The American Shotgun

CHAPTER I

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON ARMS PAST AND PRESENT

IT has been the custom of writers when treating of shotguns to begin at the beginning, tracing the evolution of the weapon down from the crossbow to the invention of gunpowder, through the successive stages of firclock, wheel-lock, arquebus, flintlock, percussion lock, the French Lefeu-cheux breech loader, with locking lever under the fore-end, the English under grip with lever under the guard, the top lever hammer gun with a bolt through lugs under the barrels, the extension rib gun that was finally bolted through this extension, and finallv to the most modern hammerless.

A treatise on oldtirne and obsolete weapons is all interesting enough to the student of gun development, but everybody cannot be a specialist on this subject, many having other business in life. Of course where a man has an expert knowledge on any subject there is a temptation to display it, but the author means to show a consideration for his readers that will not keep them cracking away at the ancient arquebus before getting at the kernel of the modern breechloader.

We can safely ignore the muzzle-loader to-day, though not so many years sincc it was considered a weapon good enough for any man. Indeed, the hammer breechloader scarcely deserves a mention, for their use is steadily becoming restricted to the very cheapest output, and it is hardly conceivable that anyone would purchase a hammer gun from choice though he might continue to carry some old favorite which had become endeared through years of successful use.

We might note, in passing, that every improvement of the gun from its very invention to the present day has been steadily fought by the conservative. Military authorities very positively decided that the clumsy firelock was inferior as a weapon of war to the long bow. Experienced sportsmen of their day were outspoken in the belief that the percussion lock was not so well adapted to heavy loads a.s the flintlock, besides it entailed extra expense and trouble in the way of procuring and handling caps. The veteran gunner would have none of the breechloader when it first appeared, declaring it inferior to the muzzle-loader both in pattern and penetration, in addition to quickly becoming shaky and generally worthless.

Then the hammerless had a long and hot fight for a foothold. It was pronounced a most dangerous invention of the devil, this arm that must be carried around at full cock with even the owner unable to perceive whether the hammers were up or down.

By and by, when extension ribs came, the conservative gunmakers took a hand, declaring that the arm was strong enough and handsomer without the useless, ugly extension. To this day a few of the old English gunsmiths persist in refusing to build a gun with the rib extending into the breech. Moreover, when these ribs were at last bolted through, or wedge-bolted from the rear, this entailed further contention, and one of our most popular manufacturers still absolutely refuses to bolt through the rib of his gun, though, in the nature of things, he will have to yield finally to the demands of his patrons.

The latest and strongest models of American guns have omitted the bolts through the lugs under the barrels, and it is the belief of the writer that all gunmakers will in the end discard them as so much useless machinery. A multiplicity of bolts that can only accomplish the work of one are not to be defended upon mechanical grounds, yet one man will be slow to see what another observes at a glance.

Even choke boring had its enemies who maintained that such a system of boring caused stringing of the shot, that the missiles crossed and would not fly straight, that this style of boring tore up the

(i) Single lug bolt; (2) double fastening:, lug bolt, nnd dolls-bcad extension rib: (3) triple bolted, two Irg bolts and rib bolt; (4) quadruple fastening, two iug bolts and dollshead extension rib with rear wedge bite.

game at short range and would not pattern closer at the long ranges than a cylinder. They asked how a gun could be supposed to show an increased

(5) Quintuple fastening, double bolts in lugs, extension rib with shoulder bearing, and through cross bolt, Purdey sidcclips; (6) rotary cross bolt.

velocity when the charge was jammed and checked in its passage through the muzzle.

Self-ejection has not yet won the position it should occupy, many clinging to the extractor because it is simple and good enough. Yet it need not be doubted that all double guns with any pretense to quality will at last be made self-ejecting and the arm without this improvement will only be out of date the earlier.'

Strangely enough as shotguns have gone on stead- * ily and even rapidly improving with the march of time, they have nevertheless become more reasonable in price, grade for grade. The Old Joe Man-ton muzzle-loader cost up into the hundreds of dol lars for a strong, plain gun. A better weapon could be purchased to-day for a ten-dollar bill, and at the price of the ancient weapon the modern breechloader would be incomparably superior, especially in fit, balance, and artistic appearance. The youth of to-day fails to appreciate his good fortune in being able to purchase a sterling arm at a trifling cost.

I can well remember the first breech-loader that I bought myself. I put all the money into it that I had and it was supposed to contain all the improvements that heart could desire. The hammers, when down, stood above the frame like mules' ears, but the dealer dwelt upon the fact that they were pretty well below the line of sight when the piece was cocked. The arm had a very well finished stock and was line engraved, but it shot to pieces in two years and was thereafter constantly on a visit to the gunsmith to be tightened up. When the hammerless appeared, I laid it aside without regret, though I never had a better shooting gun or one that I could handle more effectively.

American gunbuilders have developed more rapidly than other armorers in the matter of constructing strong, serviceable arms at a moderate cost. This is partly due to universal progress in gunbuild-ing, partly to replacing the old, costly damascus and twist combinations of iron and steel with plain compressed steel, but it is more the result of ingeniously devised machinery which takes the place of laborious hand processes. Then, too, our builders have so systematized their work that every artisan is not a gunsmith, per se, but is an expert at some recognized and defined division of the work. One man is an adept at putting barrels together; another has a national reputation as a barrel borer; while a third man may have put in a lifetime in finishing locks and bolts. Possibly one mechanic may never have touched tool to gun except in finishing gun stocks; and indeed the selection of wrood in the rough from which these stocks are made is a trade of itself. And so it goes through every department of the work from breech to muzzle.

The result of a general use of machinery and a specialization in mechanics is that guns can be turned out at a small percentage of what they once cost, the arm at the same time being a stronger and better weapon, which would be true even without late Inventions that bring the piece to the present date.

Another thing that has contributed to the reduction in cost of arms to-day, as well as to their simplicity and sterling merit, is that the patents on different inventions have run out, thus permitting the manufacturer to select what he considers best and most available, a locking bolt here, a cocking hook there, a coil mainspring the invention of one man, and an ejector mechanism that has proved itself by strenuous service. In this way better arms are built than could ever have resulted from the mechanical genius of any one man. The world is growing smaller and man is finding it more and more difficult to keep secrets either of trade or war. Meantime we who are reaping the benefit have no fault to find.

IN treating briefly of shotgun construction I shall make no pretense of posing as an expert in their manufacture. There are many things connected with the building of guns about which our manufacturers talk with reluctance, such as the prices paid for raw material, wages given to workmen, actual cost of turning out a gun of a certain grade, amount of hand work placed on any particular arm, and other things. All this would be of little value to the amateur if known and might possibly embarrass the factory owners. My only endeavor here will be to give the novice an idea of how guns are constructed sufficiently clear to permit him to judge with fair accuracy his own arm or any that falls under his observation.

Barrels being a prime factor in gun building, we may as well begin with them.

Barrels

(Damascus, Twist, Laminated, Compressed Steel.)

Up to a decade or so ago shotgun barrels were made of a combination of iron and steel strips, welded together and then twisted around a mandrel of such size as roughly to give the diameter of the bore. After being twisted into a spiral tube this was hammered or welded into a homogeneous mass. These tubes were known as twist, laminated, or damascus, depending upon the manner of using the steel and iron. The damascus barrels were further subdivided into two-stripe, three-stripe, and four-stripe damascus, the numerals having reference to the number of strips of iron and steel that were welded together before being twisted.

It is an old story that in the original, handforged barrels horseshoe nails were used, and it was popularly believed that they made the strongest and toughest barrels. Perhaps such material really entered into the construction of gun barrels, but it is not worth while to attempt either to prove or disprove the tale now.

Damascus barrels w7ere in high favor twenty years ago. They were very tough and elastic, capable of expanding under pressure without disrupting. The only fault to be found with them is that they are soft, denting easily, when struck against another barrel or any hard object. Frequently gunners injured one another's damascus tubes by jostling as they w7alked side by side.

As compared with modern fluid steel barrels those of damascus were also more liable to be injured by the gases of nitro powder, and generally they were hard to keep free from pits and rust. It is douht-

ful, too, if they would take as high a degree of polish as those of our present plain steel. It is the belief of the writer that except for the regard of the conservative for what was known to he good, 110 damascus or twist barrels would now be in use.

Compressed Steel

The plain rolled or drawn steel barrels arc known to he harder than any heretofore used, thus being less liable to accidental injury. They will sustain a higher internal or chamber pressure than damascus, and arc therefore better adapted to nitro powders with the occasional high pressure that may be developed by handloaded or experimental charges. Such tubes will take a higher polish, and can be kept free of pits with half the labor occasioned by the old combinations of steel and iron. The process of manufacture is simpler, and good barrels can be turned out at a much reduced cost. The choke of a steel barrel can never be shot out and will retain its pattern for all time.

Our manufacturers have various technical names to describe their different grades of steel barrels. The Krupp and Whitworth tubes, made in Germany and England respectively, have perhaps the greatest repute. Other grades of steel such as armor, nitro, high-pressure, titanic, homo-tensile, vul-can, mean nothing to the outsider more than that they arc known to be placed upon certain grades of weapons by reliable manufacturers. Probably there is quite a difference in the pressure that the cheaper and the higher grades of compressed steel will sustain, but in its finished state the ordinary observer cannot detect any difference in the appearance of the grades as he could with the damascus and thus must rely solely upon the manufacturer's word and reputation for the quality of his gun barrels.

While I should have absolute confidence in the safety of any barrel placed upon an arm by a reputable manufacturer, yet it is to be regretted that builders regard as "trade secrets" the different pressures that various grades of steel will bear. It might be well for a man to know just how close he was coming to the danger line in shooting heavy loads.

Some gunmakers advertise their barrels as being able to withstand a pressure of one hundred thousand pounds to the square inch, but it is difficult to understand just what this means. If the barrel would bear an inside pressure of a hundred thousand pounds, it would, indeed, be a corker. The ordinary shotgun charge only develops a pressure of from four to six thousand pounds, and the barrel is "proved1' in the rough with a pressure of from four to five tons.

In this country we have no government proof house such as all European countries possess, and hence must rely upon the tubes being privately proved by the different manufacturers.

Strangely enough, while we turn out more shotguns than all the remaining world put together, we are not and never have been a barrel-making nation. Just why this should be true I am unable to state, but the majority of our tubes are imported from Europe in a rough form and are then put together, filed, shaped, and bored in this country. It appears only a question of a short time now when America will forge her own barrels. The Stevens people are now making all the tubes used in their factory, and the Winchester and Remington factories those adapted to their repeating shotguns.

The fluid or plain steel barrels are manufactured from a solid bar. This is first drilled through and then rolled or drawn into length or shape; after which it is rough bored into a size some thousandths of an inch smaller inside diameter than it will be when 'finished. It is then subjected to its first proof test which is expected to develop a pressure some three times as high as the tube will be called upon to bear with standard loads. This first test is cut upon the barrel in the shape of a "proof mark," and it is then in shape to be exported. Should the barrel be finished in Europe, it will be given a final government proof in its finished condition, this proof developing double the bursting strain of normal charges.

In this country, having no government proof-house, we must rely, first, upon the foreign proof-marks, and, second, upon the reliability of our build-

Stevens barrels ready to braize

Slovens compressed steel barrels. Barrels and lug forged in one piece

Slovens compressed steel barrels. Barrels and lug forged in one piece ers. The foreign proof mark is practically worthless, for the reason that the barrel is afterwards filed down and shaped, and if this is unskilfully done a barrel that had ample strength in the rough might be so weakened as to become absolutely dangerous. Within the past few years T have seen a barrel burst that was as thin at the point where it disrupted as the paper upon which this is written. It follows that our only reliance is upon the integrity of our manufacturers, and ordinary precaution would require that we purchase an arm only from men who have a reputation to jeopardize.

It is greatly to our manufacturers' credit that their output has always been of such quality that there has been little demand for a government proofhouse. Doubtless, though, should we ever become a large exporting nation, which seems probable, such an institution will have to come.

Finishing Barrkls

The rough tube as it comes from the maker has little resemblance to a finished shotgun barrel. A large amount of skilled labor and the services of a number of special artisans are required before the tube is ready to burn nitro powder and drive shot. The barrels must first be filed down and dressed into the shape that gives them that elegant taper from breech to muzzle, and while cutting away, reducing weight and shaping them the greatest care is taken to do the work scientifically, leaving a thickness of metal where the greatest strain is to come, the whole work being accomplished by a man whose sole duty or trade is to do that very thing.

Then another expert puts the barrels together, and upon his skill depends the accurate shooting of the barrels, that is their shooting to center. I can well remember the dismay of a young friend of mine who discovered after a year's use of the weapon that one barrel shot six inches lower than the other at twenty-five yards. Of course he no longer had any confidence in that gun, nor had he any difficulty in accounting for every miss made during all of the year.

Gun Boring and Polishing

Some of our shotgun borers have international reputations, and certainly they have made greater advances in their profession than have the artisans engaged in any other branch of gun building. It ¡9 said that the most skilled of these men can regularly cut a barrel to a thousandth of an inch at any point from breech to muzzle, guaranteeing a pattern within a very few pellets of that demanded. Not every shotgun barrel is cut alike, indeed every gun-borer has a system of his own that will differ at least in minor particulars from those of all others, but results are practically similar. It is true that nearly all the above work is accomplished by machinery, but it is machinery that requires very intelligent supervision.

When the barrels are bored the polishing process begins, and upon the manner in which this is accomplished depends the interior beauty of the tube and to some extent its future usefulness and life. A highly polished bore is perhaps the best of all guarantees against pitting and rusting. Moreover, this polish is strictly necessary in order to guard against the picce leading at every discharge. I have seen barrels that would begin to lead with the first shot and steadily increase the deposits until from a sev enty per cent, tube the pattern was reduced to one of fifty per cent. Of course faulty ammunition might have something to do with this, but it remains that some barrels lead much more than others with the same ammunition.

Leading a gun seems to be a necessary evil, not to be entirely obviated by the most conscientious work. Possibly one system of boring may show better results in this respcct than another, though I

have never vet seen a barrel that would not show

traces of lead if shot rapidly enough to heat. It is a very disagreeable fault, rendering the piece hard to clean and causing pits where the tube is neglected, as well as reducing the pattern as mentioned. In fact, I have yet to see a gun that would maintain its seventy per cent, pattern throughout a day's shooting.

Perhaps the cone has as much to do with the leading of a barrel as any other feature of the bore. The cone is the place where the barrel narrows from the shell chamber to its true bore. Should this be of faulty shape it may cause the charge to upset as it enters the barrel, leaving a deposit of lead at the breech. When the shot have jammed and leaded in entering the barrel they are in good condition to make further deposits; as a consequence the piece that leads in front of the shell chamber will nearly always do so in the choke as well.

Barrel Fitting

■ Our barrels are now fitted to their action, and here the work can by no means be slighted without betraying its slovenly character even to the novice. Barrels perfectly fitted to the frame arc sufficient evidence that no part of the work of the entire arm has been neglected. Where steel and iron come together the fitting should be as fine as the edge of the sharpest tool, so close that eye can scarcely observe the joint. An expert judges the arm from the way it is fitted as accurately as a naturalist can pronounce upon the character of an animal from its teeth and jaw. If the tyro can observe any evidence of imperfect fitting then it is a cheap gun, no matter by whom made or at what price.

Cost of Barrels—Rough and Finished

Barrels cost in the rough as imported from two to twenty-five dollars a pair. When finished and adjusted to the frame they range in price from ten to two hundred and fifty dollars. Usually our builders charge one-half the price of the arm for an extra pair of barrels of a grade similar to that of the gun. Many of the manufacturers refuse to cross their grades by placing cheap barrels upon a high grade arm or vice versa.

CHAPTER III

THE FRAME

THE frame of a gun is that part to which the barrels arc jointed at one end and the stock attached to the other. The frame, together with the mechanism which it contains, is mechanically the most important feature of a double hammer-less shotgun. The life of a shotgun, its strength and continued soundness, are directly dependent upon the bolting mechanism, while the locks must be of such temper and quality as to fire thousands and thousands of shots without weakening.

The frame itself is made of a solid block of drop forged steel which is then milled out to contain the working parts, filed into shape, polished, and case-hardened when finished. There are at the present time two types of frames in common use, the box-lock and the sideplate. These will be treated more fully under the heading of locks. I have never known the frame of a shotgun to break down, and it need only be said of them here that they should be as light as possible consistent with strength. A heavy frame is a great handicap to a gunbuilder who is trying to maintain the correct balance of his weapons in all weights, since a heavy frame and a light, short barrel are sure to result in a butt heavy arm.

Locking Bolts and Fastenings

In the first models of breechloaders made the barrels were locked down on the frame by a bolt actuated by a lever under the fore-end. The lever swung out to drop the barrels and this model of gun was known as the Lefeucheux, a French invention. Then the English improved upon this by swinging the lever about under the guard and giving it double bites or bolts into the lug. Subsequently the bolt was placed under the standing breech and was withdrawn by a side lever. Some of the early American arms were made with this side lever. All of these models of shotguns are now obsolete and need not be dwelt upon here.

The top lever now came into use of practically the same shape as those we now have. When the top lever was invented there was but one bolt which engaged with a lug under the barrels and was withdrawn to the rear. By and by this bolt was made to lock into two lugs in place of one and the arm was said to be double bolted.

Use and wear soon betrayed the weakness of these undcrbolted guns. The construction of the bolts was such that they could serve but one purpose, that of binding the barrels down to the frame, but as at least half of the strain in shooting is in the direction of driving the barrels away from the standing breech, there was nothing to withstand this except the joint which wore rapidly and the gun became loose. To guard against this the rib of the gun was finally extended to dovetail into the breech and was known as the

Extended Rib

The original extension rib was termed the doll's-head from its shape. It proved a great reinforcement of the simple underbolts, effectually preventing the barrels from springing away from the breech so long as the lug bolts did not wear and permit the rib to rise in its socket, giving it a play that allowed the arm to become shaky eventually. I have known guns fastened in this way to rattle after two years of sendee. But others remained tight and sound a good ten years. It is much a matter of quality of steel and the strain to which it is subjected. However, just as surely as steel grinding on steel will wear eventually, so will guns shoot loose that are simply fastened by lug bolts and a doll's-head extension rib.

Inventive genius was not content, and a tapered or wedge bolt was placcd in the rear of this extension rib to prevent it from rising. Many guns are still constructed with this style of fastening, es pecially those built in England and on the Continent. A further improvement, for such it undoubtedly was, placed a cross-bolt entirely through the rib, engaging with the frame on either side. This is the famous Greener cross-bolt much liked in Europe and adopted in this country by the Remington people for their highest grade of guns. It is a very efficient bolt, yet not beyond criticism. It is claimed that owing to the long bearing of this bolt in the frame considerable friction is entailed. This would not matter unless sand or rust gets into the action when the bolt may stick and require the services of a gunsmith to open the piece. In justice it should be said that such a contingency happens very seldom, and the cross-bolted gun should give general satisfaction.

The latest European addition to the lug bolts and the Greener cross-bolt is the Purdey side-clips, a projection of the frame to cover the ends of the barrels, designed to prevent all lateral action. The side-clips have never been used on an American arm, neither are they very highly regarded over here, the bearing of the lugs in the frame and the deep extension rib being quite as well adapted to withstanding lateral strain. The celebrated Continental, quintuple fastening as found on the Daly, Francotte, Cashmore, Sauer and other guns, consists of Purdey side-clips and Greener cross-bolt, with shoulder bearings to the extended rib and double underbolts.

The Rotary Bolt

It remained for America to have the final word in bolting mechanisms. Our clever mechanics early discovered that the lug bolts were in the wrong position mechanically. The joint of the barrels acts as the fulcrum of a lever upon which the barrels rest and pry at the bolts. It is easy to understand, therefore, that the closer these bolts are to the joint

Ithaca bolting mechanism

the more leverage the barrels have and the stronger the bolts must be. It takes three times as much strength in bolts to withstand the pressure if they are placed an inch from the joint as it would should the fastenings be three inches away. This and other considerations led American builders to take their locking bolts from the lugs and place them in the extension rib which is undoubtedly the right position for them mechanically.

Our manufacturers also wisely concluded that one bolt or fastening in the rib was enough provided it could he given such strength and bearing as never to shoot loose. This fastening was at last found in the heavy Smith rotary bolt. This tapered bolt rotates and is driven through a square opening in the rib with the full strength of a heavy spring. As the bearings wear, this spring automatically drives the bolt farther in. It is the only locking mechanism in the world that is guaranteed never to loosen with use, lack of use, or misuse. Experience bears out this claim and the writer has no hesitation in saying that throughout the world no other locking dcvicc should be used on a shotgun save the rotary bolt. It is now in use on the Smith, l*ox, Stevens, Baker, and other guns while the Ithaca has adopted the same principle in a slightly different form.

I am persuaded from the experiments of myself and others that no great strain is put upon the locking bolts of a shotgun by firing it with ordinary charges. Taking away all bolts and simply fitting the arm with a dollVhead extension rib, it has been discharged while merely holding the barrels in place with the hand. The barrels have also been tied down with a thread which remained unbroken when the piece was fired.

It is not so much the strain of discharge that finally loosens a gun as its constant manipulation, the opening and shutting, the prying weight of the barrels against the bolts when the weapon is being car ried and jostled, the dropping down of the barrels with too much force. The steady grinding of steel on steel must wear in course of time whatever the hardness or quality of the metal, and provision should always be made for taking this up mechanically. The rotary bolt does this automatically and with absolute certainty. An English gunsmith said when examining a rotary bolted gun that had been in use some years: "Why, the piece is loose but you can't tell it because of the bolt, you know." The rotary bolt is a good thing for the owner of a gun but is not calculated to throw much repair business into the hands of a gunsmith.

The Box-Lock and Side plate Lock

American shotguns are made with either box or sideplate locks. The latter is very much the same as the old hammer lock except that the striker is placcd inside instead of out, and provision must be made for the barrels raising the hammers in place of by hand. Tndeed this lock is a survival of muzzle-loading days and, though simplified and improved, is not essentially different from those used on the flintlock.

Many believe that the sideplate gives the arm a better and more racy appearance. This can be judged from the engravings of the two styles of frames. Certainly the plate gives the engraver more latitude, and he has 110 ugly and square lines to deal with. It also permits a lighter frame which is an advantage.

On the other hand, the box-lock admirers contend that the plate lacks both the strength and the easy, certain manipulation of the box. 1 his is for the reason that part of the pieces constituting the plate lock arc contained in the plate while others are fastened to the frame. Should the gun become wrenched or the wood swell from exposure to the weather the pieces may not come together accurately,

Siciephitc lock

thus leading to jar-offs or other trouble. A few go so far as to contend that every plate lock should be fitted with an extra tumbler safety in order to guard against the probable jar-off. I believe myself that a better cheap gun can be made with a box-lock than with plate, but where the weapon is carefully constructed I have never known any trouble to occur of any kind, neither would I give the matter of a box or plate lock a great deal of consideration when purchasing a gun of a reliable maker.

Certainly the plate lock has one decided advantage in that it can be taken off for examination, cleaning, or repairs very readily, while the other form must be taken to a gunsmith. This has been given so much consideration by the gunmakcrs that one of them has invented a hand-detachable lock for his box-frames. However, good general advice to the amateur is to let his locks alone so long as they arc attending to business. More locks have been injured by the novice tinkering with them than have ever been hurt by wear or weather.

When the embryo gunsmith feels like experimenting with his gun locks he had best buy a cheap arm for that especial purpose. It may not be any more worthless when he gets through than it was before, but he will probably find himself in the position of the tinker who took an old fashioned clock to pieces and never again could find room for all the parts. He said it looked just as well as ever when he got it together and would have run except that it refused to tick.

In passing, one advantage of the box-lock should be noted. It can be and generally is used with a coil mainspring in place of the flat. These coil springs are guaranteed to last forever, while such guarantee could hardly be given with a flat spring, or at least never has been so far as the writer can recall. One English gunmaker who uses flat springs rccommends that an extra pair of locks be purchased with every gun (at an extra cost of fifty dollars) so that if one should break another will be at hand. To many it might appear good sense to buy an unbreakable lock in the first place. The ability to use coil springs may ultimately predispose people to the exclusive use of a box-lock. Nevertheless, in fairness, it should be said that the majority of well finished guns are shot a lifetime without the breakage of a spring.

Cocking Devices

The hammerless gun is essentially an arm that cocks by some device through which the barrels in opening lift the hammers. One of the earliest and best of cocking mechanisms was that of Anson & Deely. It is still in use on some American arms and many of those made in Europe. In this mechanism levers are pivoted in the front end of the frame with one end projecting into the fore-end and the other resting under the toe of the hammer. As the barrels turn on their joint in opening the forward end of the lever is depressed while the other rises, carrying the hammer to cock, the whole action being performed very smoothly and reliably. This cocking system has been criticized as being generally used with a short frame in order to obtain greater leverage.

One of our American arms has a modification of the Anson & Deely cocking levers. This is a rod running straight through the frame from fore-end to hammer. This rod is fitted with a crank at either end, so adjusted that while one of the cranks is carried down by turning barrels the other rises, pushing the hammer to cock. The gun works without undue force and the parts are unbreakable.

The Cocking Hook

A number of our guns use a peculiarly American invention in the shape of a cocking hook. This has variations in the different makes of arms. The Baker raises the hammers by means of a bent arm which is pivoted under the standing breech. One end of this arm hooks to the barrels and the other has a crosspiece which thrusts directly against the hammers, pushing them back until caught by the sears. The Parker has a hook which actuates a slide, pulling the hammers to cock. The work is accomplished with as little friction as in any American arm.

The most modern cocking device, the simplest and what appears to be mechanically the best, consists of connecting the toe of the hammer directly with the lug of the barrel. The hammer is thus its own lever, and as the toe rises the striker drops back until caught by the sear. No lost motion is possible and very little friction is entailed. At present it is hard to see wherein this device can be improved. The Fox and Ithaca guns are lug-cockers.

Safety Bolts—Tumbler Bolts

When hammerlcss guns appeared the old guard of conservative veterans naturally set up a roar. Here was a mulcy gun that was nor only at full

cock when game was afoot but remained so every blessed minute of the time you were afield. It was regarded as certainly a dangerous weapon, likely to kill somebody at any time. No matter how careful

Tumbler Safety, Maker Gun. Illustrates also the tri^rr safety bolt

Tumbler Safety, Maker Gun. Illustrates also the tri^rr safety bolt the gunner might be about accidentally pulling his triggers, there was nothing to prevent a jar-ort such as had happened with hammer guns more than once. The assurance of the makers that jar-otfs were practically impossible and that the arm was really safer than the piece with outside hammers did not silence the outcry, and only years of use, fully bearing out the claims of the manufacturers, at last ended it.

The absolute safety of the hammcrless gun was secured by means of two bolts, the safety or trigger bolt and the hammer or tumbler bolt. The first only was necessary as proved by experience, but the latter was needed to silence the kickers.

The safety bolt is pivoted in the frame in a perpendicular position; the upper end of this lever is attached to a slide on top of the tang, just behind the top-lever; the lower end comes snug against the triggers, absolutely preventing them from moving while the bolt covers them, in order to permit the triggers to be pulled the top end of this bolt, connected with the slide, must be pushed forward, throwing the other end back off the triggers. This bolt, so adjusted, is known as the non-automatic safety for the reason that it only bolts the triggers wrhen the slide is moved by hand.

In order to make the trigger bolt automatically assume its position over the triggers, a piece was fixed in the frame extending from the safety bolt to the post of the top-lever. Every time the top-lever was turned in opening the arm this bar mechanically shoved the safety bolt over the triggers. This is called an automatic safety.

The tumbler safety is a bar that rises directly between the strikers and the firing pins. This bar is actuated by the triggers; and, unless these are actually pulled, it retains its position preventing the hammers from striking the firing pins. It will thus be seen that should the hammer be accidentally jarred off the tumbler safety would catch it and there could be no accidental discharge. It would appear that no further safety devices could possibly be necessary on a gun than the automatic trigger bolt and the automatic tumbler bolt.

However, many regard the tumbler safety as really a bit of useless machinery. It has been demonstrated that with honestly made locks the hammers absolutely cannot jar-off while the bolt is on the trigger. Experiments have been made of the most radical nature to prove this. With triggers that pull at the ordinary weight, the arm has been dropped on a stone floor repeatedly from an increasing height until the stock was smashed, and yet the hammers refused to jar-off. It has been proved that jar-off when it does occur, as in a gun whose trigger pull is set too light, comes from the movement and play of the trigger against the sear. Triggers are necessarily so fixed as to move easily, and a heavy jar like dropping the gun gives even such a light piece of iron as the trigger some momentum which acts against the sear the same as the pull with the finger. Moreover this play and force of momentum cannot act if the triggers arc solidly bolted, though it might were there merely a tumbler safety controlled by the movement of the trigger.

Granted the foregoing is true, if the trigger can actually move the tumbler bolt out of the way in the case of a jar, then the tumbler safety is a useless encumbrance, only put there in deference to prejudice or ignorance.

In addition, it is argued that if the trigger is set to pull at three pounds, one half of the weight will be used to release the sear from the hammer and the other pound and a half to move the tumbler safety out of the way, hence the gun is no safer against a jar-oft with a trigger pull of three pounds and a tumbler safety than it would be with a pound and a half pull, exerted entirely against the sear. There is some truth in this, no doubt, for some of the force of the trigger pull must be exerted in moving the tumbler bolt out of the way, and this detracts just that much from the strength with which the sear engages the hammer.

Personally I have never been partial to the automatic safety, preferring that my gun should only be safe when I set it so. In a hot corner, when birds are rising in every direction, I wish to shoot without the trouble of shoving up the safety every time the arm is reloaded. I never yet knew a man with an automatic safety who did not lose occasional shots from forgetting to shove it up.

Nevertheless, I believe that where it is to be handled by a novice the piece had better holt automatically. Should the bolt causc him to lose occasional shots he will yet be the gainer through the increased security of himself and companions. Besides should the gun have a very light pull-off it might be wise to have the triggers invariably bolted while the shells are being placed in the chambers and the barrels snapped down perhaps with great force. With the non-automatic safety the triggers are rarely bolted while the arm is being reloaded.

Individuals differ and what might be wise for one would not be safe for another. For myself I have never yet had a gun jar-off either when being loaded or at any other time except when the trigger pull was set too light and the recoil of one barrel jarred off the lock of the other. No kind of safety could guard against this.

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