The 410 gauge Contender, is it a hunting tool or a novelty?
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The 410 gauge Contender, is it a hunting tool or a novelty?

The 410 gauge Contender, is it a hunting tool or a novelty?


The 410 gauge Contender, is it a hunting tool or a novelty?

I have long been a huge fan of the Thompson Center Contender and over the years I have owned well over 25 different barrels for my stainless frame. I have shot and enjoyed most of the barrels and the different chamberings that I have owned, but one always made me a bit uneasy – the 410/45 Colt. I am not sure why, but I never trusted it enough to take it out hunting, not even for squirrels.

After looking through both print and online sources for information on the effectiveness of the 410 barrel on the contender and finding no information, I decided to conduct my own test.

The Gun


The Contender was first fitted with a 10 inch stainless steel barrel with adjustable sights and chambered for 410 and 45 Colt. The barrel is also provided with an internal screw in choke that must be removed prior to shooting a 45 Colt from the barrel. It is interesting to note that the choke is very unique in that it not only provides constriction to the shot column but also is designed to stop the column from rotating, counteracting the rifled portion of the barrel.

The Test Procedure

The Contender was first sighted in from a rest at 15 yards using a rest and several large pieces of wax paper stapled onto boards for support at the Blue Hill Rifle and Pistol Club, located in Blue Hill, Maine (for anyone in the area this is an excellent range and dues are very affordable). A total of 25 rounds were fired in order to assure accurate results. The round used was Winchesters 3’ Super X High Brass Game Loads with 11/16 ounce of # 6 Shot.

I chose #6 shot because I wanted to see how well the gun patterned with the larger shot size, I will admit right now that with #6 shot the 410 can’t hold all that many pellets and using a smaller shot size would provide for more pellets and the possibility of a denser shot pattern. In fact the 3’’ 410 shell only holds around 150 pellets of #6 shot or about 60% of a comparable 12 gauge shell.

Targets were placed at 5 yard intervals starting at 5 yards and ending at 25 yards. 5 shots were taken at each distance on a clean target and then scored. The findings and representative targets are below:

5 Yards


5 Yard Target

At 5 yards an average of 112 pellets or 75% of the shot struck the target. Pattern density was excellent and at this range the 410 from the Thompson Contender would be very effective.

10 Yards


10 Yard Target

Moving back 5 yards we still have 76 pellets or 50% of the shot striking the target. The pattern is still dense enough to ensure a killing shot.

15 Yards


15 Yard Target

At 15 yards the pattern opens up a lot, only 35 pellets or 23% of the shot struck the target on average. While 23% is a small percentage, the pattern was fairly uniform and more than likely would deliver enough of a shock to take down even the tough Ruffed Grouse at this range as long as the shot was clear of brush and leaves.

20 Yards


20 Yard Target

Moving out to 20 yards we still have a fairly centered pattern but only 21 of the 150 pellets or 14% actually strike the target. With only 14% of the pellets striking the intended target, this may or may not deliver enough energy to bring down a bird, it probably would work on squirrels but I would hesitate to try to take any small game larger than a squirrel.

25 Yards


25 Yard Target

At 25 yards only 14 pellets or 9% hit the target. The pattern as you can see has large holes in it, and a miss on a squirrel is easily forseable, even if the shot did hit, the density is most likely inadequate to ensure an ethical kill.

Our Thoughts

Looking at the targets it is reasonable to call the 410 out of the Thompson Center Contender a 20 yard hunting gun, as long as the hunter has good aim and can pass on shots that do not offer a clean shot. It is also important to point out that this is with a 10 inch barrel, the 410 chambering has also been offered by Thompson Center in 12, 14, 16 and 24 inch barrel lengths.

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