Most modern shotgun shells are measured by gauge, which refers to the number of lead balls, each of equal diameter to the gun barrel, that could be made out of 1 pound of lead. The .410 shotgun shell made its appearance in 1874, measuring the caliber rather than the gauge. Adding to the confusion, the diameter of the .410 shells is .452 inches. Thus, the .410 shotshell and .45 Long Colt cartridge can be fired interchangeably in some handguns, such as Bond Arms’ series of Over/Under derringers or the Rossi .410/.45 single-shot Brawler.

Originally designed to be used for taking care of small garden pests, the .410 made an excellent starter round for those new to firearms due to its low recoil. However, its limited payload meant sparser patterns, hampering the .410 to be useful for hunting anything larger than rabbits. With such limited capability, the .410 was on its way out until Bond Arms introduced its .45 Colt/.410 derringer. Then the .410 began to shine as a close-range defensive handgun load.

Hornady’s Critical Defense/Triple Defense Ammunition

The Hornady Critical Defense 2 1/2-inch shotgun shells represent a paradigm shift in self-defense ammunition. Crafted under the Critical Defense banner, these rounds feature Hornady’s renowned FTX-controlled expansion bullets, ensuring premium performance in critical situations. The 410 Triple Defense is suitable for use in handguns like the Taurus Judge series, the Rossi Brawler or in tactical .410 shotguns like the Kel-Tec KSG 410, which is the gun I used to test the .410 Triple Defense.

The .410 Triple Defense load contains three separate projectiles. The leading projectile is a non-jacketed .41 caliber FTX conical bullet, followed by two .35 caliber round balls. From an unspecified test gun, the entire package departs the muzzle at 750 feet per second and delivers 300 foot-pounds of energy. Those energy levels are in the range of a 158-grain +P .38 Special bullet. However, while delivering adequate self-defense ballistics, the impact of the Triple Defense load is greater than a conventional .38 Special load due to its three distinct projectiles striking at once.

Winchester offers a 3-inch Defender .410 containing four plated discs backed by 16 plated BBs, and Remington has its 3-inch Ultimate Defender .410 with five 000 buckshot pellets as specialty self-defense loads. Both are good close-range options, but at 2 ½ inches long, the .410 Triple Defense is unique in that it can function in 3-inch-barreled handguns such as Bond Arms derringers.

Another advantage of the Hornady .410 Triple Defense is the conical-shaped leading slug with Flex-Tip technology. The conical bullet will fly truer over a greater distance than a round or flat disk projectile, and the Flex Tip aids in expansion. After I tested the .410 Triple Defense load, there was no doubt in my mind that the right .410 self-defense shotshell fired from the right firearm could prove extremely effective defensively at ranges inside 20 feet or perhaps a bit more.

Testing the Hornady .410 Triple Defense Round

With a 25-pound block of modeling clay, I headed to my friend’s range. Firing was conducted from my preferred .410 launcher — the KelTec KSG410 Bullpup pump-action shotgun. This 10-shot shotgun isn’t marketed for self-defense, but its compact size, light weight, ease of handling and low recoil would make it a great option.

I leveled the bright green plastic front sight pyramid in the center of the block from a kneeling position at 15 feet away. The block came about a foot off the box it was atop of, which was simultaneously kicked backward by the impact. The force of the three projectiles pushed the sides of the block out, giving it the appearance of having wings. The block started at 8 inches wide by 10 inches long, but the wallop of the Triple Defense load expanded it to 14 inches by 12 inches. There is no doubt the effect the .410 Triple Defense form Hornady would have on an assailant.

Can the .410 Round Be Used for Self-Defense?

The Hornady Critical Defense .410 Triple Defense shotgun shell is extremely effective based on what I observed in the block. It should prove effective indoors and out. And, with the FTX conical slug, the round should be successful against targets wearing heavy winter coats. Neither the Triple Defense nor standard .410 rifled slugs should be fired from full-choke .410 shotguns. The Hornady .410 Triple Defense is sold in 20-round boxes.