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GUNS Magazine December 2011 Digital Edition - Page 28
• J O h N B A R S N E S S • MORE ShOt PLEASE! heavy loads for the .410. he poor, little .410 bore is the most misunderstood T shotgun “gauge” in North America. some people think it’s absolutely useless for any sort of wingshooting, while others, like the Montana rancher I worked for on my first job out of high school, firmly believe a .410 kills just as far as any larger gauge, as long as the shooter “aims” accurately. (A book could be written about his firearm delusions, but the world is better off without it.) In reality, a .410 can be an effective game gun, but requires more understanding than many hunters are willing to provide. Its biggest limitation is thin patterns due to a lack of shot. Many hunters try to “help” the .410 by using tight chokes and bigger shot. Tighter chokes do help but bigger shot doesn’t, often because of tighter chokes. When shotgun bores shrink in diameter, larger shot doesn’t flow as smoothly. You can demonstrate this effect by pouring shot through funnels of various sizes. Smaller shot flows easily through about any funnel but large shot will often jam in smaller spouts. Jiggling a funnel will free the jammed shot, but there’s no jiggling in shotguns. When large, lead shot gets squeezed through a small bore at 12,000 pounds per square inch, the shot deforms because steel is harder than lead. Deformed shot don’t fly as straightly as round shot, so fewer pellets end up in the pattern, especially at longer ranges. A .410’s bore only has 55 percent of the cross-sectional area of a 28-gauge bore. A full choke constricts the muzzle even more. Deformation can be limited by using harder shot, but even the hardest No. 6 shot will deform some when forced through a .410’s tiny bore and choke. The problem is compounded by a lack of shot. Most .410 loads use 1/2 to 11/16 ounce of shot, though Winchester introduced a 3/4-ounce load a few years ago. An average fullchoke .410 will only put 50 percent of a No. 4’s 3/4-ounce load into the same 30" circle at 40 yards—around 50 pellets. This means about one pellet per 14 square inches—about as much vital area as a departing pheasant. The rooster may be hit with one pellet. and may not be hit at all. Even at 25 yards, where practically a light .410 excels where shots are close. the .410 is a tiny shotgun shell, but works pretty well with 3/4 ounce of hard, small shot. all the shot lands in a 30" circle, a .410 with 3/4 ounce of No. 4 shot only has a pattern density of one pellet per 7 square inches. A rooster might get hit with two pellets in the vitals or it might not. So no, “aiming more accurately” with a .410 doesn’t allow us to kill pheasants as far away as with a 12 gauge. Winchester’s 3/4-ounce load works pretty well but, like almost all .410 ammo, is somewhat pricey, running about $18 to $20 a box—when you can find it. The shot-size selection is also slim: 8-1/2, 7, 6 and 4. I can only guess 4s are included because of demand from misguided hunters, because as we’ve seen 4s are about as effective as a box of rocks. It would be nice to drop the 4s and include a couple of sizes smaller than No. 6; .410s can be extremely temperamental about the shot sizes they handle. My own .410 is a Huglu side-by-side, purchased in 2004, several years before CZ took over their importation from Turkey. It was originally choked fulland-full, but I opened the right barrel to modified. The 3/4-ounce handload I use came from Ballistic Products Inc.: a 3" Fiocchi shell, Fiocchi 616 primer, 11.5 grains of Hodgdon Li’l Gun and a BPI Stump wad. Unlike most modern plastic wads, the Stump doesn’t have any “sidewalls.” Instead, the shot just sits on top where it can rub against the bore. Theoretically, this also tends to deform shot, but .410s should be loaded with hard shot anyway. All the shot in the handloads was 28 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • DECEMBER 2011