Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reflections on the pump shotgun

A 12 gauge pump is the nearest thing yet devised to an 'anything, anywhere' firearm. You see this gun in its many variations in duck blinds and in cop cars, in deer camps and in war zones. It is a recommended arm for rabbits and for grizzly bears. The pump gun's reliability in all kinds of awful conditions afield and its ability to use various types of ammunition without needing adjustments make it a generally trouble free companion no matter what you are gunning for, or where.

The biggest caveat about the pump gun: There is a type of user-induced stoppage that needs to be guarded against. That is the short stroke jam. As the name suggests, it results from incompletely cycling the gun. To avoid it, make it always a point to work the action vigorously. SLAM it open. SLAM it shut. You won't break the gun; it's designed to take five and three quarters tons of firing pressure. The Incredible Hulk couldn't break it.

Although I may be mistaken, it is my impression that working the action briskly also helps minimise the occurrence of double feed jamming, a mechanical malfunction in which the magazine somehow lets out two cartridges instead of one. If you are too leisurely in working the action, it stands to reason that there will be more time during which the magazine is able to feed. Especially if that area in the mechanism is worn or dirty, slowly cycling the gun could contribute to letting an extra shell pop out into the feedway. That said, if your gun is in the habit of feeding two, it is in need of repair, or perhaps a deep cleaning. Here is a good rundown on the repairs involved.

Failure-to-eject jams are most definitely made unlikely by working the action fast and hard. You may get the impression that I am in favor of really smacking the gun around when working the action. That is quite right. It is a habit that has stood me in good stead.

A good 12 gauge pump is the gun I would select if alerted in advance that I would need a gun, but not told why, where, or for what target. Its mice-or-moose versatility makes it, moreover, the long gun to pick if you are limited to just one.

There are many very good pump guns on the market, along with some poorly made ones. Two excellent guns, and the two most popular, are the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870. I shall not indulge in the often bandied questions over which is better. I am familiar with both and a fair side by side comparison of their features and capabilities permits only one conclusion. Each one is better than the other.

The pump shotgun is, in concept, an invention of the late nineteenth century. Unlike most gun design concepts of the era, this one is still front line technology in police and military use, and in a number of shooting sports. It is a terrifically good idea and well deserves its success. The semi auto shotgun is in some ways the better weapon, but it can behave like a prima donna in lousy field conditions or if the shells aren't to its liking. Great progress has been made in recent years toward lessening these problems, but there's still just one clear choice if you want a go anywhere, do anything shotgun, and that's the pump gun.

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