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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.