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Thread: The case for: Shotguns designed before the Great War are better than anything since

  1. #1
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    The case for: Shotguns designed before the Great War are better than anything since

    OK, I meant for the title to be a little bit of a hook. Oh no, the world's biggest hater of click bait has made click bait!

    But I do kinda mean it and I think I can make a case for making that statement. It may not be an absolute universal truth but my opinion is that there are good reasons for saying or, or at least exploring it. I thought a little freeform discussion might be fun.

    I'd better admit it up front. I'm talking largely about Browning designs. His shotgun designs include:
    Model 1887 Winchester. I am not terribly up to speed on this one and am not really including it in my statement.
    1897 Winchester-- big fan, long time. I've been into a bunch of them and used one in competition for many years--95% slugs and buckshot.
    Stevens Model 520-- big fan since childhood.
    Remington Model 11 / Savage 720 / Browning Auto 5. Big fan.
    Remington Model 17, which, it's fair to say, became the Ithaca Model 37. Today's descendant is the Browning Pump Shotgun, the BPS. I'm an admirer of the 37 but not a huge fan, however, the BPS is, I believe, as good as pumps get today, with one big, easily-overcome exception.
    Superposed. Not relevant here. None of JMB's shotguns were necessarily designed as "fighting" guns, but all can be and have been adapted, with the exception of this one.

    And I don't think it's too far off to say that many of the more recent designs could not exist as they do without incorporating features from earlier designs either by JMB or his contemporaries. It's just that ergos and quality are so much better on some of the old stuff, or maybe that's just what I'm accustomed to.

    What I love about '97's, first and foremost, seldom discussed but a biggie for me-- no lifter to contend with when loading the magazine. What serves as the shell lifter is up out of the way with the bolt closed. Not only do I not have to mess with a lifter, the carrier is a cradle for rounds going in, a guide. If I fumble one on the way into the mag, it just lays on the carrier awaiting my next move. The ultimate advantage here is what I call the twofer load. Just drop a round into that cradle, and put another round in right behind it-- and push them in. You just loaded two rounds with one motion! With minishells I can get a threefer!

    Also-- the slender wrist of the stock. This is seldom seen in more modern guns. My impression is that it's because more modern guns are using beech or birch or some other wood that is not as strong as walnut (which in some guns even walnut seems like a bare minimum). Birch, pine, whatever it is they're using these days has to be thick to compensate-- again, my impression.

    Overall quality. This is simply not present in so much of what we get these days. I have much to say about that with regards to the gun industry, but it is of course, every industry, and that is a book unto itself. On these older guns you know quality must be there if the gun is still here and working after 120 years (one of my 97's) or 77 years (the other). Fill in the blank here, how many of today's pump shotguns will take a lifetime or three of use? When people tell me they want a simple shotgun or maybe a .22 for their kid, my standard advice is, "go the the gun store, used department, and get something at least 60 years old".

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    I've read the 1897's aren't very reliable because of ejection issues.

    Is it true?

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    I'll bet I've shot a 97 more than 97% of 97 owners and I would say no, not at all. Cowboy Action shooters are probably getting more use out of 97's than anyone in the last seventy-five years. I don't really know what the CAS '97 hot setup is, I imagine there are guys serving that segment that work on them a bit and are good at it.

    The 97's ejector is not much different from most-- just a 'thing" in the way of the case's rearward travel as it's being extracted, which bumps it out. They have been known to break but are far from breakage-prone, and anyway, very easily replaced.... downside, held on with a screw. There are, I believe, two iterations.

    For the most positive of positive ejection, Ithaca 37 or BPS! Cases are brutishly pushed the hell out, not bumped in a manner that depends upon a swift and manly backstroke (although I feel that's advisable in any circumstance).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ned Christiansen View Post

    What I love about '97's, first and foremost, seldom discussed but a biggie for me-- no lifter to contend with when loading the magazine. What serves as the shell lifter is up out of the way with the bolt closed. Not only do I not have to mess with a lifter, the carrier is a cradle for rounds going in, a guide. If I fumble one on the way into the mag, it just lays on the carrier awaiting my next move. The ultimate advantage here is what I call the twofer load. Just drop a round into that cradle, and put another round in right behind it-- and push them in. You just loaded two rounds with one motion! With minishells I can get a threefer!

    I haven't shot an 1897 other than shooting a buddy's, maybe ten-15 rounds, so I don't understand this load technique. I think you are talking about coming over the top and using the carrier, which is down with the bolt to the rear, to guide the first shell into the mag tube, then leaving the second shell laying on the carrier to be chambered as the bolt comes forward. I am not familiar enough with the 1897 to know if that is even possible - I know the receiver is more open than a modern shotgun, but not sure if it is open enough. The other thing that comes to mind is that you are talking about what is called 'duck hunter loading' where you roll the shotgun so the loading port is facing upward.

    Also-- the slender wrist of the stock. This is seldom seen in more modern guns. My impression is that it's because more modern guns are using beech or birch or some other wood that is not as strong as walnut (which in some guns even walnut seems like a bare minimum). Birch, pine, whatever it is they're using these days has to be thick to compensate-- again, my impression.
    I always thought that it was largely to simplify the receiver machining process and maybe save some metal when they went from the 11/A5 humpbacks to the more sleek silhouettes.

    Although, I do see what you are talking about on the 1897, which has a more 'modern' stock attachment. Maybe the exposed hammer had something to do with it, that section of the stock pretty closely mimics the 1892 and 1894 stocks.
    Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President... - Theodore Roosevelt, Lincoln and Free Speech, Metropolitan Magazine, Volume 47, Number 6, May 1918.

    To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Sedition, a Free Press and Personal Rule, The Kansas City Star, May 1918

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    Have you had much chance to use a Winchester Model 12? I grew up around them with my dad and uncles, wandered elsewhere in my younger years and then purchased one at a gun show a few years ago. The first time I loaded it was like going home. Just smooth and solid.

    I’m still waiting for someone to make the shotgun from the video game Halo. Basically a pump Benelli with the action twisted 180 degrees. Barrel on the bottom, magazine tube on top. The loading port is where the safety is on a Mossberg and it ejects downwards.

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    I always wanted a Model 12 but never got around to it. I see them go for "reasonable" sometimes..... they don't seem particularly hard to find. That' what i like about Rem 11's and Stevens 520's, too-- easy to find, easy to buy. Some will need a little work but the result will be better than most new guns you can buy, far as I'm concerned.

    Twofer: bolt closed, gun upside down. Drop a round on the bottom (now top) of the carrier, use a second round to push it in, push both in. Shoop-shoop, two rounds loaded. Big reason why I ultimately went to the BPS, it was one of very few shotguns that could give me that feature I liked so much in the '97.

    Above referenced '97 ejectors-- early ones were not removable / replaceable. The newer version does protrude further but I never had ejection problems with the old style.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ned Christiansen View Post
    And I don't think it's too far off to say that many of the more recent designs could not exist as they do without incorporating features from earlier designs either by JMB or his contemporaries...

    Overall quality. This is simply not present in so much of what we get these days.
    Yes and no.

    Fair enough: Shotgun development has borrowed from earlier designs.

    Unfair: My Benellis are really really nice.

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    People do like them. And, they don't borrow from very early designs much at all (far as I know). So, yeah, points there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ned Christiansen View Post
    Browning Auto 5. Big fan...

    And I don't think it's too far off to say that many of the more recent designs could not exist as they do without incorporating features from earlier designs either by JMB or his contemporaries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ned Christiansen View Post
    ... they don't borrow from very early designs much at all (far as I know).

    The Browning Auto5 was recoil-operated.

    Benelli came up with a different recoil-operated system, but the precedence is definitely there.

    Ironically, the NEW Browning Auto 5 uses Benelli's recoil-operated system!

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    I noticed that. I think Browning even said in some of their promo material something about certain patents expiring. I look at the original Auto 5 and think there ought to be ways to improve it in terms of recoil reduction and load adjustment versatility. A couple of sharp minds with Browning's resources...? Ought to be able to pull it off. I am very curious about the new A5 though, even though personally I have not been a big fan of the Benelli (I know that puts me in the minority).

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