Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Shotgun Notes

From James Howe's (of Griffin and Howe) book "The Modern Gunsmith"
The first gun I ever bought was a Browning Citori Superlight. It's a light weight 20 gauge over/under shotgun with a straight grip and 26" barrels. I just installed a recoil pad on it. Previously it carried a plastic butt plate with the Browning name on it. I've installed butt pads before but always on stocks I was already planning to refinish. There is something nerve wracking about putting the stock of a perfectly good shotgun on the chop saw. The butt of the stock was slightly curved for the black plastic plate that was on it before so I needed to straighten it for the flat back of this pad.

The pad I put on it is an imitation of the classic British Silvers pad sold by the Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company called the "correct period pad". High end British shotguns and rifles sported orange rubber pads made my a company called Silvers, having one gives a shotgun a rather classic look. They were also used as the base for leather wrapped pads which were often done in goatskin.

Since you do not aim a shotgun but instead point it, the stock measurements determine where the gun points when it's mounted. The image above is from volume I of James V. Howe's encyclopedic The Modern Gunsmith first published in 1934. The 1930's may well be the pinnacle of gunsmithing art. Very little has really happened since then in the gun world; off the top of my head I can't think of a thing. Drop at comb, drop at heel, length of pull, pitch and cast (on or off) are the measurements that determine where it will point when mounted. These measurements are shown in the accompanying illustration.

I increased the length of pull on the shotgun by 1/2" to 14 1/2" to have it match another that I own. I kept the original pitch; pitch is the angle of the finished butt to the top of the barrels. At 1" thickness for the pad and another 1/8" for the black spacer the Galazan pad seemed a bit too thick for the lightweight shotgun I was putting it on. I screwed it to a board and ran it across the table saw to slice the orange part down to a bit less than 1/2". I glued it back up with contact cement and shaped it. I rough shaped it with the disc/belt sander that Gerry gave me for my birthday and then did most of the final shaping with sandpaper wrapped around a file. Slow work, but far safer for the stock. The photo below makes the pad appear to be a slightly brighter orange than it seems in person, but just a bit. Out of the box the Galazan pad is a bit of chalky reddish color and although they claim the pad its color is an exact replica, it does not seem as orange as ones I've seen. I dabbed some thinned down cadmium orange oil paint on it to orange it up a bit and then, as per instructions from Galazan, shellacked it. First time I put it on my shellac was too thick and sort of gummed up and I had to clean it off and then try again with it significantly thinned down with alcohol.

The new pad personalizes the shotgun in a way that I'm very pleased with. I hope to get out after some birds with it soon, some pheasants in eastern Wyoming after Thanksgiving. Grouse locally here at home and I hope to hunt chukar in eastern Oregon on our drive west in mid-December. Bird season around here end December 31st.

Shotgun loads

Looking at various shotgun pages I see that the Fiocchi Golden Pheasant load with one ounce of sixes or fives are top rated for chukar and pheasant. Everyone raves about them. The 20 gauge 2 3/4" shells carry 1 oz. of nickle coated lead shot and so are not legal for ducks or on Wyoming state game farm lands. Oregon still allows lead shot for upland game birds as does Wyoming on non-game farm lands. Non-tox shot prices are astronomical. My Citori is an old one with fixed chokes and steel shot is not recommended for older guns. Steel is the inexpensive approved shot for waterfowl hunting. I was surprised to learn that the Bismuth Cartridge Company went out of business a couple of years ago and there was a gap in availability of bismuth shot. For a time, bismuth was the only lead free shot option for classic shotguns. It is a bit denser than steel shot (but softer) and so is more effective than steel. It is more expensive. If you want to shoot ducks with an older shotgun for a time it was the only option. Now a new company called Bis-Maxx is selling bismuth shotgun shells. The kicker is that they cost just a bit less than three dollars a shell. Kent Tungsten Matrix shot is also approved as non-toxic shot for waterfowl and is safe for older barrels. It is even heavier than lead and so has even better ballistics than old fashioned lead shot. A single 2 3/4" shell loaded with 1oz of #6 shot costs three dollars and a quarter. Based on these numbers, I thought, OK, I should start reloading my own shotgun shells. It turns out that Tungsten Matrix shot can not be purchased and bismuth shot runs about $24/pound. With 16 oz per pound that makes the shot cost alone around $1.50 per 20 ga. shell; and you still need primers, hulls, powder, wads and a MEC reloading press. I just ordered eight boxes of the Fiochii shells in sixes and fives which come out to cost about sixty cents a piece. The sad thing is that I have frequently jumped ducks when hunting pheasant or grouse and you can not legally shoot one if you are carrying any lead shot shells on your person.

1 comment:

  1. Hi jim,

    I enjoy your blog quite a bit; I need to start running mine again.

    Speaking of bird hunting (since it appears that we won't be able to hook-up for deer season), would you be interested in doing spring turkey? The app deadline starts on Jan. 1, I believe.