In the gun world we rarely find a gun that doesn’t offer some sort of match up. Usually, such a firearm has some unique character, such as being chambered for an oddball cartridge, or its pricing sets it apart by either being way below market or way above market. Even so, we can usually find something that works well enough to form a comparison test.
Not so with Winchester’s 9410 lever-action shotgun. The 9410 adapts the Model 94 rifle lever action into a shotgun that can handle 2.5-inch .410 ammunition reliably. As such, it makes a good squirrel, cottontail, grouse, or dove-hunting gun (properly plugged for migratory birds, of course). To our knowledge, there’s not another shotgun out there like it.
With that in mind, we decided to put this product through its paces, keeping in mind its high MSRP and limited cartridge usefulness. As we tested, the question we asked was, “Would we buy this gun instead of many other proven .410s with slide or autoloading actions?”
Here’s what we found:
The Winchester 9410 was introduced in 2001. There are now six offerings in the line: The 24-inch-barrel Traditional, $567; the Traditional with Invector Chokes, $632; the 20-inch-barrel Packer ($589; $654 with chokes); the Packer Compact (same barrel length as the Packer but with a 12.5-inch LOP); and the Ranger, a Traditional with a hardwood stock that sells for $538. We tested the Traditional without chokes.
The gun’s list of features included the ACE system (Angle Controlled Eject), an extractor/ejector design that ejects 2.5-inch shotgun shells positively. We were able to “Rifleman” the action two or three rounds, then creep the lever forward and see the rifle eject light target loads, bird shot loads and rifled slugs. The full-length tubular magazine held nine shots. Its overall length was 42.0 inches with a barrel length of 24.0 inches. The length of pull was 13.5 inches. Unloaded, the gun weighed 6.8 pounds. All models include a two-round magazine adapter. The stock was straight-grain walnut with an even, smooth matte clear-coat finish. The metal surfaces were blued steel throughout. The trigger broke at 8.0 pounds and had a fair amount of creep. We also noticed that if the lever weren’t held closely against the butt stock, the trigger wouldn’t release. The barrel had a Cylinder choke opening, and on this model, there was no barrel threading for tubes to be screwed in.
The stock had a straight grip and the forearm was a traditional design with a barrel band. The 24-inch smoothbore barrel accepted a range of current factory 2.5-inch .410 bore shotgun loads, including Foster-type rifled slugs. A modified shallow “V” adjustable rear sight was paired with a fiber optic Truglo front sight. Normally, we don’t like such sights on shotguns, but this gun was much more like a rifle. It was aimed much more than pointed, so these sights worked well, in our opinion. Our gun, a 2002 model, lacked the new tang safety that will be incorporated on the 2003s.
We shot the gun at a variety of skeet, Sporting, and Five Stand targets to see how it handled targets from rabbits to teal. Our test rounds included Winchester Game & Field Load X414, a hunting load with 1/2-ounce of No. 6 shot and a maximum powder dram equivalent. It chronographed around 1230 fps in the Winchester lever action. Remington’s Premier STS S410 load moved along at 1,200 fps. It had a half-ounce charge of No 9s, also propelled by the maximum dram equivalent charge. Federal’s F412RS .410 slug was a quarter-ounce hollow point (109 grains).
The 9410’s pistol grip featured cut checkering that offered a decent grip, even when the gun was wet. The fit at the buttpad was tight, and the top of the rubber pad had been ground for easier mounting. We thought the black-rubber pad offered plenty of cushioning for the light-kicking .410. The trim forend was also checkered, and we were impressed with the wood.
Of course, the deal here is the lever action. In our view, it was a little balky starting out. Learning to disengage the trigger finger from the trigger to work the lever might require a lot of “un-training” for many shotgunners. Also, moving the lever can disturb the head on the stock until you get the hang of the motion. But once you adopt a relaxed right arm and let the lever flow front to back, the little gun just shoots and shoots and shoots. With nine loaded in the magazine and a tenth in the chamber, this gun pulverizes incoming clays. Just start shooting early and finish shooting late — there’s plenty of ammo to burn. The crossbolt safety just ahead of the hammer was easy to use and understand. Push the safety leftward and the hammer can snap forward. A red indicator shows when the gun is ready to fire. The trigger guard and lever were steel and lacked any metalwork, a plain look we thought was right for the gun.
A few quibbles: We would have liked the lever opening to be a little bigger. Loading is through a port on the right side of the receiver, and it’s fair to say stuffing the thick shotshells in the frame isn’t always easy. The opening is fairly tight and it can grab the edge of the thick, flat shells, since they’re not bullet shaped. It was hard to shoot slugs with much accuracy, a problem we put at the feet of the sights and trigger jointly. It was fairly difficult to resolve a target downrange, and the heavy trigger didn’t allow for a very smooth break. We thought the gun needed to be mounted more onto the chest rather than in the shoulder pocket. This allowed the shooter to work the lever more fluidly, but getting that mount position took some getting used to.
Our Team Said: Buy It. Yes, this lever-action gun carries some unique problems with it, so the potential buyer needs to understand that up front. But one of the joys of owning an unusual product like this shotgun is finding out what your capabilities — and its — are. We think it would be fun finding out both.