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Its survival assured by its role in skeet shooting, the .410's usefulness in the field is best realized by good wing shots who understand its limitations.

By Robert N. Sears.

There isn’t much middle ground about the .410. Shotgunners usually either love or hate this smallest of the commonly used shotgun shells. Its history reveals most of the reasons.

At the turn of the century, small game was frequently taken by farmers and woodsmen in the course of their daily work as the opportunity presented itself. It was not sport hunting. Sitting birds and rabbits shot at close range were the targets most often finding their way to the pot.

A small load of fine shot did the job without being overly destructive to the meat. Up to 10 yds. The 44-40 loaded with no. 8 shot was usually adequate, although the pattern was wide when fired from a rifled bore. The Stevens Pocket Shotgun chambered for the .44-50 (2” and .44-65 2˝”) shells were better, but the brass cases were never available as loaded ammunition. The .44 XL cartridge was not quite their equal but, being factory loaded, became much more popular and outlasted them for many years. An epochal development in guns for the purpose was reached with the introduction of the Marble’s Game Getter in 1908, Its top barrel took .22 rimfire cartridges, while the smoothbore lower barrel took at least four different .44 cartridges, including the 115-gr round-ball load.

Paper-cased shotshells were highly developed by that time. Naturally, a small one was sought for this kind of gun. The simple answer was found in a 2”-long (50 mm) paper case used in Germany for gas cartridges. It fired no projectile, so the barrel of pistols that used it were bored through to the chamber diameter of .472” (12 mm). The .410 bore gun and shell originated about 1911, when this case was loaded with shot and the bore diameter reduced to .410” (10.4 mm). This interesting beginning seems to have been overlooked until now.  

For a time the shell was headstamped with both the guns chamber diameter of 12mm and its bore diameter of .410”. It was also sometimes incorrectly labeled 36-ga. According to the number of round balls-per-pound rule, a .410 bore is a 67-ga. These early .410 shells carried nearly 3/8 oz. of shot.


Birmingham Small Arms claims to have introduced the 2˝”-long .410 shell in its bolt action gun in 1913. Capable of shooting ˝ oz. of shot, it soon made the 2” shall obsolete. The first U.S. gun for the 2˝”shell was the Stevens 106 single barrel introduced in 1916. Winchester brought out its break-open single barrel Model 20 in 1919 and the bolt-action single-shot model 41 in 1920. Sportsmen did not regard the .410 seriously. Parker Bros. Began making a few .410 doubles in 1927, but the total number of high, or even medium grade .410 guns produced remained very small.


The three very different .410 guns include (l to r) the Harrington & Richardson Greenwing single-barrel, The Remington Autoloading Model 1100 LW skeet chambered for 2˝" shells only, and an AYA sidelock double.


Reprinted curtesy of :- The  Author :- Robert N. Sears
Previously published in "The American Rifleman" May 1981


Should a .410 be in your battery? - Page 1

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