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Why aren't there any heavier .410 slugs?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by A strange person, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. A strange person

    A strange person Well-Known Member

    A typical .410 slug load consists of a soft-alloy 1/5 - 1/4 oz. slug loaded to about 1800 fps. It's incredibly poor sectional density, soft lead, and blistering velocity means that penetration is sorely lacking, even for bambi. They often literally expand into rings on impact.


    Why would anyone load a .410 shell that way? What is the logic behind it? Such a load is only good for close-range, opportunistic shots at mentally challenged coyotes, which anything is good for. Who has any use for a load that basically slaps a coin face-first into the target? Were these loads designed for use as torturing devices?

    I don't see why the .410 could not be loaded to duplicate .41 mag deer hunting loads, or at least come close. For the 12, and even the 20 gauge, there are heavy, hard, flat-nosed slug loads available that will shoot clean through a moose from 100 yards and leave a bore-diameter wound channel that will gush blood like a fire hose. Even "normal" slugs in these bores are good enough for deer. Shotgun slugs need weight and hardness, not velocity. The .410 could be an adequate, no, GOOD deer gun if there were decent slugs available for it. Why aren't there any?
  2. Sport45

    Sport45 Well-Known Member

    Chamber pressure limits how much the slug can weight without blowing the thing up. 12 gauge slugs can be heavier because the extra bore diameter gives a lot more area for roughly the same amount of pressure to act on.

    I've never taken any apart, but I suspect a .410 slug is about the same length as a 12 ga slug and the latter's extra mass is due to its extra diameter. (Area and volume being a function of the square of the diameter and all.)
  3. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

  4. Pete D.

    Pete D. Well-Known Member


    Yes...I suspect that pressure is the reason.
    .410s routinely operate in the 9k - 11k psi range. This is more pressure than average 12 ga. loadings which tend to be in the 7k to 9k range. Using a heavier slug would probably cause pressures to rise, maybe to unsafe levels. I say "probably" because, with modern propellants, there may be options to keep pressures in the safe zone. Look at any of the "shotgun from hell" threads for examples.....though none of those are .410 loads.

    PS - Gotta look into those Hoening slugs. New to me.

    PPS - Looked at them. Very impressive. The downside is that they must be fired from a rifled barrel. The proprietary barrel from Hoening is expensive at $550 (for T/C Encore and Contender)
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  5. A strange person

    A strange person Well-Known Member

    Obviously. That is why I suggested that heavier slugs be loaded to lower velocities, so that pressures remain safe. Nobody would load .357MAG with a 90 grain bullet going 2000 fps for deer, they would use a 158 grain bullet at 1400 fps, and pressures would be the same. I find it hard to believe that the .410 can be loaded with a 109 grain slug for 1800+ fps, but not with, say, a 170 grain slug going 1400 fps or so. Slugs do not need velocity. Velocity achieves flatter trajectories and more violent expansion. Huge bullets from smooth bore barrels do not benefit from either of these qualities. Brenneke generally seems to understand this concept, but even their .410 offering seems to fall far short of it's potential.

    It also occurs to me that the .410 has similar operating pressures to the 12GA. If the latter can be loaded with slugs heavy enough to match the SD's of common handgun hunting bullets while maintaining respectable velocities, then so can the .410.

    That's exactly what I'm talking about! There is no excuse for something like this to not be factory loaded.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  6. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member


    I can see this from a few different perspectives.

    One being that of trying to get a particular weapon to perform up to levels it wasn't really designed for in the first place. The prevailing opinion on the origin of the .410 is that it arose from converted rifle barrels. In otherwords, it was a round designed to fit easily with existing rifles, and some pistols, to give a person a shotgun weapon. It likely was never meant to be something other than a small game, varmint shotgun.

    After it became a popular round, actual shotguns were designed for it.

    So, with that in mind, the .410 shotgun simply wasn't "designed", in the conventional sense, for any type of large game...including deer. It was actually designed to fit a cartridge which was, in turn, designed to fit a rifle barrel as a "conversion shell". It was, in effect, a reverse engineering project from the beginning...a rifle was reverse engineered to be a shotgun, which produced a shotgun cartridge as a result. Then the .410 shotgun was reverse engineered to fit the cartridge.

    Now some people would like to continue the reverse engineering process and attempt to ramp up the performance of the .410 to what amounts to a more "rifle-like" performance. Only now they're hampered because of the design limitations of the shotgun itself; because, unlike a rifle, shotguns which are designed to be shotguns aren't capable of handling the chamber pressures required to obtain more rifle-like performances from a slug.

    It sounds to me like what you want is more penetration power for the .410 slug. Well, penetration power is a function of several different factors, such a mass, velocity, bullet composition, and bullet shape.

    When limited by design in one area, such as maximum chamber pressure, you have to alter other factors to get what you want.

    For example, increasing bullet mass, like you're asking, means an increase in chamber pressures, especially if you're intending to maintain bullet velocity. You can't do this if you're already operating at the limits of your design chamber pressures. So using a harder alloy, or a jacket round, which will help maintain bullet geometry and integrity upon impact with the target, could be used as a means for better penetration.

    Altering the shape of the bullet can also be used to increase penetration. A more conventional, round-nosed bullet shape instead of a blunt nosed slug, for example. Combining this with different compositions of alloys and jacketing can improve upon this further.

    But in every case, you have to obesrve the limitations of the firearm itself.

    When I was in the Navy, one Sailor in my division was from Louisiana; and he once talked about how crazy some Cajuns were (his term was not "Cajun"...I'll leave it at that.) Specifially, he was talking about how they would chamber .44 Magnum rounds in their .410 shotguns on a routine basis.

    To say that this is moronic would be the understatement of the year.

    As Sam1911 pointed out, some people have attempted to address the very problems you've pointed out already. But you'll have to search for them to find them, because most stores don't carry much more than the conventional, higher-demand shotgun ammunition. Specialty stuff has to be ordered or obtained from a place that carries such stuff on hand.

    @ Sam1911:

    Thanks for that link! I had never known someone designed such a round for the .410! Not that I'll ever be likely to use it...I'm more of a small game, varmit hunter when it comes to the .410.

  7. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Oooooh, sure there are excuses! For one, some of the loads they sell are only advertised as safe in their specific barrels. Second, there's lots of old .410 guns around, and also the Judge and Governor handguns now. Hoening says these are loads tested to be safely within SAAMI spec for .410s, but I don't know that Taurus, or even S&W, will be happy about those loads in their revolvers. And I'm sure there are several milliion .410 single-shot "toppers" out there which might not digest these with ease.
  8. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    True, but like Ed Hubel with the "12 Ga. Rifle from Hell" project has determined, safe chamber pressures can still be maintained using FAR more energetic combinations of slow powders and heavy slugs than folks ever bothered to consider before. As you're kind of saying, that wasn't "the point" of a shotgun, really, until someone got bored (or whatever :)) and decided to sit down and do the math and explore what could be possible.
  9. oletymer

    oletymer Well-Known Member

    I used the simple solution. I use rifles and shotguns for what they are best used for.
  10. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member

    "True, but like Ed Hubel with the "12 Ga. Rifle from Hell" project has determined, safe chamber pressures can still be maintained using FAR more energetic combinations of slow powders and heavy slugs than folks ever bothered to consider before."

    Good point. There is a huge variety of gunpowders available in today's market. Matching fast/slow burn rates to bullet mass and barrel length can do wonders for peak chamber pressures and velocities.

  11. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Surely! And with numbers like this...
    The .410 might be best for mule deer, black bear, elk at close range, moose -- and it's matching the numbers in the .405 Winchester Teddy Roosevelt took on safari in Africa!

    How 'bout a slim little .410 double semi-dangerous game rifle? :)
  12. SHR970

    SHR970 Well-Known Member

    That is a bunch of manure. :scrutiny: You adjust the speed of the powder used and the amount of powder used to moderate the chamber pressures; otherwise you wouldn't have 1/2 oz (220 gr.) loads in 2 1/2" shells and up to 3/4 oz (330 gr.) loads in 3" shells.

    Lyman used to market a slug mold for the 410 that featured a 138 gr. slug and published loading data for it. Dougs 410 slugs for reloading are available in weights over 125 gr. Some simple internet searches will back that up.

    The reason you don't see it is there was a long period when there was little demand for the 410; it was relegated to the status of beginners gun for kids. It's only been in the last 10-15 years or so that you see more and better loads available. The trend started around the time that American Derringer chambered a 410 and they along with Winchester came out with the 410 3 pellet 000 Buck load in 2 1/2". That was also popular for the short lived Thunder 5 revolver (the Judge is basically the same gun just warmed over). Then can the S&B buck offerings, then the Saiga 410 came over here with the Bear 410 buck offering. With the Taurus Judge, the gun press promoting it, and the public buying it came more development in the 410 ammo arena. With the exception of the Brenneke 410 1/4 oz. slug, there has been precious little development of slug ammo by the major manufacturers. Most of the time it has been to offer a 1/4 oz. slug where they only offered 1/5 oz. in the past. It is a matter of demand; common "wisdom" is that the 410 is useless for deer. Without the hunting segment of the market wanting / needing a good slug for hunting or defense you won't see the majors putting any effort (read that money) into to developing a good slug.
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Accuracy is the reason.

    Hollow-base Forster slugs are used in .410 shotguns so you can hit something with them in a smoothbore barrel.

    A 300 grain slug in a .410 would have to be longer then the shell to have a big enough hollow base to fly point first to the target.

    Or you would have to have a rifled barrel.

    One, or the tother.

  14. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    Right. The Hoening big bore concept is founded around a very accurate rifled barrel for a T/C Contender or Encore.

    They've bascially adapted the plastic hull of a .410 shotshell into a straight-walled rifle cartridge.

    Now, if Mossberg would just put one of their 500 Bantams together with a rifled .410 barrel, we'd really have something!

    Of course, with the current thread we have going on about how many hundreds of cartridges are redundant, what we'd have is yet another gun that's pretty much the same thing as a lot of others.

    But in shotgun-hunting-only states, whooo yeah, that would be VERY cool. I'd sure take one over a 12 or 20 ga. slug gun!
  15. SHR970

    SHR970 Well-Known Member

    There's no reason that a 158 gr. SWC with a Gualandi Bior Dwarf attached shouldn't stabilize much like a Brenneke slug with its attached wad base. I just haven't gotten around to trying it. At 14-1500 fps, you wouldn't even need it to be a HP to expand well; using a standard swaged SWC should do. And this velocity range is realistic for a 3/8 oz. load; you might be able to go faster and stay within pressure with the right powder.

    The aerodynamic computer modeling suggests it should fly well enough the question is in real world accuracy. I just need some components and 3/8 oz. load data to start working it out. I already have the Rossi test bed. At close to 800 ft. lbs. @ 1500 fps muzzle this would be no slouch load with 1100 fps. and 424 ft. lbs. remaining at 100 yards. That would be a huge step up from current factory offerings.

    Just my $.02.
  16. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Supposedly, the 410 was evolved from birdshot loads in 44-40 cases used by Bill Cody and Annie Oakley in smoothbore Model 73s for aerial targets in the Wild West show.

    It caught on as a "Garden Gun" cartridge,cheap. quiet and effective on up to rabbit sized stuff.

    There's a zillion old IJ's, H&Rs etc, out there that would NOT handle the modern high pressure fodder we're talking about here.

    Even a half oz slug at 1400 FPS would be straining things,IMO.

    If one desires more punch slug wise than a 410 in about that bore size, get an old Rolling Block in 43 Spanish and rock on.
  17. SHR970

    SHR970 Well-Known Member

    Not legal in shotgun only areas.

    In my neck of the woods Quail and Deer season overlap by two weeks. It's kind of nice to be carrying the 410 O/U for quail and still be able to take a buck of opportunity with the same gun.

    *In Cali, for deer with shotguns your choices on ammo are 000 & 00 Buck or slug. Conveniently in 410 my choices are 000 & 00 Buck and slug. It would be nice to have a slug that was better suited than most of the junk on the market. If I have my 20 ga. for quail my only choice for deer is slug. YMMV
  18. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    Buy a 12 gauge, or at least a 20. That solves your problem. I don't use my 177 air rifle for deer, either. :rolleyes: Every tool has its uses.
  19. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Here, slugs for deer have to be 20 gauge or larger.

    Those old Spanish RBs had little rifling anyway....
  20. Deltaboy

    Deltaboy Well-Known Member

    All I can tell anyone is and old man in Eastern Arkansas punched his deer tags every year for over 50 years using a old pump 410 and Rifled Slugs in later years he hand loaded 41 mag bullets in place of the slug and recrimped them. He had several 1 shot kills that I witnessed when he brought them into the LGS which served as a Check in Station.

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