410 vs 12 Gauge

410 vs 12 gauge shotguns at the shooting range

A side by side comparison of the 410 bore versus the larger 12 gauge shotgun caliber. What is each good for and which is better suited for your shotgunning needs?

The .410 and the 12-gauge shotgun are about as different, at least within the shotgun family, as they come. One is small, used infrequently, and highly disputed as a personal-defense tool. The other is large (by comparison), practically universal, and has few doubters as a home-defense weapon.

But they are both shotgun shells after all, and their uses, it may surprise some, can overlap. Comparing the 410 vs 12 gauge shotgun will help you better understand the advantages, and the drawbacks, of both cartridges.

410 Bore12 Gauge

Advantages of the .410 vs 12-Gauge Shotgun

Winchester 12 gauge ammo vs Federal 410 bore ammo

The .410 shotgun, which equates to roughly a 67-gauge shell, is one of the most maligned cartridges in the shooting industry. Those that use it (or grew up with it) seem to love it, but those that criticize it don’t just dislike it; they seem to despise, deride, and detest, it.

But hold that distain for a few minutes and consider the benefits of this light shotgun shell…

Less Recoil

The most obvious advantage for the .410 shell is its power, or lack thereof. The .410 is a light, manageable load that can be fired by virtually any shooter.

Anyone who has fired both a .410 and a 12 gauge can speak to this fact, but it never hurts to look at a few stats. According to Backfire.tv, a firearms-content site, the .410 recoil energy for “common target loads for clays” is about 4.6 ft-lbs, while the recoil energy for Federal Speed-Shok waterfowl loads is about 3.2 ft-lbs. For 12-gauge loads, those numbers are 18 and 32 respectively.

The late Chuck Hawks, one of the most respected gun-information sources, says the recoil energy for two different .410 loads is 7.1 and 10.5 ft-lbs. The 12-gauge loads they looked at range from about 17 to over 54 ft-lbs.

We could go on, but the result is clear: if you want easy, comfortable shooting, it’s hard to beat the .410.

Small Game Hunting

One use where the .410 is often superior is small game hunting. Squirrel and rabbit hunting are two sports where the .410 shotgun can be used effectively. It may not have outstanding range, but the lighter .410 is less likely to destroy the meat and pelt, giving you a better harvest at the end of your hunt.

Skeet Shooting

One of the concerns when hunting with the .410 is injuring, but not killing, your target. For this reason, many avoid using the .410 for medium-sized game birds like pheasant or duck, especially at longer range. But for skeet shooting and clay pigeons, all you need is one properly-placed pellet to strike the target. Because it’s light on the shoulder, the .410 is a good option for a full day of skeet shooting.

Introducing Young Shooters

When it comes time to introduce your young hunter or skeet shooter to shotguns, the .410 is an easily-accessible option that is far less intimidating. The firearms are usually light (at least lighter than most 12 gauge shotguns) and the shot brings less recoil. Helping a young outdoor enthusiast learn to safely load, discharge, and handle a firearm is easier with a softer .410 shotgun.

Fun to Shoot

Shooting 410 bore shotgun

It may not carry the power of a 12 gauge, but let’s face it: the .410 can be a lot of fun to shoot. Spending an afternoon destroying targets and clay pigeons with the .410 is extremely enjoyable, and that is, after all, the real point of owning a shotgun.

Advantages of a 12-Gauge

Stating the Obvious: More Power

12 gauge and 410 bore shotshells fired into a target

We’ll start with the most obvious advantage of the 12 gauge over the .410: more power. With a 12-gauge shotgun, you are getting more ballistic energy, which means you can use the shotgun for activities that are unthinkable (and unethical) with the 12 gauge.

In the image above, you can see our 12 gauge #4 Winchester Super-X near the bottom of the target. Our Federal Top Gun #7.5 410 bore ammo hit near the top.

Massive Versatility

The .410 can be used for a surprising variety of activities, and even has its uses, however debated, as a home-defense weapon. But the 12 gauge can do practically anything. Outside of small game hunting, the 12 gauge can be used for almost any purpose, as long as you have the right ammunition and the right barrel.

From goose to duck to pheasant, from coyote to deer to turkey, from trap shooting to varmint control to home defense and more; there are few activities where the 12 gauge is incapable or inappropriate. You can use a 12 gauge for protecting your home and filling your meat freezer, with a few trips to the trap range on the weekends. If there is any do-it-all round, shotgun or otherwise, the 12-gauge is probably it.

More Hunting Versatility

Overall versatility is not the only advantage. If you want to purchase a hunting firearms so you can get started on a variety of pursuits, you should probably look into a 12-gauge shotgun.

You may have to exchange barrels and chokes, but a 12-gauge shotgun, when loaded properly, can be used for:

  • Deer
  • Pheasant
  • Quail
  • Duck
  • Geese
  • Turkey
  • Rabbit
  • Dove
  • Predators

With a 12-gauge, there are plenty of options so you can keep hunting practically all year.

Greater Availability

This has more to do with the market and ammunition industry than the 12-gauge or .410 rounds. Frankly, the 12 gauge simply has more options readily available. If you purchase a .410 shotgun, you may have trouble finding the right load for your specific needs. If you want to go skeet shooting with a .410, for example, you may need to plan ahead and order your ammunition in advance, or at least make sure you local store has it in stock. If you want to do the same with a 12-gauge shotgun, you can be fairly confident that your local outlet has a few boxes. (Assuming ammo in general is in stock.)

Find Your Shotgun Rounds at Ammo to Go!

Whether you choose the universal 12 gauge or the light and friendly .410, you’ll find high-quality ammunition options at ammotogo.com. Visit our site today and place your order for affordable, effective ammunition. Score 12 gauge ammo for sale here and see our in-stock 410 bore ammo here.

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