You and the .410 Shotgun

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

You and the .410 Shotgun

by Bill Hanus

When it comes teaching lessons in humility, nothing comes close the .410 shotgun.
The .410 shotgun gets short shrift in today's hunting journals -- not that its anyone's first choice as a game gun -- but because people who write about shotguns start with the premise that their readers "need all the help they can get" -- so better they should go afield maxed out in armament.

So while it’s not a great hunting gauge in shooting sports, it surpasses all others in its innate ability to teach humility. This is important. Far too often -- especially when the birds are acting right, your dog is working right, and you haven't missed a bird off point since you can't remember when . . . there is a marked tendency to get a little cocky . . . to maybe get that feeling that you're ten feet tall. Since ten-foot-tall hunters tend to be difficult to live or even associate with, the .410 has come to play an important role in society today. When your feelings are running at unsustainable highs, it is important that you take your .410 and practice a little attitude adjustment on a couple of dozen clays. It's a proven fact that .410's build character.

The author's favorite .410 "cockiness cures" shown here include a Winchester Model 42, introduced in 1935 and of which about 165,000 were made. With the ventilated rib it might command a couple thousand dollars in the collector market. But Browning introduced a Model 42 Limited Edition of 6,000 in Grade 1 and 6,000 in Grade V from 1991 to 1993 and which carry price tags of only about $500 and $800 for Grades I and V. Other pump .410's you'll want to investigate will include Remington's M870 at about $335 and Mossberg's M500 at $310. Pumps offer the special appeal of involving both hands in the shooting sport experience, plus five or six shells "up the spout" allowing multiple opportunities to demonstrate one's shooting prowess . . . i.e. break the bird, then the largest piece, then the largest piece of the largest piece, etc.

Single shot shotguns have a special appeal all their own. The middle gun in the accompanying picture is a rarish Winchester M37 Red Letter .410. Winchester made a million of these in all gauges between 1936 and 1963. The best known single shot .410 shotgun on today's market is New England Firearms' Pardner model, which retails for about $130.

Most over/under markers offer a .410, like the Browning Superlight shown here; but the big news for over/under and side/side owners are the sub-gauge .410 drop-in tubes that can quickly convert a larger gauge gun into a .410. Some even offer screw-in chokes. Ruger offers a proprietary line at about $500 and Briley offers a pretty full selection of .410 tubes for a variety of larger gauges and barrel lengths. Seminole products just announced the availability of Chamber Mates -- sub-gauge chamber inserts -- which quickly convert your 16 (or 12 or 20) gauge side-by-side or over/under to shoot either 28 gauge or .410 shells. Cost on these is $240 a pair for each gauge. Chamber Mates are about 3" long and centered in the barrel with a rubber "O" ring. Easy in and out, they utilize the chokes of the barrels and they work in extractor or ejector guns. Blow the cobwebs off that old 16 and pop a few .410 (or 28 gauge) caps, for goodness sake.

New this year will be the Savage Arms Russian-made Stevens M411 Upland Sporter -- the first new "name brand" .410 side-by-side in a month of Sundays --sporting a price tag of only $432 and includes amenities like a single selective trigger, automatic ejectors and chrome-lined barrel. with 3" chambers. These .410's are choked Improved Modified and Full. Yes, these little devils are "necked down like a rifle" but that requires interpretation.

Tight chokes are the curse/joy of shooting a .410. The ultimate form of .410 one-upmanship is to wisely observe to your friends that you prefer to shoot tight chokes because they allow you to "read the break." Inferring, of course, that you are so good that such knowledge enables you to make minute adjustments that allow you to hit the target wherever you wish. Thus, if you miss on the next shot -- you really didn't miss. You "overcompensated." Shooting a tightly choked .410 enables you to celebrate a certain measure of martyrdom while still hinting at perfection. Deviously, a .410 builds character while teaching life-skills other than humility. It's an affordable, educational and good therapy for the off-season -- which you may have noticed is longer than the on-season.

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