July 2017

.410 Bore Ammo Tests

We compared the ballistics of the Taurus Judge and S&W Governor and Mossberg Cruiser for personal defense.

The argument for a .410-chambered handgun is moot if ammunition performance isn’t credible, so we tested the loads used in evaluating the three .410s, two handguns and a shotgun, using water, our standard ballistic material. For consistency, we used the same ballistic testing for the two revolvers and the pistol-grip shotgun that we have developed in testing all defensive ammunition.

.410 bore guns

The Mossberg Cruiser shotgun is a light and easy to use package, even in the close quarters of a home. But the two handguns, the Governor on the left and the Judge on the right, would be even easier to deploy.

Black Hills Ammunition TAC +P

We tried a Black Hills Ammunition TAC +P using the Barnes bullet. It lost too much velocity to instigate expansion. The 45 ACP isnít as good a choice as the 45 Colt for use in the Governor, per our findings.

We tested four shotgun loads and two personal-defense handgun loads. The 45 Colt loading was fired in the Judge and the Governor, while the 45 ACP loading was tested only in the Smith & Wesson Governor because the Judge isn’t chambered for 45 ACP. In the end, the difference in performance was stark. We cannot recommend birdshot for personal defense. The buckshot and PDX loads are interesting and have some merit. The slug is speedy but very light in weight for personal defense. The 45 Colt is a heavyweight with good performance, while the 45 ACP load was below what we expected in velocity compared to a full-size 5-inch-barrel 1911 handgun.

2.5-inch shot shells

A disadvantage of the revolvers is that they chamber only 2.5-inch shells, shown on the right. The shotgun would be more formidable with 3-inch shells, the three on the left.

Since the .410-bore handgun is often chosen for personal defense in the home based on a perceived lack of penetration, we conducted a modest test of penetration in the home. One of the raters spends his money on guns, but he recently replaced an aging door in his home. Not wasting anything, we subjected the hollow door to fire from the Remington birdshot load, the Winchester PDX, Winchester slugs, and Federal buckshot. The results (no table needed) were that all the loads penetrated. We were surprised that the birdshot penetrated both sides of the door, but it did. Every pellet exited. The Federal buckshot made clean holes, and so did the slug. The Winchester PDX penetrated fully, but the discs, in some cases, were found on the ground 4 to 5 feet behind the door, indicating they lost a lot of energy. If you wish to limit penetration among the A- and B-rated defense loads, the Winchester, with its lighter payload, seems to be the choice.

45 acp ammo

Left, the Hornady 45 Colt load expanded well. Right, the 45 ACP +P load, also at 185 grains, did not expand at all.

It is an odd coincidence, but as we were doing research for this report, we saw a newscast of two robbers, holding a man at gunpoint, who were subsequently shot with a shotgun by another person coming in from the second floor of the dwelling. While details are sketchy, it seems birdshot was used, lightly wounding the felons who fled, were treated at a local ER, and then were arrested at the hospital. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but we thought it was worth mentioning. Here’s how the various loads performed in these handguns:

.410 Shotshell, 45 Colt, 45 ACP Performance Data

Smith & Wesson Governor Revolver w/ 2.5 in. barrel Average Velocity (fps) Muzzle Energy (ft.-lbs.) Average Accuracy (in.) Power Factor (pf) Expanded Width (in.) Retained Weight (gr.) Penetration in Water (in.)
185-gr. Hornady FTX 45 Colt 884 321 2 164 0.65 185/100% 18
185-gr. Barnes TAC +P 45 ACP 791 257 3 146 0.45 185/100% 30
Taurus Judge Revolver w/ 3 in. barrel
185-gr. Hornady FXT 45 Colt 910 340 2.75 168 0.65 185/100% 18
Smith & Wesson Governor Revolver w/ 2.5 in. barrel*
219-gr. Remington #6 Shot 911 403 10 200 N/A N/A 12
292-gr. Federal Buckshot 850 468 1.5 248 N/A N/A 18
310-gr. Winchester PDX 791 431 5 245 N/A N/A 12
88-gr. Winchester slug 1217 289 3 107 N/A N/A 18
Mossberg Cruiser Pump Shotgun w/ 18.5 in. barrel
219-gr. Remington #6 1280 796 4 280 N/A N/A 8
292-gr. Federal Buckshot 1190 918 1 347 N/A N/A 18
310-gr. Winchester PDX 1090 818 2 338 N/A N/A 20
88-gr. Winchester slug 1555 472 3 137 N/A N/A 12
Notes: l *Though the Governor is listed as the test firearm for the shotshell results, the shot loads in the revolvers were basically identical, so just one gun is listed. More important, performance and penetration in water was identical. With the shotgun, performance was upgraded, so these results are listed separately from the handgun performance. Accuracy for the cartridges was taken at 25 yards. We fired three three-shot groups with each load. **Accuracy results for the shotshells reflect the size of the pattern at 9 feet. l To calculate IPSC power factor, multiply bullet weight in grains by the velocity in fps, then divide by 1000. l The retained-weight column shows the recovered bullet weight, then that weight as a percentage of the unfired bullet weight.

Remington Game Load 410 Bore 2.5-Inch .5-Oz. #6 GL4106

Remington Game Load 410 Bore 2.5-Inch .5-Oz. #6 GL4106

We bought this for $14.30/25 at CheaperThanDirt.com. Birdshot isn’t a good choice for personal defense, and firing it in a handgun chambered for the .410 shotgun shell doesn’t elevate our opinion of its effectiveness. This conclusion is based on solid test evidence. Penetration was very light in water. After all, this shot is designed to cleanly kill a bird weighing a few ounces. It is badly mismatched against a felon. When fired from the revolvers, the shot stopped in the first water jug, for the most part. It was found in the middle of the jug laying on the bottom. Interestingly, the main part of the charge seemed to stop in the first 2 to 3 inches of water. However, a small number of pellets, perhaps 4 to 10 of each test shell fired, managed to penetrate to the second jug. These were on the fringe of the pattern. The shotgun showed a strong visual difference when fired into water. The higher velocity resulted in a stronger impact, with the jug bursting open, while the shot from the pistols only pierced the jug. However, seldom did a pellet penetrate to the second jug, and many were found settled to the bottom of the jug at 3 inches or so during the shotgun test. Perhaps the higher velocity flattened the pellets more quickly from the shotgun. While birdshot would make a nasty wound at close range, penetration is insufficient for personal defense. A heavy leather coat worn by a person with ill intent would probably stop much of the charge, and light cover certainly would make the load next to ineffective. The charge also loses a lot of power over distance.


flattened buckshot

The Federal buckshot flattened in water.

Federal Premium .410 Handgun Personal Defense 2.5-Inch PD412JGE 000 Buck Shotshell Ammo

Federal Premium .410 Handgun shotshell ammo

We bought this for $15.99/20 at BassPro.com. This is a formidable loading. While the payload is smaller than 12- or 20-gauge buckshot, penetration is on the par with the larger shells. 000 isn’t as large as 00; however, it is well matched for the .410 shell. Results were very consistent at 18 inches of water penetration from the handgun. The load gained some 400 fps in velocity from the shotgun and 2 more inches in penetration. Penetration is ideal, and we feel that a well-centered pattern should prove effective. The copper-coated projectiles flattened to an extent in water. This is the recommended load for .410 defensive use in the home in all of the three firearms.


Winchester PDX1 Defender Ammunition 410 Bore 2.5-Inch S410PDX1 (10)

Winchester PDX1 Defender Ammunition 410  Bore 2.5-Inch

Winchester PDX1 Defender Ammunition 410  Bore 2.5-Inch

The Defender load, with its plated shot and disks, is a reasonable choice for personal defense, our shooters said after testing it against water bottles. It is sure to produce a complex wound.

We purchased 10-shell boxes of this load at Cabelas.com for $16.99. This load features three plated defense disks and twelve BB pellets (0.25-ounce). Results were consistent, with 18 inches of penetration for the disks in the handguns and 20 inches in the shotgun test. The BBs consistently stayed in the 12-inch penetration depth. However, in one of three firings, it was noted that one or two BBs penetrated to the maximum along with the disks. This is interesting performance. Penetration is adequate; however, the projectiles are light. We prefer a heavier charge of buckshot.



Winchester Super-X 410 Bore 2.5-Inch 0.2-Oz. Rifled Slug X41RS5 (5)

winchester slug

The Winchester slug sometimes fragmented when fired from a handgun, but it always fragmented when fired from the shotgun.

We bought five-shell boxes of this for $6.39 from CheaperThanDirt.com. The Winchester slug proved accurate enough to make good hits out to 15 yards or so. We feel the accuracy potential is equal to most 45 Colt loads at modest range. Energy isn’t impressive from the handguns, about that of an average 9mm load. From the shotgun, energy was a solid 472 foot-pounds. The performance in the shotgun was likewise different. The slug sometimes fragmented when fired from the handguns, but it always fragmented when fired from the shotgun. However, in each test the slug penetrated 12 inches, less than the buckshot loads or the conventional 45-caliber handgun loads. The slug would be a good load for predator control, and though it has promise for personal defense, we feel that if you are a solid shot, the 45 Colt load would be superior. However the slug is cheap, which cannot be overlooked.


snake pistol target

We did a side test of the .410 loads as snake charmer solutions. In territory populated by dangerous reptiles, the Judge and Governor would have no peers among regular handguns.

Hornady Critical Defense 185-Grain FTX 45 Colt 92790

We bought this for $18.79/20 rounds from MidwayUSA.com. The Critical Defense load seems to exhibit lower recoil than the shotgun loads. Power factor calculations bore out this firing impression. Accuracy was good. Penetration is good to excellent at 18 inches, ideal for personal defense. The load is surprisingly fast from the short barrel of the .410-bore handguns at 884 fps and 910 fps from the Smith & Wesson Governor and the Taurus Judge, respectively. Expansion was not the same as in previous testing with 4.75-inch-barrel revolvers, but just the same was pretty good at a 0.65-inch average. Expansion was always present in several tests, and the Hornady bullet maintained its full weight when recovered. We rate this load superior to the 45 ACP for personal defense in the Governor.


Black Hills Ammunition 45 ACP +P 185-Grain Barnes TAC-XP Hollow Point

45 acp bullets

While accurate and reliable, the Barnes 45 ACP bullet lost too much velocity. Other 45 ACP loads relying on velocity for expansion might suffer the same problem.

We bought 20-round boxes of this for $25 each at ImpactGuns.com. Because the Governor uses full-moon clips to utilize the 45 ACP, we tried a load well suited to personal defense. The Barnes solid-copper JHP bullet makes more than 1000 fps from a 5-inch-barrel 1911. The availability of moon clips for rapid reloading offers promise and real utility for personal defense. However, performance of the 45 ACP was off in the Governor. The long cylinder jump and short barrel are part of the equation. The Barnes 185-grain bullet has given good results in the past in 1911 handguns, with expansion to more than 0.70 inch. The Governor exhibited 791 fps. The bullet penetrated 30 inches in water and put a dent in the sixth jug. For comparison, we fired the Black Hills load in a short-barrel compact 45, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, which has a 3.1-inch barrel. The Barnes load clocked 954 fps. Because the Shield also has a short barrel, this tends to bolster our theory on the Governor’s velocity loss being the bullet has to jump across a long cylinder throat.


Written and photographed by Bob Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

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