The Best .410 Shotguns in 2023
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For many, the initiation into the world of firearms began with the iconic shotgun. Regrettably, a significant number of us were introduced to this realm via the formidable 12-gauge, a thunderous experience for anyone, but especially so for a 10-year-old.
Such an introduction, akin to a rite of passage, often left more than just physical bruises; it could deter potential enthusiasts from the sport altogether.
However, nestled on the other end of the shotgun spectrum lies the often-underestimated .410 bore. Historically, the .410, unlike its counterparts, derives its name from its bore diameter in inches, at .41 inches across.
This naming convention sets it apart, as most shotguns are classified by gauge. If you were to name the .410 by its gauge, it would intriguingly be called the “67 1/2 Gauge“, highlighting the vast difference in bore size compared to other shotguns.
My own initiation into scatterguns began with a .410, a gift that transformed me from a mere spectator to an active participant in the world of shooting sports. While I never found much success at trap with the little .410 (it was, however, great for varmints), I loved blasting everything from milk jugs to tree squirrels with it.
While the 12-gauge remains a staple in many armories, its power demands respect and experience. In contrast, the .410, the smallest of common shotgun calibers, offers an array of form factors tailored to diverse needs.
Historically, the .410 bore has its roots intertwined with the traditions of small game hunting. In the early 1900s, it was the preferred choice for hunting squirrels and rabbits in the dense woods of the American South. Its lightweight design and manageable recoil made it a favorite among hunters who trekked long distances.
Today, these shotguns are not just for novices. They cater to a range of needs, from home defense to hunting small game. Their adaptability and approachability make them an invaluable addition to any firearm collection.
As I delve deeper into the world of the .410 shotgun, I aim to shed light on its rich history, dispel myths, and highlight the best models available today, ensuring you’re equipped with comprehensive knowledge of this remarkable firearm.
In This Article
Compare Side By Side
Best Lever Action
Home Defense Pick
Semi-Auto Mag-Fed Pick
.410 Shotgun Reviews
1. Best Lever Action: Henry Repeating Arms
For nearly two centuries Henry has made some of the best-looking firearms on the planet, and their .410 lever action is no different. With a brass receiver, walnut stock, and blued barrel, this is a gorgeous firearm.
Beyond looks, it would make an excellent hunting shotgun as well, the barrel length of just under 20 inches makes it mobile yet effective out to moderate ranges in practiced hands.
Like other lever actions, it loads out of a tubular magazine and — while not semi-auto levels of speed — can be fired fairly quickly with a little practice. Overall, this piece would be an excellent one to learn to shoot on if you’re thinking of getting a shotgun for a new shooter.
2. Home Defense Pick: Mossberg 590 Shockwave 410
The 590 Shockwave from Mossberg is a super-compact shotgun designed for bad-breath distance home defense applications. The 590 series, generally, offers updated and beefier components than the Mossberg 500, with 590s a favorite of military and law enforcement due to their need for rugged firearms. The Shockwave replaces the 590’s buttstock with a pistol grip, which tends to push it a little toward novelty.
In many cases, these short “trench coat” shotguns are difficult to shoot at all, let alone well. Taking the caliber down to .410, though, takes the recoil down a notch, making the firearm much more usable for more people. This softer recoil helps coupled with its remarkable mobility help it become a capable home defense weapon. One that any family member could use effectively in an emergency.
As far as sighting goes, the Shockwave has a simple bead sight, so it’s not exactly meant for precision work. Up close and personal, though, it will stop any intruder in their tracks. No recoil pad necessary.
3. Single-Shot Pick: ATI Nomad
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For an update on a classic design, the ATI Nomad presents a compelling choice for the .410 curious. This single-shot break-action can take up to 3” shells, and has an exposed hammer, giving it a real “blast from the past” quality. The synthetic stock, however, lightens up the gun and makes it a little more practical for hunting, trekking, and working in wet conditions.
A great use for the Nomad, aside from hunting, would be as an ATV or truck gun used for varmint disposal on a farm or large property. This affordable, simple-to-use and easily maintained firearm oozes practicality and simplicity. Plus the single-shot break-action design has been around for eons, making it decidedly durable and utilitarian.
4. Most Compact: Smith and Wesson Governor
.410 handguns, while niche, are certainly becoming self-defense staples these days. Smith & Wesson’s .410/.45 ACP Governor accepts 2 ½” .410 shells or .45 ACP bullets and is easily one of the most versatile self-defense firearms.
You get all the quality of a proven Smith and Wesson revolver, but with the ability to fire short shotgun loads, which are available in a tremendous variety beyond just BB shot. The Governor can be a little tricky to find but are more than worth it when you do.
As far as utility is concerned, this makes for an awesome backpacking gun. It can be loaded to deal with differing scenarios — making it a favorite for people who are likely to encounter snakes or a sidearm option for pest disposal.
5. Break-Open Option: TR Imports Silver Eagle Stalker
Over the last several years, Turkish shotguns have caught on in the US market for their affordability and quality (Turkish AR12s are all the rage) and Silver Eagle by TR Imports exemplifies these qualities. This is a single-shot break-open design — but it can be folded for storage or transport. Those alone make it worth considering.
In addition to the foldaway trick, the Silver Eagle includes a walnut stock and vent rib barrel, making it an ideal bird gun for experienced shooters or a learner for new shooters to pick up good habits without getting beat-up in the process while embracing classic single shot shooting.
6. Semi-Auto Mag-Fed Pick: TR Imports Silver Eagle XT3
Further demonstrating the wide variety of .410 shotgun, XT3 from TR Imports is a semi-automatic full choke-capable 28” barrel — but using a 5-round detachable box magazine rather than the typical under-barrel tubular mag typical of semi-autos.
The fit and finish on this are excellent, and it is a more than capable hunting shotgun with a fiber-optic bead sight out front to make for fast target acquisition and a rubber recoil pad on the buttstock to help with the already diminutive recoil.
Why the .410?
Much, Much Lower Recoil
The primary advantage the .410 has over smaller-gauge shottys — like the 20-gauge, which is often the go-to recommended for those looking to reduce recoil — is that the .410 has much lower felt recoil than other shotgun bores. It’s a bit like the .22 LR of shotguns.
This incredibly manageable recoil means the .410 can remain effective for a wide variety of shooters, making them versatile firearms for diverse applications.
Loads of Form Factors
Additionally, they come in a remarkable array of form factors. Some are immediately recognizable to anyone at all familiar with shotguns: fowl guns with walnut stocks and vent ribbed barrels, tactical pump actions with synthetic stocks, and so on. But the .410 market is unique in that you’ll also find several single-shot designs, as well as lever actions and even handguns using the smaller shells and a variety of barrel lengths.
Lower Demand = Higher Availability
When it comes to shotguns, the .410 is a distant 3rd in popularity — with 12- and 20-gauge far more in-demand. This can certainly work to your advantage when ammo is hard to come by. You can likely walk into any local gun store and walk out with as many boxes of .410 shotgun shells as you like, neither pandemics nor civil unrest will stop you from getting some range time in.
I love shooting shotguns, but even as a grown, adult man I admit that shooting a 12 gauge can be pretty punishing on one’s hands and shoulders after a few boxes of shells, especially if they’re magnums. Because they’re so much smaller, .410 shotguns have a lot less recoil, and tend to be a lot less punishing on the shooter. If you just want to have a fun day at the range, or you’re looking to do a lot of shooting at varmints or small game, I think that a .410 shotgun is hard to beat in terms of fun per trigger pull.
.410 Shotgun Features
The first thing that I consider when buying a new shotgun is the kind of action we’d like. Since I have a fair few pump actions already and the .410 is a fun gun for us, something different, such as a lever-action might be worth considering here.
For people who are thinking about this is a starter gun for someone looking to get into the sport, however, I think a pump-action would be an excellent choice as that’s the most common type of shotgun action regardless of caliber. There are great guns in all of the action types, though, so this is a matter of personal preference.
A .410 shotgun has low enough recoil that most children can handle the recoil without much of an issue. With that said, a gun that has a stock that’s too long for them to get a good grip can make the shooting experience a lot less fun.
If you’re thinking about a .410 shotgun for a smaller person or a child, it’s worth looking for a model with a shorter stock or that’s specifically meant for youth shooters.
When deciding the purpose of a shotgun, capacity matters a lot. If you plan on using your new shotgun as a hunting weapon, it might be a good idea to go with something with as large a capacity as you can find to give you the chance to make follow-up shots on small game animals.
For simple training or range shooting, though, a single shot .410 can be an excellent tool for teaching the basics of firearms handling and safety. Also keep in mind that capacity in magazine tubes does depend on the length of the shells, which can vary a fair bit.
Uses for a .410
Small Game Hunting
Shotguns are some of the most versatile firearms out there when it comes to hunting, but if your prey is a smaller game animal, then a 12-gauge shotgun might be more powerful than you need for the situation.
For folks who need to hunt smaller game, such as groundhogs or snakes, a .410 shotgun might be exactly what you need to get the job done without turning your chosen target into ground meat with a single round of buckshot. .410s are a farm favorite for skilled hunters to dispatch small animals, and I see why.
.410 sotguns are very popular as turkey guns for younger hunters. Youthful shooters tend to be plenty amped up when getting a bead — making a good shot rather difficult. Knowing a 12-gauge is going to kick a mule only adds to the tendency to flinch and miss.
The smaller .410, with adequate barrel length, will tackle turkey hunting without issue and prevent the shooter from developing bad habits.
.410s shotguns can also be reasonably good home defense guns for the same reason. Sure, muscling a 12-gauge shotgun into submission seems like the manly thing to do — but can your partner? How about your oldest child?
While it may not be the most powerful weapon, the best gun in a home defense situation is the one you can shoot well and for many people, a .410 shotgun will be a breeze to wield.
Training New Shooters
Like we’d mentioned before, shotguns are tons of fun, and many new shooters want to try them out. But, if you hand a first-timer a full-powered 12 gauge shotgun, they’re likely to walk away from the experienced discouraged and with a bruised shoulder.
Instead, I think that starting someone off with a .410 is the way to go. Since you can get these in a wide variety of actions and styles, chances are whoever you want to get into the hobby of shooting will be able to find a .410 that they like.
Types of .410 Shotguns
- Pumps. A lot of the .410 shotguns you’ll see on the market are pump action shotguns. These have a magazine tube under the barrel, and the action is cycled by the user working a pump with their hand. Generally, this is the most common type of shotgun and the one that most people are comfortable and familiar with. They’re also exceptionally reliable, which is why they’re still so popular today.
- Lever Guns. Some .410s are also lever-action shotguns. Like a pump gun, these have a magazine tube below the barrel. They differ because, for a lever-action gun, you cycle the action with a lever below the receiver that typically serves as a trigger guard. While these might feed a little less reliably than pump actions, I like these for their Old-West styling and because they’re a ton of fun to shoot rapidly.
- Revolvers. There are also .410 revolvers, namely the Taurus Judge and others who have taken the same action style and adapted it to various lengths and stocks. These are a design unique to the .410 market: you’re not going to find revolver shotguns, especially not handheld ones, in the larger calibers, but the light recoil of the .410 makes it plausible to use it in a revolver, though the ballistic performance out of a 2” barrel is a little bit suspect to most serious shooters.
- Single Shot. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, reliable shotgun, there’s always the option of a .410 which is a single shot. These are often brake-action shotguns made to dispatch animals, train people in basic firearm safety, for use in clay shooting or skeet shooting. For either of those cases, not feeding more than one round is either not a big deal or might be a very good idea to prevent accidents. These firearms are simple, practical, and are extremely easy to operate and maintain for a lifetime, thanks to their simplicity.
- “Firearms.” Mossberg and a few other companies make guns in .410 that are legally speaking “firearms” that are neither pistols nor shotguns but meet a particular barrel length and overall length requirement, allowing them to have a pistol-style grip and nothing else. These might not be the best hunting or home defense guns in the world, but I do like the way that these look and one in .410 might be a ton of fun to shoot at the range.
Gauge or Bore?
While other shotguns are listed as gauges (10-gauge,12-gauge, 20-gauge being normal shotgun gauges), the .410 is a bore, as in caliber.
A shotgun chambered in .410 is, therefore, .41 caliber, which is small for a shotgun. Shotguns being smoothbore designed to fire multiple projectiles, there’s no requirement or a bullet-to-barrel fit, but the smaller bore of the .410 means fewer pellets in a given shell load.
This translates into smaller shot charges — softening the recoil, but also limiting the shot pattern, which makes the .410 a challenging gun to use over distance. It requires precision the larger-gauge cousins don’t.
Isn’t a .410 just a kid’s gun?
The .410 is more approachable for all the reasons listed above. That doesn’t mean it’s easier to use effectively. It’s a challenging gun that requires remarkable precision at anywhere near mid-range.
For introducing kids to shooting, the .410 is an adequate tool for youngsters to both avoid fear (a good thing) and have fun shooting (even better for the long term) regardless of the distances kids will have to shoot.
Keeping to static, close-range targets will help them develop good habits and eliminate fear. They should, however, transition to larger-gauge shotties to open up more distance options once familiar with the platform.
The .410 truly isn’t a beginner’s gun — it requires expertise.
Price Ranges For .410 Shotguns
- $200-$500. At around the $200 mark, it’s more than possible to get many new base model shotguns in this caliber, often in either pump or single shot formats. These will be the more utilitarian types of shotgun, but we think that this is an excellent entry point into the market if you’re looking for a well-made and reliable shotgun that would be great for pest control, small game hunting, or teaching someone how to shoot a shotgun before moving on to bigger calibers in the future.
- $500 and Above. For around $500, you’ll be able to find essentially whatever action you want in your .410 shotgun, often with some upgraded features like nice stocks, and, in some cases, an included optic out of the box but this is rare in shotguns more broadly. If you plan on doing a lot of shooting with your new .410 shotgun, then going with something in this price range will likely get you a gun that can stand up to high round counts over long periods of time, with a nice fit and finish to go with it.
March 12, 2023 — We’ve reviewed this guide and stand by our .410 shotgun recommendations.
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