View Full Version : need a safe ammo option for old girl

December 15, 2010, 07:46 PM
ok i have just finished up fitting the new hammers from dixe to my great granddads 1889 remington sxs 12ga . it is not damascus . bores are in great shape as is the rest of the ol girl . i do not plan to shoot it very often , maybe 2-3x a year , but i do want every single one of my guns in firing order , and this one is no exception . i have a few thousand rounds of the wally world bulk 7.5 shot but im kindy iffy as to fire one thru it . are they light enough or is there any special rounds i need to buy ? One more question , i prob wont do it but can you fire both tubes at the same time ? sorry for the long post

December 15, 2010, 08:21 PM
The first thing that comes to mind: What size 12-ga shells is your old shotgun chambered for? Don't assume standard modern 2-3/4" shells will fit -- perhaps the barrels are marked, indicating shell length.

December 15, 2010, 08:42 PM
i just chambered a federal 2 3/4 and it fits nice , gun locks up and ejects like nothing is there . #8 shot 1 1/8 oz el cheapo bulk round . there is no other markings on the gun other than remington blah blah . no proof marks , no size , notta . now it looks up as a 1889 but it has a plastic butt plate , i did not think they had plastic till like the 20's or 30's ?

December 15, 2010, 11:03 PM
i just chambered a federal 2 3/4 and it fits nice
That's the problem, a 2-3/4" shell will fit nicely in a 2-1/2" chamber, but there isn't enough room for the crimp to unfold. Remember, the 2-3/4" dimension refers to the length of the hull after it's unfolded.

If your Federal loads are like mine, I think you'll find they are a typical only 2-1/4" long -- of course, they're going to fit in a 2-1/2" (or 2-2/3") old time chamber. You need to accurately measure the chamber depth where the forcing cone starts to taper. If it's less than 2-3/4" then you need to load short shells or have the forcing cones extended.

Lengthening forcing cones isn't as drastic as it sounds. It's a common custom touch on many comp guns.

About your butt plate: Celluloid, considered the first thermoplastic, was first created 1862 and registered in 1870, or it could be of a natural material like horn.

December 16, 2010, 08:49 AM
One issue with lengthening the forcing cones, however, is whether there would be enough steel thickness remaining.

RST and Polywad have vintager ammo for older guns in 2, 2-1/2, 2-9/16, and 2-3/4 inch lengths for all of the old guns that are still safe to shoot with low-pressure loads.

As Zippy mentioned, the shell length is the FIRED length, and a 1/4 or more opening into the forcing cones on an old gun could be just the ticket to increase pressures past a safe point

December 16, 2010, 11:20 PM
so what would happen if i fired off the 2 3/4 in the 2 1/2 chamber . i figure the wad would some what jam and maybe for a instant spike the pressure ? i do have a dina adapter to fire 9 mm for a 12 ga . there a pain to use

December 17, 2010, 09:45 AM
The wad won't get stuck, but it MIGHT spike the pressure enough to cause serious damage to the gun and/or the shooter.

A gunsmith can measure the chamber for you. In any event, I would stick to the low pressure rounds from the companies I mentioned - they aren't as cheap as the wally world specials, but this isn't a gun you're going to shoot thousands of rounds through anyway

December 17, 2010, 11:28 AM
A decent shotgun smith will have chamber length gauges and it only takes a few minutes to measure. Find out how long your chambers are and then you can discuss ammo.

44 AMP
December 17, 2010, 03:00 PM
Already mentioned, the chamber length. 2 9/16" was a popular length before 1900, also.

And, be absolutely certain you do not have twist barrels. We call all twist barrels "Damascus" today, but in those days, only barrels made from 6 or 8 strands were worthy of the name "damascus". Guns made with barrels formed from 4 or 2 strands were known as "stub twist" or just "twist".

And "twist" barrels may not show the typical "damascus" pattern, leading them to be misidentified.

Solid barrels were a pride point in marketing when they came out, and most makers marked their barrels or pointed out in their literature that they guns had "nitro", or "fluid steel" barrels. Nickel steel was another name used a few years later.

I have an Ithaca Flues model, bought new by my grandfather in 1909. It has fluid steel barrels. He bought it to replace a twist barrel gun he sold to a neighbor. That twist barrel gun blew out in the 1940s!

I still shoot it sometimes, and ALL I shoot is either 3dr eq target loads or 3 1/4 dr eq. field loads, like the Remington Shur Shot. LEAD SHOT ONLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Because of the advances in shotshells, beginning in the 1950s, (plastic shot cups, etc.) older guns pattern extremely tight with modern shells. They are choked tighter than more modern guns. Grandpa's test for a full choked 12ga was that a dime would balance in the muzzle. GO get a modern 12 ga, and a dime falls through a full choke. Shoot steel in a full choked old gun, and you might just blow off the choke! Stick with lead for all the older guns.

I have a letter from Ithaca, dated 1949, to my Grandfather, he had writen them asking about the guarantee on the springs. They wrote back, affirming that the springs were guaranteed never to take a set. The letter also included a message from the VP stating that he should not use "Express" type shells in his gun. They were not needed and were "akin to using a bulldozer to thread a needle"!!!

Assuming your gun is in good mechanical condition, has 2 3/4in chambers, and does not have twist barrels, modern lead ammo in the 3dr-3 1/4dr eq range should not hurt it with occassional use.

If your gun does have twist barrels (of any kind), stick to blackpowder loads only, and stay on the mild side of them, for safety. Twist barrels can develope rust in the welds between the strips, where it is not visible to the eye, and you could have a very weak barrel that looks fine. I would hang a twist barrel gun on the wall. A gun with fluid steel (bored steel, nickel steel, etc) barrels still deserves a walk in the fields, once in a while.

Dave McC
December 18, 2010, 11:08 PM
First, have a gunsmith you'd trust your life to check over your heirloom and see if it can be fired at all,safely.

If so, Polywad, RST and Gamebore carry short,low pressure loads just for guns like this. Something like 7/8 oz at 900 FPS,but they work.

December 19, 2010, 01:57 AM
Deleted see similar thread if interested.

January 3, 2011, 10:45 AM
would this be a safe round to send down range in the old gun ? 1300fps seems kinda high for such a small round , and almost the same as current rounds

January 3, 2011, 11:04 AM
I would not fire that round in that gun. I have an old timer as well. I decided it was safer to hang it on a wall as decoration. Most of todays ammunition has too much pressure. I did fire off to 2 1/2 Remington round but hung it up afterword. I suggestion wall hanger for you as well unless a gunsmith give you the OK first.

January 3, 2011, 11:57 AM
IF the gun has been checked and found safe to shoot, I would look at something like these:


They were designed for old guns

January 4, 2011, 04:23 PM
I have one of these for a 12 to 9mm but this should work for the old girl , should eleminate the whole forcing cone deal and add extra strength to the chamber . Just plain and simple Im not going to a gun smith , none around here i trust . this one is 12 to 20 http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/sid=44775/sku/12_20_Ga_

January 4, 2011, 05:00 PM
Deleted. Confused with another thread.

January 4, 2011, 05:11 PM
I have one of these for a 12 to 9mm but this should work for the old girl , should eleminate the whole forcing cone deal and add extra strength to the chamber . Just plain and simple Im not going to a gun smith , none around here i trust . this one is 12 to 20

It seems you are missing the point about chamber dimensions - those work (barely - I have them), in a gun in good condition for modern ammo - something your gun has not been declared to be able to handle.

If your life isn't worth the few bucks to get it done right, then just hang it on the wall

January 4, 2011, 11:04 PM

My father has an old SxS shotgun like yours I went out to the local gun club with it and was about to give it a blast with some low power hand loads when I was spotted by the local gun expert who is also a gun smith. He told me that Old shotguns like yours (pre 1920's) are only to be shot with cartridges loaded with BLACK POWDER as that was all that was available when they were made. Modern Smokeless Powders are to powerfull and cause excessive pressure and can cause catastrophic failure when used in old firearms that were made only for Black Powder.
I think I was lucky and the day could have turned out very bad (for me).

I think you will have to do what I did and find cartridges that are the right length and very slowly work up a load using BLACK POWDER.

Jim Watson
January 4, 2011, 11:13 PM
If it has steel barrels, your best bet is 2 1/2" shells from the outfits listed by Dave McC.

Just because a Chinamart Econoblast shell has a light shot load does not mean it is a low pressure shell. Probably the opposite, a couple of grains less of a fast hot powder will save them some real money by the truckload, but pressures will be near the maximum.