For hunting, there’s nothing a .410 can do that the 28-gauge can’t do better. But for skeet shooting…

The .410 has a few things going for it. The guns are small and cute. They don’t kick. They are cheap to reload for. There’s a fun Americana song about them.*

That’s all on the plus side.

On the minus side, .410s don’t hold very much shot—1/2 to 11/16 of an ounce, less in steel—and what shot as they do hold, they deliver downrange poorly. The .410 should be called the “67 gauge,” which is what it is, to underscore the immense gap between the .410 and the other gauges.

Yet a lot of people love .410s. Every once in a while, when someone finds out what I do, they say: “You’re not one of those gun writers who says no one should ever hunt with a .410 are you?”

I mumble something non-committal, as I know what’s coming next, which is: “I’ve shot _____, ____ and _____ with .410s for years. It’s all I hunt with.”

There is the chance the person is a truly expert shot, with the discipline to take only birds at close range, and with good enough dogs to clean up their mistakes. There’s a much greater likelihood the person is a bird-crippling bozo, so I usually smile, nod, and change the subject.

For us regular wingshots, the .410 is best limited to woodcock, rails, decoying doves, and squirrels under ideal conditions all at ranges of about 25 yards. Even then, there’s nothing that can be done with a .410 that can’t be done lots better with a 28 gauge.

Except for skeet shooting. Having recently picked up a Mossberg 500 .410 on loan, I have fallen in with my club’s .410 shooters, and I already find myself thinking I need a .410 O/U and a reloader, which I never thought I would.

The difference between .410 skeet and skeet in all other gauges, including the 28, is that when you shoot any other gauge, you expect the targets to break and are disappointed when they don’t. The .410 is another story. As one of the .410 group explained to me when I first joined them: “The secret to shooting a .410 is not to care.” Shooting is always more enjoyable when you’re happy to hit a target, not upset that you missed it. Shooting the Mossberg low gun, my high scores so far have been a few 21x25s, but it’s highly satisfying to see targets shatter when I get lucky and center them in the fixed-full choke pattern. There are plenty of times everything looks perfect, I pull the trigger, and the target sails on its way, too. That’s where not caring helps.

In about 10 days, dove season opens, and I’ll put the little gun aside in favor of a 28 gauge—or maybe even a 12—but until then, I’ve found a perfect use for the .410.

  • ".410" by Rod Picott

Field clean your .410 with the Otis Ripcord or pick up our Shotgun Select Cleaning kit.

Written by Phil Bourjaily for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]