I love shotguns, and when my local gun store had a .410 upper for my AR-15, I jumped all over it. The upper is a Charles Daly imported design and sold quite cheaply. I didn’t expect much, but I figured, at the very least, I could have a little fun with a cheap upper. The Charles Daly .410 upper is predictably a Turkish design. It’s a gas-operated shotgun upper with a 19-inch barrel. The upper has a flat top design and comes with a quad Picatinny rail that covers about half the barrel.
The other half is covered with a crazy muzzle shroud that’s removable. It seems to make the .410 upper a little beefier and does disguise the hidden, rather scrawny barrel. The Charles Daly .410 upper comes with everything you need to drop it on your lower and start shooting. This includes the buffer you’ll need to replace to ensure the upper functions.
You also get a five-round magazine, but ATI produces 15-round magazines for their old .410 uppers and shotguns. These are compatible and what I use more often than not. Charles Daly, or whoever made the upper, even provides a set of flip-up AR-style iron sights. I’ll give them credit. They released a surprisingly well-done .410 upper. It’s fairly inclusive for a 250-dollar price point.
Why A .410 Upper?
Great question, and I don’t have much of an answer. Sure, it’d be fine for home defense, I guess. The little .410 works, but I’d rather have a 5.56 than a .410 in an AR 15 kit. It could be a fun small game-getter. It’s cheaper than any dedicated semi-auto .410 if you already have a spare lower.
In some states, it might be an affordable, low-recoil alternative to straight-walled cartridges. Slugs from a .410 aren’t exactly impressive, but they can take a white tail. It’s perfect in case you find yourself in an Aflred Hitcock movie and need to decimate some birds or maybe squirrels.
For me, it is just because I can. Why not? I figured it was some cheap fun without much practicality. It’s easy to shoot, and .410 is fun to shoot watermelons with. You know what they say, return to tradition, shoot trash.
The Charles Daly .410 upper is interesting in design. The charging handle is larger than most, and while the bolt is different, you can certainly see the AR influence. The magazines are just big enough to fit inside a MIL-SPEC lower. If they were even a fraction longer, they wouldn’t fit. It’s a tight fit, but they fit.
With that said, the 5-round magazine will over-insert if you aren’t careful. I always give it a little pull downward after slamming the magazine into the gun. The 15-rounders from ATI seemingly didn’t have the same issue.
I’ve always got some spare lower lying around, and I had an old Anderson from the first AR I ever assembled. Perfect fodder for the .410 Upper. I dropped it on with ease, and it had zero issues in terms of installation. I swapped buffers, although the included buffer is just a carbine buffer, so it’s not exactly proprietary.
The magazines and the .410 upper-only chamber 2.5-inch shells. Here is the thing, that 2.5-inch length is a measurement that applies after the fired has been fired. The actual length of crimped shells varies. The .410 magazine only accommodates 2.29-inch shells in their crimped, unfired form. This limits your buckshot options a bit, but slugs and birdshot are not an issue.
At the Range
With the .410 upper installed, the magazines loaded, and a variety of fun targets, I hit the range. I had just a few buckshot rounds but a handful of different types of .410 birdshot and some Federal slugs. My targets are cantaloupes, old oranges, some steel, and clay pigeons. I also used a paper target for some basic patterning with the little buckshot I had.
I slapped the first mag in and let it fly. It left me surprised. No malfunctions in the first 15 rounds and none in the second 15. However, I did get two with the five-round magazine. This is where I discovered it was easy to over-insert the magazine. It seemed like as long as I double-checked the five-rounder, the gun worked.
I used birdshot at 1,300 FPs without issues. When I fired some 1200 FPS birdshot, I got the occasional failure to eject, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the reliability of this thing.
Buckshot and slugs always worked excellently. The buckshot patterned fairly loosely. At ten yards, the three pellets were spread out about 12 inches. That’s pretty wide, but I only had some Federal buckshot, so I couldn’t get a huge variety to test for tighter patterns. At fifty yards, I could drop the slugs into a paper plate-sized group from a supported resting position.
The recoil was mild, downright soft, really. It’s more than a 5.56, but still soft. I’d let a kiddo give it a try under my watchful eye.
If you’re a shotgun nerd or just want something fun to do, then the Charles Daly .410 upper is perfect for you. It’s cheap, surprisingly reliable, and a ton of fun to shoot. I wouldn’t use it for self-defense, but this fall, the squirrels should be scared.