Re: which caliber for all around use?
First no one said that a shotgun was better than a rifle for shooting distance or trying to hit a small point. What was said was that a shotgun can shoot slugs plenty accurate enough to kill game and they can shoot shot loads and be more likely to hit a flying bird for example.
I think some of the claims made here about the equivalence of a pellet shot from a .410 pellet and a pellet shot from a 12 ga. are not the same information I've heard (and seen) in my life. What I see on the ballistics listed on various shotgun shells is that a .410 will shoot around 1100-1150 fps while a 12 ga. will drive pellets from 1200-1350 fps and more if you're using 3" or 3.5" shells. And there's more to the dispersion patterns than has been mentioned. .410's are generally limited to full choke because they contain such a small amount of shot that they can fail to get the job done simply by not getting enough shot into the target. And this stuff about a 12 ga. spreading much faster is not what I see coming from my shotgun. It depends greatly not only on the choke but on the barrel length. But the certainly make full chokes for 12 ga. shotguns just like they do for .410 shotguns. In fact they make chokes that are even tighter than the standard full choke. They are generally called turkey chokes or something else besides just a full choke. And if you put a turkey choke on a shotgun with a 26" or 28" barrel you will get a very tight pattern. Ammo also plays a part in that equation. Federal has developed a way to keep shot in a very tight pattern using a new design for the wads.
In short a .410 is not sending shot out as fast as a 12 ga. does so the power won't be there. And between the lower speed and the smaller number of pellets (which applies to both bird shot and buck shot) a .410 just isn't nearly as effective as a 12 ga.. Is it effective enough? It depends on what you want to do. I do know that a .410 slug will usually weigh 1/5 oz. compared to a 1 oz. (or higher - Breneke Black Magic 12 ga. slugs weigh 1 3/8 oz) and the speeds are fairly close but the 12 ga. is again usually a little faster. But there's a HUGE difference in a 1/5 oz. slug and a 1 oz. slug. And for dangerous game there just isn't anything .410 that compares with those Black Magic slugs traveling at 1500 fps. You might kill a deer at 50 yards with a .410 slug. But you can kill a charging brown bear with a 12 ga. slug especially if it's a magnum slug. Yes they do make heavier slugs for .410's but the design of them makes me really wonder because the slug sticks out past the normal case length of the shells. That means single shot, breakdown barrels only and even then I wonder about what would happen. I think they expect you to buy a special barrel to shoot those things.