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Many members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia — your correspondent included — keep a 12-gauge shotgun for home defense. As I’ve pointed out many times, it’s a fearsome weapon. But it’s not without its disadvantages . . .

Set aside questions about using a two-handed weapon for self-defense (in terms of having a free hand to call the cops, push friendlies out of the way, turn on lights, etc.). A 12-gauge shotgun is louder than a jet engine, heavy and recoil intensive — making follow-up shots “problematic.”

The lighter, less recoil-generating “humble” .410 shotgun is a viable alternative. But don’t take my word for it.

The alleged murder of a 23-year-old Orofino woman Monday evening centered around a boyfriend that the victim and alleged suspect had in common, according to Clearwater County Court documents . . .

Culpitts is accused of knocking on the door of a residence in the 12000 block of Laqa Avenue and immediately shooting Samantha S. Fignani in the pubic area with a .410 shotgun that is described in court documents as “sawed off.”  The incident happened at about 7:23 p.m. Monday.  Colpitts has reportedly denied doing the shooting, officials say.

According to court documents, an autopsy found that Fignani was “shot in the abdomen with a .410 shotgun round which…severed an artery, and entered a lung and the stomach.”

Did I say cold-blooded? Yes I did.

“[Getaway driver Cassie] Madsen said [Colpitts] was laughing as she walked back to the car and stated, “I got her.” Madsen said Colpitts told her that Sam would live though because she shot her in the groin area,” according to reports.

Not so much. But the point remain: a .410 is a perfectly viable shotgun alternative to a 12-gauge, and easier for practice.


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  1. One example of someone being murdered with a 410 doesn’t necessarily give credence to the fact it’s a viable option. Anything shot near the groin could have severed an artery and they could’ve succumb to those wounds. Not saying you can’t get the job done, but 12 gauge is bigger and badder.

    • Point blank to the groin with anything heavier than a Super Soaker, and the victim will kill themselves. Sawed-off, just reduces the decision time.

      But, no.

      Never shoot a big caliber person with a small caliber weapon. Humans should be considered the most dangerous predators on the planet, because if they are ever found not to be, then they try harder. When the going gets nuts, the nuts give up their Olympian status and turn pro.

      • The fact that someone was murdered with one certainly doesn’t mean that it is an good defensive firearm (though in the case of .410, it generally is a pretty decent one). People have been killed with .22 shorts and pellet guns.

        By the way, I read the word Orofino and realized that this murder was likely the work of a “Maniac”.

        Orofino is the home of the Idaho state mental hospital, and their high school mascot is the “Maniacs”. Idaho is less PC than most places.

        • It’s purely coincidence that all of those things are near each other. Get a life. Read some books. Know a town’s history before you speak ill if it.

    • Yes, she didn’t die from a gunshot wound in the usual fashion, she broke an artery and bled out.
      It doesn’t mean .410 is a suitable home defense round, and it doesn’t mean .410 is inadequate.
      But if it were me, I’d only use a .410 if every shell contained either a slug or a stack of .40 cal round balls.

      If she’d had her femoral artery sliced with an X-Acto knife, it wouldn’t mean that X-Actos are good for home defense.

      • “But if it were me, I’d only use a .410 if every shell contained either a slug or a stack of .40 cal round balls.”

        Does a stack of .38 cal. pellets qualify? That’s a full-house buckshot load for .410…

        • Yes. And a full stack totals three 000 buck shot balls. Nothing to sneeze at, but not terribly effective compared to its bigger brothers.

    • No, but the lowly .22 has killed many people (including shots to the head) and the .410 is more powerful than that round. So while one example does not make the case, logic does make the case that it is a viable round especially for those that can’t handle a 12 gauge. 20 or 16 gauge would be better than the .410, but a .410 is better than nothing.

  2. California will now ban .410 shotguns.
    Reasoning: they are “lighter” and have “less blast and recoil” and is a “viable option for self defense”

  3. I guess 410 is better than nothing. But I don’t want to get shot period. I’ll keep my Maverick 88 and my pistols. Shot placement…

    • I’m getting a big kick out of everybody saying a .410 is inadequate for home defense. Since .410 ballistics are roughly equal to a .44 magnum handgun, I’m guessing my .410 is more deadly than any of the handguns you guys are counting on.

      • Since .410 ballistics are roughly equal to a .44 magnum handgun

        Um, no.

        A .410 shotgun shoots a 95 grain slug at 1,800 fps. A .44 Magnum rifle shoots a 240 grain bullet at over 1,900 fps with full-power loads. That is a HUGE difference. Heck, even a .44 Magnum revolver with a 6-inch barrel will launch a 180 grain bullet at roughly 1,600 fps.

        Having said all that, I still think a .410 shotgun can be decent for self-defense at close range (within 10 yards). I sure wish someone would make a .410 slug that weighed closer to 150 grains rather than the pitiful 95 grains.

      • .410 slugs are only on the level of very light .357 Magnum carbine ballistics. Buckshot loads are extremely weak in .410. Birdshot could be on the level of heavy .45 Colt or .45 Super, but not true .44 Mag energy levels.

    • How much are 20 gauge shells on average? Not being a smartass I am just curious I’ve never really looked

      • 100 packs are very close to 12 gauge prices, like less than $5. I don’t remember the Over/Under. My 12 is antique and probably retired, my 20 is 2 years old from the FIL. I shoot the 20 now.

        • Less than $5/100, or less than $5/25?

          I still can’t find 100 packs of .22LR for $5, just bought some Mini-Mag for $7.99/100.

      • I haven’t bought 20 g because I don’t own a 20.
        I have two 12 g.
        20 is as popular as 12 and they seem to be identical in price.
        20 g is twice as powerful as a 44mag.
        That’s why I made my original comment.

      • Tile floor,

        As far as I have seen, 20 gauge shotgun shells are about the same as 12 gauge … maybe a tiny bit higher in some cases.

        • I bought a Mossberg 500 field/deer combo last year and both the 20 and 12 were the same price. I chose the 12 because there was a much wider variety of ammo for it at a slightly better price.

    • The 20 ga is a good alternative to the 12 whenever recoil is a concern. (20ga vs 12ga is the 9mm vs .45acp of the shotgun world).

      The 410 is weak sauce by comparison. (Think .22lr) But it’s WAY better than a sharp stick…

      • “The 410 is weak sauce by comparison. (Think .22lr)”

        Being shot 3X at once with a .38 at over 1000 fps is ‘weak sauce’???

        • Jesus. Reading comprehension, do you has it? He says BY COMPARISON, you even quoted those words in your quote. By comparison to a 12/20 ga, yes .410 is “weaksauce”. And yes, getting shot with three .38 balls at 1,000 fps IS weaksauce, if you’re comparing it to, say FIFTEEN of them at 1,450 fps (Winchester DoubleX 12ga in 3.5″). Just some back of envelope calculations show that the energy comparison is pretty damning too. .410 buckshot gives about what, 900 ft-lbf of energy at the muzzle? Meanwhile that same 12ga buckshot load i references above gives you 3,800 ft-lbf of KE. Thats 4 times as much. Considering the guy you were responding to was using an analogy where 12ga : .45, 20ga : 9mm, and saying that in that same anaolgy the .410 would be a .22lr, he’s actually almost spot on. the ratio of KE of a 12ga : .410 is 4.22 : 1. The ratio of KE of a .45 : .22 is 396 : 104, which reduces to 3.8 : 1. So if anything, a .410 is even WEAKER relative to a 12ga than a .22 is to a .45.

  4. .410 = more expensive, smaller shell, for the price of 25 shells in .410 I can get 100 in 12 or 20ga. that’s a big PASS here.

  5. Any firearm is deadly, a single shot from anything can kill you. Remember that old guy in Cali with a .22 revolver who killed one and severely wounded the other of his assailants? Hell, in my town a guy killed his grown up son and daughter with an air rifle and it wasn’t no high powered one either, simple, cheap break open airgun.

  6. Shotguns are very similar in muzzle velocities regardless of gauge. The only difference, real world at least, is the payload delivered with each shot. A .410 delivers a little more than a half ounce. Which is certainly good enough at house ranges.

    The real drawback to the .410 is cost of ammo. Last time I bought any it was better than twice what I paid for the same size shot in 12 ga.

    I got my wife a youth model 20 ga. Ammo is cheaper and for practice you buy the lightest shot loads you can find. Number 8 in low brass. I tell her that in a real world situation she will not notice the stiffer recoil from the heavier self defense loads.

    She won’t. And if she does she’ll still be alive to get pissed at me. I’ll take that ass chewing happily if it comes.

  7. Oh look, someone was murdered at close range with a .410… everyone toss your 12ga, because .410 is all you need!

    A .22 to the head will kill you just as dead as a 12ga, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to rely on my Beretta 21a for self defense with there are other, better options on hand.

  8. I got to shoot a 410 saiga once pretty nasty wespon.0 recoil. That being said ill take my 12 or 20 anyday.

  9. 12 gauge standard loads in 00 buck are not “recoil intensive”. 12 gauge 00 buck 2 3/4″ lo brass is more than enough to get the job done. If you don’t know how to use a firearm you need to learn. If a .410 is all you got, that is what you use.

    • I find high-brass 00 to be fairly stout. Some here mention caliber of the shot but not total weight or powder load. Never seen any low brass 00, though. Is that the “reduced recoil” stuff? I have to think that a full 12 load at 850/fps still hurts real bad across a room.

      • Personal experience, here:
        The height of the brass is not a reliable indicator of felt recoil, or of velocity of the payload.
        Maybe I’m more in tune to this because I shoot a lot of Rio Royal Buck; Rio seems to use whatever brass height is available when they buy cases. I can stand two shells from different lots of 00 buck next to each other, and it’s a crap shoot if the brass will be the same height.
        I can do the same with different brands, same payload, same velocity.
        It seems to me the real indicator is on the end flap of the box: Payload and velocity will determine the felt recoil.
        I just tried this on my desk: Royal Buck 2 3/4″, 9 pellets of 00, next to Remington 3″ 15 pellets of 00 buck, both at 1200+ fps. The brass on the RIO is about 1mm higher.
        The felt recoil on the Remington is definitely higher, as is the energy downrange.
        Tried #4 buckshot, same brands, same payloads, same results.
        Brass height just isn’t an indicator of very much.

  10. Murdering someone is pretty easy compared to a self-defense shooting. .22LR will do just fine for the former.

    But sure, .410 is probably fine as long as you use the correct load. The “OMG you need a 12ga for defense!” is silly. I split the difference with a 20ga and have never felt undergunned.

    Also: pelvic shot strikes again. Although a close-range hit from a shotgun will probably do you in anywhere in the trunk or head.

    • Absolutely. But, I wanted one shotgun, not three, so I bought a 12 gauge. I have experience with shotguns.

      • Exactly! 12 ga loads these days can deliver anything from upper .410 up to low/mid 10 ga power. Birds or bears, 12 ga is pretty standard.

        • The 12 gauge is impossibly versatile with commercially available ammunition, and obviously can do a great many jobs as well or better that some other weapon. It is also the last word in gunshot wound damage off the battlefield. However if you want to do some specific thing with a shotgun, it may be more economical to buy a gun in another gauge for the ammunition savings.

    • You live on the flight path to Hartsfield-Jackson?

      You poor bastard.

      (I’ve only been through that airport once. Thank God there was a bar in there… 🙂 )

      • So used to it that I didn’t even hear that until I watched the video.
        When I was in Elementary school, the teacher had to stop talking during the “push”.
        I moved 35 miles away from there and still, can’t avoid the noise.

        • And back then, they were proper *LOUD* turbojets, and ‘hush kits’ were a fantasy.

          I grew up on air Force bases, most nights at 10 PM they tested C-5A and KC-135 tanker engines in the test cells to ‘lull the base to sleep’…

  11. Lots of .410 hate, but I love me some.410. I have killed a ton of critters with it, something about the scale and handiness makes it perfect for around the house.

  12. .410 simply isn’t a very impressive round, for the size.

    I have a Circuit Judge Carbine and I use almost exclusively .45 Colt in it. If a .410 buckshot or slug round would have stopped the perp,, a .45 Colt would have stopped him as well or better.

    .410 is for squirrels and rabbits.

  13. Any hit that punctures the femoral artery is guaranteed to cause a fatal bleed out within a few minutes unless urgent medical attention is available.

    Unlike Hollywood tropes, a groin shot can be fatal even if not immediately so.

  14. Any round can be effective in the right hands within its prescribed range. And any round is better than no round.

  15. It’s personal. Choose the most powerful gun you can shoot and practice with, given your ability to manage recoil and the resources available for ammo.

    • How sweet.

      A web page that discriminates against those murdered who were *not* slaughtered by firearms.

      You’re despicable, ‘McBell’.

      There’s a hot place in Hell for the likes of scum like you…

      • Sorry but it’s the only site i could find that made any mention of her. There were no Facebook or twitter pages.

  16. Old .410 Saigas were fun. I do remember they were picky about cases used, but cycled reliable as hell with metal.

    But if mild 12G loadings are available (or made – it is not rocket science artisanry of preparing benchrest rounds), I feel there is not much reason to abandon 12G, unless user absolutely cannot handle size and recoil.

    As of lethality…anyone can kill a human being. You don’t need Ka-Bar or *snorts* SpecWog to stick a kitchen knife into someone and have a person bleed.

  17. In my research as a Gun Generation 2.0 person I have found smaller calibers to be very good for killing and murder. The VA Tech university murderer used a 22 caliber and 9mm semi auto hand guns. In Bangladesh 6 terrorist using 22 caliber rifles with 25 round magazines killed over 160 people and wounded about 300 others. They also had hand guns and about 4 grenades each.

    As far as I can tell the only advantage to a 9mm hand gun is magazine capacity. That is the same argument people make for the AR15. Magazine capacity!!!
    The blast from a shotgun has more energy than an AR15. The argument about shot placement is silly. There are plenty of war veterans walking around who got shot by a 50 caliber bullet. My night stand Judge revolver shotgun will do just fine. PDX and or Hornady critical defense shells are great.

    And I don’t have to rack a round for follow up shots!! Nor do I worry about having to clear a malfunction at 3am.

  18. Given the location of the shooting – Orofino – I’m guessing that Colpitts most likely had access to larger and better firearms if she was planning to actually murder Fignani. The fact that she selected a .410 to shoot her competitor in the groin indicates that even SHE figured that it was “weak sauce” and would mostly leave a nasty bruise. And, since any person who has ever been shot, shot at, witnessed a shooting, or got upset when their gang-banger son was shot becomes an instant expert on gun policy, I’d say a freshly-minted murderer probably now counts as a terminal ballistics expert – so I’ll be sticking with pistols, rifles, and 12 ga for self defense! 🙂

  19. If recoil is the issue why not go with a rifle. The point of getting a shotgun is so one can get the most lead with one trigger pull. With a .410 bore you only get like 3-4 pellets of buckshot in them (should probably just use a slug). A bunch of rifle options will give you even less recoil with alot of other advantages.

  20. Sure. I get the physics of it. I was really wondering if velocity(and recoil) were reduced by a smaller powder charge – could OAL be reduced enough to jam a couple more in the tube? In an apartment, I’d trade some velocity in a full 12 load for less recoil and more ammo.

    • AD, Herter’s and Aguila both make short 12 g shells, Aguila’s are the shorter of the two.
      Yes, you can load more, BUT…
      Not all guns will load them well. Most semi-autos won’t load them at all, and some pumps balk too. For Mossberg guns, you can get an adapter that allows much more positive feeding, but they won’t work on other guns, AFAIK.
      They give much less recoil, along with a smaller payload.
      I don’t know the speed of the Aguila, but the Herter’s says 6 pellets of 00 at 1250 FPS.

  21. Actually a .410 Shotgun using a 180grain 10mm bullet, with the right combination of primer, powder and wad, can achieve a grouping of 2 inches at 218 yards and be lethal to a man sized target, just by using open sights or a red dot.
    If you train at longer distances with a scope, hits out to 300 yards will penetrate and kill a human target, as long as you hit a vital organ. Someone with experience in combat training, and use of a scope can be a deadly marksman with a 410.
    (Same conclusion as always. Its the Shooter and his purpose, not the gun)

  22. Using a woman’s death to promote a gun’s effectiveness, is a low life thing for you to do. Get a life and some compassion. If it had been your family you wouldn’t be joking about it. I am from this town. People I know are dealing with this hurt and pain. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.


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