Tuesday, January 10, 2017

REVIEW: Winchester Super Sport AA 2.5" .410 Shells- Best Birdshot for Wilderness Survival?

The .410 Shotgun has been popular as a wilderness survival gun ever since the Air Force adopted it as part of their M6 Air Crew Survival Weapon in the 1950s. The Air Force chose the .410 because it is the lightest of all shotgun calibers, yet is reasonably effective within 25 yards on birds or other small game.

The 410 Conundrum 

Although light in weight, the 410's Achilles' Heel has always been the limited number of pellets in its small shell. This translates to thin patterns when you get past 20 yards compared to its larger 12 Gauge and 20 Gauge siblings.

Over the last several decades, manufacturers tried to remedy this shortcoming by developing larger 3" Magnum loads, which carry heavier 11/16th ounce or 3/4 ounce payloads compared to the .410's standard 1/2 ounce load.

Most of these 3" Magnum shells do throw denser patterns, but this performance comes at a cost-- increased weight. When you have to hump everything on your back in a survival situation, EVERY ounce adds up.

So this led me on a search. Was there a standard 1/2 ounce 2.5" 410 shotshell that combined the pattern density of the 3" Magnum shell with the lighter pack weight of the classic 2.5" Shell?

After posing this question to some experienced shotgunners in my area, they all advised me to check out Winchester's AA .410 2.5" Super Sport Target Loads.

They said Winchester AA shells patterned better than other shotgun shells because of their unique construction.

Hoping they were right, I wrangled up a few boxes of AA from my local gun store, grabbed my Double Badger 410 Shotgun, and headed off to the mountains with targets in hand.

Winchester's 410 Super Sport Sporting Clays Ammunition

Winchester's AA Super Sport is a high grade shotgun target ammunition that has been popular with trap and skeet shooters for decades.

Its popularity stems from the fact that due to its unique construction, it patterns better out to farther distances.

Here is Winchester's description of their AA shells:

  • Proven Hard Shot
  • High-Strength Hull
  • AA Wads
  • Best-in-Class Primer and Powder
  • Sporting Clays, Trap and Skeet


To test the AA Shells, I gathered up an assortment of popular .410 ammo, a handful of my favorite Champion Squirrel targets, and set them up at 25, 30, and 40 yards to see which one would pattern the best. 

I made sure to do testing on a calm day to ensure that the wind would not effect the results.

The gun used was my Chiappa Double Badger .22 Magnum/.410 Shotgun folding combo gun, which I reviewed in July of 2014. It has a 19" barrel and a full choke. Here are the test results......

Winchester AA 410 #7.5 Shot, 25 Yard Pattern (Click any photo to enlarge):

25 Yard Patterns from other popular 2.5" and 3" 410 loads (please note that the different sized holes are due to pellet deformation):

Winchester AA 410 #7.5 Shot, 30 Yards

Comparison with popular 3" Magnum .410 loads at 30 yards 
(unfortunately, my Sharpie pen died after using it on two targets, hence the difference in the circled/uncircled targets):

Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot, 25 Yards

Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot at 30 Yards

Winchester AA #9, 30 Yards

Winchester AA 410 #8 Shot at 40 Yards

Even at 40 Yards, the Winchester AA #8 Shot still managed to put 8 pellets into the squirrel target:


In my pursuit of the ultimate .410 birdshot ammunition for wilderness survival, I was trying to find the lightest yet best patterning load on the market. After field testing Winchester's AA, I found that it fulfilled this role perfectly. The AA shells patterned better at distance than any of the 3" shells I tested despite the AA being just a 1/2 ounce shell. 

Aside from its excellent patterning, Winchester AA also has better penetration due its harder shot and sizzling 1300 F.P.S. velocity.

AA shells can also be reloaded, thanks to the high quality hull and brass base that is used in their construction.

On top of all this performance and the ability to be reloaded, Winchester's .410 AA is also usually the cheapest 410 ammo you will find on your local store shelves.

Pound for pound, I cannot think of a better all around .410 small game/bird hunting shell for wilderness survival.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Survival Guides. Jason has also written for magazines such as the The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine/ELLE Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ hotmail.com

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