Something I like in the role of general purpose hiking and camping gun is the single shot, break open shotgun. It is light, which is very important if you are hiking a long way. It is not expensive, which is a plus: trail guns get knocked about, rained on and so forth. It takes down into two pieces, so you can store it out of sight in a backpack, should that seem prudent. It is versatile because you can fire many different types of shells. Carry some birdshot loads for small game and for snakes, and some buckshot or slugs in case you need to strike a heavier blow. This gun has everything to recommend it except for one thing: It is, after all, a single shot.
To get the most out of this sort of gun you need to be able to fire a second shot quickly. There are several methods for doing this. Here is the one that works best for me. (The directions are for a right handed shooter.) Use "snap cap" dummy cartridges to practice with and work on performing the motions smoothly--speed will come with practice.
Load the gun and hold a second shell in the palm of your left hand, primer toward your thumb.
After you fire your first shot, you then release the opening lever and pull the forearm down and to your left, keeping the gun's butt on your shoulder. The ejector tosses out the empty hull.
Bring your left hand back along the barrel and insert the shell in your left hand into the breech. As you return your left hand to the firing position, use the same motion to close the breech. The gun is now reloaded.
If the gun has an extractor, which lifts the fired case for removal by hand, instead of a spring loaded ejector, that tosses the empty clear of the gun automatically when you open the action, you will need to add a step to the reloading process. After you open the gun you need to give the whole gun a sharp jerk backward to toss out the expended shell. Then proceed as above. Do not remove the empty by pulling on it with your fingers; that's too slow. Use inertia to sling the casing clear of the gun. If you find your gun won't let you do this, because the shell sticks in the chamber, you may be able to correct the problem by lightly polishing the extractor's inner rim, or the chamber walls, or both. I much prefer an ejector on this sort of gun. Less rigmarole.
It may be you will never need to fire quick second shot but it is reassuring to know it is possible to do.
Meet Mike LaChance, aka “Aleister”
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