410 bore shotguns

Alright shotgun peoples, I have a question for you. I have heard from two different camps on the issue of the .410 bore shotguns – the division is that some look at the .410 as an expert’s gun, and some look at it as a beginner’s gun.

So what say you? I’m looking for a shotgun that I can use to learn the fundamentals with, where I won’t be bothered by the recoil of shooting 200 rounds a session. The light weight and lack of any kind of recoil pad can make Frankenshotty unpleasant, and I certainly wouldn’t want to run more than 50-75 rounds through it at a time. Since my training strategy revolves around the principle of “shoot more”, I thinking about a .410 to save the shoulder abuse that upwards of 200 rounds will cause.

So what do think – beginner’s gun, or expert gun? Should I just shoot less and go with the 20 all the time?


  1. I had a 20-ga Beretta O/U with .410 tubes and it was a pleasure to shoot at skeet. Almost no recoil. I suggest reloading your own ammo ’cause .410 is kinda pricey and you can roll yer own for half the price. Get a MEC progressive reloader and have fun!

  2. I’ve never been much of a skeet shooter. Actually, I just got checked out on the skeet range at Airfield Shooting Club the weekend before leaving on my business trip so I plan to get into it very soon.

    Anyway, when I was growing up, a .410 was considered a beginner’s gun…sort of like the .22 of shotguns…because of the relatively low recoil and low shot count (In fact, one of our “starter guns” was a savage break action O/U .22/.410 combo…my brother still has it). We used the .410 for hunting varmints and small game, just like we did with the .22.

    In terms of skeet, however, I can see how it could be considered an “expert’s” gun because of the relatively low shot count and tight choke pattern as compared to the larger gauge guns. I would imagine it would be quite challenging to break birds with a .410.

    Which, basically, is just a very verbose way of saying “I’m no help” because I can see the validity of either standpoint.

    In my experience, pump or semi-auto guns tend to have less felt recoil than break action guns. I can shoot my springfield pump 12 Gauge all day without much discomfort.

    If you do use a break action, a good recoil pad will go a long way in increasing shooting comfort…just make sure that it doesn’t change the length of pull to the point that it changes your shooting mechanics. you may have to adjust the length of the stock before adding a recoil pad. Luckily, hacksaws and sandpaper are cheap.

  3. As someone who has been shotgunning since I was about 10 or so, I’m in the camp that the .410 is an expert’s gun due to the pattern generally being small enough or sparse enough to be frustrating to beginners. An absolutely great compromise is the 28 gauge, especially in something like a Remington 1100. Soft-shooting, reasonable pattern size and density, lightweight.

    Sure, you can use a more open choke on a .410, but you lose pattern density, which can lead to more wounded birds (when hunting) and less clays broken.

  4. Kinda what Justin said, except I consider the .410 a beginners gun.

    The 28 ga. is what I’d call an experts gun, but I’d stick with my 20 for clay birds.

  5. My first shotgun was a single shot, hammer cocked .410. My second was a Remmington light weight 20 gauge semiauto. My advise is to get a twenty gauge with adjustable chokes.

  6. Well, I already have the Frankenshotgun in 20, but it doesn’t have adjustable chokes, just cylinder bore. I have no idea what the choke on my .410 is, but it’s a screw in so I could take it out and go cylinder if I wanted to.

  7. Caleb, don’t shoot that .410 without a choke tube installed or you’ll bugger up the threads. Good luck!

    PS I shot many dove when I was younger with a Remington Model 11 in 20ga. Before you put too many rounds through it, you may want to check and make sure that the friction ring is in good shape and is installed correctly for the type of load you are using. An overly worn friction ring can lead to damage to the receiver, especially if the fiber washer/cushion is in bad shape as well.

  8. It depends on the context. For introducing your kid to the basics or for something like squirrel hunting, it’s great because of its small size and low recoil, but for birds (clay or real) it’s an expert’s gun because of the small volume of shot.

    Now if you want a real challenge, try using a .22 with shot shells on clays. My dad claims he used to do that.

  9. .410 kicks far harder than it should for what you’re getting out of it. Go to a 20ga – get something that you can continue to use for most anything. A 20 isn’t *quite* as versatile as a 12, but it’s excellent on the trap/skeet/clays range, fine for deer (if you can’t rifle hunt), fine for turkey out to 35yd with an appropriate load… might be a little on the light side for waterfowl, but at the same time, it’s a far better option than a .410 or 28ga.

    If you really want a good gun to learn with, find a gas-action 20ga semi-auto. Remington 1100/11-87 would be my suggestion. If you’re really concerned about recoil, replace the factory butt pad with an R3 pad – I have one on my 870 and it soaks up a lot of the punch.

    FWIW, I learned shotgunning with an 870 12ga, and I consider myself a fair shot (22/25 is a normal trap round for me). 100 or 200 rounds of 12ga target loads is not an excessive morning, especially if you wear a pad or even a sweatshirt.

    You should be able to find an 11-87 at your local pusher in the $500-550 range, maybe a touch less if you find a sale. The 1100 is a bit more upscale and will be more expensive.

  10. My first shotgun was a 20g Winchester pump that I got back in about ’69 as a 12 year old. I inherited my Dad’s Ithaca 16g pump. My favorite though is a 410 H&R single (can replace barrel with multiple rifle calibers). It is a blast to shoot and yes you must be a better shot to hit with a 410 vs the bigger gauges. My single would not be suitable for sheet / trap competition but works great out on the farm hand slinging single clay birds.

    I’d love to have a 410 double, pump, or BOTH!

  11. If you’re going to shot at stationary squirrels perched on a limb no more than 25-30 yards away? Yeah, it’s much more forgiving a beginner’s gun that a .22 LR.

    But if you’re actually going to wingshoot with it, yeah it’s definitely an expert’s gun. Too small a pattern, too short and thin a shot string, and too limited a range. It’ll either make an expert out of you, or sour you on wingshooting in a hurry.

    Better to pick up a 28 or 20 gauge with youth stocks for the kiddies, or just shoot a 20 gauge for the adults.

  12. Oh, and forgot to add…

    …If it’s for you, just shoot the 20 gauge. A 2 3/4 inch 20 gauge will be light kicking and effective for skeet, trap and doves, and 3 inch magnums have the same size shot charge and a comparable shot string to a 2 3/4 12 gauge duck load…which is all you ever really need if you’re shooting ducks over decoys.

    By the way, the reason Frankenshotty is probably kicking like a mule are twofold – it’s an autoloader, but it ain’t gas operated, so it won;t have the light recoil of a gas operated gun. The bigger reason is probably the significant drop at heel of humpback guns like the A5 and Remington Model 11. Most of your recoil is concentrated along the upper third of your buttplate, rather than the entire butt. Think of it as getting stabbed rather than shoved. The kinetic energy is the same, but one is a lot more concentrated than the other.

    Get it fitted with a good recoil pad, taking care that you factor in the thickness of the pad when you figure length of pull.

  13. I’d say that if you’re having difficulty with the 20ga then something is not setup well for you. Background: started hunting with a 16ga side by side then graduated to a 12ga when I was in the USAF and didn’t want to keep my old double on base. And I’ve never been into competition clays, skeet or trap. I prefer trap and really only for fun and hunting practice.

    I think that you will find the 410 too challenging for clays – not enough pellets.
    I’ve never bothered with a 28ga. As I’ve always considered 20 minimum for any kind of hunting. (Quail, rabbit, squirrel)

    Last suggestion – you’re not shooting “high brass” through your twenty, are you? If so, try shooting a box of “low brass” for clays. You’ll find them MUCH easier on your shoulder. Or borrow someone’s 12ga for 3 quick rounds. Then the 20 will feel like a .22. Kinda like using a lead bat in the warmup circle. 🙂

    who has been wanting a 10ga pump with 32 inch and rifled slug barrels. 🙂
    Consider this round: 10 Gauge Federal Power-Shok, 3-1/2″, 1-3/4 oz. Rifled Hollow Point Slug, 1280 fps. Puts muzzle energy in 50 BMG range!

  14. I have friend who is by no means an expert shooter, but is good enough to do everything he wants, shoots clays with an old .410 that was his grandfathers and breaks 70-80% of his birds. The biggest hindrance to shooting the .410 for him is cost. Unless he buys online, .410 shells locally can only be found in high brass and run about $3-$4 more/box of 25.

    Personally, I started out with a Winchester Model 37 break in 16GA. No recoil pad, only a hard plastic molded butt-plate. There was some felt recoil but manageable for me (but I have been described as being built like a brick shithouse). Then, I upgraded to an 870 12GA. Since I don’t shoot nearly as much as I would like, I can tell when I have shot a case of shells, but not so bad as to discourage the desire.

    The first gun I ever shot clays with was a .22/20Ga O/U at a hunter safety class. Broke 5/5-the only person to do so that day.

    Another friend who used to shoot trap 4-6 nights a week has an 870 Trap, which has no magazine, and instead has a mercury tube to help absorb recoil. I believe you can buy these to insert into magazines on at least pump guns. This may help. I don’t know if they work in Autos.

  15. Clearly you need a 23 1/2 gauge hand-engraved over-under from this tiny little shop in a backwoods town in Estonia where the only man in the world who makes ammunition for it also lives.

    Heh. Actually, I’ve never shot anything other than a 12 and a 20. I prefer the 12 unless I’m really gonna shoot 200 rounds in a day. You can get light enough loads that are adequate for trap/skeet, and will not cause too much pain. Get a padded shooting vest if you don’t already have one, and the 20 with light target loads will do you fine.

    I know lots of people who started with a 12 gauge, and that’s all they ever use, and they do just fine.

  16. I’m with AD, 20 ga. Mines an 870, the stocks on the 870 or the 1100/11-87 fit nearly everyone ok, this is a significant factor in felt recoil. The 20 has a dense enough shot swarm so that killing birds or breaking clays is much easier than with a .410, Ammunition for the 20 is much more available and less expensive that for either the .410 or the 28 ga.

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