When I was growing up in Northern Virginia, we had a summer place in the mountains of West Virginia nearby. The guy who looked after the place for us had nine kids and lived in a cabin with no indoor plumbing, running water or electricity. He kept his family in meat all year round with a single shot breaking .410 shotgun; including deer with slugs. He taught me that outstanding hunting and shooting skills (along with need) are just as important as which firearm you own. The .410 was the only firearm that he ever owned.
Yes, and eskimos can take down polar bears with .22 shorts. But it's not reccomended practice.
The .410 is a weak and feeble shotgun round. It fine for small birds, and small prests around the farm (when you need to minimise colateral damage), but it lacks serious power for larger birds and animals. For birds, it's considered something of an expert's gun
because it's difficult to shoot it well. For animals, it's considered inhumane on most things larger than squirrel size.
Ah, but what about slugs, you say?
The slugs aren't very powerful , either. They're about equal to a .38 special when fired from a full length barrel. That's not exactly a death ray, and it wouldn't be legal for deer in most places.
As I mentioned before, the .410 is a good pest-gun caliber for the farm when you don't want noise or excessive destruction. Works fine for small *pest* species of birds (pigeons, starlings, etc), rats, snakes, and other wimpy critters at close range
Quoted from an article on shotgun gauges Rick Rappe
The smallest of the commonly encountered shotgun sizes, the four-ten is suitable for game such as rabbits, squirrels and some smaller close range bird hunting. Because four-ten guns tend to be lighter weight and the small sized cartridge generates less recoil or "kick", it is often recommended as a beginners gun with which to learn shooting fundamentals. However, many disagree with this approach citing that the very small shot charge makes effective hitting of the target more difficult and can discourage the beginner. This writer tends to agree, and recommends that the beginner start with a larger gauge with the four-ten reserved for specialty applications or for use of experts.
.410 ammunition comes in 2 1/2 inch and 3" lengths, with nearly all guns capable of firing both. The 3" holds more shot and is therefore a better hunting choice.
Still comparatively uncommon, the 28 "kicks like a .410 and hits like a 20". For years, the only reason the gauge did not completely disappear was because of a skeet shooting application. It is the smallest gauge many feel practical for bird hunting, and in a trim and fast handling shotgun is a delight to use on such game as quail. Drawbacks are limited availability of ammo, an inadequacy at longer ranges, and insufficient shell capacity to handle larger shot, including steel.
Hope that helps!