If you spend any time at all on the internet studying the subject of home defense you will quickly find an overwhelming amount of information. It is helpful insofar as the more information you can absorb the better you will be able to make an informed decision. The issue of home defense is a serious one and must be approached with thoughtful analysis.
You will also find a lot of opinion on the internet. It is up to the individual to decide the relative merits of these opinions and to take home what lessons can be learned. Blanket statements abound along with articles such as “The Five Firearms You Must Have…” For my part, however, I have found that blanket statements often are misleading – and sometimes contradictory. Glocks are perfect, Glocks are terrible; 1911s are the ultimate, 1911s are outdated; Shotguns are great, AR15s are the only way to go.
The truth of the matter is that any firearm will have both advantages and disadvantages, and what works best for one person may not work at all for another.
A 12-gauge shotgun is often touted as the ultimate must-have home defense weapon, and without question it is deadly effective. Many are of the opinion that, if you do not have a shotgun by your bedside, your home defense arsenal is not complete. But firing a shotgun can be intimidating for many.
For some people, because of small stature or limited strength, the recoil can be prohibitive. A 20-gauge has less of a kick, but it can still be difficult for some, making it simply impractical. The size and weight of a shotgun can be problematic for someone who just does not have the body mass or muscle mass to handle it.
The .410 Bore
As an alternative you may want to consider the .410 Bore Shotgun. It uses the second smallest caliber of shotgun shell available, having dimensions similar to a 45 colt cartridge. The .410 was originally developed and marketed as suitable for pest control and small game hunting, but it can be effective against larger targets, such as coyotes and even deer. The small size of the .410 bore also makes it popular for use in compact firearms carried for emergency use, so-called survival rifles, the most famous being the M6 survival rifle made by Springfield.
As one would expect, the .410 has a much tamer recoil than its bigger cousins, making it much more comfortable to shoot. It is made in all the variations that other shotguns come in; single-shot, double-barrel, lever action, pump, and even semi-auto.
These firearms weigh less than the larger guns. While the 12-gauge weighs around 7.5 pounds, and a 20-gauge around 6.75 pounds, the .410 can weigh between 5 and 5.5 lbs. And, depending on the model you choose, they can be substantially shorter in overall length than a 12-gauge, making it significantly easier to handle.
Shells for the .410 come in a wide variety, just like those for all other shotguns, and there are many newer types of ammo specifically marketed for home defense. But one of the best choices is still conventional 00 or 000 Buckshot. Double-aught pellets are around 0.33 inches in diameter, and there are typically five pellets in each .410 shell. Triple-aught pellets are 0.36 inches with 3 to 5 in each shell.
To put this in perspective, 0.36 inches is equal to 9.1mm. That means that firing a single 000 shell is the equivalent of firing three to five rounds from a 9mm pistol. With a shotgun holding five rounds, plus one in the chamber, that gives you the equivalent of up to thirty rounds of 9mm in a 5 to 5.5 lb firearm, with an overall length of less than 38 inches, and a recoil that is easily handled by almost anyone.
Now, admittedly, a 12-gauge 000 Buckshot shell contains up to eight to ten pellets; quite a bit more. So with the larger size comes an advantage in number of projectiles per shot. There is also a power advantage. The larger 12-gauge shell contains more gunpowder; so, as one would expect, the pellets have a greater velocity, which translates to more energy. But, again, this all comes at the expense of weight and recoil.
The fact that the 410 fires fewer projectiles means that the spray pattern will be smaller than that of the 12 or 20-gauge. But when you are talking of home defense, where the ranges in question are most likely to be less than 25 feet, spray pattern really does not come into play; the distances are just too short. Unlike using birdshot, which has a significantly larger number of significantly smaller pellets, the shot in both 00 and 000 are likely to hit within a circle of no more than a few inches. So, in terms of home defense, regardless of which shotgun you are using you will have to aim to hit your target.
So what’s the take-home lesson? As always there are advantages and disadvantages to both choices. I think that most people would agree that if you are able to handle a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun then these would be the better choice. The fact that they provide much more power is without question. But if your stature, strength level, or even comfort level, make handling these larger firearms prohibitive then a 410 can be a legitimate choice for home defense.
Every individual must make up their own mind as to what will work best for them. Don’t be afraid of breaking with popular opinion if, in your best judgment, it suits you to do so. It is my opinion that, if you train effectively and practice good technique, a 410 shotgun can be a useful part of your home protection plan.