Is 410 buckshot viable for home defense? Will this light recoiling cartridge pattern well enough to be effective at short and intermediate ranges? As we mentioned last week when discussing using a 410 for home defense, we had set up the ultimate ballistic test for our 410 gauge defensive ammo to see if this was a good choice.
Why 410 Buckshot?
In theory, 410 gauge defensive shotgun ammunition launched out of a platform like the Mossberg Shockwave could be a great choice for home defense or car defense for someone that’s recoil sensitive. For example, the Remington 5 pellet 000 buck load we tested has more than 1/2 the payload of a Federal Flite Control 00 buck 12 gauge shell, but at a considerably reduced recoil penalty.
Testing the 410 buckshot shotgun ammo was simple. We shot each of the 4 rounds at 10 feet and at about 35 feet to establish the pattern. These distances are representative of common distances found inside homes. Then, we shot the rounds into ballistic gel to establish whether or not they’d have sufficient penetration for home defense. We used an old Air Force ABU jacket as a cloth layer to simulate medium weight clothing.
The Best: Remington 5 Pellet 000 410 Buckshot
Out of the four rounds tested, the Remington 3 inch shell is the clear winner. Pattern density at 30+ feet kept all 5 pellets in a group smaller than the palm of my hand. The .36 caliber roundballs weigh around 70 grains each. So a shot from this round is like hitting someone with 5 rounds from a 32 ACP simultaneously.
The ballistics test was similarly impressive. 4 of the 5 projectiles penetrated entirely through a 16 inch gel block. The fourth stopped at the very back of the first block. The 4 that did enter the second block kept going for another 3-4 inches. Penetration of 18-20 inches is more than sufficient for home protection or personal defense use.
Lastly, despite being a 3 inch magnum, the felt recoil impulse from the Remington 410 buckshot wasn’t excessive, even out of a stockless 410 shotgun like the Shockwave.
2nd Best: Winchester 3 Pellet 000 410 Buckshot
In second place you’ll find Winchester’s traditional 410 buckshot load. This is a 2.5 inch shell holding 3 pellets of 000 buckshot. At 10 feet, the pattern was nearly identical to the Remington load. At the longer distance, the 000 3 pellet 410 defensive load opened up slightly wider than its closest rival. The group size at the longer distance is definitely still acceptable for home defense or personal protection. It’s just a little larger than the Remington.
In the terminal ballistics portion, the Winchester 000 410 buckshot performed great. It was slightly less consistent than the Remington round, however. The Winchester had one pellet reach well over 20 inches of penetration. A second pellet went about 14 inches and stopped in the first gel block. The final of the three 000 buck pellets went through the first block and exited out the side of the second block.
The reason that the Winchester 2.5 inch 000 buckshot load finishes behind the Remington is because the pattern was slightly wider, and the terminal performance was less consistent. However, the Winchester gets several points back for the following reasons. First, it had basically no felt recoil, making it the easiest to shoot. Secondly, because it’s a 2.5 inch shell, it will work in a wider variety of 410 shotguns. For example, the Henry Axe only accepts 2.5 inch shells.
3rd Place: Winchester PDX1 Defender 410
The level of curiosity I personally had about this round was pretty high. The 3 inch shell uses four Defense Disks backed up by 16 BBs. Unlike the other rounds, the both the Defense Disks and the BBs are plated, so they’re less likely to deform on impact. This round is also available in a 2.5 inch shell that uses 3 Defense Disks and 12 BBs instead of 4 and 16.
At across a small room distance, the PDX1 Defender’s pattern was similar to the 410 buckshot loads. However, you could start to see the BBs moving out of the pattern. Unfortunately, when we moved to the 15 pace/35+ foot distance, the Defender threw BBs clear off the target. This is a problem for a number of reasons. No matter what, we’re accountable for every projectile that comes out of the gun. And if your shotgun pattern can’t keep everything on a torso sized target at 35 feet, it’s not going to be a great choice for inside a house.
Because the PDX1 Defender 410 dropped pellets off the target at 35+ feet, we fired two more rounds. One was at 25 feet, and another at 30. At 30 feet all the pellets stayed on the target, but had a fairly extreme spread. That’s likely the maximum effective range of this round out of a Shockwave.
The ballistics test on the other hand was fantastic. At the 10 foot testing distance, the Defense Disks stayed together. They acted like a plated slug and drove to about 15-16 inches of penetration. The BBs had inconsistent penetration. A few went deep with the Defense Disks, and a few penetrated just three or four inches.
I actually liked the PDX1 Defender round. I wish Winchester offered one with just the plated Defense Disks and ditched the BB shot. The pattern from the shot departing the target at hallway distances is why the Defender is only in 3rd place on the 410 buckshot rankings. I feel like if it was just the disks it would have really impressed me.
4th Place: Hornady Critical Defense 410
Hornady’s Critical Defense 410 round isn’t a true 410 buckshot load. It’s very interesting, because it stacks a .41 caliber FTX projectile over two traditional .35 caliber roundballs. My gut instinct was that this round is designed pistols with rifled barrels, such as the Taurus Judge or the S&W Governor.
Turns out my instinct was right. At intermediate distances, the Shockwave’s smooth bore didn’t stabilize the FTX bullet, causing it to tumble wildly in flight. Both attempts to produce a group had the .41 caliber bullet go through the target sideways. The buckshot portion of the round acted normally.
Terminal ballistics were similarly interesting. The FTX round didn’t expand, likely because it didn’t hit the gel nose-on. It did however tumble and end up backwards in the target. The buckshot acted like all the other buckshot in the test, penetrating well and spreading out.
Unfortunately, because the Critical Defense load doesn’t pattern, there’s no way you can accurately predict where that .41 caliber slug is going to go. That means that it’s not really acceptable for home defense or personal protection out of a Mossberg Shockwave or similar smooth bore gun.
That being said, I don’t want people to think we’re hating on Hornady here. Their products are universally excellent and well-made. I like this round so much that I’m going to get a Taurus Judge and shoot it again because I think out of a pistol with a rifled barrel, it would be pretty awesome.
Final Thoughts on 410 Buckshot for Home Defense
As a platform for launching 410 buckshot rounds, the Mossberg Shockwave is pretty great. It’s light, handy, mitigates recoil well, and honestly is fun to shoot. It leaves a little to be desired in the aiming category. What I mean by that is without a traditional stock it’s tough to aim well. That’s unfortunate, because as we learned during this test, you need to aim your defensive shotguns to be effective. Perhaps adding a Crimson Trace Laser Saddle would ameliorate this issue.
410 buckshot itself seems perfectly effective for home defense. Based on the tests, if you have a gun that can handle it, the 3 inch Remington 000 buckshot load would be my recommendation. 5 pellets of 000 buck slamming into a target creates a statement that’s hard to miss.
I wouldn’t even feel bad about using the PDX1 Defender, assuming I knew I wasn’t going to be taking any shots longer than 30 feet. And again, I imagine that the Hornady load is great out of a Judge or Governor, just not a smooth bore.
Bottom line, both 410 buckshot and the Mossberg Shockwave are viable platforms for personal protection. Thoughtful projectile selection is important. However, don’t let anyone tell you that a 410 shotgun “isn’t powerful enough.” The data says that it will definitely get the job done.