For the record, and by many accounts, the best skeet weapon is an over/under break action shotgun with adjustable chokes. Luckily, this is a configuration that is common in competition guns, from the smallest .410 shotgun to the largest 12-gauge big boy.
The number of barrels is not that important, and neither is a super smooth action, either. It is more about fit, feel, and balance. Of course, a light recoil, a consistent shot pattern, and a good rhythm that will increase your odds of success. And, likewise, a good skeet gun will operate as an extension of your arm. It will enhance your natural abilities, hone your aim, extend your swing, and discharge naturally so you are not stumbling all overspent shells.
In that vent, a good .410 shotgun is lightweight, easy to wield and load. From the 16-yard position, it is even a perfectly good option for those close-range birds on a trap field. And though veteran shooters may tell you that you need a respectable 12-gauge to play trap or skeet, just focus on your game with this versatile little gun, and you and they may be surprised at what it can do.
The Make-Up of a .410 Shotgun
Many 12-gauge shotguns weigh anywhere from 7 to 8.5 pounds, with most of the weight in the barrel to assist with swing and aim. But the biggest adjustment for new shooters is stopping the swing completely before they shoot.
With many .410 shotguns tipping the scales at around 6 1/4 pounds, the swing is much easier to control and barrel lengths can reach up to 28 inches. With screw-in chokes, a comfortable recoil, and raised ribs to help the shooter easily sight in rapidly escalating birds, the .410 comes with a lot of useful features. The trigger also offers around 3 1/2 pounds of pull-force, for a comfortable, natural squeeze out on the range.
Further, the .410 model trap guns tend to have higher barrel and ribs, and they feature what is called a Monte Carlo stock. That’s where the comb drops to near the heel to allow for a better fit of the butt to the shooter’s shoulder while maintaining a gun presence at the cheekbone.
With a softer resulting kick, the second-smallest gauge-size shotgun may often be thought of as your sister’s shotgun because it lacks the brute force of a 10 or 12 gauge. But that attitude may be changing, as Gun Digest reports that, while using a Savage M24 combination gun (featuring a .22 rifle barrel over a .410 shotgun barrel) it was possible to hit rabbit-size targets at 80 yards and claim clean kills on bobcats and coyotes using the .410 barrel. A trap field is only 50 yards, by comparison.
A Little .410 Shotgun History
The Savage 24 is no longer in production, and, despite its claims, it never came with a barrel longer than 24 inches, so it is doubtful it would have made a competition-worthy skeet and trap shooting gun. However, there was one .410 shotgun that broke all of the small shotgun rules, and you may even recognize the name.
Still, in 1933, it was the first pump-action shotgun designed expressly for the .410 barrel. Essentially, it was a Model 12 20-gauge shotgun with a scaled down .410 bore, and it could fire a 3-inch shell, which packed a heck of a wallop indeed.
Dubbed “Everybody’s Sweetheart,” as well as “The Greatest Little Shotgun in the World,” the Winchester Model 42 shotgun was lightweight, easy to use, had great power and range for its size, and came with a lengthy 28-inch barrel for extra power and accuracy.
Variations on the Model 42
Over a 30-year run, there were many variations including the Standard Grade, Deluxe Grade, Pigeon Grade, and Trap Grade. A number of specials were also available, and barrel length, rib type, extra barrels, add-in chokes, and stock patterns and colors were available at times.
Model 42 production and collection
According to a separate article by Gun Digest, the Winchester Model 42 was a “sweet little scattergun” that was revolutionary for its time and still holds value today. The gun had two marks against it right out of the gate, though. It came to light during the Great Depression, and Winchester only produced less than 200,000 of them.
The Model 42 and many other guns remained in production until 1963, when Winchester famously revamped its production lines. For a time, the Winchester 42 was all you saw at skeet-shooting and trap competition worldwide, but now the .410 shotgun is regarded as an inferior gun or a gun for shooters looking to handicap themselves on the range.
So, if you are a lucky collector, maybe you have access to the sleek and powerful Winchester Model 42 .410 shotgun or a Miroku, but, for the rest of us, we will have to settle on some of the best .410 shotguns available today, and below is a list of guns we like a lot. So, whether you are an expert marksman or a newbie looking to pick up a new sport have a look at some of the options that follow
2018 Best .410 Shotguns for Skeet Shooting
We’ve scoured around for the best .410 shotguns for skeet shooting, so you don’t have to. Here are the ones we love the most.
The German-made Blaser over/under doesn’t have the history of a Winchester or Remington, but, as with many things German, it is machined to strict specifications. All parts – actions, forends, stocks, and barrels — are interchangeable. Made in various sizes, from 12 to 28, as well as .410, the gun’s barrel can interchange for live bird hunting or for shooting clay pigeons. With a rifle style trigger and lightning-fast lock speed, the gun also auto-balances for barrel length. Available between $3,000 and $3,300, this .410 shotgun packs a punch.
We sometimes wonder if there is a list that the Remington 870 hasn’t made, but, when you sell 10 million guns, maybe that’s not the right question.
First produced in the 1950s, the gun is durable, easy to use, and widely utilized for hunting, sports shooting, hunting, law enforcement, and self-defense. With no less the nine variations, the 870s go for around $350 to $400, but your best bet is to pick a used one at a gun show or on eBay, as they reportedly load more smoothly and shoot more accurately.
Browning BPS shotguns accommodate both left and right-handed shooting. With gauges that range from 10-gauge goose guns to stealthy and deadly .410 gauges and everything in between, the BPS shotguns were in production for over 40 years. They have a blued steel finish, camo-clad deco, slick action, with a look and feel that matched the iconic Winchester Model 12.
You can still find them online and in stores, and you should expect to pay about $600 to $700 for one.
Classics are classics for a reason, and the Remington 1100 has been firing rounds for more than 50 years. New models cost around $1,050 to $1,200, but there are many gun shows and gun brokers whose used listings run anywhere from $400 to $600.
This classic trap shotgun is available in 12, 20, 28 and .410 gauges, and it is reportedly the only semi-automatic .410 shotgun on the market today. It’s equipped with interchangeable choke tubes, and is also heavily favored in many 4-gauge competitions.
A Little More Info on Trap Guns
For those of you who are upright and facing the right way, you will be interested to know that the traditional trap gun may be referred to as a break-action gun since, in trap shooting, you shoot one target at a time.
You may alternatively hear the term “unsingle” used to describe a trap gun, specifically an over/under receiver with a single barrel. Many O/U shotguns allow the shooter to swap a single barrel for a double quite easily, and a shotgun with both a double and single barrel set is called a combo.
Moreover, a trap combo allows for a single barrel and a double barrel on the same receiver, so you can shoot singles or doubles from the same gun. The major difference is that trap guns tend to be more adjustable. And adjustable ribs and chokes let you dial in on that target with a precision that can bust up the bird every time.
But, the ability to use a double or a single barrel together in one gun is not altogether new technology, and, in fact, “side-by-side’s,” were not that uncommon for game hunters in the early 1900s.
Best .410 Shotgun Wrap-up
Interestingly, the end of side-by-sides starts with the banning of lead ammunition. And that story begins with the Department of Interior banning of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1976. The reasoning behind the decision had to do with a study the found that 2 million ducks died each year in the US from lead poisoning during shooting and baiting.
While there was much pushback from hunters and the gun community at large, the government eventually got its way, and the steel shot replaced the lead. The other benefit of moving away from lead was that guns became lighter because their ammo was lighter, and guns like the Winchester Model 42 .410 soon found themselves more desirable to collectors.
Zeroing in on the best
Ironically, finding the best .410 shotgun is a lot like finding the best upland game shotgun, and, when choosing either, it pays to know Rule of 96. According to the Rule of 96, a shotgun ought to weigh about 96 times its ammunition weight. In other words, 1 ounce of shot demands a 6 lb (96 oz) shotgun to be the most effective. So, there is a balance to be stuck. The more the weight, the more difficult it is to maneuver; the less the weight, the bigger the kick.
So, once again, it all comes down to how the .410 shotgun fits and feels to determine which one is best for you. Consider the make, model, and features from guns of the past to determine what your next gun should be.
Could it be a Winchester?
The Winchester Model 42 Skeet Grade .410 shotgun offered a 26 to 28-inch single barrel that came in solid or ventilated rib types, a walnut checkered or straight-grip stock, checkered extension slide handle, and adjustable cylinder or skeet chokes. The Trap Grade was the same except it featured more bling and several adjustable chokes.
The most definitive thing you can do, though, it to get out there and try some different .410 shotguns with a variety of ammunition. Plus, you will get to experience the outdoors, hang with some friends, and learn some new skills. So, skip the heavy-hitter, and go straight for that little number with a big kick — the .410 shotgun.