Heavy Loads For The .410
The poor, little .410 bore is the most misunderstood shotgun “gauge” in North America. Some people think it’s absolutely useless for any sort of wingshooting, while others, like the Montana rancher I worked for on my first job out of high school, firmly believe a .410 kills just as far as any larger gauge, as long as the shooter “aims” accurately. (A book could be written about his firearm delusions, but the world is better off without it.)
In reality, a .410 can be an effective game gun, but requires more understanding than many hunters are willing to provide. Its biggest limitation is thin patterns due to a lack of shot. Many hunters try to “help” the .410 by using tight chokes and bigger shot. Tighter chokes do help but bigger shot doesn’t, often because of tighter chokes.
When shotgun bores shrink in diameter, larger shot doesn’t flow as smoothly. You can demonstrate this effect by pouring shot through funnels of various sizes. Smaller shot flows easily through about any funnel but large shot will often jam in smaller spouts.
Jiggling a funnel will free the jammed shot, but there’s no jiggling in shotguns. When large, lead shot gets squeezed through a small bore at 12,000 pounds per square inch, the shot deforms because steel is harder than lead. Deformed shot don’t fly as straightly as round shot, so fewer pellets end up in the pattern, especially at longer ranges.
A .410’s bore only has 55 percent of the cross-sectional area of a 28-gauge bore. A full choke constricts the muzzle even more. Deformation can be limited by using harder shot, but even the hardest No. 6 shot will deform some when forced through a .410’s tiny bore and choke.
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