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The .410 Shotgun and A Young Hunter In Australia

By Tony Santosuosso

Over the years I have owned shotguns in .410, 20 and 12 gauge. All of my experience with shotguns is on rabbits and hares here in Australia, and from what I can make out is a whole different ball game to hunt in the United States. I can tell you that at the height of the rabbit plague there were rabbits literally in the thousands. It was not uncommon to shoot 30 or 40 bunnies in an hour. We stopped when we ran out of ammo or we could not carry any more. They were the good old days.

As a child, safety was drummed into me. It is the most important lesson a young hunter can learn. I was six when I experienced my first hunting trip. And to this day I still can remember it like it was yesterday. That day changed my life forever. I followed my Uncle for four years carrying the bunnies, learning the safety aspects of hunting first before my Uncle believed I was ready to carry a gun.

As a ten-year-old boy, the very first gun my Uncle put in my hands to carry as my own was a humble .410 single-shot shotgun.

As I have said, at the time rabbits were prolific in Australia and hunting them was enjoyed by all, certainly including me. With that .410 shotgun gun I claimed my first rabbit. I continued to use that gun for eight more years. I believe that using the single-shot .410 made me a better shooter. I knew that if I missed I wouldn't get a second chance.

I was also taught to hunt bunnies with a .22 LR rifle. That experience made me a better shot when I was ready to hunt goats and wild pigs with my Sako .270 rifle. Everything is a learning experience and even now I continue to learn. I still get butterflies in my stomach every time I go hunting.

.410 shotguns are probably most often seen in simple break-action, single barrel form, such as those from Harrington & Richardson and New England Arms. But there are a few .410 pump guns, the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 are perhaps the best-known models, and some excellent but expensive .410 double-barreled guns, including models from Browning, Charles Daly, and Weatherby. Another type of .410 sometimes seen is the bolt action, in either single shot or repeating models. Some .410's are available in lightweight Youth Models, with reduced length stocks for smaller shooters.

.410 shells are available in standard 2.5" length with 1/2 ounce of shot and 3" length with 3/4 ounce of shot. .410 gauge guns are probably at their best with shot in (American) sizes 9, 8, 7 1/2, and 6. Shot larger than #6 make for skimpy patterns with a .410 gauge gun because there simply are not enough of them in the maximum 3/4 ounce .410 load. There is also a 1/5 ounce (around 86 grains) rifled slug load available for the .410 shotgun, but this is definitely not adequate for hunting even the smallest deer and should be avoided by the beginning shooter. .410 shells are widely distributed and are not particularly expensive.

After eight years with the .410 I was ready to move up, and I bought a pump action 12 gauge. Unfortunately, I didn't have the 12 gauge pump for long. I lost it in the Australian Government's gun buy back scheme. (American readers, support your NRA!)

Now the only shotgun I own is an O/U 20 gauge. To me the 20 is the perfect gauge for rabbits and hares, particularly if you wish to take the meat as I do. It kills cleanly without doing excessive damage to the carcass. Even using light loads, a solid hit with the 12 gauge broke almost every bone in a rabbit, leaving the meat bruised and blood shot.

Australia is a big country. The best part by far is the outback. To the hunter, it has an allure that keeps us coming back. People might think I'm strange but there is a scent to the out back, and every time I smell it my mind drifts back in time to when I was six. It is just magical. I live in Canberra, the capital of Australia, and we have some excellent hunting spots here. I have shot bunnies, hares, foxes, goats, and pigs 20 minutes from home. If I lived in a major city like Melbourne or Sydney I would have to travel at least an hour to go shooting.

Maybe it is a good thing that people all over the world can read a little bit about hunting in Australia, even if it is only in an article on the internet. Maybe it will urge them to experience it for themselves. I can highly recommend it.

In conclusion, I believe that the humble .410 is seriously underestimated. It does have its limitations, but when used as an introduction to shotgunning for young whippersnappers it will make them better shots. The recoil is light and not intimidating, making shooting fun for the young beginner. I know when my son is old enough to start shooting the decision to place an inexpensive single shot .410 in his hands has already been made.

I hope that in the future more people can respect and understand our wonderful sport. Perhaps the inexpensive .410 shotgun can continue to help young people gain that respect and understanding.

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Copyright 2002 by Tony Santosuosso and/or All rights reserved.