Small bore shotguns are really growing in popularity and this is reflected in the number of requests I get to review suitable loads.
For instance, what’s on the gunshop shelf for the .410 user?
The problem here – as with many other small bores – is that cartridges are only available in a fairly limited range of shot sizes and most of these relate to game shooting, not clays. There are a few choices in 9s for NSSA skeet, but even these are limited as demand is obviously not great enough.
It would really help the .410 cause if there was more choice with cartridges carrying 7½ or 8 shot for general clay use.
Manufacturers please take note!
I shoot with several .410 enthusiasts who, knowing a bit about the subject always use larger magnum 3 inch loads. And with good reason.
“Although most cartridges are broadly similar in terms of ballistics, you do need to ensure that you have enough pellets in the pattern to do the job.”
With the longer shot strings of the smaller bores comes the advantage of better patterns than the good old twelve.
This means that although the pattern may be smaller, there will be less holes in it. The small bore user does, however, have to be a little more accurate than his bigger bore brethren. Indeed the .410 user needs to be about 120% more accurate than a 12-bore man, which can be a little demoralising for the latter if pegged next to a small bore user who knows what he’s doing.
I have to say that continental loaders seem to have the edge when it comes to product range, and pricing – .410s are small and therefore difficult to load and this causes their somewhat inflated price.
“Cartridges loaded in the United States have to be shipped a long way, and this results in some pretty staggering price tags.”
However, if you can afford them – buy them!
Popular consensus is that these are the cartridges to do the job. Most of these 3in loads are around about 19gms, giving about 160 pellets of number 6 shot in each cartridge. For interest’s sake a 28gm load of sixes weighs in with about 260 pellets.
All .410s are loaded with a plastic wad with the notable exception of Eley, who are the only manufacturer that produce fibre loads in .410 format. So well done to them!
First up then, is Winchester’s Super X Magnum, which has been around since Methuselah – and with good reason.
Really serious game shots rate this 19gm cartridge very highly on account of the performance generated by Winchester’s famed compression formed case, crimp closure, powder and shot quality. It’s available in shot sizes 4, 6 and 7. This performance comes at a price however and you will need a small mortgage to afford these in any quantity at around £367 per 1,000.
Equally popular with .410 afficionados is Remington’s 3in offering with 19gm payload in shot sizes 4 and 6. Again, it comes with a neat crimp closure – and an eye watering price tag of around £350. Note these two US loads are both available in a shot size 4.
“I can’t help but notice the serious small bore users I shoot with all prefer shot size No.4 for serious game shooting.”
Whilst they may lack a few pellets in the pattern, they certainly retain the necessary energy to ensure a clean kill at range. My colleagues have all worked this out through a process of trial and error, so who am I to argue?
Italian .410 cartridges are also good and, thankfully, more sensibly priced. The most popular are Fiocchi 3in with a 19gm payload, imported by Hull Cartridge Company. They also come in a good range of shot sizes ranging from a 6 through to 7.1/2 (yippee!) and even an 8. Wonderful!
They are also much more sensibly priced at around £198 per 1,000.
Nobel Sport have also just started importing a 3in 19gm .410 in a shot size 6 only at £238 per 1,000 and RC are shortly introducing a 19gm load in a shot size 6 only at £200. I have not managed to get my grubby little mitts on these two yet, so I cannot give you an opinion, but both makes have a popular following and if the RC product is anything like its stable mates, I am sure buyers will not be disappointed.
And so to Eley’s Magnum 3in with 18gms of shot in sizes 5, 6 and 7 in fibre wad. This product has a rolled turnover rather than a crimp and is extremely popular simply because of its availability in the fibre version. It has been around for donkey’s years and looks like soldiering on for ever as it is a useful shell and whilst it may not quite have the performance of its continental cousins, it does have a slightly more acceptable price tag. Expect to pay around £190 per 1,000.
“The world of .410 ammunition might not be huge but there should be something to suit most eventualities.”
What I can say is this very small bore gun is shaking off its historical boys-gun image and is capable of producing exceptional results in the field. Bottom line is that it’s also a great deal of fun to use and, just like its size, can make other larger bore users feel equally diminutive.