Why Research the 410

It’s my grandfather’s fault – Dad told of his father’s 410 pistol, and how it had disappeared from the house the day of the funeral.  Even if it had not been disappeared, Dad would have been unlikely to keep it – he was too young when his parents died, and the second World War with a career of sea duty stood between him and a spot to keep his father’s gun.

Today, there are a lot of 410 pistols.  There were few in the thirties, when his father’s pistol disappeared (and even fewer in the 80’s when I started looking for one for Dad).  My first research was flawed – I thought my grandfather’s gun was possibly a Marvel Game Getter.  In those pre-database days, not realizing the manufacturer was Marble, not Marvel, set the research off to a poor start.  Today, the research is a bit easier – and shows that there just wasn’t a way Dad could have kept his father’s pistol.

“The legal woes of the Game Getter

The originals were made with 12-, 15-, and 18-inch barrels. The National Firearms Act of 1934 made all of the game getters with smooth bores illegal. While the Feds were trying to curtail the use of short-barreled shotguns by criminals (at least that was the justification given to the public), they managed to kill the Game Getter and some other really useful pocket shotguns. In 1939, in what seems like a very rare circumstance, the ATF revised its ruling on the 18-inch Game Getter and removed it from the prohibited firearm list. The 12-inch and 15-inch are still too dangerous for common folk like us to handle.”

From Dad’s description, I figured the missing gun must have had a 12-inch barrel, looking something like this:

The advertisement where I got the photo explained “Double-barrel (over-under) combination gun with a skeleton folding stock.  22 rimfire rifle barrel over a 44 smooth bore shotgun barrel. This is the 12″ barrel model and requires class III OAW transfer.”  Two pieces of information – it was a class 2 restricted ‘Any Other Weapon’ – and it was a 44 smooth bore.  That second piece of information directed me toward researching the origins of the 410 cartridge. 

That led to the Harrington & Richardson Model 1915 – marked for 410, 44WCF, and 44 XL Shot shell Only – in those early days, they hadn’t standardized the cartridge as a 410 – the old 44 Winchester shells, loaded with shot, were still the norm.

At I found more information:

“A few years ago, my uncle gave me my great grandmother’s old Stevens Model 101 44-Shot. The barrel is 26 1/8″ long and it’s chambered for the .44-40 shot cartridge, although ball cartridges could also be used. The gun is a single shot tip up action and the lever on the bottom opens the breech and also serves as the trigger guard. These guns were made from 1914 to 1920.

The 44 shot was mainly used in America, while the .410 (12mm) was used in Europe. Eventually the .410 caught on and the .44 shot fell into disuse. There’s no commercially available ammunition for the gun since it’s an obsolete caliber, but there is a way to make your own.”

Check his page – there is some good information there on other topics.

So my research continued – a long century ago, they were using cartridges labeled 410, 12mm, and 36 gauge in Europe, while in the US we were moving from 44 shot to 410. 

So Fiocchi is still selling 410 ammunition as 36 gauge in Europe.  That tidbit of knowledge answered a question from before I turned 10 . . . my mother’s uncle Albert kept a 36 gauge in the barn to shoot magpies, and I never realized that it was an old European shotgun with the gauge markings from Europe.

My first attempt at a 410 pistol for Dad was in the seventies – A Thompson Center Contender, chambered for 45 Colt, rechambered for 3-inch 410 cartridges, and with a removable choke.  He didn’t like it – said it kicked too much – but it started me researching how the 410 got its name.

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