3″ .410 Shells

Exalted Technoid,

I grew up with a nice L.C. Smith .410 set up for skeet and found early on it averaged a little over 70% in a 20 inch circle at 25 yards – full choke in both barrels. The short shells averaged fractionally tighter, but the more shot in the shell the more holes in the center part of the pattern. For some time I have reloaded 2 1/2 inch and three inch shells. The difference on 45 yard teal is remarkable. Of course, one reason is the 2 1/2 inchers are loaded with 8 1/2 shot and the 3 inchers get either 8’s or 7 1/2’s – all magnum shot.

My father and I have taken much game with the 3 inch shell and 7 1/2’s over the last 50+ years with this gun and it has always performed very well. On Stuttgart ducks the crippling rate was no more than with the M12 trap gun. It works well on mallards to 35 yards. Doves and quail are duck soup – excuse me – dove and quail soup. If you want to really tighten up the pattern, try Lubaloy 7 1/2’s or their equal.


Dear John,

You use a 410 on mallards? I confess that I have never tried that one, but I do agree with you about how the 3″ .410 works. Yes, they don’t pattern quite as tight as the 2-1/2″ shells do, but the extra 3/16 oz (77 #8 pellets) do have to go somewhere and it isn’t too far from the center. Still, even a 3″ 410 requires an expert shotgunner compared to a 28 gauge or larger.

Bob Brister’s book “Shotgunning, the Art and Science” has some nice work on 410 patterns. He does introduce the problem of excessive shotstring in the 3″ 410, something that I do not have the facilities to measure. Still, as bad as the 3″ 410 is, it is almost certainly better than the 2-1/2″ shell as far as pellet count where it matters goes. This isn’t a percentage thing.

The 410 is a demanding little game gun and it is a compliment to your skill that you feel confident using one.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck

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4 Responses to 3″ .410 Shells

  1. JR Ewing says:

    At my little farm I keep a loaded .410 Rem 1100 next to the barn door for random potshots at doves during the fall.

    I could keep a giant 12 gauge 870 there but the .410 is more of a challenge and is obviously more pleasant to shoot.

    The combination of the two makes it more fun.


  2. Kelly says:

    Ummm, John appears to be suggesting that he and his Dad were using #7.5 lead shot on ducks. Hopefully this was a long time ago! Regardless, even with #7.5 hevishot or one of the other high-density shot loads this isn’t a great combo, no matter how good a shot is using it. On a duck hunting trip in Argentina the outfitter mistakenly gave us #7 lead (legal down there) loads one morning. The cripple rate was notably higher when compared to the #5 lead loads we had been using – both out of a 12-gauge. My hunting partner that morning is one of the two or three finest wingshots I have ever known in 55 years of chasing birds, and made the same observation. Using a .410 is fine on dove and quail, as you have observed it doesn’t take much to knock them down. Using it on ducks, pheasants and other large, very tough gamebirds isn’t, in my opinion, a wise choice.


    • Mike Pearce says:

      I’m a little surprised with the lack of success with #7 lead shot. Before steel shot, we shot 7 1/2 trap loads at both decoying black ducks and geese with good success.

      We shot tight chokes and concentrated on head shots. My father was alway tough on me when growing up, when I “body slammed” a duck or goose. That payed great dividends in all my field shooting.


      • Kelly says:

        Head shots always work, even with smaller shot! I’m sure your Dad didn’t want the breast filled up/chewed up with shot. But a little easier to attempt on decoying birds, this was primarily pass-shooting. The #7 simply wouldn’t penetrate enough for quick kills most of the time unless you got one in the head.


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