Today’s pop quiz! What do the following have in common?
- Ben Cartwright
- John Moses Browning
- Saiga-12 Auto Shotguns
It’s the Winchester 9410 lever-action shotgun!
Admittedly, the Cartwright clan had access to guns from the future, as they shot an awful lot of Winchester 1892s, which is only two different than the 1894 design we’re talking about here. Close enough. For this pop quiz anyway.
Continuing to refine his lever-action designs, John Browning designed the Winchester 1894 in, you guessed it, 1894. It’s one of the most popular rifles in history, with over seven million produced between 1894 and 2006, with those made between 1980 and 2006 technically being manufactured by the U.S. Repeating Arms Company under the Winchester brand.
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One can consider the Winchester 9410 a predecessor of magazine-fed shotguns like the Saiga. But unlike the Saiga, variants of which are used by some military and law enforcement forces around the world, the biggest things the 9410 will be taking on are rabbits or clay targets, as long as they’re not too far away. And you can only do that fast as you can work the lever—up to 10 times without reloading.
As you’ve figured out, the Winchester 9410 is closely modeled after the Winchester 1894 rifle, with a few necessary differences. Slender, slick, and a natural pointer, the 9410 acts a lot like its ancestor. It’s pure joy to handle and shoot. A couple of the major differences (besides the fact that it’s a freakin’ shotgun!) are a specially-designed extractor/ejector for controlled ejection of .410 hulls and a tang-mounted safety added to the ’94 family in 2003.
Two major variations of the 9410 were produced: the Traditional and Packer lines, with each line having a couple of mostly cosmetic variations. The Packer offered a magazine tube only three-fourths the length of the Traditional, giving the shotgun a five-shell capacity, including one in the chamber. The Traditional models, like the one shown here, featured a nine-round tube capacity plus one in the chamber. All models accommodate 2-1/2-inch .410 shells only.
Like the original, its sights are open for speed. An adjustable “V” rear sight is mounted on the barrel just forward of the receiver. Unlike the original, the front sight is a TruGlo fiber optic tube. The sights are easy to acquire and therefore fast and effective.
The action is designed to eject .410 hulls to the right side, so as not to interfere with a mounted scope. This is perhaps the one dubious feature on this gun, as I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would want to mount a scope on this happy fun gun. But if you insist, the receiver is also pre-tapped for scope mounts.
Some 9410 models feature the Invector Choke System, while others are pure cylinder bore. The one shown here came with a handful of Invector chokes: full, modified, and improved cylinder. The best overall solution for shot and slugs seems to be the improved cylinder choke. I’ve found the full and modified chokes tend to throw some erratic patters while the improved cylinder choke seems to work consistently with various type of shot and .410 slugs.
Shooting this shotgun-rifle-thing is more fun than watching your local congress-critter tap dance at a town hall meeting. One of the best parts is all the crazy looks you get at the sporting clays range. I’ve had snooty gun guys sprint in my direction shouting, “You can’t shoot that rifle here boy!” I love that reaction. And their humble walk of shame when I show those gun range gurus a shotgun they’ve never seen before.
Notice I’m focusing on the “fun to shoot” aspect and not the level of effectiveness for sporting clays or other clay target disciplines. It is a .410, remember? When sporting clays targets get a ways out there, you really suffer from a weak .410 shot pattern. It’s a little bit like trying to catch an amped-up squirrel by throwing a used Kleenex at it.
Let’s consider for a moment what’s really important about this gun. Low clay target scores are absolutely balanced by the thrill of shooting doubles with a lever-action shotgun. You might as well wear a cowboy hat and leather chaps, as you’re instantly transported to a virtual reality world of Western shootouts. The action is smooth, but ejection is completed at the very end of the lever-stroke, so you have to be enthusiastic about your lever swinging.
When shooting slugs, it’ll shoot either minute-of-paper-plate or minute-of-old-hubcap at 100 yards. Your choice. Actually, it does a bit better than that, but who cares? It’s a .410 shotgun, all! If you want minute-of-something smaller-than-a-pumpkin groups, get a model 94 in .30-30 or some other brass-based caliber. For targets 50 yards and closer, the smooth bore will keep slugs on target just fine.
Sadly, the Winchester 9410 is not offered in current production. But keep your eyes open on the used market or send Winchester a letter. Not many guns rekindle the pure joy of shooting like the Winchester 9410. Get one. Seriously. I’ll wait.
Images by Tom McHale