of the Most Innovative Shotguns Ever Made
by Chris Eger: Palm
Pistols: Celebrate This Valentineís Day With a Little Palm†Love
have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another.
The blunderbuss and the
classic fowling piece, large smoothbore
muskets that fired loads of shot, were popular for centuries.
think of today as modern shotguns started in about the 1830s
and over the past 180 or so years has been moved forward by five
designs to which just about every gauge in current production
can trace its lineage.
first centerfire breechloader
In 1836, French
Lefaucheux, taking inspiration from earlier designs by Jean
Samuel Pauly that
just didnít work, came up with something pretty radical.
pinfire, breechloading shotgun, 1836.
smoothbore longarm that loaded from the breech rather than the
muzzle, in itself was not new. What was new was that he used a
self-contained paper tube that held both the charge and the
shot in one handy shell. This shell was fired from a pinfire
primer in the rear that was struck by a hammer in the rear of
breech. To load and reload, one simply cracked the breech open and
inserted or extracted the round by hand. Once fired, the empty paper
hull was removed and a new one inserted if needed.
Within 40 years,
a dozen gunmakers including Remington,
Smith had taken Lefaucheux’s basic idea and were selling
single barrel and double barrel shotguns on both sides of the
Atlantic Ocean. Today you can look at the design and see the modern
hinge-break shotguns that are still in fast production. Next time
you go to the skeet
range, you can mutter a little thanks to old Casimir.
Miner Spencer was a forward thinker. Best known for his Spencer
gave Union Cavalry godlike firepower during the Civil War, he
also invented a sewing machine, a horseless carriage and the first
pump-action shotgun. In 1882 from his Spencer
Arms Company, in Windsor, Connecticut, he began to sell of a
12-gauge pump action shotgun that fed 2 5/8-inch shells from an
under barrel tubular magazine. The Spencer
Shotgun (what else would it be called?) both fed and ejected
through the top of the breech, kind of like an Ithaca
of today but in reverse.
The Spencer Shotgun, 1882.
his patents and company a few years later and by the 1890s, Winchester
and other others had their own versions on the market. Today
nobody remembers Chris Spencer, but in almost every shooter’s
closet, there is at least one pump-action shotgun.
While a number
of pipedream designs by lesser engineers never left the drawing
Moses Browning in 1898 came up with the idea of a long-recoil
operated semi-automatic shotgun. Using the same under barrel tubular
magazine as the Spencer with the addition of a feed spring, Browning
hashed out a 12-gauge shotgun with a reciprocating barrel and bolt
that cycles rearward to eject a spent shell hull and feed a new
one from the magazine into the chamber. With the magazine holding
five shots and the semi-auto action, the gun became known
as the Auto 5. Coming just 15 years after the invention of the
pump shotgun, which was in itself revolutionary, Browning knew he
was on to something. After problems selling the idea to Remington
he approached the Belgian
firearms megacorporation FN in 1902 and the rest is firearms
In the century
that followed more than 3-million FN made Auto 5s and almost as
copies came forth and established the semi auto shotgun as the definitive
example of its class for generations. Browning liked the design
so much that he considered it his best work, and from a man with
more than 128 gun patents that included the
Colt 1911, the Winchester
BAR and the Colt
Woodsman, thatís really saying something.
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