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The Single Shot Shotgun as an option for shooting Cowboy action.


"Big Boston"

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I've often thought about the single shot shotgun as an option for shooting Cowboy Action, but finding a suitable candidate just wasn't in the stars until recently. I came across a Hiawatha (In Canada the McLeods store brand in the 1950s, made by Cooey). It is rather beat up but the action is tight. The chamber is rusted in spots but still smooth(ish), the bore is still shiny without any deep pits. The barrel was 30" long but 6" was removed the day after buying it. The plan is to use it with black powder, when I first measured the chamber it seemed long, about 3 1/4", but careful measurement put the end of the forcing cone at 3 1//4" and the start at 2 3/4".  

 

Here's the kicker, I can't seem to find much information on single shot shotguns of the era between 1850 and 1872. I like that era of the Old West and have a few period correct clones for hip guns and rifle but my shotgun has always been a 1897. I don't imagine that single shot shotguns of the era from 1850 to 1872 looked much different from the cheap Hiawatha, but I'm not finding much information. 

 

The Hiawatha is getting a Cowboy resurrection now, but I'll post a picture as soon as it is together again. 20/08/2023; It's back together and other than the two tone forend, it looks good. 

 

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My definition of a Cowboy Resurrection would be a general cleaning, degreasing with solvent and rust removal with Kroil and 0000 steel wool. The wood gets stripped of varnish with a razor and then sanded smooth(ish). A quick stain with Red Chestnut stain, one coat of Tung Oil, and a top coat of Tru-Oil takes care of the wood . Anything that doesn't work right is fixed and a #4 brass bead is installed up front. When done it would look at home in any ranchers bunkhouse back in the day, IMHO. 

 

Any history of single shot shotguns of the Old West would be appreciated. Or point me to a web site, Thanks

 

BB

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I have used my H&R 12g Single shot several times .

I'm not a fast shooter anyway, So it don't matter if it's a single a double or a pump .

When your shooting a pair of 51 Percussion revolvers and a Henry 1860 all with BP.

The shotgun is not really going to change where you are going to endup on the score sheet anyway.  lol

Yes its a lot of fun to shoot a single shot shotgun .

But it's slow also .

So just like any time you need to be aware of what category you should be shooting in .

So Saith The Rooster 

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im not a fast shooter either , ive never thought to use a single shot but it would eliminate my fumbling with two shells at a time and i might be at least as proficient without that , might have to give it a go one day , 

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I have on occasion shoot my single shot 36 inch barrel for fun the best part is hitting the spectators with the ejected hulls.... Speed who cares when everyone is laughing and having fun

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1 hour ago, Mister Badly said:

Shooting from the hip makes the whole process easier. The shotgun is a new Steven's/Savage clone of an H&R topper with a push down opener. The hammer could use a lighter spring. 

 

Back in the day they were serious about having a solid hammer strike, nothing light about the springs in this shotgun.

 

Hiawathaaction.thumb.jpg.55f231b750c44973bb0228f931492d75.jpg

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I started with a SS 16 gauge.  Hard to find ammo that didn't have a bunny on the box (ouch).  It's good manners to tell the TO you have ejectors.

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1 hour ago, Flint N. Steele said:

I started with a SS 16 gauge.  Hard to find ammo that didn't have a bunny on the box (ouch).  It's good manners to tell the TO you have ejectors.

 

Thanks, better than letting them figure it out after the first shot and one smacks them in the face.

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I have used my WW Greener/Martini-Henry a couple of times.   It's fun to use on occasion.  But it seems to give light primer hits.   Gotta figure out why.

Has a 2-7/8" chamber, but that doesn't seem to create any problems.

Of course, you could always use a 97, they are glorified single shots the way we use 'em in this game.  :)

 

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It was test fire time yesterday afternoon, it went well except that it pierced primers, they were a bit black in the center. I'll work on the shape of the firing pin first. I find that any shotgun where the firing pin is angled, shape has to be right. Protrusion and hammer spring pressure are the other factors.

 

Test firing went well, it shoots to point of point (aim), which tells me the fit is decent. The 24" barrel feels about right, and OAL is close to my other Cowboy shotguns.

 

I'm having a bit of a challenge finding black powder, being classified as an explosive makes shipping expensive and stores don't want to handle it, liability and insurance I suppose. Way back in the day every household had a container or more of BP on the shelf, probably in the kitchen. 

 

BB

 

Addendum: the firing pin reshape seems to have done the trick. The challenger shells likely use Cheddite primers, a bit soft IMO, so I also tested on some WW209s. 

 

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BB, many shooters have trouble obtaining real black powder and now load with one of the subs.  They lack the wonderful boom and ball of fire of real black powder but make big clouds of white smoke and are legal propellants for SASS black powder categories.  APP or Shooters World BP sub would be my choice though Triple Seven works if you reduce the powder charge (it's a powerful sub).  Skip Pyrodex.

 

Welcome to the Dark Side.

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19 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

Of course, you could always use a 97, they are glorified single shots the way we use 'em in this game.  :)

Not at all necessary.  When I started in this game all the '97 users loaded one in the chamber and one in the mag.  T'was a little slower, but gave the shooter the chance to rack the second shot.  I think it was Tequila or Evil Roy who I first saw loading follow-up shots over the top in the early '90s.

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In reality single shot shotguns were probably quite popular in the old west. They dont show up in Gunfighter lore, but in all reality the shotgun that the farmer could get at the feed store for $2.00 would have a presence. I have actually been thinking of running a single shot. For maybe one match. I can say it would be fun.

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I've test driven mine, and the skill level required is a bit more than I first thought. It's rather quick if you don't do something out of sequence. After all, most of us aren't that practiced at running a single shot fast. So far I've nearly removed the forend a few times, and ejected the odd live shell. The forend held in with a spring and pulling down without grabbing a bit of barrel is not good.

 

 

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For insurance I added a leather sleeve, similar to what John Younger has on his. And I've made up some dummies to do a bit more practice. Once I get the procedure smooth, the speed will be decent. It won't be fast, but it shouldn't be far behind. 

 

The movie The Long Riders has both the Youngers carrying a single shot H&R Topper, one long and the other with a short barrel. 

 

BB

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On 8/19/2023 at 9:34 AM, Flint N. Steele said:

I started with a SS 16 gauge.  Hard to find ammo that didn't have a bunny on the box (ouch).  It's good manners to tell the TO you have ejectors.

 

...and the videographer! (but sometimes I forget) :ph34r:

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When Kaya used a single .410, Wild Walt warned everyone about how good she was plinking people with the empties. She proceeded to bounce one right between his eyes. 

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20 minutes ago, "Big Boston" said:

Went to pick up some 2F black powder and it turned out to be APP 2F. It looks like that is what I'll start with, any suggestions as I've never used APP before.

 

BB

Load it volume for volume like real black powder.  Clean up with water.  No vinegar containing cleaners are needed.  Thoroughly clean out any residue in a powder measure.  If loading with plastic wads expect the same thin layer of plastic coating the inside of the barrels just like when shooting real black powder.  Expect really thick clouds of white smoke when you fire the gun but not excessive recoil.  APP is good powder except for night shoots.  I toss plastic hulls after one firing with any sub or real black powder.

 

Here are the manufacturer's loading instructions.  

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I loaded it up a bit lighter than the data, 40 grains, a 3.1 LEE Dipper. For wads I used a 0.135 over powder, and two 3/8 Feltan-Bluestreak fibers, one ounce of powder all in a Federal top gun hull. Not much noise but a lot of smoke. The APP 2F is old, it still goes bang, but no boom. 

 

 

 

As you can see I am not fast, but it is fun. The bore gets a bit tarred up but some Ballistol and half a sheet of blue towel seems to make it shiny again. Do I need to water it down as well?

 

BB

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My project got a bit detoured, and I ended up loading up some smokeless cowboy shotgun shells. 

 

Nothing special, close to what has been bandied about many times before. The load consisted of old style AA hulls from back in the day, 13.5 grains of Clays, a WW 209 primer, a Hornady/Pacific Red Versalite wad and an ounce of # 7 1/2 shot.  

 

Here's the interesting part. I went to check a load, and noticed a large flock of pigeons on the barn roof. I estimate the distance to be 20 yards when they flew up, so I could get a wing shot. The harvest was successful and I cooked the breasts for my dog. after all she found it, it fell on the far side of the barn. 

 

The load still has some power, and it shoots clean, no powder in the bore. I did have an issue with an old bag of shot, opened the bag and it was just full of graphite dust, what can you do to salvage it, short of melting it down for bullets. 

 

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24 minutes ago, Buckshot Bear said:

We have a member who sometimes chooses to shoot a single shot falling block rifle for the whole match, times are really slow but he enjoys every second of it. 

 

Not "SASS-legal", though...no "tubular magazine".
REF: SHB p.39 - Rifle Requirements

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i guess if you dont care of speed [i dont] its a viable option as we all find "interesting" interesting , ive yet to see it in a match and ill add id be no faster with my double than with that single in general , im not fat with my 97 either , and i guess that might be considered a single shot at my pace , 

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Shoot with a fella in our neck of the woods who shoots an H & R Handi 20Ga single shot with ejector.  Some fun to watch as he is also some QUICK!!  Gotta not stand directly behind him though as the empties come zinging over his shoulder (ouch). 

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