Wednesday, March 04, 2009

On old stuff coming out of the closet


A while back I had a couple of comments from people about some of the older firearms I’d posted on, basically “I’ve got dad’s/grandpa’s old rifle and it needs this, how can I fix it/where find parts?” and such. A few years ago, the fact that a lot of people decided to take the old family piece out of the closet and clean it up and use it helped lead to a lot of old cartridges becoming more available(demand = market = somebody deciding to fill the need); now a lot of people are fixing up an old piece that’s been around for years; gee, I wonder why? Which has often led to “Damn, this cleaned up nice! And it shoots really well!”, which are wonderful things to hear.

There was a guy at the gun show this weekend when I went back on Sunday with something interesting. I happened to wander by an ammo table as the guy was showing a cylinder to the dealer and they were trying to figure out what fit it. I stopped and asked, then looked it over; five-shot chambered for .38S&W. Dealer’s face lit up, “That’s it!”, then fell as he didn’t have any of it. I asked what the cylinder was from, and the guy pulled out the rest of a Hopkins & Allen revolver. Interesting thing: instead of top-break, or a swing-out cylinder, the barrel/topstrap turns to unlock from the frame and slides forward, and you pull the cylinder off the pivot pin to load/unload. Beautiful brown patina, no rust, what may have been a few light pits in the bore(but may well have disappeared with a good cleaning), his father had had it for nobody knew how long, and it had been wrapped up in the closet for many years. He’d decided, in the current situation, to find out what it used and try to buy some. Now, this was a guy who had no real knowledge of firearms or ammo, had to explain the difference not only between .38 Special and .38S&W, but why, even though it would fit in the chamber, it would be a BAD idea to stick some 9mm in and pull the trigger; but the current situation caused him to decide to dig this piece out and find out what to feed it.

There’s been a lot of that the last few years, and I don’t think it’ll stop. And once somebody tries out that old piece, it often makes them think of getting maybe a pistol to go with it, or a scattergun… Wonderful how that works.


Anonymous said...

I was given an old Champion 12ga single shot with a moderately pitted 30" barrel. The hinge pin was very loose so the gun rattled like the doors on a Model T Ford. I made up and fitted a new hinge pin from a length of air hardening drill rod. The gun is as tight as new now, but from the absence of markings I don't know the chamber length and am almost entirely ignorant of 12 ga chamber lengths or how to determine them. Who to ask to find out what chamber length is this old barn gun likely to have? The only certainty is it ain't 3". I know there are 2 3/4" shells, were there 2 1/2" shells?

Gerry N

Firehand said...

Yes, there were 2 1/2". If there's a step in the bore where the chamber ends, might be able to measure to that point, or if there's an obvious step at that point. Otherwise, only thing I could think of would be to take a chamber cast.

Or drop in a standard 2 3/4" shell and see if it fits properly for a start; if it won't, then probably 2.5". I know, not exactly the best way to find out.

Anonymous said...

There's a forcing cone only, it is difficult to get a handle on where it begins exactly. I suppose I could turn a hardwood dowel a few thou. smaller than the breech, mark it where it stops against the forcing cone, allow for the shell mouth unfolding and guesstimate from there. I have a sneaking hunch from the latest patent date on the barrel, 1902, that it's gonna be 2 1/2". I was given an old Lee "Smack'em" loader in 12 ga several years ago. I think I'm gonna try loading some shells for this grizzled ol vet and see how loud he can bark. I see no sign of a choke, either. I may even give loading up some Black Powder loads, that should be a kick in the britches. Ain't guns fun?

Gerry N.

Anonymous said...

Crap! "I may give loading up some Black Powder loads A TRY......"

Brain Phart

Gerry N.