Is a .410 Shotgun Effective for Deer Hunting?

Can you kill a deer with a .410 shotgun

The .410 shotgun is a hunting weapon that’s loved by some hunters and disliked by others. Proponents say that it’s lightweight and minimal kick make it an excellent gun for various types of game and for beginners, while critics claim the weapon lacks the power needed to get the job done, especially when it comes to larger game like deer.

Recently, I noticed several discussions online about whether or not a .410 was a powerful enough gun to take down a deer, and I thought it worth it to weigh in on the subject.

Can a .410 Shotgun Kill a Deer?

.410 shotgun shells
Image by Stefan Malloch from Getty

With proper shot placement, a .410 shotgun will have no problem bringing down a deer, especially when the animal is within a reasonable range. Many hunters have killed good-sized deer with a .410 and anyone who says you can’t is simply wrong.

It comes down to shot placement. This is true of any caliber or shell size. Honestly, with the right shot placement, you can kill just about anything with almost any firearm. There are stories out there of people killing large animals, like a bear, with a 22 caliber rifle. It all just comes down to where the bullet or slug hits the animal.

Shot placement is especially important when hunting with a smaller bore shotgun. The .410 definitely qualifies as much but it can be a good deer hunting shotgun. If you’re going to kill a deer with a .410, you need to be able to hit the right spot.

I suggest practicing plenty well ahead of the hunt. Before the season starts you should be very proficient with your weapon. Don’t go out there—with a shotgun of any guage—if you can’t hit where you want. This is even more important with a .410.

Is it Smart to Hunt Deer With a .410 Shotgun?

Large whitetail deer jumping in a field
Image by SteveOehlenschlager from Getty

So, it is possible to hunt deer with a .410, but is it smart? Well, that’s a gray area. It depends on a variety of factors. How good of a shot are you? How far of a shot are you going to take? How big is the animal you’re trying to kill? All of these things play a role.

It may also be illegal to hunt deer with a .410 in some states or certain areas. You need to check your local laws before giving it a try. You should do this before hunting with any weapon, really. You need to ensure that you’re hunting the right game with the right weapon. In some cases, this may mean you can’t hunt deer with a .410 shotgun.

Personally, I’d advise not to hunt deer with anything smaller than a 20 gauge shotgun. A .410 will definitely get the job done, but the 20 gauge is a smarter choice.

Some folks may disagree with me, but I’d rather have a weapon with a little more stopping power. The .410 is an admirable weapon for many duties, but when it comes to deer, give me a 20 or a 12 gauge every time.

If you insist on using a .410 shotgun as your deer hunting shotgun, then I’d advise you to buy some high-quality, high-velocity ammunition. There are a lot of different companies out there that make .410 shells. Something like the three-inch Winchester Super-X Rifled Slug Shotshells will get the job done.

The 20 Gauge Deer Hunting Shotgun Alternative

Mossberg shotgun
Image from Gander Outdoors

You’re bound to still hear some hunters claim a 20 gauge is underpowered. They’ll tell you that you need a 12 gauge or a 30-06 rifle to get the job done. That’s not true. The 20-gauge shotgun is more than adequate to take down a deer.

If you were thinking of deer hunting with a .410 shotgun but have decided not to, consider a 20 gauge weapon. You can buy good 20 gauge shotguns for very little money and you’ll only get marginally more kickback from a 20 gauge as opposed to a .410. You can always upgrade all the way to the venerable 12 gauge, which is fine, but the 20 gauge will be more of a natural progression if you’re used to shooting a .410.

So, in conclusion, the .410 is a fine deer hunting shotgun if you’re going to be shooting within a reasonable range, you have a clear shot, and you can hit your target. Otherwise, you’re better off with a 20 gauge or 12 gauge.

What are your thoughts on a .410 for deer hunting? Leave a comment below!

Is a .410 shotgun effective for deer hunting



  1. Hello Wade: Enjoyed your article.Wade in my case I would use the 410 bore for deer. My shoulders can’t take recoil any longer even from 20ga. 410 bore is just right.

    1. Definitely very little kickback on a .410. If you’ve got bad shoulders, you’re making the right choice.

  2. Hello, Wade.

    I also enjoyed your article, and found it useful in my search for the perfect truck gun/pack gun to be used only if things go wrong and find myself lost or otherwise delayed on a trip and needed to hunt for food until out of trouble. I’ve decided to go with a .22/.410 combo, and the last unanswered question I had before committing was the very same one you ask in the article’s title. So, again, thank you very much for your unbiased and thorough investigation into whether or not a .410 shotgun COULD bring down a deer. Again, I hope never in my life to find myself hunting deer with my .410 because, for me, bagging a deer would be far from the biggest problem on my hands in that scenario… but it’s good to know that if I needed to, I could.

    Also, I appreciate your inference that any weapon the hunter is capable of using to make an ethical kill is an appropriate weapon for the task (assuming there are no legal restrictions). If the hunter has the skill to put a dart through the eye of a deer and pierce the brainstem, dropping that buck where he stands, I say let him use a blow dart gun if he wants to (assuming it is legal/necessary AND there is an overwhelming likelihood that he will make that shot, each and every time). In short, if he can reliably make an ethical kill with his chosen weapon, I find no reason to argue against its use. And it is the responsibility of the hunter to know the limits of his skill set and of his weapon/ammunition.

    Anyway, thanks again and best wishes,

    1. I appreciate your comment, Jay. I’m more or less of the same mind. If the weapon is adequate and legal to be used, then you should feel free to do so. A .410 will definitely be a great gun for the uses you’re discussing.

  3. A .410 shotgun, especially with the high velocity slug is deadly on any size deer. Like others have said, it comes down to shot placement and range. I have kept my shots within the 40-45 yard range with no problems.

    1. 40 to 45 yards is a good range to stick in. Anything longer than that I’d be a little wary, but yes, it 100 percent comes down to shot placement. Glad to hear you’ve had success with a .410

      1. Mature doe, 87 yards, no heart remained, winchester slug

        1. That’s killer, Dave! Nice shot. Sounds like a .410 will easily do the job up to 100 yards or so.

  4. are you using 2 3/4 or 3 inch slugs or buck shot.

    1. Jud, I’d go with a slug. 2 3/4 should get the job done in most cases, but the 3 inch is never a bad move.

      1. what is the suggested best range for shooting with an air riffle?

  5. Can you use a 3 inch 1135 velocity 5 pellet 000 buck to hunt deer or does it half to be a deferent round

    1. I’d go with a .410 slug.

  6. Shot my first deer with a 410 when I was 9 years old.Dad dropped me off in a good spot,I sat beside a tree,had a few deer sneak up on me and I got a doe.

    1. That’s killer Gabe! Great story to have.

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