
  • Pest Control: True to its origins as a garden gun, the .410 bore remains an excellent choice for controlling pests on farms and in rural areas.
  • Clay Target Shooting: While not as common as 12 or 20 gauge for clay sports, the .410 bore offers a challenging and enjoyable option for skeet, trap, and sporting clays.
  • Self-Defense: In recent years, the .410 bore has gained popularity as a self-defense option, particularly in compact handguns like the Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor.
  • Youth and Beginner Training: The mild recoil and manageable size of .410 bore firearms make them excellent choices for introducing new shooters to shotgun sports.
  • Survival and Backpacking: The lightweight nature of .410 bore firearms and ammunition makes them a favorite among backpackers and for survival kits.

Available Firearms

A wide variety of firearms are chambered for the .410 bore, catering to different needs and preferences:

  • Break-Action Shotguns: Single-shot and double-barrel (side-by-side and over-under) configurations are popular, especially for hunting and casual shooting.
  • Pump-Action Shotguns: Models like the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are available in .410 bore, offering quick follow-up shots.
  • Semi-Automatic Shotguns: For those seeking faster cycling, options like the Mossberg SA-410 provide semi-automatic operation.
  • Bolt-Action Shotguns: Less common but available, these offer precision for slug shooting.
  • Combination Guns: Some firearms, like the Savage Model 42, combine a .410 bore barrel with a rimfire rifle barrel.
  • Handguns: Revolvers like the Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor are designed to fire both .410 bore shells and .45 Colt cartridges.
  • Survival Rifles: Compact, often folding designs like the M6 Survival Rifle include a .410 bore barrel.

Available Ammunition

The .410 bore offers a variety of ammunition options to suit different needs:

  • Shot Sizes: Common shot sizes range from #9 to #4, with #7½ and #8 being popular for target shooting and small game hunting.
  • Shell Lengths: .410 bore ammunition is available in 2½-inch and 3-inch lengths, with 3-inch shells offering increased payload and performance.
  • Slugs: Solid projectiles for larger game or longer-range shooting.
  • Specialty Loads: These include:
    • Buckshot loads for self-defense
    • Birdshot loads optimized for specific game birds
    • Combination loads featuring mixed shot sizes or shot with a slug
  • Brands and Types: Major manufacturers like Federal, Remington, Winchester, and Fiocchi offer a wide range of .410 bore ammunition.

Caliber Comparisons

To better understand the .410 bore's capabilities, it's helpful to compare it with other popular shotgun gauges:

  1. vs. 12 Gauge:
    • Advantages: Much less recoil, lighter firearms and ammunition, often more accurate with slugs.
    • Disadvantages: Smaller payload, shorter effective range, less versatile for larger game.
  2. vs. 20 Gauge:
    • Advantages: Even less recoil, lighter and more compact firearms.
    • Disadvantages: Smaller shot payload, generally less effective for waterfowl and turkey hunting.
  3. vs. 28 Gauge:
    • Similarities: Both are considered subgauge options with mild recoil.
    • Differences: .410 has an even smaller payload but is more widely available and often less expensive.
  4. vs. .45 Colt (in revolvers):
    • Advantages: Offers the flexibility of shot or slug loads in a handgun platform.
    • Disadvantages: Generally less powerful and with shorter range than .45 Colt loads.

410 Bore Shells: FAQ:

While not typically the first choice, a .410 bore can be effective for home defense, especially in close quarters. Its lower recoil allows for quick follow-up shots, and specialty defensive loads are available.

The effective range for most .410 bore shotguns is typically 25-30 yards for shot loads, though this can vary based on load and choke. Slugs can be effective at slightly longer ranges.

Yes, turkey hunting with a .410 bore is possible and becoming more popular. However, it requires precise shot placement and may be better suited for more experienced hunters.

Yes, the mild recoil of the .410 bore makes it an excellent choice for youth, smaller-framed adults, or anyone sensitive to recoil.

There is no difference; ".410 bore" is the correct term, but ".410 gauge" is sometimes used colloquially. Unlike other shotgun gauges, the .410 is actually a caliber measurement.