Nearly a life with a .410

By Ron Goodge.

"Do you know anyone with a cheap .410 for sale?"…

Those words uttered so casually perhaps 25 years started the chain of events that have led me to the belief that the 410 is a true ‘all-round’ gun. Within days of my initial query a friend offered me a bolt action Norica for the princely sum of £18. Trevor was obviously selling this on for someone and was surprised when I demonstrated that it was in fact a 3 shot version chambered for 3 inch Extra Long shells. That was very likely the best £18 I ever spent!.

After smoothing out the dents and scratches on the stock, restaining and finishing with 6 coats of Tru-Oil, the rifle-like minigun was ready for an outing.  I found that though the gun was chambered for 3 inch shells there was always a chance that the gun would eject 2 shells on working the bolt and so I generally fed it with 2/12 inch Fiocchi 8’s. I shot my first woodcock with that gun, and my first English partridge, I flushed a trio on a North Yorkshire fell top that flew line asternt across my front. I’m sure I fired at the leader but the tail ender dropped out of the sky! There was an object lesson in 410 management, keep the little gun swinging!
After that it became a weapon of choice for bolting rabbits with my terriers, occasional pigeon shooting and sometimes clays. Following pairs or ‘on report’ birds were manageable if I did my part correctly.

A little later I spent £30 on a BSA/Mavi single folding 410 that had been shortened to a whisker over 24 inches and was therefore cylinder bored. The previous owner had araldited a singlepoint fluorescent front sight and it was a Pig!. I persevered for a little while but eventually sold it on to another unsuspecting soul (who later told me he loved it!) ‘Nowt so queer as folk’ they say!

In a fit of madness I traded the Norica in for 3 shot Mossberg 500 pump gun, with a 3 inch chamber. This gun was light, quick handling and the trombone action was surprisingly easy to manage and soon it was with me on the clay grounds though I found the standard full choke boring too tight so I had the barrel opened to half choke and when using Winchester 2/12 inch 6’s the results were very satisfying.  

In the constant search for a ‘better’ 410 I moved the Mossberg on and then bought a Kestrel side by side non-ejector, this one had 26inch barrels and was choked half and full with 2/12 inch chambers. I extended the stock by half an inch and found it to be superb ‘walk up’ gun memorably dropping 3 woodcock and a cock pheasant on an early season maraud.

The little gun was lusted after by a clay shooting friend and in the way of all things went to a new home when the money was right!

While negotiations went on for the Kestrel I was offered the opportunity to acquire a 410 ‘with sights’ as it was described by the vendor. I looked at it and found it was in fact a ‘Colonial Quality’ Charles Lancaster Rook and Rabbit rifle that had been bored out to 410! The ex-rifle did in fact have sights a neat little one stand, two leaf arrangement marked at 50, 100 and 150 yards. And contemporary with the rifle was a pair of mounting blocks for an early telescope sight.

So… £150 changed hands in September 2000 and I became the new owner, I removed the West Mercia Constabulary ‘Siezed Property’ seal from the trigger guard and underlever and peered up the tubes. Oh Dear! I later found that the rifle had been bored out in 1950 and that was probably the last time it had been cleaned, the bores were pitted, black and grubby and even after prolonged soaking and scrubbing with Hoppes 009 the results were still not pretty.


My investigations led me to the information (via Crudgington’s in Bath) that the rifle had originally been built as a 380 underlever side by side, non ejector, back action hammer double rifle in 1881 for a Mr Barclay.

Barrels were the original 27inches of plain steel with the barrels engraved: CHARLES LANCASTER 151 NEW BOND STREET on the left barrel and in the corresponding place on the right barrel: PATENTED SMOOTH BORE RIFLE. Both  undecorated locks bear the words CHARLES LANCASTER LONDON. The serial number is 05031 and this can be found on both barrels, fore end wood and iron, inside of the Stanton type locks, trigger guard and on the long leg of the extractor. The slim fore end with long steel nose cap is fixed to the loop on the barrels by a side nail, the butt has a plain steel plate extending from the heel on to the comb and there is a plain steel pistol grip cap. The broad trigger guard strap is nicely chequered and runs down the pistol grip to end flush with the grip cap. It has a very attractive ‘tiger stripe’ walnut stock with a carved cheek piece and steel sling eyes. It has a weight of about 6/12 lbs, heavy for a 410 but so comfortable to shoot. The original proof marks show pre 1904 London stamps and in 1950 the gun was bored out, reproved for the 2/12 inch shell in Birmingham.

Since it has been with me I have used it for clays, rabbit and pigeon shooting, it usually gets an outing against the pheasants at least once a season, on which it performs very well, again with Winchester 6’s and recently I shot my first round of skeet with a 410 and broke 18 (I think, I was so excited I lost count).

The finish is a little rough on the barrels, there are rubs and scrapes, the steel butt plate and forend cap are a little dull and perhaps the chequering could do with freshening but I’m not about to do that. The gun bears the marks of 126 years of use (and sometimes abuse) but they are honest scars and so the gun shall stay as it is with only a wipe with a cleaning cloth or a smear of wax for the stock on occasions, after of course a vigorous ‘rodding’. What more could a sporting gun require?

So… is this the end of the line for a 410 shooter? Find the perfect gun and stick with it? I think not, I recently saw a new Rottweil over and under 410 being used to good effect on the skeet range, and then of course there are superb Remington 1100 410’s now with multichokes that warrant investigation, now if I could find one of those for £150 I might consider a further investment!