An observation about .410 defensive shotguns

Yesterday, I had a chance to play with Mossberg 500HD, a .410 pump designed for defense. We test-fired a whole bunch of ammo types at the IDTS 3D target and more at an old cooking pan, some rotten logs and cardboard boxes.

My observations on this .410 so far:

  • Low recoil does much to build confidence in the new shooters
  • Loading and extraction can be difficult due to the relatively great surface area of the casing: I’ve the best results with Russian steel case Barnaul shotshells, 2.5″ Brennekes slugs and 2.5″ Winchester PDX. Rio birdshot and S&B 3-pellet 00 buck loaded with difficulty and wouldn’t extract at all
  • 2.5″ shells give one more round in the tube without losing much effectiveness
  • Spreader choke and wad-less shotshells lead to excessive spread with birdshot loads at ranges beyond 5-6ft
  • Slugs were quite accurate: I was able to hit a 12″ hanging frying pan with 6 out of 6 Brenneke slugs from 40 yards, each projectile tearing an inch-wide hole in the metal
  • 3-pellet S&B load spread almost entirely vertically
  • PDX has pretty good patterning of the cylindrical bullets, but the pellets went off to one side
  • Barnaul #3 shot gave a surprisingly dense and consistent pattern
  • Terminal effect of Brenneke 2.5″ slugs was very impressive, including splitting some of the logs I used as targets

So the end result of my very informal test suggests using 2.5″ shells and solid projectiles. The slug weighs the same 109 grains as the 3″ variety but muzzle velocity is only 1500fps vs. 1750fps. For short ranges, the difference shouldn’t be all that significant. Hollow base .410 slugs which are used by most US ammo makers aren’t very solidly built, so their penetration is very limited.

To ensure reliable extraction with questionable ammunition, it’s best to pull on the forend during the recoil. It’s better yet to test the ammo beforehand and not load anything that doesn’t run smoothly.

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20 Responses to An observation about .410 defensive shotguns

  1. Cowboy Blob says:

    The .410 slugs (by definition, less than half an inch wide) left an “inch-wide” hole in the metal? Is that true? Just want to know….

    • Tierlieb says:

      I is not unrealistic: They are not hole punches and pans are not made from paper, so the impact hole tends to be different from the projectile diameter.

      Impact energy is diverted sideways, so you are bound to have tearing, bending backwards and even ripples deforming the material (I assume a cheap aluminum pan, cast iron would probably shatter and forged steel is too expensive to play with).

  2. Ray says:

    I started shooting with a Stevens .410 shotgun in 1963. As a life long hunter and shooter I’d like to say that the .410 is a poor killer for anything larger than dove or rabbit. .410 slugs are small and have poor “knock down” at any range above 20-30 yards.(the .410 is so low mass it slows rapidly ) This (.410 for SD) started with the silly “Judge” fad gun, and has snowballed from internet misinformation and new shooter ignorance. The .410 shotgun shell is the dead last round I’d ever want for SD. There are far better low recoil shotgun rounds (the 20Ga. comes to mind) for hunting and SD .

    • anonymous says:

      “This (.410 for SD) started with the silly ‘Judge’ fad gun, and has snowballed from internet misinformation”

      You might be too young to remember, but the Mossberg 500 HD in .410 dates back to around 1990, before there was a Taurus Judge and internet gun forums.

      Back then, we had to rely on printed gun magazines for our misinformation.

      • Ray says:

        Didn’t read what I wrote? I said I started shooting in 1962. AND. Back in the olden days (before the internet spawned “black gun” fad) the Mossberg shotguns were for the most part considered a wooden stocked hunting arm. There have all ways been idiots around, they were here long before they started commenting on things they could nether read nor comprehend

        • Sid says:

          Ray, switch to decaf. He is contesting your claim that the .410 as a self-defense round started with the Taurus Judge.

          You may have over-reacted to his comment.

  3. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    For wing shooting and running game, the .410 is pretty much an ‘expert’s gun’ the limited shot load requires great aiming. But in a survival situation where shooting at stationary animals, the small shot load has less meat damage than the 20 or 12 gauge. Long barelled single shot .410s make a decent ‘poachers gun – they aren’t that loud, are very light and the folding designs like the Yildiz are compact. So the .410 imo isn’t completely useless. My Uncle used a .410 for many years for nighttime chicken coop protection. He could easily grip the foreend and a AA Maglite in offhand for shooting the various animals he found.

    My .410s are all single shots – I did not think about loading difficulties in mechanically loaded designs but it makes sense. I guess making sure your chamber is really CLEAN would be worth it. Thanks for the ammunition comments – .410 ammunition is very high price for buying one of each for testing. My slug shooting from two bead sighted shotguns was not as accurate as the above results, but the T/C handgun barrel was promising – more investigation needed there. This has rear sights and a blade so that may be reason.

    Paraklese Technology has some special .410 ammunition worth a look. They have both LEO and civilian ammunition offerings.

    Thanks again.

  4. Harmony Hermit says:

    A plug for the much underappreciated 28 ga. The patterns of a 20 ga with the recoil of a 410.

    Would be the perfect gun for new shooters if ammo were more available, guns too! Skeet shooters have kept the gauge alive and most love the 28.

  5. anonymous says:

    I started shooting with a Stevens .410 shotgun in 1963.

    I said I started shooting in 1962.

    OK, my bad for missing the date. Whichever one it is. Make up your mind. If you’re going to criticize somebody for glossing over the year you wrote, it helps if you don’t make the same mistake yourself.

    However, your point is still invalid, because Mossberg was marketing the .410 as a self-defense round to women back in 1990 — long before the “Judge” fad and the internet.

    I said…Back in the olden days (before the internet spawned “black gun” fad) the Mossberg shotguns were for the most part considered a wooden stocked hunting arm.

    You said no such thing, and you’re wrong. The “black gun” fad existed before the interent. And Mossberg shotguns with non-wooden stocks have been in use with the military since the 1980s, and markted as defensive firearms since at least 1990 (when the HS410 came out). There’s a whole generation of us who don’t think of Mossbergs as anything but a defensive weapon. Again, this was before Al Gore invented the internet.

    The only thing I was wrong about was “you may be too young to remember”. And that set you off, for some reason.

    But thank you for reminding me, with your vitriol, of why I hate the gun culture almost as much as I hate those who want to take my guns away from me. The reason I discourage people from taking up shooting as a hobby is becuase they might run other dogmatic angry bitter old men at the range. God knows I’ve met enough of them.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      He may have started in 1962 with something other than a shotgun. Your tone isn’t very friendly, and this is a friendly blog.

  6. Tiffany says:

    It’s all too easy to be less than civil when you hide behind an “anonymous” moniker.

    I’m interested in trying other shotguns myself. We have a Sarpa 12 gauge; I’ve only fired it once (took 1 shot, and handed it back to my husband), and felt it the next day. Having never fired a shotgun before, this was a less than positive experience.

    I’m not sure if this is just because the shotgun itself is too light to dampen the recoil, or if I should avoid 12 gauge altogether, and try a 20 gauge.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I would try a 20ga autoloader like Remington 1100 and practice with that. Once very comfortable, try a 12ga autoloader and see if you can use it. I find 12ga pumps too brutal except when firing light loads with heavy guns.

    • LarryArnold says:

      I have a Benelli 20GA pump I like, but I know lots of ladies who regularly shoot 12s. The 12GA ammo selection, particularly for self-defense, is greater. 20GA is simply the wrong diameter to load large buckshot.

      With a 12 or 20 it’s absolutely vital to get in a good shooting stance and hold the butt firmly into your shoulder.

      As usual, I’ll suggest finding a good instructor for a pro lesson, and ask her to start you with light loads.

    • LarryArnold says:

      Tiffany, check this out:
      “Learn to shoot like a girl.”

      Yep. 12GA.

  7. Rob Turner says:

    I have a Marlin . 410 lever gun & I just LOVE it. The downside is that it doesn’t hold as many rounds as I’d prefer & it only accepts 2.5″ sbells.

  8. The comment about fouling is an important one. Did you try the 3″ shells before or after you shot the 2.5″ shells?

    Another thought would be to have the chamber checked to confirm that is an actual 3″ chamber, and not a mismarked factory error. It might also be useful to have the forcing cone lengthened and polished.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I used 3″ first and some of them (Barnaul, 3″ Brenneke slugs) worked fine. The Rio and S&B ammo that stuck did the same in three other shotguns.

  9. sean says:

    I don’t really understand why people don’t think this .410 would be a good choice. Especially for it’s intended customer. Women who probably couldn’t effectively fight with a 12 or 20 ga. No criminal is going to stop to ask what gauge he is being shot at with. All he knows is the intended victim has a shotgun. And the criminal is going to get the hell out of there.

    • Sid says:

      I concur. In the dark, shooting from the hallway entrance across the kitchen or living room, any gun looks huge. The only caveat is that this applies to individuals who are not thinking impaired (drugged or drunk). In that case, the gun is not really the issue. It is the amount of critical damage the bullet will cause and how quickly.

      I think it is a viable choice.

  10. Martin says:

    I was happy to see the Mossberg 500HS .410 reviewed here. Back in 2011 I bought one for my wife who cannot handle a 12 or 20 ga and she didn’t want a handgun. In the past 3 years we’ve put thru it hundreds of Winchester 2.5″/3″ and Estate 2.5″ game loads as well as the Winchester PDX1 410 Defender 2.5″ which is always in the tube magazine should they be needed. My wife likes 500HS because of its size, weight and recoil. Also, she’s commented often how much she loves hearing that “administrative round” as she racks the first shell into the chamber getting ready for business.

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