Prettiest Survival Shotgun in the World? Henry .410 Side Gate (Full Review)

I know what you’re thinking: “Why a .410 lever gun?

It’s a fair question. There are better options if you’re looking to break clays, kill birds, or slug deer (12GA, anyone?). Revolvers chambered in .410 are equally effective snake killers, and I can’t remember John Wayne ever carrying a .410 in his saddle holster.  

And yet…

When I posted an image of the new .410 Henry Side Gate on my Instagram account, the post blew up (by my standards, at least). There’s a serious interest in this smoothbore, I’ve come to appreciate its unique combination of size, power, maneuverability, and versatility. If you’re looking for a .410, you won’t find a better option than this new firearm from Henry.

First, the specifications, per Henry’s website:

  • Barrel Length: 19.8″
  • Barrel Type: Round Blued Steel
  • Rate of Twist: Smooth/No Choke
  • Overall Length: 38.1″
  • Weight: 7.09 lbs.
  • Receiver Finish: Polished Brass
  • Rear Sight: Fully Adj. Semi-Buckhorn w/ Diamond Insert
  • Front Sight: Ramp w/ .062″ Ivory Bead
  • Scopeability: Drilled and Tapped
  • Scope Mount Type: Weaver 63B
  • Stock Material: American Walnut
  • Buttplate/Pad: Brass
  • Length of Pull: 14″
  • Safety: Transfer Bar
  • Best Uses: Target/Hunting/Bird Shot
  • Embellishments/Extras: Regular Lever. Swivel Studs. 2 1/2″ Shells Only. Cylinder Bore
  • Chamber Size: 2 1/2″ Shells
  • Capacity: 6 Rounds
  • M.S.R. Price: $1,077.00

Fit, Feel, Finish, and Function

As we’ve come to expect from Henry’s American-made firearms, the gun is both beautiful and functional. It’s one of those firearms that garners “oo’s and ahh’s” from even the less ballistically inclined among us (read: even my wife wanted to hold it).

A bad day at the range is better than a good day… pretty much anywhere else.

The brass receiver compliments the brass barrel band and buttplate, and all three can be cleaned and polished to a near-reflective shine. The American Walnut stock is engraved with scrolling vines and Henry’s famous logo as well as a nicely checkered grip surface.

The action is buttery smooth, and the trigger is surprisingly crisp. Seriously. Lever guns aren’t known for their glass rod triggers, and while this isn’t a match-grade setup, the 4.5-5lb break is clean as a whistle. There’s no grittiness, mushiness, or takeup, and only the slightest bit of overtravel after the break. I had a great time shooting the Henry Side Gate .410, and part of that enjoyment was due to the trigger.

This is one pretty gun.

The adjustable buckhorn rear sight and pearl bead front sight are excellent tools for a rifle, but probably not necessary on a scattergun chambered in .410. You’re unlikely to go after turkey or deer with this long gun (though you could), and when shooting clays, I found the buckhorn to be distracting. Still, the sights might be useful if you’re looking to shoot slugs, and, as the old saying goes, it’s better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it. The buckhorn is also removable if it bothers you too much.

The sights are great, but I found them somewhat distracting while shooting clays.

Like all of Henry’s Side Gate guns, the firearm can be loaded using either the removable brass tube magazine or a side gate system (which you’ll recognize from Marlin and Winchester lever guns). As we explained when Henry announced this new lineup at the NRA show last year, the side gate allows the firearm to be topped off without removing the entire tube, and the tube allows for easy, quick, and safe unloading.

Shells can be loaded using either the mag tube or side gate.

It’s a great system. I found the tube to be the easiest way to load and unload the firearm quickly, but if I just wanted one or two additional shots, the side gate allowed me to get back to shooting without taking the time to pull out the tube.

What’s It Good For?

This question always crops up in discussions of firearms chambered in .410. As I mentioned at the top, there are better options for specific applications like bird hunting or home defense. But the .410 has qualities other calibers/gauges don’t, and the lever-action is a great host for this unique cartridge.

First, it’s worth noting that the pellets coming out of a .410 shell are traveling at roughly the same speed as those from a 12GA. For example, the Monarch target load I used during testing, travels around 1200 feet-per-second, and the Winchester 000 buckshot cooks along at 1300 fps. Similar loads chambered in 12GA travel at approximately the same speed – most are loaded in the 1250 – 1350 fps range.

Shells in 12GA and .410 can be had with the same sized pellets traveling the same speed, but a 12GA can hold significantly more.

In other words, the “stopping power” of any individual pellet doesn’t change between .410 and 12GA, so you shouldn’t worry about dispatching whatever small game you happen to be hunting.

That is, as long as you can hit it. The 12GA can fit substantially more pellets in each shell. A .410 shell containing ½ oz of #9 shot, for example, translates to about 292 pellets. A 12GA with 1 1/8 ounces of #9 contains about twice as many pellets – 658. More pellets mean a larger spread and a better chance of hitting what you’re aiming at. A 12GA can also accommodate larger, heavier pellets, which allows for hunting larger game animals.

The hammer is nicely textured, the lever is a classic design, and the receiver is drilled and tapped for a rail.

But the .410 has other benefits worth mentioning.

  • Light Recoil: You’ve probably seen the videos of hapless first-time shooters getting knocked on their rears from the recoil of a 12GA. That doesn’t happen shooting a .410. The recoil is extremely manageable and will appeal to new shooters, young shooters, and shooters with physical limitations. The recoil is even more manageable out of the seven-pound Henry Side Gate. It’s pleasant to shoot and doesn’t leave you with a sore shoulder after a long afternoon at the clay range.
  • Small Size: Bigger isn’t always better. You might be able to stash thousands of 12GA cartridges in your backyard bunker, but how many can you fit in your bugout bag? What about on a backpacking trip? The small size of the .410 might decrease its pellet count, but it also makes it easily stowable. For example, a 25-count box of 2 ¾ inch 12GA shotshells has a volume of 49 cubic inches and a weight of 2 pounds, 12 ounces. By contrast, a .410 box of 3-inch shells (so, slightly longer) has a volume of 17.8 inches (less than half that of the 12GA) and weighs 1 pound, 7.4 ounces. In other words, using less space and with about the same weight, you can stow or carry twice as many .410 shells as 12GA shells.
  • Big Capacity: The .410’s size also allows manufacturers to build shotguns with greater capacity but shorter overall lengths. The OAL of the Henry Side Gate is only 38 inches, but it holds six rounds. Compare that to the five-round capacity and 40-inch OAL of the Century Arms PW87 12GA lever action or the 4-round and 45+ inch OAL of most 12GA pump-action shotguns.

A shotgun is perhaps the most versatile firearm in a survival or wilderness scenario. The .410’s ability to take down small game combined with its packable size, lightweight, and limited recoil make it a great choice as an all-around hunting or self-defense rig in the bush. It’s more than capable of taking down small game, and buckshot or slugs would be an effective deterrent against two-legged threats.

The Henry Side Gate takes advantage of these benefits with a reliable action, great trigger, and compact size. If you had to take one gun into the sticks, you could do a lot worse than this Henry.

Does it Shoot?

Shooting the .410 Side Gate is a pleasure, but it takes practice. Since it’s unloading fewer pellets with each trigger pull, more precision is required to break clays and kill birds. It took me about 50 shells to adjust to the barrel length, sights, and smaller shot patterns. My second shots also tended to be slower since loading a new cartridge required taking my finger off the trigger.

Once I got the hang of it, though, I found that the gun handles well. It’s much shorter than most shotguns, which makes it less cumbersome in the field. It points naturally, and that trigger helps keep shots on target.

The barrel does not include a choke and users are not able to install their own. As you can see from the images below, this limits the effective range of this firearm. I used 1/2oz of no. 6 Remington and no. 9 Monarch shot, and in both instances, the patterns exceeded 30 inches beyond 20 yards. Moving into the 5 and 15-yard range, no. 9 patterns shrunk to about 16 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, and the no. 6 patterns shrunk to 14 inches and 5 inches.

Birdshot and buckshot were fired from 5, 10, and 20 yards. Slugs were fired from 50 yards.

The Winchester 000-buckshot produced roughly the same effective range. At 5 and 15 yards, the three pellets landed in a 4-5.5-inch pattern, and at 20 yards it expanded to 8.5 inches.

The buckhorn sights come in handy while shooting slugs. I was able to hit a 10-inch steel plate consistently at 75 yards (shooting from a table), and putting the gun in a sled produced 4-5-inch groups at 50 yards. I’ve never taken a whitetail with a .410 slug, so I can’t speak from personal experience. But I’ve seen it done, and it stands to reason that it would work fine if you can get close enough. Within 30-40 yards, I’d have no qualms about using the Henry Side Gate .410 on a whitetail.

Your results may vary, of course, depending on which load of birdshot, buckshot, or slugs you choose.

Conclusion

It’s important to keep in mind that even though the .410 is often given to beginners due to its manageable recoil, it can be a challenging cartridge to shoot accurately. Especially without the option to install a choke, hitting game birds on the wing will take patience and practice.

That being said, if you’re in the market for a .410, you can’t do better than this new model from Henry. It’s a beautiful firearm, it functions smoothly, and it’s a blast to shoot.

John Wayne may not have carried a .410 in his saddle holster, but now there’s nothing stopping you.

For more information visit Henry website.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • ROBERT CLARK April 10, 2020, 5:09 am

    “What’s it good for”?
    Why hell, shootin of course (and lookin pretty:)

  • Randall Hendersson March 28, 2020, 3:07 pm

    This Henry .410 is one beautiful gun.
    For me, it would be a terrific squirrel and bunny gun.
    I couldnt see this for birds,too much chance of wounding them,not putting em down.
    I cant add anything to what my fellow brethren have already said.
    Just this…Im a food marketing broker.
    I think Henry should have rolled out with a blued .410,walnut stock,regular checkering,choke options that comes in around $400.00.
    Really the correct way to go about it is to set your retail and work backwards as to what you can offer.
    I don’t understand why Henry didnt use all the marketing vehicles open to it.
    NRA,NWTF,Field and Stream, Outdoor Life,Predator,Petersens Hunting…….
    My guess is any or all of these mags would love to help a gun firm go to market with us guys recommendations.
    My first launch would have been the regular .410 around $400.
    After seeing the consumer response to the .410,the second launch would be this beauty but not before.
    Most of Henry or any gun firms market today is 50 and over.
    Between the wife,kids education,computers,health care,older parents to care for,mortgage,car insurances, $1000 is beyond their target markets finances.
    Forget the 25-40 group altogether.
    Geez,Henry shoulda hired me!!!!😁😎

  • Chrisw March 26, 2020, 6:57 pm

    Henry needs to build these with the side loader and bling in 357 mag or 44 mag. I’ve been asking them to make lever rifles like this.

  • David Jerabek March 25, 2020, 11:42 am

    It’s a shame the 410 doesn’t have choke tubes, but REALLY gets me is WHY not the 3” shells. I want it more useful! I dislike 2 1/2 “

  • Richard McGough March 24, 2020, 12:39 pm

    it really intrigued me. I currently have a 410 derringer and Taurus Judge and owning several guns that have the same ammo is really appealing to me. Having a seemingly hybrid lever action 410 is great but at a price of $1000 is ridiculous. If it were in the $400 range I would probably buy it.

  • Randy March 24, 2020, 11:11 am

    I think Henry hit it out of the ball park with this. If you are a Henry enthusiast (or not) it could fill a niche and still be extremely useful. If you want “affordable” there are many .410 options. Pumps, SXS, single shots. If you want affordable, why are you looking at .410 in the first place. Home protection? It’ll work just fine if that’s what you have. I hunt quail, chukar and pheasant with a SXS .410 and I hunt deer with slugs so I can see this as a useful tool. To HRAC I say keep up the excellent work.

  • joe jensen March 23, 2020, 10:16 pm

    they need to chamber it in 3 inch shells. I have an old savage double barrel 410, and the 3 inch are much better.

  • Norm Fishler March 23, 2020, 4:51 pm

    I fail to understand why this piece has both receiver side gate and front tube loading options. Yes, I read the explanation and I remain unconvinced. BUT!!! $1100 for a utilitarian .410 with a ton of ginger bread? So sorry, I’ll have to pass. I’ve seen a lot of really nice .410s that I could have picked up on for a third to a half of that. If a model is released that has the ginger-bread stripped back and only one or the other method of loading available, in the $500 range, then I’ll be game. Until then, me and a whole lot of others will have to be satisfied with reading the glowing reviews by those chosen few who get one to test one.

  • Raymond Bourgoin March 23, 2020, 3:53 pm

    Agree with most of the previous comments. Beautiful gun but too expensive and not practical for how it’s designed to be used. It would look great hanging over a fireplace mantel.

  • Rick Gonzales March 23, 2020, 3:41 pm

    I’m 83. I grew up shooting my Mom’s Win.42, .410, quail, dove, pheasant and whatever else happened to get in my sights, but my Dad put an double uuggly Cutts Compensator so that I could change tubes if I needed to. I still have and just let some dude challenge my little “darlin’ ” and see what happens!! R.G.

  • Ej harbet March 23, 2020, 2:59 pm

    Use the federal 4 pellets ooobuck for sub 25yard defense..5oz #4shot for medium pest control and sub 10yard light clothing defense. .5oz #9 for snakes n rats. Make a decent ladies gun for panic room.

  • Leonard Stephen March 23, 2020, 2:55 pm

    Again, way too expensive, especially when you consider it is not that different than a 45-70 rifle selling for $400 less.

  • David Floyd March 23, 2020, 2:47 pm

    The info says it shoots 2 1/2 inch shells.??
    The write up says should use 3 inch shells. What type of shells does it use.

  • James Strawser March 23, 2020, 12:46 pm

    Way too costly. Too limited without a choke. Too pretty to take hunting or for a SHTF occurrence. Sunlight reflecting off it could be seen for miles. If I want to kill snakes and small varmints, I’ll carry my backup “Judge with 410/45 cal”. Way too many effective shotguns on the market in 410 and 12 ga., that are affordable to us blue collar and those of us who are disabled and on a fixed income. Sorry Henry, your products are great but your pricing yourself out of the average family guy market. Just my two cents worth.

  • Tom March 23, 2020, 11:57 am

    Pretty indeed. Pretty expensive. Too pretty take hunting. Pretty enough to hang on the wall of a pretty nice room. Pretty good idea?

  • Chris March 23, 2020, 11:40 am

    To expensive, to much bling, no choke, bah humbug. The first time you miss a shot because the sun glinted in your eyes from that shiny brass you won’t be a happy camper. Speaking of campers, what’s that brass going to look like after a couple of weeks in the back country?
    Thanks but no. I’ll stick with my E. R. Armentani single shot, blued, break action 410 from Brazil and my blued, pre serial era Mossberg 500 pump 12 gauge.
    For most pests I like to use my Browning 22 lever, with a tube magazine so I can load in 20+ 22 shorts although sometimes I prefer to use my Ruger 10(25)22 with CCI Stingers.
    So, Henry’s! Make one in blued or brushed stainless and lower the price about $400, lengthen the barrel about 4″ and put an adjustable choke like I have on my Mossberg and I might be interested although I’d really prefer a pump.

    • dinger April 10, 2020, 5:29 pm

      How about nickel finish? We’ll call it the Navy model for repelling rats.
      And, yeah, I’m a Navy vet.

  • Greg March 23, 2020, 11:16 am

    Can you shoot Marlin 444 in this gun in a pinch? I’ve seen it it done I have two Henry ‘s. AR7 it’s cool. Also a 3030. I have the Marlin 444 since 1991. Please let me know if possible. I reload so large bore rifles I have plenty. I have two hundred rounds of .410 shells. I don’t know why I’ve never had one. Thanks please stay safe.
    In these times a lot of hype.I hope and pray!

    • Mel March 24, 2020, 10:55 am

      Don’t try 444 in a .410, if you want to try another round use .45 LC, its the correct bullet diameter and you will be able to load more rounds in the tube magazine. Of course a smooth-bore shotgun barrel will not be as accurate as a rifled barrel, but at shotgun range it should hit where you want it. I have Taurus Judges in the pistol and carbine, they are only five rounds but will put out rounds as fast as you can pull the trigger, they are much cheaper than the Henry, and the revolver action is more reliable.

  • Ricky Price March 23, 2020, 11:11 am

    For the Rich Man from NY that move to the country.

    • Chris March 23, 2020, 11:46 am

      Jed Clampett?

      • Chris March 23, 2020, 11:51 am

        Oh no, I got that backwards. Sorry. I meant Oliver Wendell Douglas from Green Acres.

  • david huckabee March 23, 2020, 11:00 am

    way to pretty and shinny for a shotgun. i need a plain old BLUED version in a $400 price range or less. i grew up with a PLAIN JANE 410 3 shot bolt action MOSSBERG

  • Ed March 23, 2020, 10:27 am

    It’s a beautiful shotgun that already has traditional rifle sights. Rifle the barrel please so I can shoot slugs. That will also improve it’s marginal accuracy.

    • Jordan Michaels March 23, 2020, 12:04 pm

      I really like this idea.

    • Big Al March 23, 2020, 1:07 pm

      The better idea would be to have an interchangeable choke system, including a rifled one.
      My testing years ago on rifled chokes was very promising, especially with sabot slugs.
      It’s a pity they didn’t even go with a choke system.

  • steve arms March 23, 2020, 10:10 am

    to expensive for me. even with a full choke. Henry’s been in business for years and they know their buyers. same comments all the time. is Henry ever going to do something for the not-so-rich enthusiast???? come on, Henry. make this affordable to everyone! i was talking to the wife about another .410 yesterday. unfortunately not this one. would love to have it but to expensive. WE ARE YOUR BLOODLINE, HENRY. KEEP IT FLOWING. more thought from you would go a long way. like one of your other readers, i too am a veteran/retiree of the usmc and afsoc. 40 yrs. make it affordable!!!!

  • JBof47 March 23, 2020, 10:02 am

    Couldn’t you buy a 45-70 Henry & shoot the occasional 2.5 inch 410 shell at pests? I wouldn’t think the pressure would be a problem.
    Also, if you were to purchase one of these beauties, I’m sure Briley would put in choke tubes. But then you’d have a $1500+ lever gun!

  • Awesome Bill from Dawsonville March 23, 2020, 9:44 am

    Too much “bling” for my tastes. Looks like it needs to be paired with a gold plated Desert Eagle.

  • Bilbo Bbaggins March 23, 2020, 9:26 am

    This would be practical (and more useful) if made in a 20 or 16 Ga, and included a rifled choke tube.

  • Shortround March 23, 2020, 9:00 am

    The only thing I see is on weight of a box of shells, You talk of 12 ga. and 410 ga. 3 inch. The spec.s. say 2 1/2 inch not 3 inch. Gun look great but I agree with those on the price and little high for most people. But that what the left wants, so high the average Joe can not buy. Still it is good to see new guns.

    • Jordan Michaels March 23, 2020, 9:56 am

      Good catch. I used 3-inch .410 shells for my example because I’d already shot through all my 2.5-inch shells. (And I’d rather not fight the post-apocalyptic crowds at Walmart, haha.) But I think the point still holds — no matter which size you use, .410 is going to weigh significantly less than 12GA.

  • Richard Merrill March 23, 2020, 8:48 am

    Pretty little gun. I know Henry can make this using the existing 45-70 platform, so it’s not really new tooling for them. I have two 410s and it’s a non starter for me. Can’t handle the gold standard for 410s, 3 inch shells, other than for snakes and maybe rats who ever wants to use the 21/2 inch shells. Like some else said no choke tubes on a 1000 buck gun, come on Henry.

    • Jordan Michaels March 23, 2020, 9:59 am

      Yeah, as others have said, I think the lack of choke and the price are real sticking points. But I also think it’s more important than ever to buy American-made these days, which sometimes comes with trade-offs.

  • Lionel Berthelon March 23, 2020, 8:29 am

    Pretty shotgun, not something l buy would rather see one made in slid action along with choke tubes, otherwise it’s just a slug gun.

  • Bob Boitt March 23, 2020, 8:00 am

    Not very useful, although very beautiful. Most trap shooting is at 30 to 35 yards this is spreading out too far at 20?

  • james corfits March 23, 2020, 7:51 am

    Would like to see the Henry 410 Side Gate compared to the M6X caliber, Springfield M-6, Chiappa X-caliber survival shotgun. Which would be the best all around and or best survival gun to have and carry in remote areas.

    • james corfits March 23, 2020, 8:01 am

      I know which would be in my pack for a number of reasons. I do not think the Henry can even be put into the survival category. Springfield wins hands down.

  • Frank S. March 23, 2020, 7:02 am

    “It will make a great home defense gun” was my first thought. Short enough to be handy, light recoil, enough stopping power… get one “for the wife”!! Also… most .410 revolvers also shoot .45 LC shells. Would be like a slug in this thing, but I wonder if it’s an option? If it is, why not go ahead and use a rifled barrel? I know shot shells wear rifling a bit (or can, especially steel shot), but a hard chromed bore should be fine.

  • Norman Dvorak March 23, 2020, 6:14 am

    The cost for this shotgun is cost prohibitive for most normal people. It is specially cost prohibitive is you happen to be a disabled Veteran on a fixed income.

  • Mike Cornett March 23, 2020, 5:24 am

    I love this shotgun. I wouldn’t have an use for it, except to collect.
    It would be a very safe shotgun for a youth

  • 410bob March 23, 2020, 4:18 am

    This gun is cool, but kinda ridiculous. 1000 bucks WTF? The only way this gun makes any sense is to be a do all gun. No choke makes it a no go. I simply see no reason they could not put on a screw in choke setup. I started out shooting a 410. My buddy had a 12 gauge so I had to get good or I would simply be standing there watching my buddy shoot everything. I was a kid so I did not know what limitations were. I just got good enough and quick enough to hold my own and take plenty of birds and rabbits etc.

    No issue with the 410 as a shotgun round but I just don’t see how this gun makes any sense at all. So many great shotguns out there, why bother with this? Even though it is incredibly cool, I would pass even if I had the $$. No choke? no way! Henry needs to tap the brakes and get that screw in choke on this.

    It should come with every choke tube included. Slugs great, next day pheasants or doves? you will need a full choke for those as your not going to shoot them at 10 yards. You are gonna have to compete with your buddies who all have 12 gauges and they are all gonna chide you with your lil baby 410. Did it, been there and done that and I shut them all up with my shooting. I know what it takes and this gun don’t got it with the open tube/no choke. All it’s got is cool looks and one job – shoot slugs. a 410 don’t have the number of pellets to do anything at any range without any choke.

    • Robert P Boitt March 23, 2020, 8:04 am

      I agree this gun needs a full choke to be of any use other than slugs.

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