Collecting .410 Shotshells and Boxes

by Ronald W. Stadt

This article concerns guns only tangentially. Suffice it to say that .410 ammunition has been chambered in hand guns such as Colt revolvers, the Stevens Auto Shot, and Ithaca Burglar Gun; inexpensive single shot tip up and bolt action repeaters; cane (walking stick) guns; rook rifles; lever actions such as the Marlin Model 410, Savage Model 99, and Winchester New Model 9410; over/unders such as Boss and Marlin; slide and auto loading repeaters; and in many doubles in England, Europe, and the USA.

The three most common lengths of .410 shells (2 inch, 1 1/2 inch and 3 inch)


History and origins of the .410 Shotshell

In most of the world, one would be hard put to find a seasoned shot gunner who is not acquainted with .410 guns and ammunition. One might be equally hard put to find a gunner who knows the origin of the .410.

In North America, many old gunners and some sports writers maintain that the .410 evolved from the .44XL. (This little shot cartridge was based on the .44-40 rifle/pistol case with shot in a protruding, paper sabot.) In his excellent but wordy book, American and British 410 Shotguns, Krause Publications, 2003, 208 pp., Ronald S. Gabriel cited esteemed gun sports writer Jack O’Conner’s statement that the .410 was a direct descendent of the .44-40 rifle cartridge. Such thinking probably stems from the fact that even older shooters used or knew of the .44XL before they encountered the .410 and the fact that, at their outsets, the two had similar uses—rats, snakes, and garden pests. Knowing that .410 guns and shells existed in Europe and England decades before they were manufactured in the USA, I can only offer that though the .44XL and .410 had similar utility initially, they are unrelated.

Much of the information in this article has often appeared in the literature of shotshell collecting, especially the informal literature. Some of it has been extracted from items on and especially an email letter from Pietro Fiocchi, that is no longer on the 4-10 web site. Emails from Jim Buchanan improved focus and certain details and provided pictures of many .410 boxes. Jim and Peter Mc Gowan contributed to Gabriel’s book. .410 aficionados should purchase the book. Go to the 4-10 web site, click on the Amazon link and consider spending about $30.00 total.

The .410 should be known only by its English dimensions. But the following dimensions are provided for comparison.

Typical Dimensions of .410 Shotshells
Rim OD
13.35 mm
Head OD
9.4685" head OD
11.91 mm
11.57-11.87 mm
2," 2 ½," 3"
51, 64, 76 mm
Mouth dimensions vary a good deal, depending on length, manufacturer, and material.


At least in America, Germany, Italy, and South America, some 25s boxes and crates have nomenclature such as:
.410-2 ½" 7 1/2ch. (36 ga.) (12 mm), reflecting local designations for the .410.

More than a few discerning students of shotshell ammunition have calculated that 67 balls of 0.410" diameter equal one pound. It is plain to see that 12 mm and 36 gauge were derived from the .410 head diameter. (Round to .470 and convert to 12 mm or do the calculations and get 36 gauge.) The .410 diameter may well have been based on the .41 Rigby needle fire rifle of the middle 1800s.

The exact origin of the .410 may never be known. Certainly guns and ammunition so designated existed in England and on the Continent decades before either was manufactured in the USA.


Time line of .410 Shotshell Development

The following time line represents information pertinent to .410s from Jim Buchanan, Pietro Fiocchi, the Gabriel book, Bob Jensen, and myself. Obviously, it only shows general progression in England, Europe, and the USA. Additions are welcome. However, because .410 shotshells have been produced in more than 20 countries, in a great many configurations, brands, etc., a complete listing would be voluminous. Perhaps someone will write and illustrate a book on .410 shotshells and boxes.

Time Line for .410 Cartridges

  • 1870s Both center fire and pin fire in Europe. Perhaps origin of 12 mm in Germany.
  • 1870s First Wilkes .410 proved by London Proof House
  • 1878  Gevelot catalog listed 12 mm (.410) center fire and pin fire.
  • June 1882 Kynoch listed .410 ammo in "Shooting Times" and "The Field" advertisements.
  • 1883 Purdey made .410 gun.
  • 1884 Kynoch listed .410 Perfect all brass.
  • 1885 Eley .410 pin fire.
  • 1886 Societe Francais de Munitions catalog described 12 mm shotshell.
  • Wanting to be different from Britain, in 1810 France used two systems: One similar to the British system but based on a different pound, to determine gauge and a bore system based on the kilogram. The bore system was abandoned in 1868. Some time later, the proof house decided that guns smaller than 10.6 mm (approximately .410") would be tested differently from larger ones. Thus, Pierto Fiocchi deemed that the .410 became the divider between serious guns and play guns and that this was probably the birth of the .410—though officially 12 mm in France. (Contemporary magazine articles continue to present controversies regarding effectiveness of the .410.)
  • The London Proof House proved a .410 circa 1887.
  • Several times the European ruling commission on arms and ammunition (CIP) standardized shotshell nominal diameters. In 1914, 12, 14, 16, 20, 24, and 28 gauges. In the 20s and 30s, 14 gauge disappeared and 32 reappeared. Sometime in the 20s, perhaps spearheaded by a German or Swiss wanting a logical progression the CIP used the 36 designation. Later the CIP reverted to using the correct .410 designation. In 1961 CIP made .410 the official designation. In 1969 CIP added 36 in parentheses. For many years, manufacturers in Italy and other countries labeled 2" and 2 ½" .410s 36 gauge and 3" .410s 36 magnum. Thus hundreds of arms and ammunition manufacturers have historic and other reasons such as marketing and sales for using two or all three designations.
  • 1891 Kynoch .410/12 mm for rook rifles = 2" Gastight maroon or green or 12 mm all brass.
  • 1892 Eley brass, green Extra Quality 2" 3/8 oz., and similar pin fire.
  • 1893 Eley solid, drawn brass
  • 1898 Kynoch Perfectly Gastight 2" paper or metallic and Thin Brass.
  • 1899 Eley Thin Brass.
  • 1902 Eley Improved Gastight.
  • 1903 London Proof House proved a cane (walking stick) gun.
  • 1904 First official reference to .410 by Royal Proof House
  • 1908 Kynoch had eliminated brass.
  • 1910 Eley Gastight pin fire and only solid drawn brass
  • 1911 Eley and Kynoch 2 ½"
  • 1914 Eley Fourten 2" and Fourlong 2 ½".
  • 1915 Remington 1 ½".
  • 1916 Winchester 2" Repeater quality, no. 1-12 shot sizes.
  • 1917 Peters 2" no cannelure.
  • 1919 Eley dropped pin fire and brass.
  • 1920 Winchester Repeater 2" and 2 ½" new primed empties.
  • 1921 Peters 2" and 2 ½" with cannelure.
  • 1926 Fiocchi catalog showed "cabibro" .410 dimensions.
  • 1923 Winchester 2 ½" loaded.
  • 1926 Ithaca 2 3/8" chamber.
  • 1927 Winchester Repeater Speed Load and dropped 2" new primed empty.
  • 1927 Midland Gun Company (England) 3" double barrel.
  • 1927-1939 ICI (British) brass.
  • 1931 Ithaca 2 7/8" chamber.
  • 1932 Speed Loads.
  • 1933 Peters 3".
  • 1933 Western Cartridge Company 3" and Winchester Model 42 development of which was changed from 2 ½" to 3" at behest of John M. Olin after purchase of Winchester.
  • 1935 Ithaca 3" chamber.
  • 1936 Winchester number 9s listed for skeet.
  • 1937 Winchester Super Speed 2 ½" and 3".
  • 1939 Winchester rifled slug.
  • Early 1960s marketing of plastic cases, first roll crimp, then six pie.

More than a few generalizations may be drawn from this time line. For example: By the late 1920s many manufactures, among them the finest double gun makers, in England, Europe, and the USA made many kinds of .410 shotguns. First in England and Europe and some time after elsewhere, lengths were standardized to 2", 2 ½", and 3" or 50, 65, and 75 mm. Changes such as powders and powder charges, shot sizes and weights, wads, case construction, and other characteristics often occurred sometime after similar changes to larger shotshells.


Collecting .410 Shotshells (Single specimens)

Collecting individual .410 shotshells can be a lifetime endeavor. The following illustrations show only one specimen from each of 20 countries. If one collected one shell from each manufacturer/commercial loader world wide, one could have 100 or more .410s. If one collected brass, paper, aluminum, and plastic; pin fire and center fire; NPE and loaded; all lengths; all brands; experimental/developmental; proof and other devices such as whale markers; window and other dummies, one could have 1000 or more. If one collected by shot size, one could several thousand. At this point one would appreciate that .410s take little drawer space.


.410 Shotshell Specimens from 20 Countries

Country & 
Photo of the shotshell
[shown for contrast] 

Australia and New Zealand 
[no head stamp]
CL + 12 m/m + L
D.C.Co. .410
Czech Republic 
* 410
E .410
LAPUA 12.0x75
N.P.K No. 36
AGUILA 410 CDM 410
Republic of South Africa
S * P 410 410
[no head stamp]
12 mm
[ no head stamp]
CALIBRE 12 m/m
410 TCW


Collecting .410 Shotshell Boxes 

To many collectors, boxes are more exciting than individual shells. Box labels changed more often and usually provide more information than shells. Jim Buchanan provided pictures of more British boxes than space permits. Boxes teach much about manufacturers, brands, loads, etc. For now the following are shown as a small sample of the variety that awaits a collector.

Two Eley boxes of 100 shotshells


A box from Camrose and five Eley boxes 


Two boxes from Rossen, another English maker.



Two more English boxes, from Shamrock and Trent.


Along with collecting .410 shotshells and boxes one may want to collect catalogs and brochures, loading tools, and other pertinent memorabilia.