View Full Version : H&R Model 1900 concerns re ammo and firing pin

December 19, 2010, 04:49 PM
I have a hundred year old 12 gauge for which one gun shop sold me ammo years ago and recently I was told was probably safe to fire in its condition. I question both. It's an early manufacture H&R Model 1900 12 ga single shot of little or no value.

The ammo fits though I never tried firing it and may be lucky not have done so. Winchester 2 3/4" copper plated XX magnums (measuring about 2 5/16").

The mechanical concern is the firing pin. (I don't believe this is a "twist" barrel and don't detect any bulges.) It doesn't retract but can be shoved back with a screwdriver blade. I am gong to disassemble this and see what is going on, but am wondering about the competence of the guy that told me it was probably not going to ignite a primer (and if I want his advice on buying a new pump).

I think I know the answer to the ammo which I found here http://forum.pafoa.org/general-2/8333-h-r-firearms-page-15.html

Given my serial number 0f 36616 and the fact it doessn't have an ejector I believe it was definitely manufactured before the model 1908.

Thanks for any advice anyone has on this. I hope it needs a good cleaning and perhaps just a new firing pin or spring.

December 19, 2010, 05:38 PM
I'm not an H&R guy, so I don't know if the model 1900 was ever chambered for less than 2-3/4" shells. See the thread need safe ammo option for old girl (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=433210) for the most recent discussion on short chambers and old guns.

About the firing pins: Most shotguns have rebounding firing pins. After they strike the primer they retract back behind the face of the breech. Otherwise, the protruding pin would get in the way when you try to open the action. Are you familiar with the operation of a 1911-type pistol's firing pin operation? The hammer strikes the firing pin, the pin impacts the primer and then return spring retracts the pin. You'll find most guns have some sort of mechanism that causes the firing pin to retract; but, again, I'm not a H&R guy, and am speaking only generically.

I don't think the 2-3/4 dr. eq. ammo recommend in your link includes copper platted XX Magnums. ;)

December 19, 2010, 06:12 PM
If your gun is that old, a check-up by a good smith is in order. While a 2-3/4 might fit, that doesn't mean that the chamber isn't 2-1/2 or 2-9/16. and XX magnum whatevers would most likely not be the best idea

December 19, 2010, 06:20 PM
H&R shotguns are tough guns. But 100 years old? I would stay away from magnum shells.

December 19, 2010, 07:26 PM
Thanks all three of you. I vaguely remember the 45 acp 1911 from my time in the Marines during the sixties and can visualize what I expect to find when I get this old thing torn down. It may just be all crudded up but I expect it will need a new spring and I also wonder if part of the problem may be a slighly bent pin.

It is like you described, zippy13; a rebounding pin, but the mechanics are such that it doesn't interfere with opening an empty action. My main concern is if I were to close the action with a live round chambered, it may fire before the action locks. That thread about the rusty old girl introduced me to some of the problems, and I stll need to ensure that this is not a twist barrel. (I noticed that the ammunition box for the magnums even warns you to use them with a twist barrrel.)

My mind is made up and there is no way I am firing "magnums" or anything other than the bird shot listed on Jim Hauff's page . If I have any questions after I tear this down it is either going to a gun smith or to the wall. Probably the wall, since it isn't worth what a smith would charge for an hour's labor.

nefprotector, I am considering buying one of your namesakes at the Big 5.

oneounceload, I understand what you are saying about too long shells fitting guns chambered for shorter shells.

Thanks everyone.

December 19, 2010, 11:53 PM
My main concern is if I were to close the action with a live round chambered, it may fire before the action locks.
Out of curiosity, I downloaded the Owner's Manual for the H&R Tracker Shotgun. Although a transfer-bar safety has been added (similar to the one found in single action Ruger revolvers), I suspect it's similar to your Model 1900. Just like in my modern O/U shotguns, the Tracker has a spring loaded free floating firing pin. I suspect yours is the same and is suffering from a broken return spring and/or a serious case of the cruds. If the firing pin doesn't retract, I'm with you, I wouldn't consider loading the gun.

I suspect the firing pin has a cut out that is restrained by a cross pin -- the same way its done in the modern gun. Is there a cross pin in the receiver that seems to be aligned slightly above or below the firing pin? For now, consider some penetrating oil. After it's had a good chance to loosen things up, you can try to drift the firing pin retaining pin (just a little past half way will free the firing pin). Then pluck out the firing pin and its return spring. Give the firing pin, and its pocket and good cleaning and reinstall with a new spring. Then return the retaining pin.

From what I could find web surfing, I strongly suspect your M-1900 has 2-1/2" chambers just like the model that replaced it.

December 20, 2010, 01:53 AM
Thanks again zippy13. I think you are pretty much on the money about the firing pin. I have located a parts list showing the firing pin and a firing pin screw. Also, I read where in oreder to replace the pin on a later model you remove a screw from the top of the receiver. Only problem is I don't see any such screw on mine and am wondering if it is there but has been covered up with successive applications of bluing or something. Here is a link to the parts diagram at NUMRICH. http://www.gunpartscorp.com/catalog/Products.aspx?catid=8079

This is actually a model 1908 which should be identical to mine in this respect.

#19 is the firing pin and #20 a firing pin screw. Sure wish I could find a repair manual but this is a bit older than the internet. Just saw where there is a schematic of sorts for a buck fifty and will order it in pdf from numrich.

December 20, 2010, 02:29 AM
Okay, the M-1900 doesn't seem to have a firing pin retainer cross pin like the newer versions... they fooled me.

Is there a hole in the top of the action? Can you have a look into the hole with a bright light to see if there's a firing pin retaining screw there? If you can loosen/remove the screw, it should free the firing pin to come out the into the hammer slot.

Humm... I just had a thought: Perhaps someone installed the firing pin with the cut away facing down, instead of up. Then tightening the retaining screw would secure the pin and prevent it from reciprocating.

December 20, 2010, 02:42 AM
No hole in the top of the action that I can see. I also broke the gun down to the where the forestock and barrel were removed as well as the stock and saw notbhing. I hope the screw doesn't turn out to be accessible only from the bottom, because if it is I here it is difficult to reassemble the trigger group. I ordered the hopefully more detailed schemetic but don't believe I can access it even in PDF until the transaction clears in the morning. BTW I also a denizen of Cal not to far from the old El Toro MCAS.

Also from what I read about someone that tried to fit a .357 mag barrel to a similar shotgun as mine, if that is possible, that had he done so it may have shot the firing pin out back at him.

I took some pictures of the gun and will post them if I can locate the cable I need to download pictures to my PC.

About the pin "reciprocating". I can push it back in with my finger to where its tip barely penetrates the face of the reciever block (my term).

Thanks for all the help zippy.

December 20, 2010, 03:19 AM
Here is a link to a post on antother forum. As mine has a 32" barrel, the hinge pin is removable and the fore stock does not snap on, I am certain mine is a model 1900.


b.goforth twice notes that the gun should not be shot with modern ammuniton and should be considered to be designed for black powder only.

The gun depicted is just what I have, except this is a different barrel.

December 21, 2010, 02:20 PM
I received the schematic from numrich. Although a screw on the top of the receiver generally retains the firing pin, you can only access that screw on a few models from the inside of the receiver and after remomal of the trigger guard. The schematic doesn't provide a clue as to how to take it off but from what saw when I had mine off it isn't going to be easy.

December 21, 2010, 03:57 PM
Bummer, sorry to hear your firing pin retainer isn't easy to get to. Now that you know the ammo requirements, are you going to pursue the project or make a nice wall hanger?

On a side note: something we haven't talked about is having the barrel lined. Someone like Briley could fit it with a fixed tube so it would be safe to shoot with modern ammo. But, it would make your 12-ga into a 20-ga. You could even have screw-in chokes in the tube. The down side is the tube might cost more than the gun is worth, but it's something to think about.

December 21, 2010, 04:06 PM
On an even more expensive route, would be getting it sleeved to 12 gauge - but as Zippy mentioned, the costs start to outweigh any benefit at all. IF you know the chamber, (and can get the firing pin issue resolved), look at Polywad or RST for low pressure "vintager" loads. There are designed to be shot in old guns that fired either BP or smokeless cartridges. They have them in all of the shorter lengths. Smokeless powder was already out by 1908, so depending on your barrel, they might be able to make this old girl and "now and again" shooter.

Folks at the "Vintager" shoot here in the East shoot OLD guns all the time with these loads (their guns have been checked and found safe to shoot).

Good luck!

December 21, 2010, 05:07 PM
zippy13 and oneounceload, I will try to get the firing pin out and see if I can repair whatever is causing it to stick. Otherwise it will be go on the wall with a circa 1840s plains gun which I definitely won't try to fire.

I checked out the store in Azusa that zippy13 recommended and it is probably a bit pricy for me. For now I just want something basic for home defense and while it is possible to get extra barrels I am beginning to think if I get into other things, hunting or target, a dedicated gun for that purpose may be best.

I will try to get up to the Prada gun club when I can; if only to observe what is going on. Used to live north of it in Phillips Ranch and may drop in on a couple of old neighbors.

If I get the gun torn down again and fix the problem I will post some pictures in hopes of helping someone else out.

Thank you both for all the help.

December 21, 2010, 06:14 PM
Yikes, you misunderstood me (in the other thread), I wasn't suggesting you buy a gun from the Azusa shop, I was thinking you might be interested in having a look a some up-scale comp guns if your were in the area. I was thinking the pro-shop or the bulletin board (if it's still there) at Triple-B or Prado might have something of interest. A benefit of getting a previously-trained gun is they'll usually let you shot it on a test round, something Turners has never heard of. Hopefully you'll get a chance to give every gun on your short list a try before making your final decision.

December 22, 2010, 02:29 AM
zippy13. It would be fun to watch some serious shooters and see what is up at Prado. I hope to have the time to strip that old model 1900 down tomorrow. It isn't worth the expense of sleeving the barrel but I think it will check out if I get the firing pin functioning properly.