Well I hymned and hawed about getting a Winchester Model 9410 for about a year before I broke down and got one just after Christmas 2002. The concept of the gun seemed like a great idea to me, especially since I have always wanted a lever gun, especially one with a side gate loading port. It probably comes from watching to many bad westerns. I have never owned a lever gun because I could never really justify spending the money on a center fire lever gun in either a rifle or pistol cartridge since I couldn't hunt much with it here in Ohio. We have to hunt deer with a slug firing shotgun (no buckshot) or a pistol firing a straight wall cartridge 0.357 inch diameter or larger during gun season. About the only thing a center fire lever gun would be good for would be some varmint hunting. I also already had several 22 rimfire rifles and I have never seen a rimfire lever action rifle that has a side gate loading port. Now when Winchester released the new Winchester 9410 I was really interested, a side port loading lever action shotgun. Now here was a gun I could do some serious squirrel and bunny hunting with and had all the aesthetic looks I wanted in a lever action. The advertisement for it also mentioned the using 410 slugs and the 410 slug is legal for deer here in Ohio so this really peaked my interest, especially if it was reasonably accurate with a slug but more on deer hunting and the 410 later.
First the gun itself; the Winchester 9410 is base on the present production Winchester 94, in fact when I put a sling on mine I used the sling kit for the 30-30 version of the Win 94 without modification. The 9410 boast all the nuances of the latest version of the 94's action. It has the angle ejection and ejector that is not depended on cycle velocity. It also has the modern cross block safety, the 2003 and later models have a tang safety. It comes in two basic models the Traditional and the Packer. The Traditional has a 24 inch barrel and full length magazine that will hold 8-9 shells depending on the shell manufacture and a straight grip. The packer version has a 20 inch barrel and a 2/3 length magazine that will hold 4 rounds and a semi pistol grip with the curved lever loop. The Traditional does not have sling swivels, the packer includes them with the gun. With the 2003 model and later models you can have the choice of invectra choke tubes for a bit of additional money. All model are chambered only for the 2 1/2 shells. One thing to be careful of is you can accidentally put a 3 inch shell in the magazine but they will jam the action, being to long to rise up out of the magazine to the chamber, and are quite a chore to extract. The magazine plug that came with the Traditional model is a nice plastic tube 18 1/2 inches long with a flare at one end so it stays at the muzzle end of the magazine and does not rattle. Other options include various wood grades and checkering and they even make a youth size Packer model.
I bought the 2002 Traditional model. The sights are traditional post in the front, notched blade in the back but the back sight is a little unusual. The front sight is a very modern fiber optic dot on a post. The rear sight is similar to an express style sight with elevation adjustment with a nice white triangle pointed up at the center of the very flat "V" rear sight. Windage adjustments are achieved by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail.
My two dislikes are minor but the bad tells as much as the good does. The front sight although very visible with its fiber optic insert is all plastic. I would have rather had a non-fiber optic steel front sight. It is very visible but I worry it will not be rugged enough in the long haul. My other minor dislike is the loose lever. The only lever gun I have ever used was my brother's Marling 39A. With the Marlin the lever was on a smooth pivot but with the Winchester's design the lever is slotted on its pivots and this results in a slightly loose lever, even when closed. This is not a flaw but merely a result of the action design and the more I use the gun the less I notice this.
It seems to be a very safe action with the cross block safety, rebounding hammer, and trigger block that if the lever is not held all the way closed with not let the trigger articulate. The cross block safety although not part of the original 94's design is an especially nice safety feature when unloading the large magazine. It insures you don't have an unwanted firing when cycling the action to unload the gun.
Over all I am very pleased in the gun. For being about a $460 dollar gun, it has one of the pretties piece of walnut on it of all the guns in my cabinet. Sure its not a Krieghoff but I was very please with the quality and fit of the wood. The metal parts were very nicely polished with dark bluing. The action when the gun was new was just a little ruff but now that I have a bit over 1000 rounds through it is very smooth.
How's it shoot? My 2002 model was bought before the choke tube versions were available, thus it has a fixed choke that is labeled as improved cylinder. Winchester originally claimed the unique fixed improved cylinder would shoot a near full choke pattern. I found in my testing that I was getting patterns between modified or and improved cylinder depending on the load. Interestingly when I actually measure the diameter it measured 0.411 which is bigger than even cylinder by 0.001 inch.
I did quite a bit of skeet shooting with it at the local skeet range. You get some funny looks when you step up to the skeet field with a lever gun. I was surprise I only had one guy stop me thinking I had my grandpa's old 30-30. My shooting buddies made fun of me a little but after a few weekends of practice I was pretty consistently shooting 19's and 20's with my best score being a 23. Not to shabby for me or a little 410. The doubles with a lever action are a whole heap of fun once you get the hang of it. For a real good laugh let you friends that have gotten really use to their O/U have a try. It's fun to watch them double pump the trigger forgetting to cycle the action.
I have tried it on the trap range but being only chambered in 2.5 inch shell with the approximately improved cylinder choke it's just a touch light and open for trap. At the 16 yard line I usually shoot a 12-15 with it. At that range I did notice a couple time when I would push the bird with one or two pellets strikes that we unable to break the bird.
I have shot some sporting clays with it and as long as the stations are close crossing, passing overhead or an approaching shot it does OK. As expected the long shots are really difficult with my open choked version. For trap and sporting clays the choke tube version would be a lot better with a tighter choke.
In the field for small game it is a lot of fun. A friend and I have been doing a lot of squirrel hunting this season with our 410's this year. He was using his Rem 1100 in 3" 410 and me with my Win. 9410. We had a lot of good times in the squirrel woods this fall. In one embarrassing incident I manage to show that the 10 round capacities of the 9410, comes in handy or explain the requirements of the plug for some hunting depending on your point of view. I was getting a little over confident with it and took about a 30-35 yard shot at a female fox squirrel. Well I then proceed to shoot 6 more times at that female before I bagged her. Not my finest hunting moment but one that made me appreciates the large magazine. There were many pots of my infamous slow cooked limb rat stew this year when the gang came over. I started the season with factor ammunition firing 6's but later move to reloads firing 5's.
Getting a reloader if your shooting a lot of 410 is almost required. The cost of reloading compared to bought shell paid for my Mec 600jr 410 reloader after only reloading only a little over two flats of shells.
What surprised me most was that it shot slugs excellently despite the smooth bore. I took it to the local range and gave it a try. I tried Winchester, Remington and Federal slugs. Despite being a Winchester gun it hated Winchester slugs shooting 5-6 inch groups at 50 yards. It shot a lot better with Federal Slugs, and they have the advantage of being 1/4 ounce rather that the typical 1/5 ounce most 410 slugs are, but because of the way Federal role crimps their shells they gave me jamming problems when the shell was coming up out of the magazine in the 9410. In the end my testing showed that my Winchester 9410 loves Remington Sluggers. Those little slugs will shoot a five shot 2-inch group at fifty yards over sandbags. I was extremely pleased.