For many shooters, our first exposure to a firearm was the shotgun. Unfortunately for many, this first experience was all too often with dad’s 12-gauge, which is a bit like shouldering a thunderbolt when you’re 10 years old.
Aside from a bruised shoulder and ego, that negative experience can turn off a lot of new shooters altogether. While a 12-gauge is a staple for most firearms owners, they require size and experience to tame — and few people can claim to shoot them well.
On the other end of the scattergun spectrum is the unassuming .410 shotgun. The smallest of common shotgun calibers, .410s are available in a shocking array of form factors — all suited to different purposes.
These approachable firearms are great not only for new shooters but also those looking to fill a need that larger bore shotguns might not suit. Whether it’s for home defense, hunting small game, or any other close-range work, a .410 shotgun can be a great way to variety to your shotgun lineup.
With a versatile lineup coming in all kinds of shapes and sizes, there are a lot of things to learn about these smaller bore shotguns. We dive deep into the various aspects of the mighty .410 shotgun to highlight what we think are the best shotguns on the market.
In This Article:
.410 Shotgun Comparison
Below is my list of the best .410 shotguns for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of shotguns.
.410 Shotgun Reviews
1. 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. 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.
For an update on a classic design, the ATI Nomad presents a compelling choice 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. 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. 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 vented 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.
6. 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 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.
Why the .410?
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. This incredibly manageable recoil means the .410 can remain effective for a wide variety of shooters, making them versatile firearms for diverse applications.
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.
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.
Uses for a .410
.410s 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 down a turkey without issue and help the shooter from developing bad habits.
They can also be reasonably good self-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.
Gauge or Bore?
While other shotguns are listed as gauges (10-gauge,12-gauge, 20-gauge) the .410 is a bore, as in caliber. A .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 but for the youngsters to both avoid fear (a good thing) and have fun (even better for the long term) mind 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.
A .410 truly isn’t a beginner’s gun — it requires expertise.
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