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Thread: Shooting antiques, pros and cons?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Canuck Bob's Avatar
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    Shooting antiques, pros and cons?

    I am interested in mid 1800 forward muzzleloaders, both flint and cap, like my current thread on Trade Gift Rifle. Through research there is a large community of folks who shoot originals. Looking for opinions and advice on the reality of doing so?

    To be clear I am not talking about shooting rare or significant guns or any non repair modification or refinishing.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master



    retread's Avatar
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    I don't feel the need to own a firearm that I will never shoot. If I had one I would sell it and find something I would like to use. MHO

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Canuck Bob's Avatar
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    I feel the same way.

    Quote Originally Posted by retread View Post
    I don't feel the need to own a firearm that I will never shoot. If I had one I would sell it and find something I would like to use. MHO

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by retread View Post
    I don't feel the need to own a firearm that I will never shoot. If I had one I would sell it and find something I would like to use. MHO
    That's pretty much my feeling also...... much like a virgin bride you can't touch.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    Well, I am of the 'shoot it' crowd.

    My wife's father had some pretty old guns, all of which we shoot on a regular basis. One we did not. It was a 1600's boot pistol. It was donated to a museum.

    It is certainly a different experience when you shoot an older gun, especially when you know where it came from. We have an old C96 Mauser that was carried by a Brit officer in the African campaign as well in WWI. The same officer purchased a Charlin 24ga shotgun after the war and we used it on a regular basis. Even shot a few rounds of skeet with it. The one that left our ownership was the Martini-Henry. My father-in-law fired it once, prone. Yep, hurt so much he sold it off. Not a pristine relic as the Brit officer had 'sporterized' it for use when back in England. Shortened stock and barrel. But, the original Kynoch ammo was kinda cool.

    A friend has his grand father's .45 SAA, with original nickel plating. We all get to fire it about once a year. Again, historic piece carried in the field.

    Yes, shooting a relic can have issues. I am sensitive to the fact that if, eg, the firing pin breaks on the Mauser, the value of the gun will drop in half (or more). But, as my wife says, we will never sell it.


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    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    As a young man I learned to shoot with original, antique rifles, shotguns and revolvers which were family heirlooms. A W.J. Jeffery .577, two-band artillery rifle, a Colt 1860 Army and an Isaac Hollis & Sons 12-bore percussion double shotgun. My first "modern" rifle was a Cherry Corners, NY .50 cal flinter built in the style of an 1830s Hawken, half-stock.

    My first cartridge gun was a Garand.
    The ENEMY is listening.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I have a Manton single barrel percussion shotgun - shot it once in an event - came last - not the guns fault at all - I used Fg powder in consideration of its age - we are allowed to keep antiques off the register so long as they are not shot - every once in a while I take it down and pull the lock off just to admire the innards - not the machining - we do that so much better these days but the design of it - the geometry - have not seen anything modern that works as nice even the so called Manton copies from L&R .
    Pretty much agree with the shoot em or sell em sentiment

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy

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    I belong to the N-SSA. All my guns are original. I have been shooting them for 40 years. I maintain them. There are many in the N-SSA that shoot originals. I have put 100,000 rounds through my Smith Carbine and Springfield Musket. The triggers are still crisp today with no changes.
    I don't own a gun that I wont shoot. YMMV

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by KenH View Post
    That's pretty much my feeling also...... much like a virgin bride you can't touch.
    One hears of such things, and also that ladies of the evening are often eager to entice others into a profession they might not personally have enjoyed. We do find people online who want to live their hypothetical projects through others, and sometimes they are things that would be better to stay hypothetical.

    To quote but one example, I have a French 16ga, one of the very first centrefire shotguns, with non-rebounding locks. It is one of the best-built shotguns I have seen, but it has a bar in wood action with very little metal, pitted by rust where the wood covered it, and it is badly "off the face". The barrels are damascus, made by the barrelmaker Bernard of Paris, and quite thin, which wouldn't automatically be a source of danger, but the bores are badly pitted and that can eat into damascus without being easily detectable. There is no way I would ever fire that one.

    But I can't see any harm in using most antiques with black powder and the loads for which they were designed, provided that they haven't been impaired in some way. Of course there was plenty of botched-up rubbish around in those days, perhaps not in the form of immediate danger, especially in most countries with government-approved proof-houses, but of making them wear out quickly. But a firearm which remains in good condition today is likely to have been designed and made by specialists who knew the technology very well.

    The only other proviso I'd make is that an antique deserves very careful cleaning indeed, with the necessary dismantling if applicable - perhaps more careful than it received when new. I'd prefer to use only black powder, since some of the substitutes do have quite aggressive if erratic corrosive properties, and with black powder it is neither better nor worse than you expect.

    Restoration... H'm well... I would have no hesitation about total restoration of a badly deteriorated specimen, like my straight-pull Mannlicher in the very rare 7.7x60R, which was a derelict barrelled action. I know what Mr. von Mannlicher would have wanted me to do. There is no doubt about more moderate restorations reducing collector value, to which my reaction is generally "Rude noises to collectors, then." But elsewhere on this website I recently saw before and after pictures of someone's refinish of a perfectly presentable original cap and ball Remington. I'll remember that one if I ever hear people talking about the difference between a crime and a sin.

    But I bought what was claimed to be a 10ga Austro-Hungarian muzzle-loading shotgun, of very high quality and good external condition. The animal engraving is a delight, becoming less and less realistic, though always charming, as the animals, in a pre-photographic age, are further from central Europe. It has a gold monogram R, with the seven-pearled coronet of a baron, although the Teutonic standard of any child of a baron inheriting the title, rather than just the firstborn male, meant that a rather large proportion of the population were.

    My first surprises were that it turned out to be a 14ga., and a rear sight dovetail had been rather neatly filled. Then I found a single set trigger in the right barrel alone, perfectly functional but probably unsuspected and unset by all for a century or so. That gun had been a rifle, so it got lined with tubes from Track of the Wolf, made for the US .50-70 Government, and if I run into trouble in the afterlife, I don't believe it will be for that.

    I would have thought that an after-marker C96 firing-pin could be obtained for use, to keep the original safe. In 1975 I was introduced to a Saudi student's father, who had lived hard back in the earlies. He lived in an extremely valuable house and compound in a suburb which is now central Riyadh, but I found him watching "Bugs Bunny" on TV, and convinced that an American of similar age and status (both considerable) would be doing the same. He had a C96 Mauser with Turkish ordnance marks which he had acquired on the railway, which he said had failed to fire sometimes. (He wasn't the same old man whose only English was "Blasting gelatin, very good. cordeau instantaneous, very good. Locomotive front and rear him bugger-up finish" - the classic technique to stop them getting the rolling-stock away.)

    He could dismantle it with his eyes shut, but didn't realise that its kinked mainspring is a know cause of failures in the Mauser. I straightened it as best I could, and I don't know if he test-fired it in his garden, but I doubt if the neighbours were looking for trouble.

    It is interesting to hear of a 24ga shotgun in regular use. I don't know if you could argue thatg a 20 or 28 is better but they can hardly both be. Mine, by the Anciens Etablissements Pieper, is as close to mint as I'd dare expect in a 1926 shotgun. It came from Australia, and the inlaid silver 24 was tarnished dark. My guess is that an Australian got his great bargain home before finding out that 20ga cartridges wouldn't fit.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Yep, there are several pieces in the old Mauser that might fail, but, we shoot it anyway.

    24ga is not that uncommon. Turns out that when certain laws were passed in Europe it was easier to own a shotgun than a rifle. The Martini Henry was 'easily' bored to 24ga so it became a 'std' in Europe. Now days the cases can be found and you can even get ammo from Fiochhi. I get full brass cases for mine. Cards and wads are also just as easy to get. I use 28ga load data for mine.

    Collection grade antiques are guns that should not be fired. But, I would not own one. As mentioned, the one my father in law had was donated to a museum.

    But, others do collect those type guns. I knew a guy who specialized in US Revelutionary War firearms. He searched for the very rare ones, like one that he could trace back to the Concord square. None were ever fired and most were worth more than my annual salary. Most of his powder horns and such were valued more than my guns. He even had a custom room built in his basement for his collection. It was constructed like a bank vault and fully fireproof. But, he did not shoot any guns.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    A rifle you can't shoot might as well be a club.
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  12. #12
    Boolit Master Reverend Al's Avatar
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    Sure why not ... I'm getting old and I'm still shooting too!

    I may have passed my "Best Before" date, but I haven't reached my "Expiry" date!

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    At our monthly muzzle loader matches we have several "original" rifle shooters and one has been regional champ, national champ and so on. I am not sure where he got the smoothbores from as he keeps that info close to his chest. The 75 caliber smoothbore looks like the barrel and lock plate are some sort of stainless as they are shiny silver colored steel and all are flint locks.
    John

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Canuck Bob's Avatar
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    Thank you all. If I ever stumble on a good affordable shooter antique I won't hesitate. I've been bitten by the muzzleloader bug, both flint and cap patched ball. It is a shooting discipline that honors offhand marksmanship and is just silly enough to be real fun, loading with a stick and lighting it off with a rock! I found the prices surprised me for clean shootable guns though. Oh well my 1950s Win 94 32 Special went from an affordable working mans rifle to a valued collectable in a few years, kinda sad.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Reverend Al's Avatar
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    Keep digging around and I'm sure that you'll find something suitable in a suitable project gun.

    I plan to resurrect this original old half stock percussion sporter for my wife to shoot a bit. It came from the estate of an old friend and will be kept in his memory as a keepsake gun. It's about .40 calibre and unfortunately the barrel has had a section chopped off, likely due to rust or some sort of damage near the original muzzle? At least with the cut barrel I won't feel bad about making a few alterations to an original percussion gun to get it shooting again. Cleaned up and with a new set of "old" style sights installed it should make a nice, short, light offhand gun for my wife to shoot, and in .40 calibre it will have light recoil as well.

















    I may have passed my "Best Before" date, but I haven't reached my "Expiry" date!

  16. #16
    Boolit Master scattershot's Avatar
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    I have an antique that I would like to shoot occasionally, as well. Itís a 14 gauge percussion fowler that dates from the 1870s, or so I was told. The barrel is Damascus, and paper thin at the muzzle. The bore appears to be in good shape, although dark, and everything works as it should. Due to the very light weight and the overall graceful nature of the piece, I suspect that it was a ladyís or boyís fowler. I was thinking of having it relined, but would like to shoot it as is first. Any caveats or suggestions would be appreciated. Iíll try to get some pics up later today.
    "Experience is a series of non-fatal mistakes"


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  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    If it's safe to shoot, use good judgement and go for it.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have eleven antique muzzleloaders and breechloaders that I shoot. The earliest is a flint 1816 Springfield made in 1835. The barrel has been relined. If you don't have the knowledge yourself, have them checked by a professional. Sane loads, black powder only and common sense are necessary.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    When I started shooting BP some 5 yeas ago, there weren't the reproduction and production rifles that there are today. I have owned and shot quite a few "original" muzzleloaders - but certainly not high priced "collector" pieces or pieces with a provenence of a historical background. I also knew many others that did the same.

    That said, the one thing to be concerned with is the safety issue. Most people, when they hear that, will think of "bursting barrels" - but there are other factors as well. In working on many original guns - flint and percussion - the one thing that I usually ran across were possible problems with the breech-poug. Today, we use breech plugs with finer threads giving more grip to the plug and barrel relationship. Many, if not most, of the originals had a very coarse breech plug - think of the thread of a modern day "lag screw". I became convinced that one of the reasons for this was that the plug cold be removed with a minimum of tools if necessary by the owner or a gunsmith. It is much easier to break a breech plug loose with very coarse threads than one with fine threads. BUT, time takes it's toll too. I ran in to many with rusted threads that would make a person question the strength of them. So there are safety factors to look at like that before considering the use of an "original". Military muskets? Most of those had breech plugs with finer threads so not so much of a problem.

    I sold off most of my collection and only kept a couple that had sentimental value to me for one reason or another. I have an original Committee of Safety musket that was passed down through my family - dates to the 1740's or so with a strong French influence to the shape of the buttstock - which is ampler. It was converted from flint to percussion somewhere along the way. Certainly not one I would want to shoot due to the condition of the barrel - but - while it's nothing more than a "club" - I still enjoy looking at it and thinking about the history of it. I have a very simple "poor boy style" rifle - no buttplate - minimum of furniture - full length maple stock and a barrel that has been on at least three guns through it's lifetime. It came off of an Indian Reservation here in Northern Michigan. The barrel is in good enough condition to shoot, but I choose not to due to the history of it. IF it was shot and something went south, it's a historical rifle that can't be replaced.

    All depends on a person's point of view but the bigt3wt thing is, if you decide to shoot n original, then please have it checked out to make sure it is safe to do so. The last thing a person would want is a blown breech pug coming back at them.

    Another story - I know a number of those who love shooting ML shotgun - many of them shoot originals. I've done it myself. I remember being down at Friendship probably 35 or so years ago and I ran across an acquaintance from my area that was there as well. He was really excited as he had just purchased an original double 10 gauge from a dealer over in the sheepsheads. A few months later, I ran across him at a small monthly shoot and asked hm if he had gotten a chance to shoot the 10 gauge yet. He told me that when he had clamped the barrels in a vise to remove the breech plugs, he noticed movement in the barrels at the webs that are soldered to the barrels to join them. Upon careful looking, he discovered that they were loose spots all along the bottom web and along the front third of the top web. He was disappointed but glad he had found it before shooting it. He sent the barrels off to a guy to have them desoldered - once the repairs were made all was fine and he had a nice shooting shotgun. Again, it pays to check things out if you are going to shoot an original.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    when i was a young lad 65 + yrs ago that is all that we had to shoot, originals! and every buddy laffed and said who in he-- would want one of those antiques?? and even if there were REPO'S out there who would want, or could afford one.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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