Show cover of The Gun Room

The Gun Room

The Gun Room is a podcast dedicated to the sporting firearms we carry in pursuit of game. A base-level knowledge of firearms and their workings is synonymous with hunting. By its very nature, the pursuit of game demands the user become familiar, if not proficient with a weapon of their choosing. TGR will dive headlong into all things surrounding the incredible diversity of sporting firearms we used in the field today. We will examine the history and technology in the development of modern sporting rifles and shotguns through conversations with the folks that were there. We will talk to the gunsmiths who have worked on thousands of firearms from English Bests to hardware store specials. We will speak with the collectors, curators, and enthusiasts who help maintain the vast body of knowledge surrounding the tens of thousands of types of modern rifles and shotguns. TGR will attempt to dispel common myths while building the collective knowledge base of our listeners through open discussion with leaders in the industry. Our focus and subject matter will be the firearms themselves. Their inner workings and foibles, the artistry and the utility. All things that make a rifle or shotgun special. From the manufacturer's machinery to the gunsmith's bench, from the rack at your local dealer to the fields and woods we will explore the story behind the guns we carry for sport to live our passion.

Tracks

TGR: Episode 37, Lars Jacob
In Episode 37 of TGR we sit down with Lars Jacob of Wild Surroundings. We speak on hunting out of layout boats, shotgun fitting, bird hunting, and at length about the unique underhammer rifle, which Lars built a number of in his early career. 
77:15 07/08/2022
TGR: Episode 36, Diggory Hadoke
Joel has the opportunity to catch up with Diggory Hadoke, author, shooter, and firearms and hunting advocate. Diggory has written several notable titles focused on vintage British sporting arms including hammer guns, vintage guns, and the British boxlock. Diggory works at vintageguns.co.uk and is an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to the history and development of modern cartridge arms. The conversation focuses on the history and development of sporting arms from around 1850 through the turn of the century and beyond. If you have ever had an interest in early cartridge arms development and the rich history that is intertwined with British firearms do not miss Episode 36. 
81:56 06/10/2022
The Gun Room: Episode 35
In this episode of The Gun Room, Joel talks with Brian Dudley of BMD Gunstocks. They talk about Brian's fine art background and how he transitioned into firearms full-time. The conversation covers a variety of topics related to stock making including original finishes, shaping, and finishing stocks including a good conversation about stock checkering.  
80:52 05/20/2022
The Gun Room: Episode 34
Part 2 of a discussion with Nick Larson of The Birdshot Podcast. Nick and Joel talk about Nick's turkey gun project and the jitters surrounding drilling into your gunstock. The discussion moves into progress and updates from the Upland Gun Company where we talk about their new offerings and the process of creating your own upland shotgun.
66:37 05/06/2022
The Gun Room: Episode 33
To me, the Savage 24 represents youth and the carefree existence that places a child in the woods, free to roam as they see fit. It harkens to an older time when this child's feral existence was the norm rather than the exception. Going out the backdoor of a white farmhouse with a few .22LR rounds and a few .410 shells in his coat pockets, looking for a rabbit or maybe a partridge for the table. The gun is kept in the corner of the mudroom, alongside boots and coats, a scruffy dog waits outside the door, tail wagging, waiting to accompany the boy as they head out into the big wide world.
15:17 04/29/2022
The Gun Room: Episode 32
Welcome Back to The Gun Room! We have the opportunity to go to Brays Island in South Carolina where we visit the home of Eric Klein, the keeper of a very fine collection of early American side-by-side shotguns. Both originally from New Jersey, Eric and Joel cover a variety of topics including the philosophy of collecting vs accumulating as well as some good discussion with a focus on Parkers and Ithacas. Eric takes us on a tour of his gun room and shows us some very unique guns in his collection. 
58:41 04/22/2022
The Gun Room: Episode 31
Joel and Gregg have the opportunity to catch up in the midst of the bird hunting season on Episode 31 of The Gun Room. Gregg keeps up the Dogs and Doubles webpage as well as keeping the upland world abreast of some of the better deals in the sporting shotgun market. His posts about 5 guns you shouldn't miss are surely a hit for anyone in the market for a fine shotgun. After a quick season update, Gregg and Joel dive into a discussion surrounding double guns and the current state of the gun market. They speak on a number of topics including the merits of guns from around the world, gun features, and gun makers. The discussion touches on a number of different elements one should consider when looking at purchasing a shotgun. Join us this week to learn a bit more about what makes a fine gun worth the price.
81:37 11/26/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 30
Join us for a conversation with Amanda Rutherford of Zeb gunmaking. Amanda attended gunsmithing school in Colorado where a fortuitous trip to the Dallas Safari Club show led to an apprenticeship with Chuck Grace as a stockmaker. Amanda and I discuss some of the finer points of the master/apprentice relationship, the value of gunsmithing school, and her journey to becoming a gun maker on her own. We also touch on some of her custom gun work and run-ins with some legendary gunmakers. This and so much more on Episode 30 of The Gun Room. https://www.zebgunmaking.com/
66:21 11/12/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 29
 Barrel Proofing Dad and I were browsing the used gun rack at a big box store on a trip through Pennsylvania a few years back when we happened upon a double gun that caught our eye. The gun was a 12ga with light color walnut stock and forend. On closer inspection, we saw a moderate amount of hand-cut engraving, as well as hand-cut checkering on the buttery walnut stock. An older gun made in Europe, the tag read ‘BLNE’, as it is sometimes referred to in gun parlance or a boxlock non-ejector. We speculated on the country of origins and details of the gun’s specifications until we could get the attention of one of the clerks to ask if it was OK to take the barrels off the action and check the proof marks. Spend any amount of time in a gun shop that deals with guns from Europe and you will inevitably hear someone say “check the proof marks”. This statement broadly suggests checking the markings on the barrel flats and action watertable(on a shotgun). These are the two areas that gunmakers typically apply stampings pertaining to original specifications of the gun like chamber length or choke. It is also the area where proof houses apply proof marks on a gun.  Proofing is a type of (potentially) destructive testing whereby a firearm is discharged with appropriate dimension ammunition that has been overloaded with powder on purpose. Shooting a round overcharged with powder produces higher than normal pressure inside the barrels and action when the gun is fired. If the gun can withstand the increased pressure produced by an ‘overloaded’ round, it will withstand the significantly lower pressure of standard factory ammunition. Guns are measured before and after testing and fired remotely while being held in fixtures inside secured rooms for safety reasons. Proofing is a pass or fail test, there is no middle ground. Guns that fail may experience a bulged or split barrel, or in extreme situations, action failure can result in shattered parts. Proofing firearms began hundreds of years ago in Europe(1637 in the UK) and continues to be conducted as described above. 14 countries in Europe have adopted standards laid out by CIP (think international proofing organization) which now dictate the pressures various firearms need to withstand to make proof. Each proof house in Europe developed its own proof marks. These marks changed over the years and can help date a gun or determine a gun proofed with black powder or modern smokeless powder. Most European guns were proofed in the country in which they were made, or at least the country where they were assembled to the point that they could be shot. As a result, the proof establishes the maker’s country, and in cases where countries had more than one proof house, will determine which proof house the gun was tested in. For example, 6 different German proof houses are Ulm, Hannover, Kiel, Munich, Cologne, and Berlin each of which has a different proof mark. Jumping back across the pond, the obvious question becomes, “Where are the proof marks on Granddad’s old Ithaca Flues?(insert any american gun name here)” Despite the fact that Europe developed a comprehensive proof testing standard, the United States has left that responsibility on the shoulders of the manufacturers, who for the most part, have held up their end of the deal. American shotguns and rifles are tested, though the extent of testing is left up to discretion. This is not to imply that American made guns are unsafe, but rather the imputis of burden is on the makers themselves to ensure the end safety of the user. Makers could test every gun, or simply choose random samples to test. And, in todays complex and advanced manufacturing facilities, there are a myriad of other tests that can be done to ensure the quality, durability, and safety of a firearm. Back in the gun store in Pennsylvania Dad and I took a look at the markings on the double gun that caught our eye. Typically on the flat sections of the action and barrel you will find several different marks. The serial number, if the gun has one, will be located here. Usually it is stamped on both action and barrels of a shotgun, and can also be stamped into the forend iron as well as the forend and stock wood(though always hidden where you have to remove them to see the numbers). On fine guns, many parts are also stamped with the serial number or at a minimum the last three digits of the serial number. On guns where hand fitting is required, not all parts can be transferred between guns; this helps in the factory to ensure the correct internal parts stay with the action in which they fit. The importance here is taking note if these numbers are matching throughout the gun. Mismatched numbers indicates that the gun has been composed of parts that were not originally manufactured together, which in turn can affect the value of the gun. After the serial number, we typically look for the proof house mark that indicates where the gun was proofed, and its country of origin. The gun in question possessed a LEG proof mark referring to the Liege Proof House in Belgium. Since there was no makers name on the gun, we were left to assume it was a ‘guild gun’. That is to say that it was a gun made by a variety of outworkers- the stock may have been made by one individual, checkered by another. The metal work done by yet another craftsman, and then the parts assembled. Guilds were frequently found in Belgium and Germany, though the idea of outworkers performing various tasks and sending parts back to the primary maker is commonplace in the gun trade. The next significant mark found was a lion over a “PV” indicating a nitro proof. This is where the proof house markings come in- this nitro proof gives us a good reason to believe the gun will be safe to shoot with smokeless powder. It is not uncommon to see multiple proof house marks, and this is where a knowledge (or good book) can help. Marks changed over time, and occasionally you will see a gun that was originally proofed for black powder, that carries a second set of marks indicating that it was re-proofed for nitro powder.  It is a requirement that guns be reproffed in Europe depending on what work is done to them. If a gun was orignally a 2.5” chamber, which is lengthened to 2 ¾”, the gun must be reproofed. The same goes for if a gun is sleeved- new barrels put on an old action. Flats on guns like this can seem a jumble of marks but they all tell part of the guns story. Our gun was also marked with a 12 and a 70 in a circle indicating its 12ga, 2 ¾” chambers. Thinking in metric terms, 65 or 65mm would indicate 2 ½” chambers, with 70 or 70mm being the elongated 2 ¾”. Though those may be what some consider the important marks, there can be many more marks in these areas worth checking out. On the barrel, you will often find the choke designations - this gun had them as numbers- 18.3 and 18.4- metric bore measurements. There are other marks like a star over a U, a script 3, double stamped numbers and more- these can be preliminary proof marks, final proof marks, controller marks, personal makers marks, or the individual at the proof house that tested the gun. There can also be a number in Kg or kilograms that indicates the weight of the barrels at the time of proofing.   Proof marks can be our best link to a guns history, much like a passport that helps reveal a bit about the gun and its past. They can tell where the gun came from, where it travelled in its lifetime, and so much more. They are certainly one of my favorite aspects of old shotguns and rifles. All in all the Belgian guild gun was well worth the $ paid and it is now living happily amongst the other guns on my rest farm for old shotguns. The lesson: a base knowledge of proof marks is a handy thing when assessing used guns and certainly helped solidify my decision to buy, rather than pass, this particular double.
12:28 10/08/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 28
One of the most common things folks do when inspecting a potential shotgun purchase is shoulder the gun. It seems an interesting thing that ‘gun mount’ is such a crucial part of the gun purchase, but so many folks simply shoulder a gun and assign a non-quantitative value to it: “oh this shoulders nice” or “feels right”. So many of those folks realize that a gun must ‘fit’ but very few actually know or understand their own dimensions and how they translate to a gunstock. The same holds true for backyard clays shooting when you try a new-to-you shotgun that seems to break everything you point it at. In those situations gun fit and by association stock dimensions are the heart of the matter. Im Joel Penkala and this is 10 Minutes on Gun Fit. The most basic of gunstock dimensions and one that is actually addressed by some gun companies is the Length of Pull or LOP(as it appears on many online gun listings). The length of pull is the distance from the center of the trigger, rearward to the center of the butt plate or pad. This is also expounded upon at times with three different LOP measures: LOP to the heel, center, and toe. The comb is the top of the stock, where your cheek rests which terminates at the heel, while the toe is the bottom portion of the end of the stock. It is typically tapered and comes to a point. LOP to the center determines the primary contact between shooter and buttstock, but the heel and toe measures give an idea of the stock’s pitch.  Pitch is the angle between a line defined by the rib (and/or comb) and the line defined by the butt(given that the butt is not curved). If you imagine laying the long leg of a square on the rib, the 90-degree angle defined by the square would be pitch. This angle can obviously be greater or less than 90 depending on the shooter’s preference or the gun’s intended use. Typically pitch is adjusted for guns that will shoot driven birds; all overhead shooting where the gun is pointed primarily up, vs rough shooting where shots are out in front of the shooter. Pitch can also be adjusted so that the toe of the shotgun does not dig into a shooter’s chest. Shooters with fuller chest dimensions will oft times complain about this digging of the toe.   LOP is important because it determines the geometry of the shooter’s arms. A short LOP will ‘chicken-wing’ your arms; the angle at your elbows being very acute. A long LOP will open up the angle of your arms and in extreme cases even straighten out the arms. The goal here is to adjust the LOP to create a proper geometry between the shooter and the shotgun or rifle in question. There is of course a sweet spot where the shooter’s arms are comfortable and provide the most stable and controlled connection between the gun and body. LOP is addressed by companies like Rizzini and others who typically include a basic thin wooden or black butt plate with their guns. The idea behind this is that they leave as much stock wood as possible by only adding a thin pad. Then the shooter can add a 1” or larger recoil pad to increase LOP or cut the stock down and add a pad to decrease LOP. Other instances like youth guns for example typically have shorter LOP to fit youth shooters. Two other primary stock dimensions are drop and cast. Drop addresses the relation of the comb to the rib up and down, where cast determines the relation of the comb and rib left to right. Drop on a stock comes in two (sometimes three) measures, and they are usually listed in order from the nose or most forward part of the comb to the heel. The measurement is actually the distance from the line defined by the rib (and parallel to the bores), to the spot on the comb being measured. One can get rough dimensions of drop by placing a shotgun upside down on its barrels(and thus the rib) and taking the measure from the comb to the tabletop. These measures are complicated by Monte Carlo stocks with elevated cheek pieces, which sometimes have drop measures for each end of the raised cheek or Monte Carlo piece, as this is where the shooter’s cheek contacts the stock and in effect is the important factor in drop. Proper drop will position the shooter’s eye in line with the rib. Too much drop and your eye will be below the barrels and when your face is properly against the stock, you will be looking at the breech of the gun. Too little drop and you will be looking down at the rib, seeing the entire length of it while shooting.  Too much drop requires the shooter to lift their cheek off the stock to appropriately sight down the rib. Though this can be done, it is no longer in vogue. The old style of head-held high shooting has gone by the wayside as folks have moved into more modern styles dictated by sporting clays and other shotgun sports, though this old shooting is immortalized by our favorite shooting artists in many of their classic pieces. Too little drop is very hard to adjust for because you can’t ever get your eye properly in line with the rib, so the gun will always shoot high.  Cast in a stock is dictated by the shooter’s dominant hand/shooting side, and by their physical appearance. Guns can be cast on or cast off. I always remember it (I am a right-handed shooter) that when I mount a gun, a stock with cast ON will be ‘on me’ or closer to me. A gun with cast off will be ‘off me’ or away from me. When one sights down the rib of a gun from the muzzle (a double-checked unloaded and safe gun) standard stocks will generally be neutral cast; the comb aligns with the rib. Guns that have cast will either have the comb of the stock to the left or right. This is in effect a slight bend in the stock that generally happens in the wrist. This bend could be just that, an actual bend where the stock was steamed and put into a fixture to impart the bend, or shaped into place when the stock was made by a stockmaker. This cast is typically given as a single measure taken from the comb, but again there can be measures for the cast at the heel and toe. A cast difference between heel and toe can dictate a twist in the stock. Again, for fuller figured folks, a gun with the toe cast further off than the heel will help eliminate uncomfortable toe digging into the chest. Typically a gun with cast off would allow better alignment with the right/dominant eye and the rib. When you lay your cheek on the comb, your eye typically is offset to the line of the comb. For a right-handed shooter the eye typically lands a bit to the left of the comb, and a bend ‘off’ or away will allow the eye to come back to the center of the rib. This bend keeps the shooter from having to roll their head over the stock to get proper eye alignment. Cast on is generally the proper dimension for a lefty. Though all of these are generally speaking. Righty shooters with fuller faces need more cast and those that are skinnier, need less and so on.  There are additional dimensions and features of gunstocks if one wants to dive into the minutia of detail. For most though, an understanding of these basics should help the next time you are considering a gun purchase. And of course, like patterning your shotgun, the effectiveness of shooting skeet chokes, or the cadre of other things I harp on, nothing can replace a gun fit done by a professional. Even if you don’t plan on having a stock made for you or having one bent to your specification, simply knowing your dimensions may help tip the scales the next time you are faced with the age-old question of whether to buy or not to buy that old shotgun.
10:52 10/01/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 27
Josh Loewensteiner is a lifelong firearms enthusiast who began studying, collecting, and shooting guns with his father and brother when he was just eight years old- he has been studying firearms for nearly 30 years. He particularly enjoys the classic American sporting guns. Josh is a Life Member of the Parker Gun Collectors Association, a Life Member of the NRA, a member of the Lefever Arms Collectors Association, the L.C. Smith Collectors Association, the Colt Collectors Association, the A.H. Fox Gun Collectors Association, The Smith and Wesson Collectors Association and the Winchester Arms Collectors Association. Josh spent years working at some of the premier auction houses in the nation where he was immersed in fine firearms before striking out on his own to become a firearms dealer and consultant. Joel and Josh talk about their history with fine guns, the nuance and theory of collecting guns, how firearms auctions work from an insider’s perspective and so much more in Episode 27 of The Gun Room.
94:01 09/24/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 26
It is, at times, easy to take for granted the complexity of manufacturing involved in creating a fine sporting rifle or shotgun. As hunters or shooters, finding a gun that fits, breaks clays or hits birds is foremost in our mind. As we dive into and explore the construction of modern guns, we quickly begin to see a great diversity of techniques developed over the last 200 years or so that illustrate just how much thought has been put into the construction of the shotguns or rifles we love. Im Joel Penkala and this is 10 Minutes on Double Gun Barrels With the exception of double rifles, which fall into the larger category of ‘double guns’ a vast majority of modern rifle barrels are fitted to their actions via barrel threads. The threaded barrel is similar to a screw that threads into the same pitch threads in the action. A gunsmith will painstakingly cut these threads until proper headspace, or fit between action, bolt, and barrel is achieved. Double guns are in general manufactured differently, although there are always exceptions. Break action doubles like your Beretta 686, Parker, or Holland and Holland double rifle all have barrels that have been joined together without threading a barrel. In terms of geometry, if we think about any gun with two barrels, it may be a first intuition to think that the bores are parallel; perfect to one another. This is in fact not the case. For both double rifles and shotguns, the barrels are laid such that the trajectory of the bores crosses downrange at some specified distance. This convergence allows a single targeting sight plane to function for both barrels. In terms of double rifles, this is exceptionally important, and ‘regulation’ of these guns is perhaps one of the most mythological and mystifying procedures I have heard folks speak about in the gun world. There are very few folks in the states that will even take on the task of regulating a double rifle, the process of ensuring a proper cross at a specific distance with particular ammunition(side by side or over/under). Needless to say, joining double gun barrels happens in two ways, but terminology first. The breech end of the barrels is commonly called the breech bloc or lump, though the ‘lump’ or ‘lumps’ may refer to individual surfaces that lock an action shut. What I will refer to as the lump or breech bloc contains the lockup surfaces, ejectors/extractor channels, the breech face, and all associated elements. The lump can be created from a single solid piece of steel without barrels connected. Barrels are added after machining the lump by sleeving and braising. Or the lump is formed during the joining process. That is to say that each barrel contains a block of metal on the breech end of the barrel half the size of the lump. Those blocks of steel mate together when two barrels are joined and thus the lump is formed. In this case, the lump is machined after the barrels are joined together. In some cases, the barrels are separate pieces and a third piece is joined to create the lump illustrating the diversity of manufacturing possibilities.  Mono-bloc barrels are formed by machining the chamber portion or lump from a single solid piece of steel and take advantage of modern precision engineering and manufacturing techniques. The biggest advantage is allowing the complex (and very co-dependent) angles to be machined into the action with a high degree of accuracy. The final fitting required on a mono-bloc gun is typically less than others. These guns can usually be produced with less final hand fitting making them less costly. There are two styles of joining barrels that utilize full-length single-piece barrel + lump construction. Demi-bloc and chopper lump barrels both involve joining two halves of the barrels, top and bottom for an O/U and each side for the side x side, to make the barrel set. Demi-bloc barrels utilize a male/female dovetail to mate the two barrel halves. Chopper lump barrels simply mate two flat surfaces in the action end of the barrels to form the lump. Shoe lump or through lump barrels are a third option where two full-length barrels are joined with a third machined piece that contains the ‘lump’ or ‘lumps’. Demi-bloc and chopper lump barrels are oft times confused with one another and a host of marketing folks has helped to confuse the topic more by calling one the other and so forth. When considering the pros and cons of each of the above, it is commonly accepted that Demi-bloc barrels are the strongest being made of only two full-length pieces and joined by a dovetail. Chopper lump barrels were developed heavily in British guns and produce the thinnest and lightest barrels while maintaining strength. They are also the most time-consuming and difficult to produce but considered the finest in construction. Through lump are common in American classic doubles that we all know and love, thought this and shoe lumps generally tend to be wider and heavier construction. Finally, so many modern guns take advantage of CNC machining technology and utilize the faster production process offered by mono-bloc barrel construction, particularly in over/unders. As with dog breeds, E-collars, and upland vests, each has its own benefits, each its own detractors. All of the above-described methods of manufacture have produced successful, strong, and well-built firearms though there are some clear winners in terms of strength and time/cost of manufacture. For those wishing to dive into the depths of shotgun technica, hopefully, this illustrates the complexity of a potentially seemingly simple topic like slapping two barrels together.
09:17 09/17/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 25
Ron and Joel talk about the summer's events and the upcoming season. We recap some fun times at the Southern Side by Side shotgun event and cover topics ranging from NAVHDA to drilling combination guns, and the status of game birds in New Jersey.  Ron Boehme has had a passion for bird hunting since 1973, when he bought his first license to chase pheasants in his home state of Illinois. Since that time, he has hunted in 22 states and 3 provinces, mostly with a bird dog by his side. A move to Michigan allowed him to build his kennel, Dancing Duke Kennels, and begin a lifetime membership with the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association where he is currently a Senior Judge. Ron is currently ranked 39th among the top 10 wingshooters in the country. Come join us for Episode 25 of The Gun Room!
82:56 09/10/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 24
It’s got awful nice wood for a Fox B I said to my dad. There is always a gun that he has, or one that I have, that the other wants. In this case we were hashing out the finer details of a swap that involved a Winchester 101 and a Savage Fox B(16ga, single trigger) with awful nice wood to boot. I wont get into the nitty-gritty of who came out on top in this particular trade, rather, I'd like to address my own almost involuntary comment regarding the character of the wood on the gun. This is 10 Minutes on gunstock wood. Wood has long been one of the best ‘strength to weight ratio’ materials at human disposal and so has been and is still used preferentially for building of all kinds. It makes perfect sense that wood was chosen to be the buffer between man and metal where guns were concerned. Above all things the gun stock needs to be functional and in the parlance of gun stock speak, functional means strong enough to endure the beating regular use implies. In the most basic terms, trees grow by adding layers upon layers, building out from within and up from the ground. This is why fences stapled to living trees don’t end up, well, UP. If a tree grew up, the fence would be carried with it and away from the ground. This is the best example I can think of to illustrate the nature of tree growth and one that helps with the perception of grain in wood. Each year, the tree adds a layer. These stacked layers become the grain in the wood. Layers are added sequentially on top of one another until our tree is selected to become a gun stock. If only it were that simple. Layers are added each year, but trees do not add layers equally. We have all seen a tree bend to grow toward a light source, twist, arc, fall and then curl back up again. Layers are added based on chemical changes in its response to (primarily) light or lack thereof. Additionally, trees do not all grow in the same locations; trees that grow on the sides of mountains have it ‘harder’ than trees that grow in a lowland along a river. From a tree-centric perspective, deep nutrient-rich soil is better than the rocky hillside of a mountain with its shallow soil and minimal nutrients. Location-specific issues on a smaller scale are not the same as regional variation. If you have ever planted a garden, you know that your seed catalog splits all crops regionally, based on climate segments. This is why when you bird hunt in northern Montana crops are wheat and beans, and as you go south there is more corn or canola. These crops, just like trees, ‘prefer’ a specific set of conditions, growing season, rainfall, etc. to experience optimal growth and production.  So how does this factor into a gun stock? All of the above is to illustrate that not all trees are created equally, and even within a species of tree, each tree has been grown in a specific region and location. Each of these elements(and more) dictate the grain of the wood and as a result the outward physical appearance. Gun stocks are typically made of walnut (with the most notable other option being maple). Walnut is a hardwood, broad leaf tree, that exhibits exceptional strength and typically dense grain. The latin family name, juglans, has 21 species (according to Wiki) with black walnut(J. nigra) and english walnut(J. regia) being the most commonly used for gun stocks. There are many names for the varieties of walnut used in stocks like French, English, Turkish, Circassian, Claro, Bastogne, California and Black. To cut through the haze in nomenclature would require more words than this article allows, but know that these names either refer to a specific species or a physical location where a specific species of juglans was grown. An example being that English Walnut is J. Regia. French Walnut is also J. Regia but grown in France.  With location and species sorted out, gunmakers need a way to describe gun stocks from the perspective of aesthetics. We can pick out pieces of Turkish Walnut that have appropriate grain patterns to produce strong functional gun stocks, but within our subset of Turkish walnut with good grain, there must be a way to differentiate the aesthetic qualities of a stock blank. Enter the myriad of stock grading systems that have been developed to attempt to put a quantitative measure on something that I would argue is rather qualitative/subjective.  The features in gunstocks regarded as aesthetically pleasing are similar to those in other schools of woodworking. Fiddleback, a phenomenon where closely grown layers of curly grain reflect light in waves, is revered in furniture and instruments as well as gun stocks. The collective term for these ‘imperfections’ in gunstock blanks is figure. Figure is described in many ways such as curly, ribbon, wavey, ropey, swirly, or wild. In gun stocks, the amount of mineral lines(dark lines caused by differences in soil mineral content), the waviness or curl of grain, and presence of burl all affect the appearance of the wood. Highly figured stocks receive higher grade values. Grading systems use letters, numbers, or nomenclature to attempt to describe the percentage of a stock that contains figure. Standard, semi-fancy, fancy, extra fancy, and exhibition is one such set of delineations. Typically there is a standard grade, and 4 types of grade above that represent 25, 50, 75 and 100% figure respectively. Grades that use numbers(or roman numerals) would run as Grade 1 or I for standard, increasing in number up to Grade 5 or V (and up). Letters might start with A and run up to AAA or X to XXX, (and up). Additional terms like Royal, Crown, Presentation or Best are all thrown in for additional spice. The take-home is no single system is in place that unifies all stock quality grades. Stocks are placed on subjective scales that vary from company to company. It is worth noting that stock grades may or may not account for the actual STRENGTH of the stock - IE the wood grain that runs through the grip area. This is arguably the most critical portion of the stock as it will experience the most stress and is also typically the thinnest area of the stock. Grain that runs along the grip, curving to match the natural shape of a pistol or round knob, or that flows straight through the length of an english stock is imperative. This is why looking beyond the ‘pretty’ aspects of figure is so important.  So what does this all mean? Without trying to be cliche, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some folks might love burl wood and ‘birds eyes’ in their stocks while others prefer the buttery look of French Walnut, still others want the classic American Walnut feathering found in so many Winchesters. My suggestion is to always take a look at the grain of the stock in addition to its outward beauty. When selecting a blank, ensure that you look at both flat sides of the blank as well as the top and bottom. Getting a look at the grain on all sides is the best way to ensure you have a strong stock blank to start which will yield the best-finished gun stock. Some of the most figured and unique blanks I have seen have only been fit to stock a boxlock shotgun simply because the boxlock stock design is inherently more sturdy than a sidelock and those pretty blanks would simply have cracked or broken otherwise.   For my own experience, I should have slowed down and looked at the grain on the Fox B stock, but like so many others, I find it easy to be seduced by the beauty found in the wood. Lucky for me, the stock looks pretty AND has good grain through the grip. My biggest suggestion; don’t rely on luck like I did and check the grain the next time you consider a shotgun or stock blank.
11:06 09/03/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 23
CPA Rifles of Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania specializes in creating some of the finest single-shot rifles in the world. Founded by Paul Shuttleworth in 1986, CPA rifles offers reproductions of the Stevens 44 ½ action single shot falling block rifles, as well as customizations of other similar guns. Paul established the business but Gail, the third of 4 children, joined the family-owned operation in 1997 and has taken a hands-on approach in everything she does at CPA. Gail is an accomplished and lifelong shooter and is as proficient in the shop as she is on the range.  Gail and I sit down in the shop at CPA to discuss single-shot rifles, the history of Schutzen, and black powder silhouette. We take a look at what a small gun production facility looks like and how a CPA can thrive on a “quality over quantity” business model. Join us for this exciting and in-depth look at a family-owned firearms business and so much more on Episode 23 of The Gun Room.
69:15 08/27/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 22
I have always been fascinated by the depth of knowledge required to be a proficient gunsmith. Skilled individuals possess a working knowledge of mechanics, engineering, chemistry, and economics(if they are still employed), and can pull from any of those topics at will. Today’s topic in question, heat treating metal, requires one to don the hat of chemist and engineer with the study of metallurgy. I’m Joel Penkala and this is 10 minutes on heat treating and case hardening. Gunsmiths have to shape parts from metal, and not all metals are created equal, nor will one type serve appropriately in every situation. There are parts in guns that need to be very strong like firing pins while others like springs need to flex. Still, others require exceptional wear properties like hinge pins, where there is metal-to-metal contact. These properties are generally referred to as hardness, strength, and stiffness. Hardness deals with surface durability. Strength with the amount of stress that can be applied before a part fails, and stiffness the ability of a part to return to its original form. The properties of a specific gun part will dictate which of these characteristics are required.  Over the last several hundred years man has been improving the field of metalworking, in no small part with the help of modern technology, machinery and production methods. More consistent and complex alloys can be created now than ever before. And modern machining allows parts to be made in metals that already possess the necessary properties that a final part may require. In the past, this was not so. Gunsmiths had to make do with techniques and materials at their disposal to create firearm parts, and so needed to be good at changing the properties of the metals they utilized. It may be overly simplistic to say that it is easier to shape soft metal. What I mean is, it is easier to shape metal when it is soft, instead of hard. But hard surfaces may be required for durability. Metals can have properties that make them so hard that even a high-quality file will seem to slide across without removing any material, which would make them very difficult to shape indeed.  Enter the process of heat treating metal. In its most basic terms, a process of heating and cooling metal to alter its properties. Temperature, time, and the presence of other materials like carbon, will dictate the final properties of the metal; the very things like hardness, toughness, spring-like character, or brittle nature required by varying gun parts. One type of heat treating is ‘tempering’ and is crucial to the production of springs and other gun parts. Untempered steel can be very brittle, and the process of heating the metal up to a specific temperature can change that brittle steel into something more spring-like. The duration of time the metal is heated, the temperature to which it is heated, and the speed with which the part is cooled determine its final properties. If you hear a gunsmith talking about heating up a piece of metal to a straw color, or flame blue, that is tempering. This process can also impart color to polished metal. This is most often used for small parts- like Screw heads which can be flame-blued to produce a fine electric blue to purple color that is very appealing on certain guns.  Another heat treatment process that we hear a great deal about in the gun world is that of ‘case hardening’. The case hardening process was used as a finishing technique on many firearms over the years, and produces what is generally referred to as case colors. If you look at gun’s for sale ads, I am sure you have come across one that refers to the percentage of case color left on an action.  Carburizing is the process of heating up a metal part in the presence of extra carbon. In the gun world, this is referred to as case hardening or color case hardening. For firearms parts, extra carbon typically comes from a combination of charcoal and bone, and you will often hear of bone charcoal case hardening. Without diving too deep, the metal is heated up enough that it begins to absorb carbon from the surrounding carbon-rich charcoal. The additional carbon enters the crystalline structure of the surface of the metal, and when cooled, or quenched, the new structure possesses more carbon making it harder. This change only occurs on the surface, while the bulk of the interior characteristics of the metal do not change. Essentially we can have a piece of metal where the properties are not the same throughout, ie a tough surface finish over a softer yet less brittle interior. It also happens that a side effect of this process is the production of those oh-so coveted case colors we are so fond of. Bone charcoal case hardening takes a good deal of time, with parts needing to be carefully packed into a bath of charcoal and heated carefully up to the neighborhood of 1300 to 1400 degrees F. The resulting shell of hardened metal can be as much as 0.060 of an inch deep. The main drawback is that parts are heated to such a high temperature for so long, they are prone to distortion, warping, or cracking. Most actions, for example, are fixtured to metal blocks during the process so fragile top and bottom tangs remain true to their original shape.  I mentioned above that improved metal alloys would play a role in this discussion, as would modern machining techniques. The steady march of progress has given us other options to produce the hardened metals we need for guns, without packing them in burned bones. Modern gun manufacturing can take advantage of high-quality alloy steel. Production with modern equipment allows for the machining of gun parts that are made from steel that already possess the necessary qualities of hardness sufficient to meet the needs of firearms, and thus the only goal that remains is to produce the ‘colors’ part of the process. Chemical case coloring achieves this goal. Metals are heated up in a bath of chemicals and then quenched in an aerated tank of water or oil. This process gives the metal the case colors that so many folks love. Contrary to what some may think, this chemical process does harden the outside of the metal and typically produces a harder surface than the bone/charcoal method, though not as deeply penetrating. Both types of case hardening will alter the metal, and produce colors, though the tones, specific colors(yellows, purples, blues, and reds), patterns, and shades from the processes do look different. Any colors on a gun in either process are very susceptible to wear. The ‘colors’ are only an oxidized layer on the very surface of the piece and can accidentally be removed with chemicals (just like bluing on a barrel), or too much scrubbing with steel wool. This is why so many modern manufacturers are applying some type of clear coat over top of their case colors to make them last. Lacquers and similar clear surface coatings can be applied after the heat-treating process to provide another physical barrier to protect colors. Taking it to the next level, the application of baked-on coatings like Cerakote provide yet another more durable finish to help case colors last. Cerakote is a ceramic polymer coating that is applied via spray gun a few thousandths of an inch thick and baked to adhere. Generally, it creates a durable, abrasion, chemical and corrosion-resistant surface. It is available in any number of colors and used throughout the gun industry, though the application of clear Cerakoe over case colors provides a durable alternative to the colors alone, ensuring they last longer.  I personally have used a torch and some cold blue to produce colors on my first ever gun restoration project, a single shot 20ga. and applied a clear spray on the finished action to try to get them to last. You can learn to do just about anything these days from a youtube video or an online forum, although I do believe that Brownells Gunsmithing Kinks book had a section about the same process. Anyway, these types of chemical colors are just that; simply chemicals applied in the presence of some heat to give the metal something that has the appearance of case color. It’s not bone charcoal-colored, or chemical case hardening, and is not even hardening at all. Much like Steven Rinella’s comments about hunting big deer inside fences, the only reason that these ‘fake colors’ have any value at all, is that the real McCoy classic bone charcoal colors are so rare and beautiful, and also so ephemeral. Case color disappears with use, is hard to replicate, and is a good indicator if a gun is original or restored. I suppose that we are all looking for our own big buck of sorts and sometimes we all succumb to shortcuts from time to time. But then again, for my single-shot squirrel gun, it seemed a fitting choice to make the metal look new and pretty again. I’ll leave you with that, Im Joel Penkala and this is The Gun Room.
12:01 08/20/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 21
The show producer has not yet provided a description for this episode.
86:29 08/13/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 20
The 2021 Barret Jackson Auto Auction in Las Vegas was one to remember. With a record-breaking $48 million in sales, it would seem that there is quite a market for unique automobiles. It has always intrigued me that in the auto world it seems that the items of the highest auction block value can be relatively new production cars or just as easily classics from 70 years ago. In this most recent auction, three wildly different autos broke the 1 million dollar ceiling. They were a 2015 Mclaren P1, a 1957 Mercedes 300SL Roadster, and a 2019 Ford GT. All amazing vehicles, feats of modern engineering and technology, lovingly cared for, and I’d imagine prized possessions of their owners. I am Joel Penkala and this is 10 Minutes on the Philosophy of Gun Restoration. You might be saying, what’s this got to do with guns, but bear with me. From what I can gather, the McLaren and the Ford GT are likely original condition vehicles. The GT had 21 miles on the odometer so that’s a safe bet. The 2015 McLaren probably had more miles, but chances are it was still near original. Now we come to the 1957 Mercedes 300SL. The Mercedes, though a stunning original example, is clearly no longer in original condition. I pulled a bit from the write up on the auction website  “After a careful mechanical overview, new sway bar bushings and new motor mounts were installed, and the brakes were serviced, cleaned and adjusted. During the brake inspection, it was noted that there were no leaks and correct materials were used during restoration. Finished in the iconic 300SL color combination of DB 180 Silver Gray Metallic with a red leather interior. The silver paint was mixed with the correct metallic flake and was uniformly applied. The finish remains glossy and smooth with only light signs of use since the restoration.” I would argue that based on this single example (forgive the small sample size) that restored vehicles can and do command attention and dollars on the auction block. It seems though, in the world of classic firearms, a “restored” version commands a different value than one in “original condition” even if “proper finish and the correct materials”  are used during restoration. I’ll admit that I am looking at this question of gun restoration from the ruby lens of my own experience. I got into gunsmithing and have spent countless hours performing restoration services on my own guns. Dad and I were always looking for a ”gunsmith special”; a shotgun or rifle that was abused and misused, but still had the potential to be brought back. This desire was motivated by our own financial limitations, or I should say my financial limitations restricted what I could buy. Any gun in high condition was hard to justify. Not to mention they did not afford the opportunity to do what it was that we set out to do- work on guns. Tear them down, learn how they work. Fix parts, replace parts, make parts. We endeavored to find a project that represented a challenge and pitted our own abilities (pun intended) against these relics relegated to the parts pile. It would be hard to condemn us for what we did. The majority of our projects were inoperable, sold to us as ‘parts guns’. More than once I had to sign a paper that stated that I would not use a gun I was buying until I had it looked at by a competent gunsmith. But, in my reading, I would come to find that there was a contingent of folks in the gun world that seemed to question the philosophy of restoration. If they didn’t, why was it so important that a Parker I looked at on gunsinternational was a “DelGrego restoration”. And why is that restoration deemed less valuable than an original gun?  Perhaps I am a victum of my own desire, creating my own reality so to speak. I know that even in those early days I could recognize a ‘hack job’ garage special. A replaced forearm that is clearly not to original spec. Maybe made of maple instead of walnut. Or an action that has been blued where the original was case color- or worse, spraypainted black. I’d like to think that the work we did was at the very least, in the image of the guns original condition. Sure I didn’t have the ability to case harden the action on my single shot 20ga project. It was early in the Dad and Lad gunsmithign days, and heat treating was beyond our abilities at the time. Even still, we determined how to chemical color the action using some heat and products at our disposal. Is it truly original? No of course not, but the results provided created a gun that is far more pleasing to the eye. I have had the opportunity to hold a number of restorations, from a variety of talented folks. I do believe that if a restoration is completed in a way that remains true to how the guns were delivered from the factory, there is merit to this work. There is so much nuance to this process though, starting from knowing exactly what a gun looked like, from the factory. What shades and colors were produced by factory case hardening? Were the patterns striped or blotchy? Were the barrels a deep dark blue or were they more black? Shiny or a bit dull? What checkering patterns were used and what lines per inch were they? I am as guilty of this lack of knowledge as any other hack job garage smith. I don’t necessarily know what the gun looked like when I start my work. Perhaps this is because I understand that my work will never be a true restoration in that sense. I am in the business of bringing a gun back from the grave. Perhaps, with a lifetime of practice, I could hone my skills to the level of factory original. At this point in time, I don’t have the desire or inclination to replicate the work of the original craftsmen. My restorations are my own and will carry my mistakes and lack of abilities along with them. A field grade LC Smith, 12 gauge, with no case color, little blue, and checkering so worn that the lines are nearly gone carries little value. When the gun came to me it was inoperable. I am in the process of recutting the checkering, and to be honest, rather than sanding off what is clearly non-original lines, I am simply chasing what is there. This would be a travesty for some folks, and so it may be. It is my belief that this gun might have had a worse fate if it had not landed in my hands. A restored field grade LC does not carry the value to justify the cost (aka time) to do a proper restoration. Unless of course, the gun carries other value- sentimental value most likely- that might justify the expense. In my time working in a gunsmithing shop, there were several guns that came to us needing copious amounts of work, that would far exceed the value of the gun- restored or not. It was my job to explain to those folks that they were on the losing end of a deal, and to do so gently so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities. Typically the discussion would go about as I have laid out so far though the x-factor was always the history with the gun. Was it your fathers, or grandfather’s? Had it been handed down over many generations? I saw guns that had been damaged at the hands of their current custodians. The guilt of damaging a family heirloom is a strong motivator to open one’s wallet and spend the money required to make repairs.  History and provenance always factor into perceived value. The Mclaren sold at the Barret Auction was owned by Deadmau5, a very successful DJ. I am sure that the celebrity history of the vehicle added to its value. The same way that a particular F Grade AH Fox Shotgun could sell for a whopping $862,500. Now, at the time of this podcast, William Larken Moore has a very fine 12 gauge AH Fox FE for sale- a Philly gun made in 1907. It’s likely that you guessed what I am driving at- the difference between these two guns mechanically may be small, but the difference between these guns owners is very large indeed and reflected in their price. I suspect that the William Larken Gun was never owned by Teddy Roosevelt. For fun, I looked at the most expensive Fox on Gunsinternational. A $64,000 12 gauge Fox made for William Gough, serial number 6500. William Gough was an engraver himself and an engraver’s son. He worked on Fox, Parker, Winchester, Remington, Marlin, Colt, Meriden, and Aubrey and is a celebrity of note in the gun world. The most interesting thing about this gun though - it is a copy. It has been upgraded and made to look like the original gun. This is noted in the Gunsinternational listing but brings up the not so pretty topic of fakes, imitations, humped-up guns. The underbelly of the gun world- and the art world, fashion world, car world, and so on. I do believe this is part of the issue folks have with restorations. For all but the well trained, a gun can be made to look original, or more than original, a Field Grade gun can be upgraded to a lettered grade. Or as is the case here, upgraded to mirror a gun with history- with provenance.  And herein lies the bigger issue with restored guns. Its a catch 22 of sorts. A good restoration is one that brings the gun back to its original condition- as it was the day it left the factory. And the best restoration may pass as an original. The problem is when people take advantage of the fact that restorations can be done so well, it is nearly, if not completely impossible to tell the difference.  It is worth noting that in Europe, particularly in England, it was commonplace to send your gun back to the maker for upkeep. They did not call this a restoration- primarily because the gun was returning to the maker- the original manufacturer - for reapplication of the original finish. Barrels were rebrowned or reblacked. Stocks were attended to- dings and dents steamed and removed, checkering pointed and oil finishes reapplied. Although I am sure there are original examples of guns from across the pond, it is clear that most guns were cleaned up over the years and the view of what it meant to have a gun in original condition is rather different than here in the states. Most guns here never made it back to the factory for refurbishing- either because the service was not offered or because the maker was no out of business. The complexities of the collector gun world abound. Original, restored, or upgraded, with provenance and celebrity status or not, guns like cars will always have a value that is not simply based on their mechanics. Upgrading a gun may be a gateway to have a facsimile of an original, at a fraction of the price, although like many human endeavors it is when nefarious intent clouds one’s vision that this practice goes off the rails. It is one thing to upgrade a gun and represent it as such. It is completely different to upgrade a gun and/or knowingly misrepresent it as original. The world of firearms restoration is multifaceted, the idea of upgrading guns even more so. I believe that there is certainly a place for firearm restoration. The idea of bringing something back to life appeals to those of us who enjoy shotguns and rifles both in the field AND when they are apart on our bench. Not to mention the joy I find when I hunt with a gun that I have restored to function. There is something special in those moments afield, which for me, have been inextricably woven into the fabric of my life.
13:58 08/06/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 19
Coming to you from Dauphin, Pennsylvania, I have the opportunity to sit and talk with Sean and Liz Delaney of Delaney and Sons. Delaney and Sons is a family-operated travel business with a focus on hunting destinations. Their offerings focus on driven shooting in the classic locations where the sport was developed. In addition to a few Stateside shoots, trips to Wales, England, Scotland and Spain round out Delaney’s offerings. Our conversation stretches from the history of driven shooting, through to the modern-day, covering topics from what a driven shoot is, to the clothing, guns, dogs, and people involved. We discuss the famous Scottish McNab, as well as the differences between grouse and pheasant, and how to decide what shoot is appropriate for you. This and so much more on Episode 19 of The Gun Room.
71:15 07/30/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 18
Episode 18: Browning Auto-5 Part of why I love old firearms so much is the history and romance that goes along with each particular gun. Many old firearms evoke feelings of nostalgia, memories of loved ones, and good times long gone. Is it the smell of a particular gun oil, or the lines of a gun that will spark these fond memories? I know people who grew up knowing only that grandad had a side by side- all they could remember was the shape of the gun. Then and now there are many side by side shotguns, which does not help identify WHAT side by side he had. For the topic of today’s discussion, shape was everything. I am Joel Penkala, and this is 10 minutes on the Browning Auto-5. At one point in time, if you saw a gun shaped like a 1911, it was a Colt- an iconic gun in its own right and easily identifiable from other pistols of the day. Now, the Colt has been copied and remanufactured by so many makers that the shape no longer dictates the maker. For the Browning Auto-5, this is not the case. If you see an old shotgun with a squared-off receiver in the back, chances are its an A5. And even if its not a Browning A5, its a clone made when John Browning licensed his original design to Remington or Savage. And, far fewer of those versions of this classic autoloading shotgun were ever made. The A5 was one of John Browning's pet designs, which he regarded as one of his best. The Auto 5 was a 5 shot, semi-automatic shotgun, meaning that the cycling of each new round into the chamber was the result of capturing the energy from the previous shot. The idea might seem mundane to us these days as there are so many modern auto loaders on the market, but back when Browning invented the A5, it was the first shotgun of its kind, and one of the first semi-automatic guns commercially viable as well(rifle shotgun or pistol). It was in 1898 that John Browning set out to develop a semi-auto shotgun (the same year the Mauser 98 was developed which is food for thought that they were still perfecting bolt action rifles when Browning was coming up with an autoloading shotgun). Browning was said to have devised several versions of the auto to test, but he and companions settled on the long recoil version of the design as the most feasible.  Unlike many of todays autos, the A5’s barrel moves along with the bolt during the normal cycle of operation. 4 shots are placed in the magazine tube, below the barrel, and one is put into the chamber. The gun is fired and the resulting force pushes both the barrel and bolt rearward together as a unit. Once at the end of their rearward travel, the bolt is held back by a mechanism attached to the rear of the lifter, while the barrel is driven forward by the large spring around the magazine tube. As the barrel moves forward and clears the spent case, it actuates both the ejection of the case, and initiates the lifter to raise the next round into position. The mechanism on the rear of the lifter releases the bolt, allowing it to move forward and bring the new round into the chamber in the barrel. There is a great video online- check it out- as I suspect my description here is likely a bit hard to follow unless you have recently taken apart an A5. The distinctive lines of the A5 are a result of needing to enclose all of the above inside the action. The Auto-5 has an aesthetic all its own. The top of the receiver is flush with the barrel and terminates at nearly a 90-degree angle at the back of the action. This angle drops down to where the stock lines meet the back of the action giving the rear of the gun a squared, yet still rounded look that can be seen from across a duck marsh or corn field earning it the name the Humpback Browning. One of the most innovative features of the A5 was the friction ring system that John Browning designed so that the gun could accommodate a variety of loads. Any semi-auto mechanism driven by the pressures of recoil must take into account that each shotgun load has a different amount of recoil or rearward force. Heavy loads = more force. Light loads are less force. Design a gun for light loads, and the heavy loads will overpower the mechanism and damage the gun. Design for heavy loads and light loads will not have enough force to cycle the gun properly. Browning saw to this with a system of friction rings that are integral to the proper function of the gun. The rings could be stacked in different configurations over the magazine tube, and in front of the mainspring, such that they would increase or decrease the amount of friction applied during cycling, applying more when needed for heavy rounds. This elegant solution made the A5 a very versatile and reliable gun. Much like his other designs, John Browning had little interest in manufacturing his own firearms and so approached both Winchester and Remington to produce his latest gun. Winchester would not agree to pay Browning royalties on the gun, and complications at Remington prevented a deal. Having been down this road before, Browning approached Fabrique National (FN) in Belgium, who promptly agreed to produce the shotgun. The first A5s rolled off the line in 1902, with production continuing until 1975. In a seemingly very familiar fashion (think Weatherby Mark 5) the production was moved from FN to Japan, where A5s were produced at the Miroku factory until 1998.  I mentioned before that Remington would produce the Remington 11, and Savage would have a crack at the gun in its Model 720, and though similar, these guns were slight modifications to the original Browning design. It is of note that Remington would produce A5’s during the years of World War 2 along side its Model 11’s, though once the war was over, production did shift back to FN in Belgium. The A5 I am holding is a bit of a unique one, although with 2.7 million made, it’s hard to believe that mine is special beyond my own curiosity. It is a 16 gauge gun with a solid rib. It is an early manufactured gun, made in the late ’20s, and is marked both Browning Arms Company Ogden Utah on the barrel and Fabrique National on the receiver. It is unrestored and I love the patina it carries. It shows proof marks on the bolt and action, which is something that I have always loved- maybe because it helps tell the story of a gun. The bolt and both largest screws on either side of the action are marked with the last three digits of the serial number; another cool feature of older guns when parts were made to fit THAT particular gun.  My A5 also has the earlier style safety - it is located at the front of the trigger guard and slides forward and backward- rather than the side to side of later versions of the same gun. Although a curiosity at first, the more I worked the sliding safety, the more natural it felt. Not to mention that it positioned your trigger finger nicely for the trigger pull that would follow. Much like guns of the same vintage the Browning and its clones the Remington 11 and Savage 720 would see service on the battlefield and with law enforcement. US-marked guns were used as guard weapons and for trench warfare, and trainers were used to introduce the concept of lead for gunners trying to shoot down enemy planes. Clyde Barrow used a cut-down version of an A5 during the infamous crime spree of Bonnie and Clyde. The venerable Auto 5 saw far more use in the fields and woods and became a staple at deer and duck camps. Because the production of the A5 spanned so many years, versions were available from the factory in all three most popular chamber lengths- early guns were 2 ½” followed by the standard 2 ¾” and eventually 3” magnum. The popularity of the A5 led to the development of Light and Super Lightweight models, though very few of the Super Lightweight were made.  A5 barrels came in several styles, including plane no rib, solid rib, and vent rib versions, and with a variety of fixed chokes. A5s would eventually adopt adjustable chokes, though not until later production years. Slug barrels were also available adding to the versatility of the gun.  Browning has recently reintroduced the A5, and though the gun looks somewhat like the original, the internals are very different than that of the original long recoil version. I haven’t handled the new version myself, so until I do, I will hold off any comment on them.  It is undeniable that the Browning Auto 5 has found a place in the heart and hands of sportsmen and women across our country. And if you are still unconvinced about the popularity and status of the A5- go ask singer/songwriter Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadors how he feels about his grandfather’s Browning, or maybe just go listen to “The Housefire” by the Troubadors.
12:14 07/23/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 17
Zach Hein, Director of Marketing, and Jared Smethurst, Associate Product Development Manager, join me from the Sheridan, Wyoming facility to talk about the story of Weatherby. Roy Weatherby, a Kansas native, left everything and moved to California searching for opportunity and a new life for his family. He found success and eventually opened his own sporting goods business that quickly morphed into a gun manufacturing facility.  Roy’s experiments with wildcat cartridge development lead him to create some of the hottest and fastest moving cartridges around, which in turn forced his hand in developing what would become one of America’s iconic rifles, the Weatherby Mark V. Over the years Weatherby expanded operations and production to include the Vanguard Rifle as well as several shotguns to round our their offerings. Today, Weatherby is still building Mark V rifles in much the same configuration as Roy’s original design, a testament to their original design.  Now located in Wyoming, Weatherby is expanding operations and looking forward to a bright future. Ammunition manufacturing capabilities have grown along side the developments in rifles and shotguns. New metal coatings, synthetic stocks, and new materials like titanium have all made their way into production guns at Weatherby. Their desire to continue to expand and develop new technologies stays true to Roy Weatherby’s original vision. This and so much more on Episode 17 of The Gun Room.
74:32 07/17/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 16
Episode 16: Weatherby Mark V Rifle Necessity is the mother of invention. For Roy Weatherby, wounding an animal on a hunt, sparked a flame of innovation that would revolutionize the world of fast-moving rifle rounds. His story is one of wild cat cartridge development, that pushed the envelope of what was thought possible at the time. His rifles had a ‘California in the 50’s’ flare with high gloss finish and distinct stock lines. His quest to build the strongest rifle action ever produced would give rise to one of America's iconic rifles. This is 10 Minutes on Roy Weatherby and the Weatherby Mark V. The Weatherby story is actually a fitting follow-up to our focus on Sporterized rifles last week, but we will get to that. The story begins with the opening of a sporting goods store in South Gate, California. Roy’s resignation from his ‘regular job’ was a result of his love for shooting and desire to own and operate a high-end sporting goods store. He took the plunge in September of 1945, opening Weatherby Sporting Goods. The original store housed sporting goods, but had a section devoted to his love of firearms manufacturing. In the early days, Weatherby’s became known in Los Angeles for having a gunsmith on staff. This early claim to fame and Roy’s involvement in the industry helped the Weatherby name grow. You see, Roy had been experimenting with firearms and dove headfirst into the fray in the early days, writing articles about his feelings on high velocity cartridges. During a hunting trip Roy had wounded a deer and the experience forever changed the course of his life. He began developing cartridges that would move bullets faster, believing that faster moving bullets would increase the shock and killing power of the round.  Roy spent considerable resources building the firearms side of his business, including advertising on a National Scale, and slowly begin to grow. Early on barrel and stock manufacturing were part of the Weatherby business, upgrading rifles to shoot the wildcat rounds he was developing. The early years were not easy, but Roy’s tenacity and business acumen kept the company moving forward. Not to mention that their proximity to Hollywood would lend itself to Roy making friends with a who’s who list of celebrities, dignitaries, generals, and politicians. During the early years period, Weatherby was making custom rifles, (Sporterizing if you will) and like other gunmakers in the US, he was utilizing the actions that were available to him. During the first 10 years or so of Weatherby rifle production, guns were built on Winchester Model 70, Remington 700 and Springfield actions. Weatherby was buying barrels from Ackley and Buhmiller and assembling his guns in his store. When supplies of those actions dwindled, Weatherby turned to Fabrique National(FN) of Belgium to produce suitable rifle actions, which were imported to be finished by Weatherby employees.  Costs were tremendous because the process could not be streamlined, and Weatherby was a businessman. He began early on to look for a production facility that could produce a complete rifle at a reduced cost. During a 1954 trip to Europe, Roy searched at length for a manufacturer that could make his vision possible. He visited Husqvarna in Sweden, BSA in Birmingham, Shultz and Larsen in Denmark, and Sako in Finland. It was during this trip that he commissioned Sako to build a number of his FN-Weatherby rifles. In addition, Shultz and Larsen was commissioned to build a number of .378 Weatherby rifles, for which Roy had already taken orders.His next trip in 56 was met with disappointment, delays, and added costs that only served to push his pet project at home. Roy had been working on his own rifle action during this time. He was convinced that he needed an action that would be the absolute strongest possible. Roy and other wildcatters were hand loading and creating their own rounds, playing with pressures above what the standard rifles calibers of the day produced. Roy believed he needed a rifle that would far exceed the 70,000 CUP (copper units of pressure) that was accepted for other actions. It was during these years that he produced several iterations of his own rifle action. Roy reached out to a number of key people during this time, finally obtaining the help of an engineer, Fred Jennie, and subsequently produced the fifth and final iteration of his rifle. With a bit of naming help from his friend Elgin Gates, the gun was named the Mark V.  Early tests of the Mark V action proved out Roy’s theories. Though America doesn't have any standard proofing process, Weatherby conducted pressure tests in excess of 100,000 psi. Additionally, Weatherby lodged bullets in the bore of the rifle, and shot rounds down the barrels behind these stuck rounds. This is essentially the most dangerous scenario of backing up a round with another round. The Weatherby rifles passed all tests with flying colors. The first Mark V actions were produced in California, at Precision Founders Inc. through a process of lost wax casting or investment casting. An order of 10,000 actions was placed in 1957. though production costs would quickly require Roy to again search for a new manufacturer abroad. The casting process, though of high quality and strength, could not produce an action free of small voids that showed clearly in the high gloss, high luster finishes that Weatherby had come to be known for. The rejection rate of 50% or more was not sustainable.  It was later in that year that Roy again traveled abroad, this time to J. P. Sauer in Germany, bringing with him his new Mark V rifle. This meeting and a subsequent two months of negotiations would solidify an agreement between the two firms. Though it took almost two years, by 1959 JP Sauer would have manufacturing up and running, regularly shipping Weatherby Rifles. This was the partnership that Roy had been searching for all along, and with manufacturing solidified, he could focus on the business at home. Production of the Mark V remained in Germany for 13 years until rising costs necessitated another move, this time to Howa in Japan. Rifles were made there until 1994, when production was brought back to the states. Despite shifts in manufacturing, the Weatherby MK V action remained essentially the same throughout production, a testament to its design.  The MK V rifle is distinct. Its lines are rather different than many other sporting rifles, starting with the forward sloping monte carlo on the stock, and large accentuated cheek piece. The forends are capped, depending on the model, with darker color wood, set off by a white line spacer. As are the grip cap and recoil pad. This gives the gun a distinct two-tone feel reminiscent of those old two-tone cars of the 50s and 60s. The stock finish matches the action- both are high gloss. When you pick one up, and operate the bolt, the next most obvious thing you notice is the bolt throw. Unlike most other rifles with a two lug locking system, the MK V has an interrupted thread locking mechanism. There are three ‘primary lugs’ as I would call them, which reduces the rotary motion required to free the lugs from their respective locking threads. With two lugs- a minimum of 90 degrees is required to turn free - like on a Winchester Model 12 shotgun or other interrupted thread take down guns. On the MK V bolt- with three primary lugs- one only has to travel 60 degrees to clear. In actuality, the MK V only requires 54 degrees, because of the way the three primary lugs are cut into three pieces each, resulting in 9 different locking contact surfaces.  As the bolt is rotated closed it cams forward locking the bolt face into battery. Once locked the round is captured by the bolt face, surrounded by the breech end of the barrel, which is in turn encased by the action. This three-ring configuration was touted by Weatherby and resulted in an incredibly strong rifle action. Aside from quick cycling times, the short bolt throw lends itself to additional scope clearance. Because the bolt does not need to rotate so far, scopes can be mounted low and close to the bore of a Mark V - an added benefit to shooters. The Mark V is a push feed rifle, much like the Remington 700. The bolt face is recessed and captures the entire case head, and contains the ejector and extractor. The fluted bolt body and locking lugs are the same diameter, lending themselves to smoother feeding- with the flutes allowing for less contact - ie less friction during a bolt cycle. In addition, there are three noticeable gas exit ports located on the bolt body, which in the case of a malfunction would allow gasses to escape from the side of the bolt and away from the shooter's face. The safety is a simple rocker mechanism located at the rear of the bolt, on a rounded and tapered shroud that mirrors the lines of the stock.    Of note, JP Sauer was producing hammer forged barrels, a relatively new process at the time, and Weatherby MK V rifles were the first on the American market to utilize these very accurate barrels in production.    As I mentioned the 9 lug Mark V has changed very little ove the years. There are several iterations of the rifle, the German/Sauer, Japan/Howa and finally, the USA made. As for Models, the guns were offered in a few flavors, depending on the intended use. Most had no sights, except for a few of the dangerous game calibers. All models have the characteristic monte carlo stock- wood or synthetic. A 6 lug version of the Mark V was introduced in the 60s and is now offered in non-magnum calibers- the Magnum Calibers remain in the original 9 lug design.  Today there are 18 different Mark V options on the Weatherby site, and custom shop options to boot, meaning that you can have a hand in the design of your rifle if you choose.   Roy Weatherby was a hands-on guy, spending his life devoted to his business, and to the development of his fast and flat rifle cartridges. Through tough times and prosperity, The Weatherby name has endured and Roy’s Mark V remains a benchmark against which other rifles can be compared.  If you want to know more about the Weatherby Story - pick up a copy of Weatherby The Man The Gun The Legend. The Weatherby story is a good one, and worth a read.
13:32 07/09/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 15
Join me this week as we sit down with Grace Callahan, professional woman’s sporting clays shooter and coach. Grace has been shooting clays from the early age of 10 and with the support of her family and some friendly folks along the way has risen to become one of the top clays shooters in the country. Grace currently shoots for Caesar Guerini and Syren. She has made a name for herself on the NSCA circuit, frequently ranking in the open divisions. We discuss the details of what it takes to go pro, target setting, clays shooting games, and more on this episode of The Gun Room.
67:19 07/02/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 14
Episode 14: Sporterized Rifles   If you caught our previous episode, number 13, and our discussion with the Gunsmiths at Griffin and Howe, you will no doubt have a base knowledge of our topic of discussion today. If you missed #13, dont worry- we will lay the groundwork for that episode right now. The United States is a nation of marksman shooters. From winning our freedom, to westward expansion, homesteading and forging new frontiers, rifles have been an integral part of our history. But when it’s time to turn swords to plowshares, what happens to all those military rifles. This is 10 Minutes on Sporterized Rifles.   Sporterized rifles are essentially a byproduct of massive wartime production, resulting in surplus goods filling a market niche in peacetime. I would argue that rifles were not the only thing repurposed after a war. Take for example the fact that the ridiculously shelf-stable powdered cheese which the military developed and used in great volume during WWII, was purchased by an enterprising individual who watched someone ‘puff’ corn dough as byproduct of cattle feed production. The man in question simply bought surplus powder cheese and added it to a puffed corn doodle and the rest is history (to the tune of over a billion in sales in 2017)   I digress. A sporterized rife, or sporter rifle as it is sometimes shortened, by definition is a disassembled, chopped up, modified version of its military counterpart. Generally, these rifles have been modified to suit the purposes of their peacetime stewards. For Americans, this generally meant modifications for hunting. Not to mention the fact that military guns are 100% utility, where most sporter rifles take aesthetics into account as well It is worth a brief discussion of the anatomy of a military gun, or at least some of the common features found on the bulk of them. It was common practice for military guns to have long barrels, enshrouded by full-length stocks. The majority of these rifles share this characteristic which was employed because of the expected heat generated by shooting many shots in succession.    Another common characteristic is bayonet lugs; essentially a stud or hook that allowed a bayonet to be fixed to the muzzle end. And speaking on the muzzle end, sights tended to be large. Heavy, durable front sights and rear ladder sights were common on military guns. Remember, these guns were produced rapidly and in great numbers and intended to face combat conditions. Fine sights that could be bent in the line of duty wouldn’t pass muster. Neither would a gun that jammed up if it got wet or muddy. It is these features that made the guns reliable but also typically made them bulky, heavy, and not necessarily comfortable to shoot.    Some military weapons came home with soldiers, others were captured in the course of combat, but the biggest source of guns was actually back home, on US Soil.   The idea of civilians purchasing military surplus began after the Civil War, and arguably the father of the sporterized rifle, if by circuitous logic, was Frank Bannerman. The complete Bannerman’s story is one of American grit and entrepreneurship. Frank was left to help the family business at age 10, when his father went off to fight in the Civil War. Fast forward to the end of the war, and Frank was successfully running a junk business and buying military surplus from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He quickly realized that there was more money in weapons than in scrap and the company took off.   By 20, Bannerman was buying mil-surp goods and bringing them back to NYC to sell to the highest bidder. They started a brisk catalog business that included many Military Rifles; essentially any military arm from the Civil War forward could be had through the mail via Bannermans. You could also buy any number of other surplus goods like uniforms, cannons, historical arms and martial relics from around the world.   Bannermans would operate through to the 50’s selling all variety of military arms. They saw the major wars of the modern era and each time secured excess weapons after. Sure, there was controversy, intrigue, an island in the Hudson and a Scottish Castle/Armory involved in the story, but that is one for another podcast. (If there is a Bannerman’s expert listening please - look me up!)   The real benefit was the access to inexpensive guns that many returning soldiers knew and trusted their lives with. Remember, these were the same guns carried into battle, which could be had for pennies on the dollar. Literally, Bannermans at one point sold Civil War Carbines to a store that was RESELLING them for 69 cents each.   It was the easy access and dirt cheap prices that would drive many men back home to convert their military rifle to something viewed as more practical for their use. Typically, full-length stocks were removed and cut down, slimmed, and made more aesthetically pleasing. Large military sights were removed in favor of finer peep and aperture sights, and the newly evolving glass optics we know as scopes. Barrels could be shortened and in some cased rechambered for rounds that were more common.    A quick search on any gun sales website will reveal many sporterized rifles. A search today will show primarily Springfields and Mausers. But one can find sporter versions of so many other guns- Krags, Arisakas, Carcano, Nagant... . the list goes on and on. Some of these sporters were carefully created by a craftsman with talent, others were bubba-fied, hacked up, with little remaining value.  I have not mentioned it yet, and I am sure any military collectors listening are waiting for me to say it. In today’s world, taking a clean military rifle and ‘mucking it up’ by sporterizing it is not recommended. From a pure value perspective, most of the work that would be done to such a rifle would render it less valuable. Original military arms command high dollars as they are becoming rarer as time passes. My advice if you find a high condition gun in granddads closet you dont want- sell it and use the profits to buy a different gun. Perhaps one created by a firm that specialized in sporterizing rifles in the early part of the 20th century.   Civilians were not the only ones that took advantage of the surplus of strong, reliable, and cheap actions. Gunmakers used these very same actions to make some of the finest rifles of our time. On both sides of the pond, prominent gun makers utilized this plentiful resource, why create an action when a viable one was already available at a dirt-cheap price. It is not uncommon to see an English maker’s name on a rifle with a Mauser action or any number of American Maker’s names on rifles with a Springfield action. Firms like Griffin and Howe, Sedgley and Pachmayr come to mind, though there were many more smaller shops turning out beautiful rifles during this period. In the correct, skilled hands, sporterizing a rifle can make it considerably valuable, as evidence by the prices commanded by the above makers’ guns.   The development of the sporter gave rise to many businesses providing stocks, sights, aftermarket triggers, and a variety of tools and parts to perform the sporterization process. Fajen stocks are one such example. Fajen specalized in creating ‘drop in’ stocks that would accept a military action with very minimal additional work. Access to parts made the process of sporterization even easier.    Tuning and tweaking guns is something that folks enjoy to this day. Weather you like Springfields or Mausers, 10-22’s or AR’s we all love the idea of making a custom gun that suits your personal needs.   To some folks, a sporter rifle is simply a travesty. A cut-up and damaged version of what was once a great gun. Though I would never cut up a complete military rifle, I find myself drawn to sporters like I expect so many were before me. The idea that I could create my own custom rifle is too tempting. Call me a dreamer, but I have visions of taking that old gun, that served its country well and giving it a new life and second chance. Hey, all you need is some elbow grease and a bit of that true American grit and you too can own your own custom rifle.   Thats 10 Minutes on the Sporter Rifle, I am Joel Penkala, and this is The Gun Room.
11:35 06/25/2021
The Gun Room; Episode 13
Episode 13: Griffin and Howe 100 Year Anniversary Rifles Few gun makers in the United States can lay claim to having 100 years of history, even fewer with the storied past of serving politicians, diplomats, and celebrities in the fine gun industry. Griffin Howe was established in 1923 in New York City, and remains to this day a fine gun maker, though offers so much more at the grounds of Hudson Farm in Andover New Jersey. I had the opportunity to sit down with three of Griffin and Howe’s gunsmiths at the grounds to discuss the history of G&H and how they made a name for themselves as rifle makers. We speak about sporterized rifles; those guns that were made for military use, but were brought home and repurposed to be carried in the fields and woods in pursuit of game and the history of American rifle development from early German influence through World War I.  Finally, we take a deep look into the celebratory set of firearms that are currently in production at Griffin and Howe to commemorate 100 years in the business. Three batterys of three rifles each built on classic sporter rifle actions; the iconic American-made Springfield, the German Mauser, and the Winchester Model 70. We discuss all of the details of these rifle sets from caliber selection through sights, stocks, barrels and so much more in Episode 13 of The Gun Room. Join us for this discussion of all things sporter rifles.
114:07 06/18/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 12
Episode 12: Winchester Model 12 A fitting subject for our 12th podcast and a follow-up to our previous report on the Remington 870, today we will be talking about Winchesters slide action or pump-action shotgun the Winchester Model 1912 or Model 12 as it has come to be known. If you caught our briefing on the Remington 870, you will no doubt remember that we mentioned the Winchester Model 12 in that discussion several times. Winchester’s pump was the gun to look up to, the popular kid at school, the girl everyone wanted to dance with at the prom. The Model 12 reigned supreme until that oh so pivotal year in gun making - 1964 - when it was discontinued because of the increasing cost of manufacturing and increased competition from the less expensive Remington 870 and others.  Much like previously discussed subjects on this Podcast, the story of the Model 12 originates with its predecessors and with the legendary John Browning. John Browning’s original patents for the Model 1893 and 1897 slide-action shotguns would serve as the basis for the Model 12.  The 93 and 97 were both exposed hammer guns, meaning the hammer that struck the firing pin was exposed at the tang. This was a carryover from earlier hammer-fired shotguns and rifles and gives these pumps a distinctive look. The rearward travel of the bolt out of the action would depress and cock the external hammer much like many very successful Winchester lever-action rifles. The 1893 was designed for the 2 and ⅝” black powder shells of the time. It was offered only in 12 gauge with 30 or 32” barrel and though it found some success its action was too weak to deal with the new smokeless powder shells being developed at the time. The 1897 took this into account and closed off the top portion of the action, allowing the bolt to ride inside and make it into a fully side ejection gun. The added material provided the necessary strength to fire smokeless powder shells, as well as 2 and ¾” shells.  Another improvement was the slide lock, which was absent on the Model 1893. The purpose of a slide lock is much as it sounds; a device to lock the slide in the forward and closed position. It would seem inherent that this was necessary, but it was absent until developed for the 1897. The slide lock was engaged when the slide or pump was pushed forward into battery and disengaged by a slight forward motion of the pump, something that came naturally during firing the gun, which would unlock the slide and allow the gun to be cycled. Essentially, the slide lock kept the shooter from bringing the slide back during the firing process. Without this lock, the action could be partially opened during the firing process by a shooter not applying forward pressure on the slide. As far as features go, the Model 1987 had two other distinguishing features that would carry through into the Model 1912. Initially, the 1893 and 97 were both made with barrels that were not removable- the idea of a ‘take down’ version of the 97 was introduced a few years after its release and served to be quite useful for folks who wished to travel with a gun. The ability to break the gun down allowed it to be packed into manageable size luggage for train or bus transportation that was so common at the time. This concept is now so widespread that we as modern shooters take it for granted that all of our pump and semi-auto shotguns can easily be broken down, but at the turn of the century that was not the case. In particular many early pump guns had barrels that were fitted per each action - that means you couldn't swap out to different barrels. The second notable feature of this family of guns was the lack of trigger disconnector. In the simplest terms, this means that when the gun is cycled, if the trigger is held down, as soon as the slide is rammed forward bringing the gun back into battery, the shotgun will fire. The result is that each time one pumps the gun, it fires. Slam firing in combination with a magazine tube that held 6, 2 ¾” shells, made the 1897 and Model 12 popular military weapons and many were used as trench guns starting in WWI.  So where does that leave us then? Well, with the Winchester Model 1912 of course. The Model 12 was the first internal hammer, pump shotgun produced by the company. Designed by Thomas Crossley Johnson it followed in the success of the Model 1897 of which nearly 1million were produced. The Model 12 borrowed from John Browning's designs by pulling the aforementioned features from its predecessor and by exhibiting several new notable features. A photo of an 1897 with the pump in the ‘open position’ shows the bolt out of the rear of the action(cocking back the hammer), and the lifter dropped below and outside the action to the bottom. The gun looks like quite the contraption in the number of moving parts that extend beyond the action. All of this changed with the Model 12, beginning with bringing the hammer inside the action.  Tucking the hammer inside the action, allowed the back of the receiver to be solid, improving both the looks and the overall strength of the gun. The 97s lifter mechanism, used for bringing shells from the magazine tube up into the action and locking the bolt, was foregone for a newer carrier style mechanism that remained inside the confines of the action during a normal cycle of the gun. Most will recognize this carrier as the hinged flap that covers the opening in the bottom of the action. Additionally, the bolt locks forward into the receiver itself when in battery, not requiring the lifter to do so. The Model 12 still requires a forward push of the hand to actuate the pump when the trigger is pulled, and there is also push-button located beside the back of the trigger guard to release the slide lock. The safety is located at the forward end of the trigger guard.  All of these improvements resulted in a wonderfully functional, sleek handling pump shotgun. The Model 12 was touted as the Perfect Repeater and gained a reputation for its smooth action. Most of this can be attributed to the fact that parts were primarily forged and then required significant machining and fitting to be assembled. Unfortunately, time is money, and the costs of making the model 12 would eventually catch up to production after WWII. The release of the 870 by Remington would take its own toll as the Remington gun was a fraction of the price to produce.    Though many stalwart Model 12 fans were loyal to the end, the gun would eventually end production in 1964. During production years, the Model 12 saw a variety of models and features. You can find Model 12s in gauges 12, 16, 20, and even 28, though very few 28s were actually made. There was never a .410 because rather than using the Model 12, Winchester opted to create the Model 42, which was a dedicated .410 sized gun. Winchester's standard shotgun grades Skeet, Trap, Tournament, and Pigeon found their way onto Model 12s, with a variety of upgrade options, namely wood, engraving, and rib styles. There was a 12ga version designed to shoot 3” shells labeled “Super Speed and Super X”. Some other interesting facts about the 12:  It was only available in 20ga in its first year of production, with 12 gauge and 16 coming out in 1913. Model 1897s and Model 12s were used as trench guns and riot guns for the military up through Korea and Vietnam. It is of note that the Germans issued a diplomatic protest to the use of these tranch guns in 1918, stating that they were a violation of the 1907 Hague, and that Americans caught with them would face punishment. America retaliated with its own threats to captured Germans soldiers, but the most interesting result of this contentious moment was that there are no photos of Trench guns in use because the US did not want word of their use getting out. For those folks who own, or wish to own a 12, keep in mind that they were chambered for 2 ⅝” shells up to 1927, after which they were chambered for 2 ¾” shells.  The 12 takedown guns have a pin at the end of the magazine tube. The threads on the magazine tube and barrel are what are called interrupted threads. Essentially the threads are only on half of the barrel and mag tube shank. If you divided the end into quarters, the threads are on opposing quarters. The receiving threads in the action are also interrupted the same way. This allows the barrel and mag tube to be turned a quarter turn to disengage the threads. On a model 12- there are two arrows that align on the magazine. To take the gun apart one moves the pin on the end of the mag tube and turns it a quarter turn. This disengages the mag tube which along with the slide can be slide forward and out of the action. Then, you can twist both the mag tube, slide, and barrel all at once, and they will rotate a quarter turn and can be removed from the action. The same steps in revers will put this takedown gun back together, and render it ready for shooting again.  And finally, Exhibition shooter Herb Parsons “The Showman Shooter” used a Model 12 in his shows, famously breaking 7 clays with the gun. Do yourself a favor and look that one up on youtube to see some great old exhibition shooting. I have to admit that the thing I like most about doing these reports is that it makes me pick up the guns in my collection and really check them out, through and through. My old 16ga model 12 has seen a ton of use. It was purchased at a gun show for a song. Its a field grade in the 800,000s with a plain Modified choke barrel chambered for 2 ¾” shells. Almost all of the blue is worn and the stock has its share of dings and scratches. It still operates super smooth and has taken some game for me over the years. I took it apart and wiped it down, cycled the action a few times remind this old gun what it's like to function. Like so many old guns, it has come to my rest farm for old, weathered, and tired guns where it will live out the remainder of my days, well-loved and looked at often, occasionally taken for walks in the woods during October. Thanks for tuning in to the 12th episode of The Gun Room. Keep up to date with all episodes of the gun room and so much more at Project Upland.com  Dont forget to check out the Upland Gun Company website for additional pieces on shotgun technica and until next time This is The gun room.
15:01 06/11/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 11
The second installment of The Gun Room from Sante Fe, Tennessee where I am spending the weekend at Dan LaFond’s farm with Jay Herbert. Jay Herbert has spent his life around shotguns and influential individuals. His career in the gun world has seen him around the globe shooting at some of the most interesting locations with a celebrity guest list. This weekend though, Jay has traveled from Houston, Texas to Tennessee, about an hour south of Nashville to perform gun fits for Upland Gun Company clients.  Jay has been a shooting coach and gunfitter for years and has a list of successful students including six national sporting clays champions, two world championships, three junior Olympic medals, the only non-English shooter to win their class at the British Open, and coached a 5 time Olympian and gold medalist in 2008 in Beijing. Jay has also been credited with bringing sporting clays to the United States, a claim not to be taken lightly. He spent time at Holland and Holland’s shooting grounds in England learning the trade before bringing the popular shooting game back to the states. Shortly thereafter Jay and Bob Brister would hold the first National Sporting Clays Championship on the shooting grounds at Highland Bend.  Jay and I talk at length about gun fit and its importance to a shooter, while going over the primary dimensions that are included in a shotgun stock. We also talk about his Churchill-made try gun, why a proper gun fit requires the client to actually shoot the gun, and so much more. Sit down with us as we discuss
55:10 06/04/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 10
It’s hard to express just how significant the subject of this week’s   podcast was in my life. It represented a right of passage. A passport to adventure. Membership into the exclusive club of hunters that included my father and his friends. I would no longer be related to observation, but rather would be able to participate. Though the first shotgun I ever shouldered was a single shot .410, when I turned 10 years old and stepped into the field for the first time it was a Remington 870 that I held in my hands. Ownership of this gun would motivate my first lessons in gun care, taught in our basement amidst the smells of Hoppes Number 9 and WD40. Dad would clean his 1100 and I, my Youth Model 870, side by side at his bench. Obvious lessons aside, I learned other valuable things cleaning that 870. Exactly how razor-sharp the insides of a shotgun action can be. Why we take solvent out of the ‘big jar’ and put it into a small jar when cleaning.    Spilled cleaning supplies and cut up fingers aside, the Remington 870 was my first real shotgun as it was for so many young hunters. It is not surprising this is the case as there have been some 11 million 870s made since its introduction in 1950. Back then there were many fewer models, no rem chokes, vent ribs, or synthetic stocks.    The story of the 870 begins with the Remington family of pump shotguns which includes models 10 and 29, 17, and 31, each of these having a significant place in the history of American pump shotguns. The 10 and its successor the 29 were both bottom ejection guns designed by John Pedersen that saw limited production. The 10 and 29 were adapted for military use, but remained in the shadow cast by the Winchester 97 and then Model 12, which were favored over Remington pumps.   The 17 was an improvement on the 10 and 29, and a shooter familiar with the Ithaca Model 37 might mistake one for the other. The Remington 17 was designed by John Browning and would eventually give rise to the Ithaca 37. The 17 is also a bottom load and eject gun like the 10 and 29 that came before it. It also did not see wide acceptance, again because Winchesters Model 12 was still favored.    Remington developed the Model 31 from lessons learned with the 17, though the biggest step was moving to a side ejection action. In fact the 31 was Remingtons first side ejection pump shotgun. It was meticulously machined and gained the name the ball-bearing repeater because of the smoothness of its action. With this level of machining came a significant cost. Not to mention that parts were not necessarily interchangeable because parts in the 31 were machine-made but hand fitted. Remington would need to go back to the drawing board one more time.   During these post-war years, one might remember that there were significant changes to other guns in the Remington lineup - guns like the Remington 700 - that were taking advantage of modern machining, metal stamping, and other processes to make more economical- or cost friendly - options for consumers. These lessons carried through all of Remington’s production and gave rise to the 870.   Four Remington engineers are credited with the development of the 870 - L. Ray Crittendon, Phillip Haskell, Ellis Hailston and G. E. Pinckney. From the outset, it seemas a clear goal of development was to utilize tested and well-known parts from other guns in the Remington line to create the 870. Actions were borrowed from the 11-48 one of the 11 series of auto loaders that were popular at the time. The fire control group borrowed some parts from the 760/7600 series pump action rifles that were in production.    Borrowed features provided a solid base for the 870. Actions were machined from a single piece of steel. Barrels fitted to actions via a barrel extension that also contained the locking surface for the bolt. Bolts were located on a carrier that was connected to the fore grip or slide with dual action-arms. Unlike the popular Winchester Model 12 with a single action bar, these dual action bars would provide extra stability and eliminate any potential twisting during the action cycle.   It is significant to note that unlink the Model 31 that came before it and other competitor pumps, the 870 was designed for parts replacement and interchangeability. Fire control groups were one unit and could be removed by taking out two pins. Another fcg could be swapped in or in the case of being in the marsh or woods, the fcg could be cleaned, tested and put back in the gun with very little effort.    Another consumer-friendly feature was that barrels could be swapped from one gun to another without the need for fitting. This meant that if you owned a 12ga receiver you could own several barrels for different uses; a full choke vent rib for ducks or turkey, an open choke barrel for upland or skeet, or a slug barrel for deer could easily be swapped making the 870 extremely versatile. Rem-chokes, Remington’s screw in choke system, was brought out in 1986 making barrels even more versatile.    870’s were introduced with the base model AP landing at 69.95 about 15$ cheaper than the Winchester Model 12 at the time. There were 15 variations from the plain AP to the ADL, BDL, trap, skeet, and premier, tournament and special grades, to name a few.    Of note, the summer of 1950 saw “Mr. 870” Rudy Etchen shooting the first-ever 100 straight in doubles trap at the Grand American Handicap solidifying the then new to the field 870’s reputation. The clout of the 870 grew as the gun was adopted by hunters and shooters alike. It proved over and over to be a true workhorse gun, versatile and nearly indestructible. A testament to its reliability, the 870 has been used by the military, carried by all divisions of law enforcement, and trusted for home defense.    More models and variants were added as the years progressed. 1966 saw the 1 millionth 870 sold, with sales steadily increasing through the following decades. .410 and 28ga versions were released in 1969 and left hand variants were introduced in 1971. The economical Express Model was introduced in 1987, swapped walnut for ‘hardwood’ and blued finish for matte finish, saw sales of the 870 redouble. 1996 saw the 7 millionth 870 sold. Needless to say over the last 70 years the 870 has become one of the most popular shotguns ever sold. My personal 870 was a Youth Model express. It was a 20ga with a short 21” barrel and 12” stock suited will to my 10 year old frame. It had the parkerized, no-glare finish and a basic piece of hardwood for the stock and forend. It could shoot 2 ¾ or 3” shells and had rem-chokes that I could swap out, though I believe I shot a skeet choke for most everything.  There can be no doubt that the 870 has earned its place among the most popular guns ever sold.
13:08 05/28/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 9
Join me as we travel to Sante Fe, Tennessee to Dan LaFond’s farm where we talk all things Upland Gun Company. Growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the outdoors was an integral part of Dan’s upbringing. It is no wonder that he ended up working in a sport shop where he caught his first break in the industry. Dan went on to build a career in the outdoor industry starting in sales and eventually moving to repping. Dan would later build his own rep business working with brands like Colt and Leupold. His career took him around middle America but eventually, he would land in the hills south of Nashville. I caught up with Dan to talk about his latest venture, the Upland Gun Company. Dan and his partner are importing Italian-made, RFM Shotguns under the UGC label. The most unique thing about these guns is that they can be built to order, custom to your specifications, and delivered in 3 to 4 months, an unprecedented short turnaround for such custom work. A visit to their website will reveal a ‘gun builder’ where the prospective buyer can select all options on the gun. Once you have built up your perfect side by side, you submit your quote and a representative from UGC (perhaps even Dan) will call you to go over the order and ensure that you are getting what you want.  The process doesn’t stop there. If you are getting a custom gun made, you will need to have a gun fit and be properly measured for your new shotgun. Just like a custom suit or tailored dress, a gun made to your dimensions will fit better and take the guesswork out of gun mount. With dimensions in, the next step is choosing your wood blank, which is also unique to this process and allows a customer to select exactly the style walnut they prefer. Knowing you have had control of the entire gun build is certainly a value add to the customer because you get exactly what you want. And let’s face it; it’s downright fun to be involved in the process of building your next legacy shotgun.
72:01 05/21/2021
The Gun Room: Episode 8
Our topic of discussion today is the wildly successful Remington 700 Bolt Action Rifle. A poster child for Remington for years. It was used by the military as a sniper platform. It’s design has been copied many times over. It has as many configurations as there are days in the year. It has been used to take every game species around the world. Alright, every species is a stretch but the Remington 700 has been and remains to this day a go-to bolt action rifle for shooters and sportsmen alike.  For the sake of brevity, we will start our portion of the Remington 700 story with war-time production of bolt action rifles during WWI. Remington (among others) was contracted to produce Lee-Enfield Pattern Rifles - these were M1914 rifles - for the British.  A brief diversion-  Lee-Enfield rifles are bolt action and magazine-fed, with full-length stocks like so many other military rifles. They are chambered in .303 British and were carried around the world by the Brits and many others. The P14 made by Remington was essentially a replica of the Lee in .303 British.  Once the US entered the war, P14 production halted- and production of the 1917 version commenced. The P17 was a P14 that was adapted for the standard US Military cartridge- the 30-06- and the same chambering as the Springfield 1903 rifle that was in heavy production at this same time. The P17 is rather distinct- it has very large wings on either side of the action protecting the rear sight, as well as a bolt handle only a mother could love. After wartime production ended in Ilion and Eddystone(two of Remingtons factories), Remington recognized the need for a sleeker sporting rifle for the burgeoning crowd of sportsmen of the time. And being businessmen they realized they were already tooled up to make P17s with a bunch of extra parts laying around. As a result, they developed the Model 30- a sleeker version of the P17- which retained some features like cock on close bolt and bent bolt handle. They were Mauser style actions with dual locking lugs, box magazines, claw extractors and essentially were sporterized versions of the P17. The 30 eventually gave way in 1941 to the Remington 720- their own website states it was an improvement on the model 30 and produced from 41 to 44 but production would again jump to military focus for WWII- primarily Springfield 03 and 03A3 rifles.  When civilian production resumed after the war, some lasting features endured. Esthetics like losing the distinctive P17 wings and slimming the action as well as very functional changes like a cock on open would carry forward. Remington continued the development of the 720 which gave rise to the 721, 722 and 725. These were the first to drop the large claw-style extractors in favor of a recessed bolt face that contained the ejection/extraction parts. These rifles also utilized a cylindrical action that could be machined on a lathe allowing for faster and more economical production.  The release of the Remington 700 in 1962 was the culmination of all the production advances made since the P14 and lessons learned over the years certainly solidified what was needed to produce a successful rifle for the consumer market. As mentioned, the production of rounded actions on lathes was both accurate and efficient. Stamping parts like bottom metals reduced cost. Attention to aesthetic details in the bolt handle and the overall configuration of the stock resulted in a slimmed and attractive rifle. The push feed action and three-piece bolt with recessed bolt face that housed the c-clip extractor and plunger were also innovations that carried forward into production Remington 700s. It was originally made in two options, ADL and BDL with the ADL having a blind magazine (id no bottom metal) and BDL having bottom metal. Aside from this major difference, the two options varied in stock configuration and details like checkering pattern, forend caps, recoil pads, sights, and swivels. Both were offered in short and long action calibers. Remington 700 rifles were known for their out-of-the-box accuracy, a result of a number of features - stout actions, free-floated barrels, and single-stage triggers to name a few. No doubt tight tolerances of chambers and barrels helped increase accuracy. For years Remington held top accolades as the rifle with the best out-of-the-box accuracy. ADL and BDL models gave way to a variety of configurations from Remington that reflected the march of progress in gun technologies and the ever-growing use case of customers. Synthetic stocks and a myriad of coatings options were implemented over the years. Specialty rifles were developed for use cases from mountain hunting to long-range varment shooting, competition target and everything in between with features like bull barrels, sporter contour barrels, and upgraded deluxe wood, checkering and engraving, detachable magazines and more. Of note, Remington also produced left handed 700’s as well. The gun has been factory chambered in a wide range of calibers from .17 to .458 though I suspect many more have been re-barreled and/or rechambered to non-factory and wild cat calibers. Not to mention the fact that today one can get a Remington 700 clone action or rifle from any number of manufacturers in almost every caliber or build up a custom rifle to meet ones needs.  Controversy is drawn to like a moth to a flame, and the 700 is not without its share, the primary subject of which is the original single-stage trigger designed by Remington’s Mike Walker. Litigation arose as a result of rifle malfunctions, the implications of which were that rifles with these triggers were faulty and could fire while on safe. Remington’s X-Mark Pro Trigger was the response in 2007 to these implications and I will leave this discussion there as diving any further would require 20 minutes more and this is, of course, a 10 minutes on series.  Love them or hate them, the Remington 700 family of rifles has endured the test of time and is not likely to disappear. If you owned one, or have a Remington 700 story you want to share let me know, I’d love to hear it. That’s all for today, thanks for stopping by the gun room.
14:31 05/14/2021