Sunday, September 29, 2013

Double shotgun!

I've about settled on plucking the rounds out of the sidesaddle with my thumb and forefinger and going over the top of the gun to throw them in the ejection port. It's faster for me and seems to involve less chance of me butterfingering the shell vis-a-vis thumbing it up into a waiting palm and then rolling it under the receiver.

Shootin' Buddy wanted to do a mini "Rolling Thunder" drill and, after finishing up a box of Federal target loads, I broke out a fresh box of Winchester shells and loaded up the gun. "You start," said Shootin' Buddy. Okay...


*BOOM!* "Out!"

*BOOM! B...* Oh, sweet jebus what now?‡ The shotgun slide was locked firmly closed on the spent shell. Check bolt release, apply safety and, muzzle pointed downrange, place the butt against my hipbone and haul back mightily on the slide with both hands... c-lack! The empty shell is spit on the ground.

It looks normal.

Try again, and after one slightly sticky round, the gun locks up tighter than Dick's hatband. Same extraction drill. Shootin' Buddy glorps oil onto the action bars and onto the extractor, but everything's smooth in dry fire.

"Here, you try it," I suggest. He picks up the gun, fires one round, and the gun locks up. Now I don't think it's the gun.

I hand him a couple shells. "Try these in your gun." Same results.

The probable culprit: Winchester Super Speed 2 3/4" 12 ga. #8 Lot No. 55Y2GH24 from Wally World. There wasn't any noticeably increased recoil or obvious pressure signs on the spent rounds, and I'm no shotgun expert, but there you go.

One of the guys who works at the range spotted me a box of Estate birdshot, which was awfully nice of him, and the gun ran fine from there on out, except for one round that didn't eject cleanly. I rolled the gun to let gravity help and of course the spent shell was followed out the ejection port by the live one on the lifter. What're ya gonna do?

Anyhow, I'm definitely going to remember this the next time I get to hear Cletus telling me how he "likes pump shotguns, 'cuz they don't jam."

You had to be there.
The range probably would have frowned on me clearing kydex with my pistol and finishing the drill.


Panamared said...

Sounds like a rule or something, to always check your gun and ammo combination before putting your life on the line.

Tam said...

I don't think I'll be putting my life on any lines with Winchester birdshot. (Or any birdshot, for that matter.)

joe in reno said...

I've got half a case of wallyworld Winchester 7 1/2 that does the same thing in every 870 I've tried them in. Mine are at least 10 yrs old. I've decided it's the plastic they make the hulls out of.

Anonymous said...

Common prob with expresses some are cured by polishing chamber I had to remove rough spots in bbl ext and rim recess as well.I had shot over 100 rnds of everything from oo bck and slugs to 3" turkey with no probs when the fiocchi shells bought at j sevier gun range locked up my express and a buds maverick 88 and a flexhone chamber hone fixed the 88 my 870 needed the rim recess and bbl hood work to stop the prob.

Tam said...

IIRC, SB's gun wasn't an Express.

B said...

And to think you got someone (or they got themselves) fired over those scattergun shells.


Anonymous said...

Seen it happen with expresses, mav 88 and a 1974 belgium made browning auto 5.Win bulk birdshot ,Rem gun club, Fiocchi and federal bulk are shells that gave me probs with extraction.Strangely the rem gun clubs didn't stick in my gun but locked up my nieces express so tight that the extractor claw ripped right through the rim on a few.The Winchester 100 packs sold at wally world are the most common offenders cited on fora threads about jamming 870 box of cheapo bird shells you get drop each shell into the chamber(take bbl off gun) and mark all the ones that don't drop freely into the chamber I betcha these will be the ones that stick.I remember the late shotgun mod on TFL saying operator error ie not cleaning the rust prevention grease the factory put on was gumming up the chamber.Since I cleaned both my niece's and my expresses the day we got them using Gun Scrubber and a chamber brush (needed to keep chamber and forcing cone spic n span) I know that was not the cause on our guns.

Anonymous said...

Check the bases with a magnet and they will probably be steel. Zinc plated steel to be exact and they do stick in a great many shotguns. I can personally attest to that specific shell sticking in Wingmasters, Express and Police 870s. Polishing the chamber will help.

Michael said...

Unpossible! Everything I read on the Internet tells me that i can only trust my life to scarrerguns. Pump action shottys are flawless in operation, unlike those finicky newfangled semi auto rifle and pistols.

Drang said...

My Chinese is rusty, and I can['t find my Korean-Chinese/Chinese-Korean and Korean-English/English Dictionaries, what's written (calligraphed) on SB's buttstock?

Mike V. said...

If it can go wrong, it will....

Anonymous said...

FWIW, my 870s are Scattergun Technologies (pre-Wilson) FBI Models.

Shootin' Buddy

Ancient Woodsman said...

Cletus likes pump shotguns because he hates the fact that Joe Biden does, too.

Or, something like that.

For normal folks, a pump shotgun is like any other machine made by and used by a human: it can fail, and learning how to use it still when it fails is one of the biggest steps towards competency.

For over a decade I thought I was a really good fire pump operator. Then I took a class about all the things that can go wrong with fire pumps. Once I worked through that class three times in several years, I started to think I was maybe approaching becoming an o.k. pump operator. The problem with my earlier assumption was that I had never been challenged by a bad pump or a bad night; having learned how to make things still work when things go wrong...well, then I started to truly appreciate competency.

I think of guns the same way. Knowing how to use them under ideal circumstances really isn't much at all; knowing how to still use them when things don't go so well is the key.

Tam said...

"Check the bases with a magnet and they will probably be steel. Zinc plated steel to be exact..."

No shit? Really?

Hey, can you tell me which end of this spoon goes in my mouth?

Of COURSE they were zinc-washed steel, just like EVERY OTHER ROUND of Federal and Estate birdshot that this gun has happily devoured without any problems.

I'm going to stick to posting cat pictures or something from now on...

Tam said...

"I remember the late shotgun mod on TFL..."

Dave McCracken, rest his soul. :(

Anonymous said...

But the Veep said a shotgun is the gun to have!

I truly miss my 20" Ithaca Deerslayer Police Special 12 ga.
Bottom ejection - works well with both hands!


Rob said...

Winchester seems to make really crappy cheapo loads. I stopped using them forever when I had some Winchester 20 gauge shells that were so deformed they had trouble in a Stevens 311 double barrel. Now I stick to Federal or Remington.

Steve Skubinna said...

Your stance is wrong, obviously.

Ever load a shell backwards? I never have (yet) but I know people who have managed it.

Stranger said...

Personally, I would be glad I had that honkin' big 870 foreend to pull on instead of the charging handle on a semi-auto.

And yes, do try your ammo before you trust it with anything more serious than a sheet of patterning paper. Which is a very good reason to buy shells by the case - and keep lot numbers handy.


Scott J said...

Please don't just do cat pictures.

This was quite educational. First I've ever heard of this kind of failure. I've never experienced it although my scattergun experience is rather limited.

I always just assumed they wouldn't stick from pressure like a brass casing would. I figured since the hull is mostly plastic it would deform enough to allow extraction no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Come for the brains, stay for the snark, and develop a mild crush for the Archer references...

Anonymous said...

I've personally had issues with 100 round Federal target loads from wal-mart in my shotgun. It seems the barrel heats up under sustained use and the cheap-o target loads get sticky. I had to slam the butt of the stock on the ground while holding the forarm to get it to eject one time. My Uncle took his model 12 to the gunsmith, then came back next time with a box of Winchester AA and had better luck.

Since I'm super-cheap, I just insist everyone keep their action open and pointed downrange and we also rotate firearms more often instead of firing 25 shells in a row at a box of clays.

When the chips are down, I would recommend AAs, but go ahead and get plenty of trigger time with the cheap-o stuff. You need to practice clearing jams anyway.


Marcus said...

I'm with Drang... what's that written on the buttstock?

Must focus on what is most important here! ;-)

Old NFO said...

Crap happens, I'd change to Estate... I happen to like Estate, never had a problem feeding or ejecting them.

mustanger said...

I've seen Winchester bulk birdshot loads have ejection problems from 870's.

I've never seen Federal bulk birdshot loads have problems in anything.

Federal = Good (Never had a problem with Estate either.)

Winchester = Bad, in this case, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Only costly target stuff like Win AA, Rem STS, and Fed Gold Medal has brass the rest steel that's either brass washed or zinc plated

Anonymous said...

Had an 870 that every high brass shell of any brand would stick and have tight release. No problem with low base shells. It was one of the barrels that were "recalled" (not) for poor steel quality in the barrel. Apparently the barrel swelled just enough to stick the high base shells from ejecting smoothly.Sold it won't buy another!

Will said...

Any way you can get a close up focus of the rear chamber walls? How smooth is it? I suspect it is not a fine enough surface figure. The problem with steel cases, I'm told, is they don't spring back to original or near original diameter after firing, like brass does. They tend to form fit, and if you don't have a very smooth, uniform diameter chamber, it will get very "grippy".

I'd consider the judicious application of a brake cylinder hone to the area that would extend a bit past the length of high base. A quick touch of a hone would indicate most of the possible out of shape problems, but not all.

The size of a 12ga shell has a huge surface area compared to a .223, for instance. That can be a lot of drag, which translates into a lot of force to overcome.

Tam said...


Please read all above comments.

Thank you.

Patrick said...

Your post reminds me I need to go out today and tune myself up for deer this fall.

Not sure what people do when they say "hone" (because I am not a gunsmith), but when I had similar issues I took some 3M nylon-ish padding used for buffing out wood and worked it all around inside with some oil. After a little while it felt smoother and I haven't had the issue since.

If this redenck solution is not the proper procedure to 'hone', I am sure someone will be along shortly to yell.

Tam said...

The chambers on both my new 870 Express and on Shootin' Buddy's fifteen-year-old Scattergun Technologies FBI Model are hunky dory.

The two guns combined digested probably close to a hundred and fifty rounds of steel-hulled ammo from Federal, Estate, and Winchester with no problems on that very morning. The only problems came from rounds of Winchester Super Speed out of the box in the picture.

Thank you all for your sincere desire to help.

Tam said...

That's it. It's cat pictures from here on out.

Jim said...

Tam, if you're going the cat picture route, then maybe you can do a mashup of Hello Kitty with some Grumpy Cat and a bit of Kalishnikitty thrown in for good measure.

What to call it? Maybe "Goodbye Kitty?" Maybe even "Get Off My Lawn Kitty??

I'm not artist enough to produce the images, but I think there's a funny tee shirt or three in the mix.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Jim said...

P.S. In light of the track of this thread, the Kalishnikitty needs to be holding an 870.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Robert said...

Hey, we like pictures of Huck & Co also.

inbredredneck said...

But... but... cat pictures will just cause a debate over what caliber for D9. That'll deteriorate into arguments about Deere season.

Rob J

wv is votseeis 223 which I personally feel ain't enough for even a D6

Scott J said...

To continue my attempt from yesterday to express my appreciation for the content:
I always figured you'd get hull rupture long before you'd ever get stick.

This gives me something to ponder. Especially if I ever get around to unboxing the Lee Load-All my wife bought me for Christmas way back in 2010.

Anonymous said...

"My Chinese is rusty, and I can['t find my Korean-Chinese/Chinese-Korean and Korean-English/English Dictionaries, what's written (calligraphed) on SB's buttstock?"

My Chinese name. It is there to distinguish it from a dozen other black 870s at shotgun school.

I use Russian or Chinese to distinguish my guns and mags from everyone else's in classes.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

"My Chinese is rusty, and I can['t find my Korean-Chinese/Chinese-Korean and Korean-English/English Dictionaries, what's written (calligraphed) on SB's buttstock?"

My Chinese name. It is there to distinguish it from a dozen other black 870s at shotgun school.

I use Russian or Chinese to distinguish my guns and mags from everyone else's in classes.

Shootin' Buddy

og said...

Ah, I got the first two characters but not the rest, but it makes a good deal of sense now.

Just when I was about to send it to hanzi smatter.

Goober said...

Huh. I've run thousands of rounds of that same cheap win ammo through my 870 and never had trouble. Even in my. 1100 autoloader, no problems to speak of that I can blame on the ammo. I go through cases of that stuff a year shooting sporting clays.

Strange. Sorry you had trouble, tam. That's a pain in the arse.

Tam said...


I noted the lot no. for just that reason.

Anonymous said...

I had problems in a Mossberg 500 with that same kind of ammo. My 590 eats it just fine.
My problem was an extractor that kept jumping off the the rim. I compared the Winchester Super Speed cheapo stuff to some high brass loads that fed and ejected just fine, and the rim was ever-so-slightly more prominent on the high brass.

And Cletus has obviously never gotten a shell stuck between the lifter and bolt on an 870. That little loading failure will jam it up right quick.

Will said...

I read ALL comments. Bit obsessive about that, actually.

In the interest of trimming my comment, I left out some content that I thought would not be necessary for you. Oops?

I figured if the rounds chambered, then it would be nice if you could get them to be useable in the future. There are two main variables here. Base dimensions (most likely. Some possibililty of a problem with the plastic of the hull, but less likely), and chamber. Even your buddy's ScatterTech chamber could be less than ideal. (you think people don't make mistakes in production?)

If some judicious surface work on the chamber fixes the problem, then you have a wider choice of ammo, not to mention lessening the possibility of future problems with other brands, as some try cutting corners to cut costs.

BTW, when I talked of a hone, I did not mean one of those dingleberry types, but the stone type. Best would be a mechanical driven adjustment style, but I can't remember if they are made in that small a diameter.

One of the problems I encounter here is that you have a history of downplaying your gunsmithing knowledge base (yes, I've been reading your early blog years to see what I missed before I found your blog).
I generally figure you know a bit more than you mention, but don't want to assume that, when it gets into some of the more esoteric stuff. Besides, I figure some of the info that gets tossed around here in comments might be useful for your wide audience of readers. I know I learn things, so figure I should do my part.
I didn't think you wanted an echo chamber.

I'm good with cats in the future. :)

Tam said...


I apologize for getting snappy; folks just inadvertently tripped over a pet peeve of mine. ;)

Scott J said...

"Besides, I figure some of the info that gets tossed around here in comments might be useful for your wide audience of readers"

This. I often read stuff here and think "Tam obviously knows that so they're addressing other commentors not so enlightened"

Thing is it's hard to tell in this format who is doing that and who is posting from the "she's a girl so what does she know" perspective.

Goober said...

Appreciate that. But realistically that particular ammo isnt likely to ever find itself in any life or death struggles being in my ammo stockpile.

I've been shooting clay pigeons for years and I have yet to have one charge me. ;)

I figure if I find I've got some of that lot number on hand when I get home tonight that I won't put it first up for use in competition, though, so I'm obliged to you for sharing.

Tam said...


"I've been shooting clay pigeons for years and I have yet to have one charge me. ;)"

Unfortunately, the fact that those paper targets weren't charging me didn't make clearing the malfs any more fun. I boxed up the remainder of the shells and brought them home rather than having to go through the suck of beating the gun open after every other shot. :(

Vern said...

Estate shells put your food rioter down... -Jeff Cooper's Living Ghost...

Hawken Cougar said...

Test fired a brand new 10 gauge semi-auto the day prior to a hunt. Would not eject the empty. Cold weather, has to be the factory lube. Take it apart, clean and inspect during assembly. Same thing, wth? Bought two boxes of 3 1/2" steel when the gun was picked up. Let's try the other brand. Gun works fine. Both brands were the same payload and velocity but different shot size. Could not feel a difference in recoil. Contacted the manufacturer of the problem shells later in the week. Nope, no problems reported with that lot. Send us the remainder of the box to us and we'll test them for you. Two weeks later comes the reply of insufficient LUP along with a check sufficient to cover the cost five boxes. I doubt the folks at Wally's would be interested in your problem but I suspect the folks at Winchester might.

Rob Reed said...

You mentioned Dave McCracken. Funny, I was just thinking about him. I really miss both him and Stephen Campbell. They were both extremely knowledgeable and very willing to help out other shooters. They were both class acts and set examples I try to follow when I can.

Rob (Trebor)

Hawken Cougar said...

Out of curiosity, have you tried inserting one of the spent hulls (that were ejected after a jam)into an empty chamber by hand to see if and at what point it would hang up? If it were to seat in the chamber, then try closing the action to see if it would close fully and lock. And then, would it eject normally or would the action become jammed again?