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Old May 12, 2013, 08:05 PM   #1
nanewt02
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short barrelled shotgun

just acquired an old double barrel shotgun, Damascus barrels, says "cooper" on the side, proof marks place it in the 1880s, its pretty banged up with aftermarket stock etc. my question is, would it be legal to cut down past 18 inches since it only fires 12 ga black powder ammo
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Old May 13, 2013, 09:35 PM   #2
BigD_in_FL
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Damascus barrels, especially that old and in that condition seriously need a thorough check by a smith who KNOWS these guns, otherwise you run the risk of serious injury. With BP being as corrosive as it is and Damascus not being the strongest steel, the chance of a barrel letting go is something to consider before doing any alterations
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Old May 13, 2013, 10:19 PM   #3
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nanewt02
...since it only fires 12 ga black powder ammo
But that's not true. It might be smart to fire only black powder shells. However, the gun will chamber modern, smokeless powder shells and fire them -- until it blows up. And with lightly loaded smokeless powder ammunition, and if the barrels turn out to be high quality and in excellent condition, it may stand up to such use for some time. I've read, in articles on vintage shotgunning, that some folks do use light smokeless powder loads in Damascus barrels.

I sure wouldn't do something like that, and I think that BigDinFL has the right idea. But it is still incorrect to say that a shotgun with Damascus barrels can only fire black powder shells.

In any event, under the National Firearms Act, an antique fire arm is defined as (26 USC 5845(g)) as (emphasis added):
Quote:
(g) Antique firearm

The term “antique firearm” means any firearm not designed or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1898) and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.
However, as mentioned above, your 12 gauge, Damascus barrel shotgun will chamber and fire standard, modern shotgun shells (although doing so probably isn't a good idea). And black powder shotgun shells are commercially available.

So since your shotgun would not be an antique under the NFA, it wouldn't be exempt from regulation under the NFA if you cut down the barrels.
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Old May 14, 2013, 02:30 PM   #4
BigD_in_FL
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IF, and only IF, the gun is properly checked and passed, then going to RST or Polywad for "Vintager" loads in your proper chambering - most likely 2-1/2"- would be the safe way to go. Those loads are VERY low pressure designed for these older guns that have been deemed safe by a qualified gunSMITH - not some parts changer.

A gun that old, I would bet, also has the shorter chamber, something that qualified gunSMITH can tell you.

Remember, the length of a shell is the fired length - an unfired 2-3/4 shell will fit into the 2.5 inch gun, but upon firing, the petals will open in the forcing cone raising pressures to dangerous levels. Even if your gun does not explode, you will be beating the gun to death and end its life prematurely
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Old May 14, 2013, 02:54 PM   #5
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigDinFL
IF, and only IF, the gun is properly checked and passed, then going to RST or Polywad for "Vintager" loads in your proper chambering - most likely 2-1/2"- would be the safe way to go. Those loads are VERY low pressure designed for these older guns that have been deemed safe by a qualified gunSMITH - not some parts changer.

A gun that old, I would bet, also has the shorter chamber, something that qualified gunSMITH can tell you.

Remember, the length of a shell is the fired length - an unfired 2-3/4 shell will fit into the 2.5 inch gun, but upon firing, the petals will open in the forcing cone raising pressures to dangerous levels. Even if your gun does not explode, you will be beating the gun to death and end its life prematurely
All of that is absolutely true. But it also misses the point.

The point is that the gun can fire still manufactured, commercially available ammunition.

And that means it's not an antique for the purposes of the NFA, so cutting down the barrels shorter than 18 inches would make the OP eligible for ten years in a federal prison, a $250,000 fine and lifetime loss of gun rights.
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Old May 14, 2013, 07:49 PM   #6
Nickel Plated
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People seem to incorrectly assume that just because it shoots black powder, it's automatically exempt from all gun laws.
If you read the law, it says absolutely nothing about type of powder.
It all depends on whether it fires loose shot or self contained cartridges (and if so, whether they are "commercially available")

Handloading some 7.62x39 with black powder will not magically make your AK-47 an antique. i wish it did, but unfortunately it will just make it very dirty.

So, no, I'm afraid you can't chop it without the tax stamp.
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Old May 16, 2013, 09:39 AM   #7
TimSr
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The first question in my mind is why someone would WANT TO destroy the barrel of an antique firearm?

Federal law does not treat blackpowder only guns as firearms, meaning no cartridge shooters of any kind, but most states have ample laws to cover this "loophole", and do to varying degrees.
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Old May 16, 2013, 10:18 AM   #8
godot
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DITTO TimSR

This comment is neither about the law or politics and so if the moderator wants to delete it, I'm not offended. To me this seems almost like a piece of history that should be preserved. Then again it's not my gun.
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Old May 16, 2013, 10:28 AM   #9
Frank Ettin
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In any case, the OP's question has been answered.
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