Rethinking the Power of the .410

.410 ammo

A variety of ammunition is making the .410 more versatile than ever.

 

For those who think of the .410 as a weak sister to heavier gauges, this is not the case.

Lethality

Penetration tests in plywood sheets and water cartons yielded travel equal to buckshot from a 20-inch 12-gauge riot gun barrel at the same distance. The main difference between the 00 Buckshot and No. 4 is that the 00 penetrates more deeply.

Wound ballistician Dr. Martin Fackler ran close-range (10-foot) tests into gelatin with both 00 and No. 4, with the result that the 00 penetrated about two inches deeper and was effective for self-defense use.

The No. 4 may be suitable for some pest shooting, but penetration is lacking for self-defense purposes.

Slugs

Winchester 9410 and Model 42 .410

The test guns were a Winchester 9410 and a vintage Model 42 with a Cylinder barrel.

What practical use is a .410 slug? In Ohio, where I live, .410 slugs have been alternately illegal and (currently) legal for deer hunting. Since our major ammunition companies produce them, somebody must be buying them.

The late Frank Barnes, in his Cartridges of the World, made contradictory observations about .410 slugs. On page 386 of the 7th Edition is the statement, “The .410 slug is not good for anything but small game at short range.”

On page 393, however, he states that, while inadequate for deer, the slugs are quite effective in guns such as the Savage M-24 combination gun (with rifle sights) and that it is possible to hit rabbit-size targets at 80 yards and claim clean kills on bobcats and coyotes at this range.

Slug Lethality

The best method of bullet testing for effect on living bodies is ballistic gelatin. A reliable and cheap substitute for this medium is water-filled, halfgallon, coated-paper juice or milk cartons placed standing in a row and touching one another. Penetration in water-filled cartons divided by 1.5 yields a penetration roughly approximate to that in ballistic gelatin.

For police combat use, the FBI recommends 12 inches of gelatin penetration. Assuming that an adult male person and a deer are of about the same weight class, this fi ure seems a valid
standard.

Penetration tests were made with the Winchester 42 into water-filled cartons at a range of 50 yards. The Barnaul, Remington, Federal, and Winchester slugs all penetrated 11¼ inches.

Divided by 1.5, that converts to 7½ inches of penetration through gelatin. The RWS was the only one that stood out, penetrating the cartons to 26 inches, which equates to 17.33 inches of gelatin penetration.

In terms of performance, there is really no comparison. The flat-point and hollowpoint Foster slugs, with Winchester at 93 grains and Remington, Federal, and Barnaul at 97, are completely outclassed by the 114-grain Brenneke. The Fosters tended to shatter into flat slivers, while the Brenneke maintained its integrity, expanding to .455-inch. The Brenneke’s performance is roughly comparable to a hot, light-bullet load in a .40 S&W pistol.

The performance of the Foster slugs is somewhere around the .32 S&W Long to .32 H&R Magnum level. The greatest fault with the Foster design is that the slugs come apart after relatively short penetration.

The Brenneke could be considered an adequate deer load at close range. The Fosters are strictly for small game. Having said this, it must be admitted that a lot of deer have been taken with the .22 LR cartridge, and my local gun shop owner told me of one of his customers who claimed a deer a year for eight years with Foster .410s. Unfortunately, that customer is no longer living, so no insights are available.

The .410 must ultimately be classed as an expert’s gun for hunting and used much like a rifle—sights are mandatory and careful aim must be taken. If you have one, it might be worth your while to explore its potential.

For the security minded, the Mossberg M-500 .410 pump with its 18½-inch barrel offers harder hits than a handgun, a better grip with less muzzle blast (about like a .38 handgun), and more manageable recoil. The three-inch loads will fit few revolvers and, while the kick is noticeable in a long gun, in a handgun recoil it runs towards the .357/.44 Magnum class.


Read More About the .410

Gun Digest 2013 67th Edition Book

This article is an excerpt from the new book, Gun Digest 2013. It’s loaded with a full review of the latest .410 ammunition, as well as other features on hot gun trends.

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CATEGORIES
Ammunition, Shotguns
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C. Rodney James

About C. Rodney James

C. RODNEY JAMES has been a shooter and reloader for more than forty years. Rodney’s technical and historical articles have appeared in Gun Digest, Handloader's Digest, Guns Illustrated, Shooter's Bible, Guns Magazine and AFTE Journal, the publication of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners. He is the author of the 6th and 9th Editions of The ABCs of Reloading.

5 thoughts on “Rethinking the Power of the .410

  1. justbill

    Michael Bane has pretty much settled the issue of .410 lethality with penetration tests featured on his TV show, Shooting Gallery. With modern loads like the Winchester PDX or plated 00 Buck loads, a bad guy is in for a world of hurt when faced with even the short barreled Taurus Judge. In a longer shotgun barrel I can’t image how the performance wouldn’t be even better. Is it the BEST choice in defensive shotgun? Probably not if you can handle a bigger bore. But for the small-framed, elderly, infirmed or recoil shy I’d say it’s a very viable defensive choice.

  2. nmgene

    Ive been hunting with an H&R 410 single shot since 1962. It took down many a deer in Michigan with 00 buck shot. As it has a full choke I cant use slugs in it.

    1. justbill

      You can use the soft Foster-type slugs in a Full choke barrel. It’s not dangerous at all and I did it for several years when my only hunting gun was a Full choked single 12 gauge. I don’t think I’d do it with the harder Brenneke slugs. Not that it would be dangerous. Lead will always be softer than steel. But the Full choke may damage the slug enough to ruin any accuracy.

  3. SmithKoWitz

    I find the .410 to be a fun shell to shoot. I have the Bond Arms Snake Slayer IV and shooting High Brass 3″ shells is an experience to remember! I also have a Mossberg .410 pump w/Hogue pistol grip & 18.5″ barrel; lots of fun! To round off the .410 collection, I have a Saiga .410 with an ATI Talon/Scorpion pistol and 15 round magazine. I believe that with #4 buck or better, that this is a reasonable home defense weapon that is plenty accurate within that realm.

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