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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.