Because they are small, .410 shotguns are good for teaching youngsters to shoot, shooting skeet and pursuing small game. The name “.410” refers to the bore diameter of the gun; using more common terms, a .410 is equal to a 68-gauge shotgun. The primary benefits of a .410 shotgun include its light weight and relatively gentle recoil, while its primary drawbacks are its limited range and tendency to produce poor pellet patterns.
Where the .410 Excels
Most .410 shotgun ammunition spreads widely when in flight, so you must be very close to your target -- within 25 yards or so -- to drop the animal quickly and humanely. In dense cover, where most shots are at close range, .410s are very effective. Small game, including rabbits, squirrels and small birds, are the most common targets of those hunting with a .410. Additionally, because they are somewhat quieter than larger shotguns, they are less likely to spook your quarry.
Drawbacks of the .410
Because of the problems with range and pellet spread, some experienced hunters and shooters eschew the use of .410s by novices, feeling that they are discouraging to those who have not yet mastered the art of shooting. Additionally, while .410 ammunition is usually light in weight, it is somewhat expensive. Often, because manufacturers produce the ammunition in larger quantities, 20-gauge shells are more affordable than shells for a .410.
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