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410 vs 20 Gauge for Home Defense: Which Is Better?

L.p. Brezny | Updated May 12, 2023 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
image showing a shotgun with various rounds on a table

If you ask most gun enthusiasts which shotgun works best for home defense, many would say the 12 gauge. However, smaller gauges like the 20 or 410 are suitable and may even be better in some situations. Let’s dive into why.

Is a .410 Shotgun Good for Home Defense?

Whenever you’re looking at any firearm for home defense, you have to consider several variables, such as:

  • Agility – How easy is it to carry and maneuver the gun around tight corners and hallways?
  • Versatility – Are you looking for a weapon purely for self-defense or other household uses like hunting and pest control?
  • Stopping Power – How many rounds will it take to bring an attacker down? Also, how close do they have to be for the shot to have substantial stopping power?

So, when evaluating the 410 against these variables, it’s a lightweight and highly agile weapon, but it may not be able to take down an intruder in a single shot. That said, if you’re loading your 410 with the right rounds, you should be able to defend yourself pretty well. (1)

What’s Better: 410 or 20 Gauge for Home Defense?

image of three different types of 410 shot shell ammo

Technically speaking, we would have to say the 20 gauge is better for home defense because it’s bigger and has more stopping power. If you’re unfamiliar with shotgun gauges, smaller numbers mean larger rounds (and heavier guns).

The reason shotgun gauges are the opposite of regular rounds is because of how they’re measured. Instead of looking at the diameter of the bullet, gauges refer to the number of pellets needed to make one pound of shot.

So, a 20-gauge shotgun has much bigger rounds than a 410, making it more formidable in a close-up fight. Better yet, a 20-gauge is not that much heavier than a 410 (perhaps a couple of pounds), so it’s not exactly unwieldy or cumbersome. 

Overall, you have more flexibility with a 20-gauge because you don’t have to load specific types of shots, and you can severely wound an attacker even if you don’t hit them head-on.

410 vs. 20 Gauge for Home Defense: A Comparison Guide

We’ve discussed the broad basics of both a 410 and 20-gauge shotgun for home defense, but let’s drill down and focus on specific variables. Here’s what you need to know when comparing these weapons.

Types of Shells

Generally speaking, you can buy birdshot, buckshot, and slugs for shotguns. And technically, you can use all three of these options for home defense, but their effectiveness varies from one gun to the next. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Birdshot – This shot type is designed to spread out quickly to hit a fast-moving and flying target. In a 410, birdshot pellets are super small and light, so they don’t have much penetrating power. They’ll be painful but not deadly, making the 20-gauge birdshot a better option.
  • Buckshot – As the name suggests, buckshot is designed to take down deer, so the pellets are larger and heavier. Again, a 20-gauge has bigger pellets than a 410, but both guns can be deadly with this ammunition.
  • Slug – Realistically, slugs are best for home defense if you want to take down an intruder quickly and minimize the potential collateral damage caused by shot spray. Slugs are heavy rounds that will take a chunk out of a target’s body. Plus, both 410 and 20-gauge shotguns have decent slugs for self-defense.
  • Rubber Bullets – If you want a non-lethal home defense round, you can use rubber bullets instead of lead shots. If you go this route, a 20-gauge is much better because it’ll pack more punch than the 410. Firing rubber out of a 410 will be more of an annoyance than a real threat. (2)
comparison of birdshot vs buckshot vs shotgun slugs


At a close range, both the 410 and 20-gauge can have decent stopping power, especially if you’re using the right shot type. However, if you’re trying to shoot an intruder from a distance, the 20 gauge will be better because its shot is heavier and won’t spread out as much at a distance.


One of the best advantages of a 410 is the fact that it has virtually no recoil. So, you can reload and fire again and again without hurting your shoulder, which can mean the difference between life and death. That said, although a 20-gauge has a more noticeable recoil, it shouldn’t prohibit you from taking multiple shots.

Shot Pattern

As we mentioned, birdshot is designed to spread out quickly, while buckshot maintains a much tighter pattern. Whether you’re using a 410 or a 20 gauge, you should load it with either buckshot or slugs.

four boxes of different types of shotgun shells

What Gauge Is a 410 Shotgun – How Is It Measured?

While most shotguns are called by their gauges, the 410 gets its designation from the diameter of the bore of the barrel. So, this shotgun’s actual “gauge” is 67.5, which is the highest number you can find for this type of weapon.

What’s the Best 410 Shotgun Ammo for Home Defense?

When browsing for 410 ammo, you’ll notice that some manufacturers sell “defensive” rounds. These rounds are loaded with different types of pellets to give them better stopping power. 

Now, one example is the Winchester PDX1 Defender round. Instead of standard lead pellets, it’s packed with three discs and 12 BBs and fires at a velocity of 750 feet per second.

Overall, these defensive rounds are a better option if you’re only using the shotgun for home defense. If you’re using it for other purposes (i.e., pest control), you should be okay with standard buckshot or slugs.

Top Defensive Shotguns for Home Protection

Now that you know what gauge to use, make sure to check out our article on the top defensive shotguns for home protection on the market. We go over the best shotguns on the market for home defense.


Will a 410 shotgun stop an intruder?

Yes, a 410 shotgun will stop an intruder, but only if you use the right shell type. Birdshot will wound an intruder, but buckshot or slugs are far more lethal.

How much harder does a 20 gauge kick than a 410?

If you’re comparing both shotguns with identical rounds, the recoil of a 20-gauge kicks about three times harder than a 410. The difference is enhanced further by using heavier shots, so keep that in mind.

Can a 410 shotgun be used for home defense?

Yes, you can use a 410 shotgun for home defense, but you have to be able to compensate for its lightweight shot capabilities.

Is a 410 less powerful than a 20 gauge?

Yes, a 410 shotgun is much less powerful than a 20-gauge because it uses much smaller rounds.

What’s the best shotgun shell for home defense?

The best shotgun shell for home defense is buckshot, often the preferred shotgun shell because you don’t have to be super accurate when targeting an intruder. However, if you know your way around a shotgun, slugs can be pretty deadly too.

Is a 20 gauge shotgun good for home defense?

Yes, a 20-gauge shotgun is good for home defense because it has decent stopping power with a relatively limited recoil.

What size shotgun for home defense?

If you’re deciding on what size shotgun to use for home defense, most gun enthusiasts would recommend either a 12-gauge or 20-gauge shotgun.

Why is the 410 so popular?

The 410 shotgun is so popular because it’s lightweight and easy to maneuver. Also, with such little recoil, users can fire round after round without getting hurt or sore.

Is a 410 stronger than a 12-gauge?

No, a 12-gauge shotgun is much more powerful than a 410.


  1. Shooting Illustrated, A .410 for Home Defense? Is That A Good Idea?, retrieved from https://www.shootingillustrated.com/content/a-410-for-home-defense-is-that-a-good-idea/
  2. Optics Planet, Types of Shotgun Shells: 3 Need-to-Know Basics, retrieved from https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-types-of-shotgun-shells-3-need-to-know-basics.html

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