Saturday, August 16, 2008

The $100 dollar shotgun

When I went over to Bud's Guns a few days ago I was sorting through the shotguns because of a recent discussion on the Gunsite alumni email list about the Browning A5/Remington M11 shotguns, just to see if any potential "project" guns were lurking in the racks.

My eyes lit on one that seemed fairly clean - plain wood, no engraving on the metal, no obvious dings, showing a shiny bore - and when I saw the price tag I about swallowed my teeth. $100!!! Quick, get it out to the car before they realize what they've done!
Then I looked at the markings on it and it turned out to be a Savage, not a Browning or Remington.

Nonetheless, it seemed to be mechanically sound, almost indistinguishable from the A5 I laid beside it for comparison and the wood was all there, so it came home with me.

The Blue Book shows it as the Savage 720, basically a copy of the A5 made from 1930-1949, but doesn't tell me about any historical significance that the gun might have. Collectible value is essentially zip. It was unquestionably worth $100. But would it shoot? With every gun, that's the final question, or at least it is to me.
First I had to spray the gunk out of it and try to get it less sticky inside. I took down the fore end, barrel and springs, then fiddled with the bolt and shell lifter a bit more. The bolt release button is still a bit stiff but we'll see if use and more lube fixes that. It appears to be virtually identical to the Browning pattern in all major respects, although we haven't checked parts interchangeability yet.

Thence out to the range with ye antique smokepole on this gloriously sunny day, where we found - 1) with that long recoil mechanism it kicks just like an A5/M11! - 2) the "improved modified" choke, as measured in the 30 inch 'proof steel' barrel at the gun store, holds the pattern centered and tight with
bird shot. It'd knock down birds out to at least 30 yards as it is - 3) it shoots exactly to point of aim at 15 yards if you put the bead where you want it and press the trigger gently - 4) the Wolf 9-pellet 00 buckshot that shot so poorly in the cylinder choke of the FN SLP in our testing (results still to be posted - I beg your indulgence, gentle readers) does just dandy in this gun. Three rounds of plain-Jane Wolf 00 at 15 yards showed 27 pellets on target, centered and exactly where the brass bead lay with no ruinous holes in the pattern. See the photo for the results. I should think that such a pattern of pellets would at least annoy any hostile night visitors.
With the ancient wooden plug removed, it holds four in the magazine for a total of five 2 3/4 inch shells in the gun. It still has a tendency to hang up on the last round out of the magazine about half the time no matter what your stance or who's shooting it, but never before then. It hammers out the first four rounds with reliable authority, and a flip of the bolt will chamber that last round.
And hence the dilemna - leave it as it is, satisfied to know that it will ALWAYS deliver no fewer than 4 rounds of buck or birdshot on demand, and five if you're lucky, or spend the money to pack it off to Hans Vang for a new recoil pad, shortened stock and barrel chop, and the requisite tinkering in the innards to make it sing?
As it is, it's a $100 shotgun that works purty good.
Am I to be content with that, knowing that I already HAVE a whizbang scattergun in the SLP, or do I try to gild the lilly and see if I can bring it up to the standard of the A5/M11 as a home defense gun? Remembering my Dad's very nice US Army issue Remington M11 I'm tempted to try to replicate that classic since my brother, who has the gun, also has a riot gun barrel that might fit it.
But then the nostalgic in me calls out to leave be, and appreciate it for what it is - a simple classic that would shield your hearth or fill your larder as the case required.

We'll see. Lord knows I have enough projects with which to be concerned without loading another one into the cart.

But what if it COULD be made to hum?...................

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