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Thread: Old shotgun chambers

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Old shotgun chambers

    I own an old Colt 1878 hammer-double 12ga. in servicable shape.

    Does have the Damascus barrels...does have a bit of pitting in the bores..and the tubes are amazingly thin at the muzzle.....

    I looked at the chamber...and the old gun has a really deep/long set of chambers! A bit of casual measuring and comparing to modern shotguns..and I would say these chambers are at least as long as a modern shotgun 3" chamber..So I look at a old Crescent hammer double I own...It's got similiar long/deep chambers too

    I had thought the golden oldies used 2 1/2" or 2 5/8" shotshells.

    What lengths did the old late 1800's shotshells come in??

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    There were some very long cases available in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. IIRC the copy of a 1902 Sears catalog had paper hulls in 12 guage up to 4".

    I would not fire your shotgun unless you have custom tube inserts made in a smaller guage. Briley used to do this, but I don't know if they are still in business or not.

    Pitting and damascus barrels are a recipe for disaster.

    Robert

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Ha! Found my old topic.

    I pondered shooting the old Colt long and hard....I did get a second opinion too. I took my old shotgun to a retired gunsmith pal..and let him look it over.

    While he didn't seem too concerned about the barrel's pitting or paper thin muzzle thickness..he showed me some things on the gun that wouldn't be good for any long term shooting. The buttstock has just a bit of 'loose'....the barrel lugs have been peckered on to tighten the breech...the right barrel has a slight bulge where it's thin....the left barrel has a small dent.

    My old crotchity gunsmith friend also pointed out that they sell new '1878' shotguns for less than it would take to fix this one up.

    What with paper thin barrels that concern me....wound-wire shrapnal barrels that concern Mk42gunner....and the infirmitys my gunsmith pal pointed out...maybe my cool old Colt shotgun is best left alone and preserved as a historical piece. I don't think we're going to shoot the Colt.

    I do still have questions on chamber length on these old pre-turn of the century shotguns. I've got a few examples on hand...two American made guns...and a Belgian. I notice the American guns(Colt and a steel barrel Crescent) have the deep-longer chambers...The belgian made double is a shorter chambered gun.

    So just what was the 'standard length' of shotshells in the last half of the 19th century?

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    2 1/2 and 2 5/8 were the chamber lenghts most common. The British prefered the 2 1/2 and we had the longer ones here. BUT just like some revolvers some shotguns had a straight bore and some had tapered chambers that are hard to see a definate length. You really need a chamber gauge to tell on some old ones. I se a bore mic and measure the whole tube when i work on them. I also have a nice marked chamber gauge that I let folks slip in their gun. I am constantly suprised at how many of the old short chambered guns are still being fired and with heavy smokless loads too.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I'd be concerned that someone lengthened those chambers but maybe not. If they did, the wall shickness would be affected. The paper thin muzzles were pretty common on older shotguns in the black powder days but with newer progressive burn powders for the heavier loads, you might have too much pressure remaining at the end of the barrel where the muzzle is thin. There have been numerous discussions on this-nothing conclusive as far as I've heard.

    As for the strength of a good Damascus barrel, it's up to you but I'm going with the info from Sherman Bell's articles in the Double Gun Journal. They did alot of testing trying to get one of those old Damascus barrels to unwind and finally did, at about the same pressure that the fluid steel barrels let go. Only difference was that the fluid steel came apart more like a grenade and the Damascus just sort of unwound. This was at over 30,000 PSI. Long before the barrels blew, the actions started getting mighty loose in both cases.

    Get a tire, put the gun in it with some sandbags on the front end and go around the corner with a long string and try a few "Blue Pill" lods and then take it easy or just hang it up. It's up to you. Heavy pitting and dents are a no-no as far as I'm concerned.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

    LUBEDUDE's Avatar
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    Well for what it is worth, my original Winchester 1887 lever shotgun is chambered for 2 5/8 ".

    And your gun being a "Colt", I surely would not shoot it. It is worth some money. But if you must, use black powder only.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    i got out my double bbl 10 ga Greener after i scored some old 10 shells and doing prefiring inspection found it looks unfired not a single mark in the bore. what a bummer

  8. #8
    Boolit Master


    stubshaft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torpedoman View Post
    i got out my double bbl 10 ga Greener after i scored some old 10 shells and doing prefiring inspection found it looks unfired not a single mark in the bore. what a bummer
    Bummer man, better send it to me and I'll dispose of it for you.
    If God didn't want man to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of MEAT!

    The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.

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