Editor’s Note: Deer camp, fish camp, the shooting range, or the gun shop—no matter where hunters and anglers get together, they’ll find something to disagree on. And why not? There’s nothing like a good argument to get your blood pumping. So, to that end, every day this week we’ll be posting stories designed to stir things up around hunting and fishing’s most pressing debates. And for variety’s sake, we’ll make some critters, cartridges, and guns go head-to-head, too. To kick things off, we’re weighing the 28 gauge vs 410 to find the best sub-gauge shell for turkeys. Welcome to Versus Week.
A few years ago, the 410 was given new life thanks to Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). The dense little pellets turned the diminutive gauge—usually reserved for youth small game hunters—into a viable turkey killer. This year, though, a new sub-gauge is getting its moment in the turkey woods. At the 2023 SHOT Show and the NWTF Convention, it was hard to take two steps without hearing how the 28 gauge is the next big thing for turkey hunters.
Is this a push to get you to buy a new shotgun? Or another way to sell expensive shotgun shells? You bet. But gun and ammo companies don’t put a bunch of time and money behind a shotgun shell if they don’t think it’s going to work—or if they think hunters won’t want it.
Going into turkey season this year, our biggest questions were, should those looking to get into sub-gauge turkey guns consider a new 28 gauge instead of a 410? How much better is a 28-gauge turkey load than the already capable 410? And, is it so good that those who already own a 410 should get rid of their guns in favor of the 28? To find out, we put both shells head-to-head in a shoot-off.
28 Gauge vs 410: Table of Contents
- How We Conducted Our Test
- The 410
- The 28 Gauge
- 28 Gauge vs 410: Pattern Test
- 28 Gauge vs 410: Handling
- 28 Gauge vs 410: Ammo Price and Availability
- And the Winner is…
How We Conducted Our Test
We wanted to find two of the exact same turkey shotguns and loads to test these shells. For the guns, we turned to Mossberg. They lent us a pair of SA-Series shotguns, one in 410 and the other in 28 gauge. Turkey loads for the 28 gauge were scarce during our test, and we could only come up with ammo from Apex. Still, Apex’s TSS 9½-shot shells are about as good a turkey load as you can buy. Other shells might perform differently than the results below, but we feel this is still a good comparison.
We shot each gun three times at turkey-patterning targets at two different distances—once at 30 yards and again at 40 yards. Then we decided to push things a bit and shoot at 50 yards. (More on that below.) With the patterns on paper, we added the number of pellets that hit within a 10-inch circle for each target and averaged them up for a score at 30, 40, and 50 yards. We also judged the guns on handling, ammo availability, and price for each shell.
The 410 took the turkey world by storm when hunters realized that—when loaded with TSS—the little shells could take down a gobbler. Since then, several manufacturers have offered 410 turkey guns and loads. The 410 is technically not a gauge, rather a measurement of the bore in hundredths of an inch. If you measured it in terms of gauge, it would be a 67½ gauge. No matter what you call it, the 410 is a favorite of small-game hunters, and with the right ammo, it’s a great option for youngsters chasing long beards. It kicks like a cottontail, carries light, and puts enough pellets on target to drop birds at 30, 40, and some say 50 yards.
The 28 Gauge
The 28 gauge seemed to be reserved for upland hunters—until recently. TSS 28-gauge loads captured the attention of waterfowlers who wanted a little less kick, and manufacturers started making 28-gauge duck guns with 3-inch chambers. Currently, four ammo manufacturers make 28-gauge turkey loads in 3-inch and 2¾-inch lengths. So far, Mossberg has answered with their SA-28 turkey shotgun (it’s chambered for 2¾-inch shells only), and manufacturers like Kicks, Carlesons, and Jebs are making 28-gauge turkey chokes for many brands of guns. In the future, we’ll likely see more 28-gauge turkey guns hit the market if hunters decide to take up the shell.
28 Gauge vs 410: Pattern Test
What Happened at 30 Yards?
Both shells would be devastating to turkeys at 30 yards. Out of three shots, the 410 averaged 160 hits in a 10-inch Circle. The Apex shells peppered the kill zones on our turkey targets with multiple hits to the head and neck. The best hit out of three for the 410 was 195 pellets on target.
The 28 gauge showed signs of taking the lead right off the bat. It scored an average of 210 pellets in a 10-inch circle. It was also remarkably consistent, throwing up solid patterns with every shot. We’re splitting hairs here, as both the 410 and 28 gauge will kill turkeys deader than dead at 30 yards, but the winner is the 28 gauge.
What Happened at 40 Yards?
At 40 yards, things started to change. We noticed a difference in consistency with the 410. Patterns were wider, with the centers of some impacting off the target. This could have been because we were using a peep and fiber-optic front sight instead of an optic. Other reasons could be that our shells didn’t like the choke we had in. But some patterns were so wide, they hit other targets—one scoring a kill shot with a pellet in the adjacent gobbler’s head. The 410 averaged 67 hits in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards—likely still enough to kill a turkey. If I were planning to hunt with a 410 at 40 yards, I’d settle on a good choke-and-load combo and top my shotgun with an optic before heading out to the field.
The 28 gauge kept right on truckin’ at 40 yards. While we had to use binoculars to spot our 410 patterns from the bench, we could see our 28 gauge patterns with the naked eye. At every trigger pull, the dark shoot-and-see turkey target turned neon green. The 28 gauge covered the target, averaging 152 hits in a 10-inch circle while remaining precise and controllable. For pattern density, the 28 gauge more than doubled what the 410 can do. The clear winner at 40 yards is the 28 gauge.
How about 50 Yards?
With the 410 thinning out at 40, we didn’t want to push it to 50. But we did want to see what the 28 gauge could do at half a football field. We took two shots (these shells are hard to get, and we only had 10 of them) and connected with the target with each. At 50 yards, the 28 laid down the kinds of patterns turkeys don’t walk away from.
Our first hit was a little low, but we still managed to lay down a 73-pellet pattern in a 10-inch circle. The second shot hit the target square, delivering a 97-pellet TSS sandwich right in the kill zone. If taking long shots at gobblers is your thing, the 28 gauge will likely deliver.
28 Gauge vs 410: Ammo Price and Availability
As with all TSS, both 410 and 28-gauge shells are expensive—but not as bad as 12- or 20-gauge. For a 410 loaded with Apex #9.5s, you’ll pay around $6.19 per shell. For that same load in the 28 gauge, you can expect to pay about $8.39 per shell. Twelves and 20s surpass $10 and even $12. Right now, 410 is more widely available. We could find both shells online, but we had trouble finding 28-gauge turkey loads (or any 28-gauge shells, for that matter) in local gun shops and big box retailers. When we finally did find some 28-gauge target loads in a store, the clerk said, “You’re the only person I’ve ever sold 28 gauge to.” The winner here is the 410.
28 Gauge vs 410: Handling
We started our test shooting the 410, and when we switched over to the 28 gauge, we noticed an uncomfortable jump in recoil. This could’ve been because we’d gotten used to the 410, or just the way the gun fit (our 28-gauge shotgun came with a different stock than the 410), but the 28 did have a little more kick. That said, it wasn’t that bad once we got used to it. If you’re extremely sensitive to recoil, that might be something to consider. I’d still recommend the 28 gauge for youth hunters.
Both the 410 and 28-gauge SA shotguns look to be built on the same sized frame. They are about the same weight, though the 410 has a longer barrel, making it a bit more cumbersome. It’s also a ½ pound heavier. Even though the 28 gauge kicks more, it’s more gun for less weight than the 410 and the clear winner for this category.
Read Next: The Best Budget Turkey Loads Vs. TSS
And the Winner is…
Twenty-eight gauge fans have always thought their favorite sub-gauge was somewhat magic. After shooting it, I have to say I do, too. I expected the shell to put out a decent sub-100-pellet pattern at 40 yards. Instead, we saw that kind of performance at 50 yards, making the 28 gauge an absolute killer. The bottom line is the 28 gauge mopped the floor with the 410. If I was looking for a new sub-gauge turkey gun, and it was down to the 28 gauge vs 410, I’d pick the former. It carries like a 410, kicks less than a 20, and hits like a 12.
But that doesn’t mean you should forget about the 410. The 410 has the 28 gauge on ammo and gun availability for now. The other advantage? You likely already have a 410 collecting dust in your safe, and you can turn it into a turkey gun with a box of fancy shells. In fact, we took my Mossberg 500 410 with a fixed full choke and put some Apex shells through it to test this. It did just fine—even though it doesn’t have a turkey choke. For youth hunters, new shooters, or anybody who needs an extra turkey gun, the 410 loaded with TSS is still a great choice.