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When you’re shopping for a self-defense shotgun, you’ll almost always be led to the 12-gauge rack. That’s because it’s the universal law enforcement and military weapon, seeing as it has plenty of stopping power. But what about .410 vs. 20 gauge for home defense in maneuverability, patterning, and recoil?
The .410 bore is the lightest weight shotgun used today, while the 20 gauge offers a significant step over in terms of power and usefulness. It’s a better beginner’s gun due to its relatively low recoil, but you fire more shot-per-shell than the smaller .410 caliber. The first is best for small and sensitive-to-recoil shooters, while the other delivers 75% of the lead a 12 gauge offers with 40 to 50 percent less recoil.
Using a .410 gun for home defense requires a full choke to concentrate available shots. A 20-gauge shotgun means you’re able to rapidly and more accurately hit your attacker with multiple shots or hit many targets. Let’s dive into a conclusive comparison of the .410 vs. 20-gauge guns for home defense.
What Are ‘Gauge’ Measurements Used in Shotgun Sizing?
Shotguns are designed to fire a pattern or group of small pellets called shot. That makes it easier and more effective to hit moving or flying targets, especially if they’re small. It’s a more effective weapon for home defense where there’s little time to zero in your sights on an intruder target. The shell, measured in gauges, is constructed differently from the single projectile of a handgun or hunting rifle.
Shotgun shells utilize numerous pellets instead of the primer, powder, and bullet inside a rifle cartridge’s brass or steel casing. An often-plastic shell contains several shot pellets, a wad, and ignition powders and primers. Apart from shots, these shells, which come in different gauges and lengths, much like rifle calibers, can also have a slug for specific purposes.
Gauge is part of an old British system from the days when you’d buy lead by the pound to make your shot pellets. For instance, 20 gauge means you could fashion 20 shot balls from 1 lb. of the heavy metal. But the .410 shotgun is a misnomer, as it refers to its bore or inside barrel diameter, which is .41 inches.
Other guns in the past included an 8, 4, 24, and 32 gauge, but most of these remain as antiques and collectors’ items today. You’ll come across the most common shotgun sizes are, from the smallest to the largest, .410, 28, 20, 16, 12, and 10 gauges.
Lack of Industry Support for the 20 Gauge, Little Acclaim on the .410 for Home Defense
For many small game hunters, yours truly included, our first harvest was probably a squirrel. Even if you graduated to turkey, waterfowl, or filling buck tags, you’d start with a rusty .410 shotgun, possibly a single shot model. Having used all manner of guns, especially the more powerful 20, 12, or 10 gauges, you’d never consider a .410 shotgun for a spot beside your bed or at arm’s reach.
That’s until you’ve been noticing