Are you wondering what a .410 shotgun can be used to hunt?
A .410 shotgun is usually used by hunters for small game like birds, rabbits etc. But a .410 shotgun can also be used to hunt deer as long as you keep a few things in mind.
What are these factors and when should you not use a .410 for deer?
That’s what this article is all about.
By the end of this article you will know whether or not it is legal to hunt deer with a .410 where you live and
Let’s jump right in.
What is a .410 shotgun?
Before we get to the details, let’s run through a quick overview of the .410 shotgun.
A .410 is one of the smallest commercially available calibers for a shotgun. It has been around since the mid 1800s.
The .410 is popular with survivalists because they are compact, lightweight, and there is ammo available for a wide variety of uses.
It is also common with young hunters and females with smaller frames who are not comfortable shooting with a 20 or 12-gauge shotgun because of the recoil.
How to Hunt Deer with a .410 Shotgun
Before you head out to hunt deer with a .410, I suggest you read some of the sections below that cover the reasons why you might want to use something bigger.
With that said, if you insist on using a .410 for deer, you should consider:
- Ranges less than 40 yards
- Correct Ammo
- Bowhunting Tactics
One of the biggest issues with using a .410 for deer is the very short effective range.
For a skilled marksman, somewhere around 40 yards is going to be the limit for producing ethical kills.
You should spend time before hunting season practicing to find out the distance you can consistently shoot small groups (3-4″ max).
The main reason the effective range of the .410 is so short is due to the low kinetic energy.
Brenneke makes a .410 rifled slug that I recommend below. At 50 yards, the energy is only 388 ft-lbs.
.410 Ammo for Deer
If you are going to hunt deer with a .410, ammo choice is critical.
Since the effective range is so short and ballistic energy so low, you will want to stick to rifled slugs.
If you aren’t aware, a slug is a solid cylinder of lead (or other metal) that is fired from the shotgun, similar to a bullet.
When using slugs, you need to make sure you don’t have a choke installed that is smaller than the slug. Failure to do so is dangerous, and will ruin the barrel of your shotgun.
A good choice for .140 rifled slugs is the Brenneke Close Encounter.
Also worth noting before moving on, .410 is less popular than 12 gauge and 20 gauge. This can make it a little more difficult to get your hands on shells. It is usually cheaper than 12 and 20 gauge ammo.
.410 Deer Hunting Tactics
The methods you are going to use when hunting deer with a .410 are going to be very similar to the methods used by bowhunters.
You may even want to consider investing in something like an Ozonics device to help with scent control.
Another requirement is that you are located broadside to the deer. Any other angle runs the risk of wounding the deer but not killing it, which is the last thing we want.
All of this is due to the small effective range of a .410 as discussed above. If this doesn’t sound like the right hunting strategy for your area, checkout some suggestions for alternatives below.
Legality of .410 Deer Hunting
One last thing you are going to need to verify before using a .410 for deer is if it is legal in your state.
Before we start, this is not a complete list of legal states. Be sure to check with your local fish and game to confirm whatever you use to hunt with is legal in your area.
A number of states in the U.S. have shotgun deer seasons.
In fact, in Illinois, Massachusetts, Delaware, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana a shotgun is one of your only options to hunt deer.
In other states, shotguns can be used in some parts of the state while centerfire rifles can be used in regions.
From what I am aware, it is legal to hunt deer with a .410 in:
Like I said above, this list may not be complete. Check with your local fish and game.
Legality aside, if you have the means to, invest is something more suitable.
Best .410 Shotgun for Deer
If you are in the market for a .410 shotgun, one of my personal favorite options is the Henry Lever Action Shotgun.
It is a well made shotgun from a manufacturer with an excellent track record.
The gun is fairly lightweight and well balanced.
Having a lever action shotgun is pretty slick as well. The gun is accurate and the action feels smooth.
Investing in a scope for your .410 is an excellent idea if you plan on using it to hunt deer. Because of the short effective range, accurate shot placement is critical.
The Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x is a perfect choice for this application.
- The updated Strike Eagle 1-6x24 is defined by speed and versatility. A true 1x on the low end adapts to a wide range of scenarios, letting shooters rapidly engage targets from point-blank to extended ranges.
- The magnification ring has been updated and now includes a thread-in throw lever, and the magnification indicators can now be seen without coming off the scope.
- The new illuminated BDC3 reticle focuses the shooter's eye to the target faster and holdovers allow for immediate use out to 650 yards for targets of known distance.
I have a more in depth write up on the scope in the article on Best AR15 Hunting Scopes.
Why You Might Want to Reconsider Using a .410 for Deer
As hunters, we should all feel an obligation to hunt in an ethical, effective manner.
A .410 shotgun has a very small effective range of around 40 yards for deer.
You must also have a well placed shot for it to produce a clean kill.
Most .410 shotguns are not capable of shooting small groups (<3”-4”) beyond 40 yards.
Even at that distance, it is going to require a skilled marksman.
Alternatives to .410 Shotgun for Deer
If you are on the fence about using a .410 or are looking for an alternative, here are a few recommendations.
For hunters with smaller frames that are worried about recoil consider stepping up to a 20 gauge shotgun.
If recoil is not something you are concerned about, a 12 gauge shotgun is the clear choice. It is much more versatile, has higher kinetic energy, and ammo is much more readily available.
Another popular choice for short range hunters is a 30-30, which have an effective range of about 150 yards.
If you are a new hunter and open to hunting with a rifle, checkout our article on the best hunting rifle for beginners.
How does a .410 compare to a 12-Gauge?
The gauge of a shotgun represents the weight of a lead ball that is the same size as the bore of a barrel.
For example, a 12-gauge is called a 12 gauge because a lead ball that fits down the barrel would weight 1/12th of a pound.
If a .410 were named the same way, it would be called a 67 gauge because the ball would weigh about 1/67th of a pound.
Based on this comparison we can see the .410 is more than 6 times smaller than a 12 gauge.
The other thing to consider is the kinetic energy.
At 50 yards, a 12 gauge shotgun is going to have 3-5 times more kinetic energy than a .410 bore.
What can a .410 shotgun kill?
While the .410 was originally marketed as the perfect general purpose shotgun, it works best for hunting small game.
A .410 is great for hunting birds, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals.