There is something about a stately old shotgun that lures us in and tempts us to pick it up, shoulder it and dream of where it’s been. Worn bluing and scarred walnut gives a hint of the days in a duck blind, grouse woods or a trap and skeet field.
Most of those venerable shotguns started out in factories and on gun shop racks, and hunters and shooters across America chose the ones they thought were best. Eventually, the greatest guns stood out. Here are 10 shotguns that I believe must be considered among the classics.
- BROWNING AUTO FIVE
Many would consider John Moses Browning a genius, a point to which the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the Browning .50-caliber machine gun and the Colt 1911 pistol can attest. Browning also designed the Automatic Five shotgun (four in the magazine, one in the chamber) in 1898 and first took his idea to Winchester, a company he had done business with on many other projects.
Things did not work out at Winchester or Remington at the time, and Browning next landed at Fabrique National. Soon after, the Automatic Five shotgun was first made in Belgium in 1902 (hence the moniker “Belgium Browning”).
Browning later secured an agreement with Remington in 1905, and the newly rebranded Remington Model 11 became the first autoloading shotgun made in America. Many will tell you that the A5 is known for kicking like the proverbial mule. To some fans of the A5, it will always be known as the “Humpback” due to its trademark squared receiver. Most who shoot the A5 say that the gun shoulders very nicely and is quick to get on target.
The big, broad receiver gives shooters an instant sighting plane, leading to the ease of aiming.
John Browning reportedly said the A5 shotgun was his greatest achievement. Coming from a man with dozens of firearms to his name, including that little number called the Colt 1911, that says something.
- REMINGTON MODEL 31
Remington trotted out an elegant firearm in 1931 that many would consider a gold standard for pump shotguns. The reason for this was the intricate hand fitting of parts that contributed to the smooth action of this pump gun. The Model 31 appeared in August of that year and retailed for $48.50 (roughly $750 in today’s market).
Remington aimed at pushing Winchester out of the pump shotgun market, and the company called upon a couple of in house gun designers, C.C. Loomis and John Pederson, to do it. Both men had learned from John Moses Browning. From the start, the Model 31 pump gun was known for a slick action achieved by hand-fit parts.
This system was neither fast nor cheap. In the end, the wonderful, clock like workings of the Model 31 may have been its downfall. By 1949, the Model 31 was off the market as gun makers sought out a faster and less expensive system.
- BROWNING SUPERPOSED
Val Browning, son of John M. Browning, finished the work on his father’s last firearm. John Browning died while working on his revolutionary concept for a double barrel shotgun in 1926. The elder Browning decided to superimpose the barrels one on top of the other instead of the traditional side by side, and this configuration became known as “superposed.”
This elegant but moderately priced shotgun hit the market in 1931 with a retail price of $107.50. That was a lot of money back then, but a working man could afford one if he scrimped a little. Val Browning perfected his father’s design, and a few years later, the Superposed was equipped with a single selective trigger.
While Superposed shotguns are not known for being light, the benefits of the revolutionary and durable design far outweighed any extra weight.
- H. FOX STERLINGWORTH
Recent years have seen a renewed interest in reasonably priced American-made double guns. Shotgun lovers who do not wish to venture into the world of expensive British shotguns feel they can stay domestic and collect the odd Lefever, a Winchester Model 24, maybe an L. C. Smith or a Fox Sterlingworth.
Ansley Herman Fox was well known in the shotgun world of the early 1900s. Known as a hotshot in the live pigeon and trapshooting scene, Fox went through a confusing series of gun manufacturing company ownerships in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
By 1910, Fox was producing a gun he called the Sterlingworth, an entry-level Fox shotgun and the grade most hunters chose. Like most American-made doubles of the day, the Fox Sterlingworth featured a box-lock action and the “lumpthrough” method of connecting the barrels. On a double barrel shotgun, the lump is the projection extending downward from the breech end of the barrels. In the lump-through method, a separate piece of machined steel is fitted and braised onto the barrels.
This is a durable and completely satisfactory way to make a double-barrel shotgun. However, it was just not considered quite as elegant as other more complicated and expensive methods, as it usually resulted in a wider
measurement across the breech. All classic American made doubles were made this way.
Most of these guns featured color case-hardened receivers, and this is usually the first place to show wear. The Sterlingworth was and still is known as a sturdy, dependable (and I think lovely) companion in the field.
- ITHACA MODEL 37
The Ithaca Model 37 pumpgun is something of a paradox. On one hand, it has been a nimble and lightweight sporting arm carried by thousands of sportsmen. On the other, this shotgun has been a warrior. Like Winchester’s Models 97 and 12 and the Remington 31, the Ithaca saw military service from World War II through Vietnam.
If that was not enough, this dependable shotgun was adopted by many police departments in the US and abroad. Part of the Model 37’s appeal was the shotgun’s unique feature of loading and ejecting through the port at the
bottom of the receiver, making it an ambidextrous firearm. Ithaca waited until a patent owned by Remington expired in the mid-1930s and borrowed from a design by John Pederson.
Like others of that day, Ithaca sought a competitor for the Winchester Model 12. The company introduced the gun in 1937 in what may have been the worst climate possible for a new sporting arm. War was looming in Europe, and the country was still suffering in the Great Depression. Despite that, the Model 37 remains as the longest pump-action shotgun in production to date.
- WINCHESTER MODEL 12
It should come as no surprise that the basis for this iconic pump shotgun came from John Browning. Little-known Winchester engineer T. C. Johnson improved on Browning’s Model 1897 and gave the world the Model 12. Winchester produced this shotgun from 1912 through 1964 with more
than 2 million being made. For many years, the Model 12 set the bar that all other pumpgun makers tried to reach. Oddly, when the first guns were produced in 1912, they were only available in 20 gauge. After a year in production, 12 and 16 gauges became available. A 28-gauge model was also produced later.
This shotgun was the darling of thousands of hunters and trap and skeet shooters for many years. When it debuted in 1912, it was the first shotgun with an internal hammer and a streamlined receiver the American public had seen. The Model 12 also had hand-fitted machined steel internal parts, interchangeable barrels, nice walnut stocks and forearms and beautiful deep bluing. The Model 12 sold strongly until the introduction of the Remington Model 870 in 1961. By then, a new age of shotguns had begun.
- REMINGTON MODEL 32
Prophets are never appreciated in their own time. In many ways, the Remington Model 32 over-and-under shotgun was a herald of greater things to come. No doubt part of the incentive for this gun was to give the Browning Superposed some competition. Crawford C. Lewis was an engineer at Remington, and he brought the Model 32 to life.
In 1932, O/U shotguns were not familiar to American shooters, and the country was still clawing its way out of the Great Depression. Loomis gave the country an overand-under that shooters could buy for $75, while the competing Browning Superposed was about $107.
That was a huge factor in Depression-era America. The first machine-made O/U shotgun built in America, the Model 32 had a top-lock system and separated barrels, which allowed for better cooling and added heft and strength. The Model 32 was discontinued in 1944 with around 5,500 having been made. Soon after that, a group of Americans took the design of the Model 32 to the famous double-gun makers at Krieghoff in Germany. The company soon gave the world the Krieghoff 32, based upon Browning’s Model 32.
- WINCHESTER MODEL 59 SEMIAUTOMATIC
Anyone who hunts birds knows what a blessing a lightweight shotgun can be. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, quail and grouse hunting was much more popular with American hunters. For wildfowlers, the Winchester Model 59 was a great option.
Very little is heard about this shotgun today, despite the fact that it was so revolutionary. Not only did the Model 59 have an aluminum receiver to help with weight, but Winchester created the barrel by wrapping huge lengths of glass fiber (reportedly over 500 miles) around a thin steel liner. The fiber was then fused and bonded to the liner.
The result was a semiauto shotgun that weighed less than 6 pounds. In addition, the Model 59 had some of the first screw-in chokes available.
Eastern grouse hunters grabbed these guns up with abandon. Critics said the Model 59 kicked too hard, while others said the gun was too light on the muzzle, which made it very fast to point. Most of the hunters who liked the Model 59 just carried it and killed grouse.
- MOSSBERG 500
“More gun for the money,” Mossberg’s company slogan, pretty well affirms what O. F. Mossberg set out to do for his customers. A Swedish immigrant who found himself unemployed at age 53, Mossberg and his two sons, Iver
and Harold, started a firearms company in 1919. Technical expertise and no-frills innovation carried the company into the early 1960s when Mossberg engineer Carl Benson developed the iconic Model 500 shotgun.
Benson used ideas from the Model 31 Remington, which had roots in earlier J.M. Browning Remington shotguns.
Early versions of the Model 500 had problems with the single-action bar sometimes bending and breaking. When the Remington patent on the twin-action bar expired in 1970, Mossberg added another bar to solve this problem (as found in the Remington 870).
Model 500 variants, including the 590 and the 590A1, have seen active service with the military and in several different branches, Special Forces included. Hunters have always liked the rugged dependability of the Mossberg 500, and the gun continues to be popular with more than 10 million sold.
- REMINGTON 870
History tells us that many of the European royal families in various countries were related. It is much the same in the classic shotgun world, especially with pump guns. John M. Browning designed the Remington Model 17, which influenced the Ithaca 37 and the Remington 31. Both of these shotguns swam in the gene pool of possibly the greatest pump shotgun ever made: the Remington 870. Introduced in 1961, the 870 rose from the ashes of the Model 31. Remington sought to deliver a strong, dependable, modern shotgun at a moderate price, and it’s what they did.
The original Wingmaster version of the 870, while tough, was very aesthetically pleasing, having deep bluing and glossy walnut stocks.
In 1987, Remington introduced the 870 Express line.
These shotguns featured black matte finish on the metal and hardwood laminated wood or synthetic stocks and forearms. Sales increased with the Express and, in 2009, Remington sold its 10 millionth 870, making it the bestselling shotgun in history.
Story and Photos by Larry Case
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Posted in Shotgun Tagged with: Mossberg, Remington
[su_heading size=”30″]Tac Star’s Slimline Shotshell Carrier increases the readiness factor of every smoothbore.[/su_heading]
STORY AND PHOTOS BY DAVE WORKMAN
[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]R[/su_dropcap]ecent tragic events have forced a growing number of armed citizens to the realization that while it is still a remote possibility, the potential for ﬁnding one’s self in the middle of a terrorist action or a riot has gone up, as has the need for a defensive weapon.
After San Bernardino and Orlando, our comfort zones have shrunk, and for the ﬁrst time many of us can remember, some in law enforcement have changed their tune from “call 911 and wait” to “run, hide or ﬁght.”
The author’s Mossberg 50 pump shotgun and Tac Star’s handy Side Saddle Slimline accessory prior to easy assembly.
Unfortunately, San Bernardino taught us that we may not be able to run fast enough, and Orlando showed us that hiding and waiting to be saved might not be a survivable option. That leaves the third alternative.
According to a recent report by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the notion of carrying a handgun for personal protection has inspired somewhere north of 14 million citizens to arm up, and the number is rising steadily.
To attach the shell holder, start by using the appropriate punch to tap out the rear retaining pin through the trigger assembly, being careful not to let the trigger move.
I PREFER A DEFENSIVE HANDGUN because it can always be with me. But it’s just one tool in the box. If it should ever come to pass that something major happens, I’ll use that sidearm to get me to something with a little more horsepower: my Mossberg 500 pump shotgun.
Many of us have good pump guns in the closet for bird hunting or maybe home defense. Mine was purchased some 25 years ago, as a package deal. It has a 20-inch upland bird barrel with a vent rib, and a second 18-inch barrel with an open choke. I ordered it with a “Speed Feed” synthetic stock designed to hold four extra shells, two on each side, in spring-loaded slots. With the plug out, that gave me ﬁve shells in the tubular magazine and one in the chamber, plus four spares.
Recently I added something new, thanks to Tac Star’s latest entry in the Side Saddle lineup, the “Slimline” version. Made from a tough rubber compound with a metal backing plate, this worthwhile add-on allows the user to have six extra shells at hand on the left side of the receiver in the event one has to grab and run. What previously gave me 10 rounds now oﬀers as many as 16 shots, provided I start oﬀ fully loaded.
Unscrew the small slide screw inside the receiver, through the open ejection port.
INSTALLING THIS ACCESSORY is a snap. First, make sure your shotgun is completely unloaded. Then, using the proper diameter punch, push out the pin on the lower rear of the receiver that holds the trigger assembly in place, being careful to keep the trigger housing where it belongs.
These shell slots are made of a tough rubber compound.
Tac Star provides a two-piece screw that inserts from both ends. One end features a beveled head that ﬁts into the corresponding slot on the Side Saddle Slimline. Two small hex wrenches are also included to tighten this screw from both sides simultaneously.
However, don’t tighten the ﬁrst screw all the way. Leave enough slack for the mount to rotate so that it can be fastened up front. Remove the interior slide screw with a screwdriver inserted in the open ejection port. Insert the replacement screw that goes through a corresponding hole up front on the Side Saddle and tighten it down. Then ﬁnish tightening the rear screw.
It’s also a good idea to use a drop of blue Loctite to keep both screws in place.
Workman recently dressed up his Mossberg 50 for defensive duty with the Side Saddle shotshell carrier. A pistoleer always has a backup plan.
You can pray to all the Gods in the heavens to keep you safe and out of harm’s way, or you can follow the age-old advice of the Boy Scouts and “always be prepared.” Personally, I’d rather prepare than simply pray, except to pray that all of my preparations never have to be used. ASJ
Posted in Gear Tagged with: Dave Workman, Mossberg, mossberg 500 pump shotgun, protection, pump-action, self defense, Shotgun, Side Saddle, Tac Star
Story and photos by Larry Case
My brothers in camo, maybe you know by now, that I always try to be honest with you. I say this, because I was just a little nervous to start this month’s offering. One reason being, I think I have probably talked to you before about the importance of being prepared, knowing where your shotgun hits and having it sighted in (yes, I said “sighted in” for a shotgun).
The second reason is we have a new editor at Western Shooting Journal and after hearing about her background and experience I thought if I didn’t get this right, well, she might just whip my butt. Oh well, it has been whipped before, so here it goes.
As we are speeding into the month of March, many of us “shot-gunners” are thinking about (or should be) preparing for the spring turkey season. I want to caution you about merely grabbing the shotgun off the wall, and heading off to the woods. Success comes from having confidence in your weapon, and we achieve this by doing some shooting and knowing what the gun will do.
First, remember that this turkey shooting deal, in the spring, has evolved into something more like rifle shooting than “shot-gunning.” Ideally we are aiming, not pointing the gun, at a small, stationary target (the turkeys head and neck). Almost any kind of sights we put on the shotgun, more than just a standard bead, will help us.
The first level of improvement is installing an additional bead, about halfway down the rib. This gives you a “rear sight.” The shooter puts the rear bead on the front bead, front bead on the target and squeezes the trigger. A bead or rear sight, is meant to keep us from making the big mistake, the blunder, that saves more turkeys lives, than any other factor in our shooting. Ready? Here it is.
When we do not put our head on the gun and look squarely down a level rib, we shoot high and miss. I know, I’ve done it more than once. The front bead, is in fact, on the target, but your cheek is not fully down on the stock. The gun is tilted up and you sit there with your teeth in your mouth watching your turkey fly away. No amount of cursing and/or praying will bring him back.
Next level of improvement is rifle sights (check out what HizViz or Dead Ringer have to offer). An open, rear sight gives you a more precise way to aim the shotgun. Red Dot style scopes and other optics are an even more sophisticated way to aim. Even an inexpensive Red Dot scope can make a shotgun very deadly and the reason is simple. If the Red Dot style optic is properly sighted in, and the dot is on the target when the shooter pulls the trigger, you will hit the target. This takes the cardinal sin, of not keeping our head down, out of the picture. Now remember, we are talking about aiming the shotgun at a mostly stationary target. Any wing or clay shooting instructor will have a stroke, if you ask him about putting these sights on your gun.
Alright, now that we have an accurate way to aim, let’s talk about point of impact. One of the hardest things for some people to learn, is that all shotguns, do not shoot-where-they-look. If we fire the shotgun from a bench rest, the target may tell us the gun is shooting right, left, high, low, or whatever. Let me make it even clearer. Many shotguns will shoot differently with different loads or chokes. You have to put them on paper, folks!
Basically, what we are talking about here, is sighting in your shotgun, and you knew I would have some pointers on this. First, do this on a day when you are not in a hurry. If you are pressed for time, go home, and watch “swamp folks” or something else on television. To do this right, you need a large target holder (30 inches or better), a bench rest, sandbags or comparable, ammo, targets, and a stapler.
Have the loads, you are going to hunt with, on hand, but we are not going to start with them. To begin, let’s shoot any low brass, target loads that you have. Your first shot will be from 10 yard line (that’s right, 10 yards). You don’t need a turkey head target for this. A large piece of blank paper is better. Darken in a 4 inch circle, in the middle, to give you an aiming point and mark a straight line, vertical and horizontal, through your aiming point. All we are doing, is seeing where the pattern is going. Is the pattern evenly placed on either side of the lines? Is there about 50 percent of the pattern above the horizontal line and 50 percent below? Now, do this at the 20, 30 and 40 yard lines. Use a new piece of paper every time and if it looks like you are Ok and the gun is shooting-where-it-looks, you should then try your hunting loads at the same intervals. Now, you know where your gun is shooting, no question.
If the pattern is significantly off and you cannot adjust it with your sights, you are getting into an area where you need to speak to a qualified gunsmith. We are talking about straightening or bending a barrel here. Don’t let that scare you; a good gunsmith can do this in his sleep.
Well that’s about it till next time folks. Hope this is OK with the new editor. Man! That woman scares me!
Linda Powell – Mossberg Director of Media Relations, with a Mossberg 535 at SHOT.
Mossberg 535 Shotgun
You know my theory, about how many shotguns one needs? My answer is all you can get! So, I wanted to give you a peek, at a shotgun, that you can lust after.
Mossberg came out with something new, for 2015, on their 835 Ulti Mag and 535 ATS pump shotguns. The Marble Arms Bullseye sight system. If you don’t know about these sights, they have been around since Davy Crockett tracked his first bear.
I looked at these guns at SHOT Show; the shotgunis the same, functional, dependable, Mossberg pump gun with dual extractors, twin action bars, an anti-jam elevator, and that great ambidextrous top mounted safety. The Marble Bullseye, is a double ring design on the rear sight, and a light gathering fiber optic on the front. It allows the shooter to get on target quickly, and stay on target. The instant the front sight drifts out of the center ring, the shooter can see they are not on target. This sight is ideal for a turkey hunter.
The minute I picked this shotgun up and looked through the Marble sight, I liked it, and you will too. I have always thought that Mossberg shotguns are tough as a pine knot, and from what I can see the Marble Bullseye sight is as well. – Larry Case
(Photo: Linda Powell – Mossberg Director of Media Relations, with a Mossberg 535 at SHOT 2015)
Posted in Shotgun Tagged with: Hunting, Larry Case, Linda Powell, Marble Bullseye, Mossberg, Shotgun, Sighting in, turkey