I’m sure many of you are tired of me droning on and on about my obsession with old shotguns and my love of grouse hunting. What can I say, they go hand in hand so well. This week I submit, for your reading pleasure, a brief and somewhat incomplete “history” of one of the first guns in my collection.
Towards the end of my first year of university I had become a little more settled and had just a little bit of spare cash lying around. So, as any young man with extra money would do, I went to a gun show. I just figured it was about time I owned a shotgun, no sense having a licence if I’m not going to use it right? I wandered up and down several isles looking at a wide range of beautiful hunting rifles far out of my price range, and pistols that were pretty well useless to me. Then out of the corner of my eye, there it was, an old semi auto shotgun. Time had slowly turned the dark finish of the metal to a light grey and the wood on it looked like the finish had come off some time before I was born. The price was almost exactly how much money I had lying around, $200. Behind the folding table stood a tall and thin old man. The bartering began, after much back and forth the price had been renegotiated to $175, if memory serves. I filled out a lot of paperwork, at that time there was still the long gun registration. He handed me the gun, without a case, I shook his hand and I was off. Out of money and shotgun in hand I headed for the door. On my way out a lady handed me a garbage bag to put the gun in for my walk across the parking lot “we cant have people carrying guns around outside” I disagreed with her, but I figured I may as well just play along. I got to my car and had to laugh, the gun was so long and my car so small that I had to angle it from the floor behind the passenger seat to lean against the drivers side back door.
The gun I had purchased was a semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun. It was labelled a Remington 11-48 a quick Google search reveals that it was made somewhere between 1949 and 1968 and is most likely the base model.
Old shotguns are typically notoriously cheap, I’m going to ramble a little off topic and try to explain why, if you’re not overly interested just skip this paragraph. Here we go. Shotguns made before about 1900 were designed to use only ammunition loaded with black powder. Black powder burns at a lower pressure, meaning that if you use modern shotgun shells the gun could, in a sense, explode or more likely crack apart, its extremely dangerous. It is now very rare and expensive to find black powder shotgun shells, most people just make their own if they want them. This causes the price of these really old shotguns to be very cheap, I bought a beautiful one in great shape a few years ago for about $100 and a $50 shotgun is not unheard of. Shotguns built after 1900 (ish) to about 1985 (ish), such as the Remington I am telling you about, were built when all shotgun shells had lead shot put in them, its dense and flexible meaning that the choke (end of the barrel) can be shrunk down to keep the BBs closer together giving the gun more hitting power. However, in recent decades, lead shot has been banned from use for waterfowl hunting and has been replaced with steel shot. Steel doesn’t have the same flex or density as lead, this means that the old style barrels, with too tight of chokes, can split if you try and use steel shot in them. These older guns are now rendered useless for hunting ducks and geese. You can still, however, buy lead shot and use it for non-migratory birds such as grouse, snipe, and pheasant as well as most target shot for skeets and clays. It is this loss of usefulness for waterfowl that causes these guns to have very little value, which is where I come in because I can still use it for two of my favorite things, skeets and grouse.
It was that following fall that my dad bought a house north of the city and introduced me to grouse hunting. It had been the first time in over ten years that my dad had hunted, but that’s another story and it his to tell, I have a hard time imagining him taking another hiatus that long. It was pure coincidence that I had a great gun for it, my new (to me) Remington. My dad, brother, and I must have gotten nearly 50 grouse that season their population had been on a up-cycle that year and you could almost call it an infestation.
Over the winter I attempted to shoot a lot of skeets with it, I hit a few but it wasn’t pretty. That spring I got a little bored and decided to refinish the wood on the old shotgun that had been so good to me for so long. I pulled it apart and began sanding. The stock had developed a bit of a crack, so I simply glued it shut. About the time I finished sanding it, a friend of mine offered to airbrush it for me for $50, if I recall correctly (a steal of deal compared to the usual price of his work). I guess he was bored too maybe. I gave him the sanded stock and told him it was a gun mostly for grouse hunting, I them remembered that he likes hot rods and loud engines, not guns and hunting. I showed him a few picture of grouse to make sure we were on the same page. I gave him my full permission to get creative. The results where phenomenal.
Needless to say I was very impressed with the final product and this gun still get a lot of attention and compliments when people see it. I reassembled the gun after it was painted and took it out for a day of shooting. I was disheartened to find that it now shot horribly. It shot way high and way to the left and there was nothing I could do about it since shotguns dont have adjustable sights. As best I could figure the paint must have built up on the areas where the stock met with the metal of the gun and changed some of the angles meaning I would have to try sanding some of the paint off. I retired it to the closet for a while with the intention of looking into it “when I get a chance” time passed and I got busy with other things and it slowly found its way into the back of a closet.
A few weeks ago my friend Nikki and I went out for a shooting day. While there I saw that old Remington out of the corner of my eye and decided that I better try shooting it again. Maybe I would cut the barrel down and put a new adjustable sight on it and use it for a bush gun. I took it outside and fired a shot at a clay and it turned to dust. I shot another clay and same thing… it was the damnedest thing, the gun was now shooting perfect. I must have had an off day, then blamed the gun and as punishment for my stupidity I went years without shooting it. Chopping the barrel off was no longer an option to me. Nikki and I shot that gun all day and it worked well the whole time, I will admit the action was a little unreliable but I blame that on it collecting dust in a closet for about 5 years.
Towards the end of the day I noticed that the paint was beginning to chip off around the crack that I had previously glued shut. I couldn’t let this continue, not after what had already happened. I took the gun home and put some paint over the cracking edges and Erin and I wrapped some leather around the crack, which luckily happened to be on the handle.
Personally I like the look of the leather wrapped handle. I am now very excited to have my old grouse gun back in action. With any luck it should get me some dinner this fall. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it.
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