One of the benefits of being a double gun enthusiast is that often my friends ask me to clean their dirty bird guns! One of those fine fellows asked me to clean up his nice old Auguste Francotte boxlock. This grand old gun was made in Liege, Belgium, I would guess in the 1920’s.
Here is some trivia – the bore diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun is derived by taking a pound of lead, making 12 balls exactly the same size and measuring the diameter of one of those balls. For a 12 gauge that measures to be about .729 of an inch. Here is the formula if you want to do the math:
If you make 28 balls out of a pound of lead then the diameter of a single ball measures about .55 of an inch. The 28 gauge, being 3/4 the size of a 12 gauge, yields a petite game gun that is a delight to shoot. I am no 28 gauge expert but so far, if I do what I am supposed to do, this little gun busts targets and kills birds as well as a 12 gauge – given that I shoot at things within range (say 30 yards?). Of course putting an additional 25% (or more) lead in the air with a 12 gauge gives the shooter more range and a better chance to hit the target! A lighter gun can be a challenge to shoot well but this little gun is a pleasure to carry in the field.
Here is an Armas Garbi 101 in 28 Gauge.
Here is Franchi’s 48 AL 20 gauge deluxe shotgun. We took this brand new gun out to the clays course to try it out. It is a light, slim, petite shotgun and was great fun to shoot. Even though it is light it feels solid and well built. It will be perfect for dove, quail, any preserve bird and I am sure it would kill wild pheasants as well. Being recoil operated (as opposed to gas operated) it reminds me of shooting the great Browning A-5.
This is a classy and elegant gun. Synthetics may be more practical and durable, but who doesn’t love the look and feel of walnut and steel (or aluminum)?
Here is Colt’s iconic Single Action Army. In production for one hundred and forty-two years, it is still made by Colt and still made in the USA. Nothing feels quite like it in hand, solid and superbly built. We love the click, click, click, click when you cock it. You should have one. This one is in .45 Long Colt, which is a pretty mild round and very fun to shoot.
With time to kill over the holiday, I worked on some gun photography. The challenge is managing light and reflection. This shot of a Spanish sidelock came out pretty good.
Taken with a Nikon D610, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, 1.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 200
This is an old Harrington and Richardson Arms Co. model Topper M48. I used this while on west Texas dove hunts many years ago. It’s most likely the first shotgun that I ever fired.
America’s work horse shotgun since 1963. Wikipedia says this is the best selling auto-loading shotgun in U.S. history, with over 4 million produced. My dad bought this 1100 skeet gun in the mid 1970’s. It is an excellent dove gun and not a bad specimen at 40 years old!
Since I started jacking around with this blog and the related gun photography, I really wanted to take a quality, full length picture of a shotgun. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not!! Guns are really hard to photograph. Dealing with glare or reflection off of finely finished surfaces and holding the gun while appearing to not be holding it are two major challenges. This, along with picking a background that will show it off all add up to a pretty tough problem for the amateur photographer such as myself.
Happily, most of these challenges were solved by Photoshop. I have to say that Photoshop is the most powerful, complex, effective, frustrating, amazing, time consuming, magical, and non-intuitive piece of software I have ever used. There are only two consumer technology products that are so well known and influential that their names have become verbs. Photoshop is one . . . I can’t remember what the other one is . . . I will Google it later.
I do think Photoshop is a lot like taxidermy. If you aren’t committed to learning and practicing it, your end product will look a bit off. I highly recommend the most excellent guide “Photoshop CC, the missing manual” by Lesa Snider if you are thinking of giving it a try. Here are my first attempts.
The background is the concrete by my mailbox which I darkened up a bit.
Sixty five years ago, in 1948, my grandfather bought a Winchester Model 12 trap gun to hunt ducks with his buddies around Galveston, Texas. I was the lucky 15 year-old aspiring trap shooter that ended up with it 27 years later. Between the two of us, we pretty much wore that gun out.
The Model 12 possesses the intrinsic qualities of a truly great gun. A subtle and sublime combination of design, style, weight and balance results in a gun that handles and points like a dream. It has a silky smooth action and heft from machined, blued steel and solid American walnut. It feels good. When you throw it to your shoulder, you know you can shoot it. The Winchester Model 12 is certainly the king of slide action shotguns.
Below is granddad’s gun. It is not a cream puff. You would pass it by if you were in the market for one but to me it is priceless. Though worn out, this is one neat old gun.
Along with the Single Action Army, Colt’s 1911, Browning’s A-5 and the Winchester 94, the Model 12 has a distinct and recognizable profile. An iconic, classic American firearm. See where the blue has been worn by a sweaty trigger finger shooting at countless clays through hot Texas summers.
Here is the Smith and Wesson model 442, a classic conceal-carry revolver. This 5 shot, .38 Special +P, 1.875″ barreled pistol weighs only 15 ounces unloaded and easily rides in a hunting vest or pant pocket. Because of the current gun-unfriendly regime, it took a while to find one of these. Fear has the populace snapping up guns and ammo about as fast as the manufacturers can roll them out. I have yet to find any +P hollow points.
A dainty package of personal protection.
You don’t need to strap on a handgun to hunt birds but they sure are useful for dispatching porcupines or other vermin encountered in the field. Sometimes hauling the extra weight in the field isn’t worth the trouble, but it is fun to pack some heat if you want to. We should enjoy that while this is still the good old United States of America.
The enduring Colt’s Model 1911 is one of the favorites. This configuration is the Combat Commander, just a bit shorter than the standard Government’s model. A beautifully made gun.
On our last hunting trip, the Armas Garbi was tossed into the truck by a weary (lazy) hunter producing a handsome scratch on the right barrel. In addition to this new scratch, there had been a decade of sweaty hands, random splatters of dove blood and unkind encounters with brush, fences and trucks. It was time to have the barrels refinished so I sent them to Turnbull Mfg Co. in Bloomfield, NY for rust bluing. These guys are not cheap, maybe the most expensive, but they are well known for their high quality gun finishes. This was one time that the extra expense paid off. They came back as near perfect as I could have hoped for. In fact, this finish looks better than what came on the gun new, in my opinion. Check it out below. I am sorry that I did not take some “before” pictures.
Saw the new James Bond flick, Skyfall, last weekend. Not Casino Royale but a great Bond installment none the less. Being a student and lover of fine double guns, rifle or shotgun, the appearance of an English double rifle grabbed my attention. In the story, it was 007’s father’s hunting rifle sentimentally presented to him by the implausibly appearing gamekeeper from his childhood. This is no rook rifle, the size of the bores confirm it is a stopping rifle. Bond Sr. would have turned Scottish foxes and hare into smears of raspberry jam had he used it on them. I have fired big bore rifles like this before (.375 Holland & Holland – .458 Winchester Magnum). These rifles shake you to the core. An imprecise and random chiropractic adjustment with each pull of the trigger. Bond’s rifle has more voltage than those but 007 is such a stud that he pops bottles from a tree limb with it like he is shooting a Ruger 10/22. He also dispatches a bad guy shooting this cannon from the hip. Maybe since he lost his nuts in Royale this is no big deal. These cinematic liberties aside, it was great fun to watch.
A little internet research reveals that this beautiful rifle is an Anderson Wheeler boxlock in 500 Nitro Express.
Not that I know everything about the English gun trade, but I have never, ever heard of Anderson Wheeler. Click HERE to check it out. The James Bond Lifestyle website says this thing can be custom ordered for $24K. WHAT? That is absurdly cheap. This, plus the fact that Anderson Wheeler has its own line of fragrances certainly gives me pause.
What say you, Vesper . . . ?
Shotguns against an old truck during a break in North Dakota.
A few yards of black fabric provides a rich background but managing light is the real challenge with photographing firearms. Plenty of soft, indirect light is key but that is easier said than done. The black abyss showcases the walnut and steel and helps make these amateur photos look pretty good.
Check out this earlier post on the AyA 4/53. These really are nice guns so here is another one.
The workhorse of the Beretta line, the 680 series is the most successful over/under shotgun in terms of production and reliability that has ever been made.
That is a bold statement and yes I made it up, but now it is in writing on the internet so it must be true. Whether correct or not, it can’t be far from the truth. I can’t think of another, except for the terrific Browning Superposed / Citori line that might come close. These are wonderful guns and a very good value for the money. They look good, they handle well and are very reliable. I bought this 680 Skeet gun new 30 years ago and it has never malfunctioned. That “never” is unqualified and 30 years is a very long time. When someone asks what gun to go to for a solid target or bird gun, this is where I send them.
click to launch for a better view
Here are two Diana grade Superposed shotguns from the mid 1960’s A 12 gauge with 2 sets of barrels and a 20 gauge. They are lovely guns, especially the lively 20 gauge. Passed from grandfather to grandson these guns have seen their share of action but remain in excellent condition.
There are two classic repeaters that we love; the Winchester Model 12 and the Browning Auto-5. Here is a late 1950’s minty Sweet 16. It is a gem.
When I was a much younger fellow, I spent most Sunday afternoons at the trap field with my father. I have very fond memories of those days trapshooting with dad and my grandfather’s model 12. Back then I reloaded shot shells mostly to save money but really enjoyed the therapy of it all. Cranking through piles of shot, primers, wads and kegs of powder to produce thousands of rounds was fun then and still is today. I remember paying $7.50 for 25 lbs. of chilled shot. Things have certainly changed!