4-gauges: See what are they and what they’re like to shoot…

What’s it’s like to shoot a 4-gauge shotgun? And what’s the story behind these guns? Find out in this video featuring big-bore enthusiast Nick Horton at The Gun Shop in the UK. These shoulder-fired 4-bore shotguns shoot case up to 4.25″ long and pushing up to 4 1/2 oz of lead, and they can knock down game out to100 yards capable.

Ouch! The 4 Bore Test, a new video from The Gun Shop
Ouch! The 4 Bore Test, a new video from The Gun Shop

 

An big 8 gauge from a mysterious American maker..

P. Mullin New York SxS 8 Gauge Hammer Shotgun
P. Mullin New York SxS 8 Gauge Hammer Shotgun

Here’s a tough shotgun to find. It’s an 8 gauge waterfowler by an American “maker” named Patrick Mullin, and it’s on a Henry-Jones Patent action. It was probably built in 1870s.

In its day, this big-bore shotgun was far too expensive to be used by a commercial hunter as a “market gun”. Instead, a wealthy sportsman would have specially ordered it and used it in marshes, shorelines and flyways to pass shoot waterfowl at long ranges (80+ yards) and knock down big birds like geese and swans.

P. Mullin New York SxS 8 Gauge Hammer Shotgun
P. Mullin New York SxS 8 Gauge Hammer Shotgun

Patrick Mullin made guns in New York City from around 1850-1870. He was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1814 and trained in Dublin and London before moving to the U.S.

On his death in 1895, the New York Times published his obituary and wrote “He turned out guns of his own handiwork that were unsurpassed in excellence.” Here’s a Mullin 8 bore muzzeloader that shows just how beautiful his work could be.

But while we know who Mullin was, the mysterious part of his legacy is just how much of his guns he actually built. On this 8 gauge,  I’m calling Mullin the “maker” because he didn’t make that much of it. Even though his name is on the locks and barrels, all of those, plus the action and leverwork, came from the UK. Mullin may have stocked the gun and finished it off. But that’s it.

Regardless, though, it’s beautifully made. Too bad it isn’t in better shape like the one you see here.

P. Mullin New York SxS 8 Gauge Hammer Shotgun

8 gauge Mullin shotgun, top-quality British locks
8 gauge Mullin shotgun, top-quality British locks
8 gauge Mullin shotgun, first-rate inletting for locks
8 gauge Mullin shotgun, first-rate inletting for locks
Stock Dimensions 13 3/4″ LOP
Status available
Metal Condition Fair, Finish Wear Nicks and Scratches, Areas of Light Corrosion
Trigger Double Triggers, Side Hammers
Gun Library LaVista, NE
Barrel 38 1/2″
Fore End Checkered
Butt Metal Butt Plate
Sights Single Gold Bead
Wood Condition Stock is Fair, Small Nicks, Scratches and Dents and Large Split Left Side
Weight 14 Lbs 12 ozs

Two beasts: An American 8 gauge, a British 4 gauge …

Big & beautiful. E. M. Reilly 4 gauge SxS Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun
Big & beautiful. E. M. Reilly 4 gauge SxS Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun

If you collect big bore, waterfowling shotguns, or want to start, you’re in luck: Two of finest you’ll ever find are coming up in James D. Julia’s April, 2017, auction. In their day, big bores like these were far too expensive to be used by commercial hunters as “market guns.”

Instead, they were bought by well-off sportsmen and used to pass shoot ducks, geese and even swans. From what I’ve read, as hunting pressure along the Eastern flyways increased,  waterfowl became warier (and scarcer). To bring them down, hunters needed guns that could reach out further. With their big loads and heavy charges, big bores were able to do this.

Big & beautiful. E. M. Reilly 4 gauge SxS Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun
Big & beautiful. E. M. Reilly 4 gauge SxS Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun

A monstrous & fabulous E.M. Reilly 4 gauge Side-by-Side hammer shotgun. I’ve had this double in my hands, and it’s incredible. To help it resist corrosion, it was nickel-plated and it features no engraving. It was probably made in England in the 1870s, and it remains in incredible — and to my eye — all original condition. Interestingly, it has stalking safeties on it – a feature normally reserved for hammer rifles.

An awesome 8 gauge L.C, Smith Quality 2. Stunning original condition.
An awesome 8 gauge L.C, Smith Quality 2. Stunning original condition.

An L.C. Smith 8 gauge Quality No. 2 Side-by-Side hammerless shotgun. I’m pretty sure this shotgun popped up on the market a few years ago. If it’s the same gun, it’s in incredible original condition and pretty much new. L.C. Smith probably made fewer than 50 eight gauges. This one has to be the finest one in existence. The Quality No. 2 was L.C. Smith’s lower middle grade. The company built them from 1890-1914 and made 12,483 total. Of those, just 38 were 8 gauges.

An awesome 8 gauge L.C, Smith Quality 2. Stunning original condition.
An awesome 8 gauge L.C, Smith Quality 2. Stunning original condition.

A quick post: Rare Browning 12g BSS Sporter, 28″ bbls, straight grip…

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28" barrels
Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28″ barrels

OK, so I’m still buried at work. But I saw this Browning pop up and I wanted to get it up for everyone to check out. It’s a 12 gauge Browning BSS Sporter with 28″ barrels.

Browning BSS shotguns were made in that period when every American want short barrels. So 98% of the ones you see out there have 26″ barrels – especially the Sporters (the ones with straight stocks, rather than pistol grips). BSS are modern guns, and they’re made with moderns steel and meant to be used with modern ammo. So this one here is pretty worry free. The only thing you might want to do is open the chokes a bit for steel ammo. Other than that, it’s ready for the field, and just about anything that flies you way.

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28" barrels
Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28″ barrels

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip: Price: $1,899.99

Manufacturer: 1984
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Chambers: 3
Metal Condition: Very Good
Wood Condition: Very Good
Bore Condition: Very Good
Barrels: 28
Triggers: Single Selective
Stock Dimensions: 1 5/8″ DAC, 2 1/2″ DAH, 14 1/4″ LOP
Butt Pad: Factory Butt Plate
Weight: 7 lb. 10 oz.
Chokes: Full/Modified
Extras: Box

Great duck gun alert: a 12 gauge Browning BSS with 28″ barrels…

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

When it comes to duck hunting, pumps and autoloaders are the shotguns you’re most likely to share space with in a blind. If you do see a double, it’s probably an O/U working. So if you prefer side-bys-sides, you may think you don’t have any options.

Fortunately you do, and  this Browning BSS is one of them. It’s also about as good a duck gun as you’ll ever find. With 28″ barrels, a reliable single trigger, and enough beef to soak up heavy rounds, it can deliver the medicine to just about anything you can decoy in.

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

Wondering about steel shot? Don’t worry. From what I’ve been told, the barrels on a Browning BSS should be fine with steel loads in the smaller shot sizes. Just be sure the chokes are open enough to handle it (I’ve been told that Modified is as tight as you should go).

Here’s more about this shotgun from the seller:

12 gauge Browning BSS Side-by-Side Double-Barrel Shotgun: 28″ Mod & Full 3″ chambers, single select trigger, ejectors, Beavertail, Pistol Grip, Excellent Condition with Light Blue Wear, Light Handling Marks. 7lb 10oz X 2 3/8 X 1 1/2 X 14 1/4. Price: $1,295.00

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

Good gun alert: a nice J. Dickson & Son boxlock, built for heavy loads…

12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4" Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun
12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4″ Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun

British and Scottish gunmakers are famous for their lightweight game guns. But they also made great shotguns for waterfowl and bigger game.

The Dickson boxlock you see here would be perfect in a duck blind, or beside you while you’re calling in a fat turkey. With original 1 3/8″ proofs, it can push enough shot to smack down large birds. Because the gun is built for these load, it’s heavy enough to swallow up all that recoil and keep you from getting hit just as hard.

This one was probably made in Birmingham for Dickson. It’s looks pretty original. If the barrels check out and the rest of the gun is sound, it could be a good deal.

12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4" Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun
12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4″ Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun

JOHN DICKSON – 12 GA. BOXLOCK – HEAVY PROOF: EXTRACTORS, 30” M/F, D.T., P.G. STOCK. TRIGGER GUARD TANG EXTENDS TO GRIP CAP. LOP 14 ¼” OVER  PAD.  CASE COLORS 95%, WT. 7 LBS. 15 OZS.  1 3/8 OZ.PROOF, EXCELLENT CLAYS OR WATERFOWL – $3,600. Price: $3,600.00

12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4" Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun
12 gauge J. Dickson & Sons 2 3/4″ Heavy Proof Double Barrel Side-by-Side Shotgun

An rare 8 gauge by Alexander McComas…

Alexander McComas, Gunmaker, Case Label
Alexander McComas, Gunmaker, Case Label

The Chesapeake Bay used to be one of the greatest places in the world to hunt waterfowl. Massive flocks of ducks, geese, and swans used to settle on its waters every fall, and as the birds passed through, hunters were waiting. These hunters used all sorts of firearms, and the more prosperous ones used fancy 8 gauges like the toplever, breechloading Alexander McComas you see here.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

Alexander McComas was born on February 27, 1821 and he opened a shop on July 1843, at 51 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. His first firearms were percussion guns, especially big bores for the local waterfowlers. By the time the breechloading era took over in the 1860s, McComas was well known  up and down the eastern seaboard for his high quality firearms.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

He was especially famous for his duck guns, and on these shotguns McComas preferred to use Jones-patent underlever actions. But as toplever actions started to appear in the 1870s, some shooters wanted them on their new duck guns. To meet this new market, McComas did what every smart business person does: He made what his customers wanted.

The toplever 8 gauge that you see here was probably “made” by Alexander McComas in the 1880s. I say “made” because I’m not sure how much of this shotgun was actually made in America. To my eye, a lot of this side-by-side looks German. I wonder if McComas ordered it complete from Europe, or sourced the barrels and action from the continent and then finished the shotgun in Maryland.

8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun
8 gauge Alexander McComas Toplever Double Barrel Shotgun

This kind of outsourcing was very popular in America at the time and a lot of the early side-by-side shotguns being “made” over here were actually built in England and throughout Europe.

Awesome SxS at the Southern: Reilly 4 gauge Double Barrel….

There were a lot of guns at the Southern SxS, probably over a thousand, and I think I saw most of them. Lots of nice guns, some great guns, but only one awesome gun. It was this E.M. Reilly 4 gauge side-by-side double barrel shotgun. In all original condition and with most of it’s original finish, it was spectacular.

E.M Reilly 4 gauge Double Barrel Shotgun
E.M Reilly 4 gauge Double Barrel Shotgun

Way back when dark clouds of ducks used to fill the sky and game laws didn’t exist, really big bore double barrels were the gun of choice for waterfowlers. All along the east coast, eight gauges, four gauges, and even twos were used to kill large number of ducks, or to bring down geese or even swans at long ranges.

%d bloggers like this: