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The rise of the sawed off shotgun
December 6, 2020
5:40 pm
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I am referring here to legal length shotguns – that is, shotguns with barrels that have been sawed off to not below 18 inches.  I know an internet dealer who does a brisk business on gunbroker.  Whenever he gets a repeating shotgun (e.g. Winchester 1897, 1887, 1901 as well as Marlin pumps and others), he saws it off to 18 inches. Oh, this is true of most double-barrel shotguns he gets in as well. He does this because he routinely receives $200+ more than he would if he left the piece original.  He doesn’t create any sort of specific story to the piece.  

On RIA this morning, a sawed off Model 1887 sold for $250 beyond the high estimate.  There is a quasi-story with it that even RIA admits in the description the story may not be about this piece.  So, an auction estimate of $2250 to $3500 and it sells for $3750.  I have an 1887 in a bit better condition than the RIA one (and I have a factory letter with it).  I figure because it isn’t sawed off, it’s worth a third of what the RIA piece brought.  Actually, when you add in commission and sales tax to the RIA M1887, I figure mine is worth one-quarter the ultimate figure the RIA buyer will pay.

https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/81/3135/winchester-model-1887-lever-action-shotgun

This leaves me shaking my head.  

December 6, 2020
6:52 pm
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Ever since the movie industry started doing this sawed off shotguns have become collectable to some point.  Then when Cowboy Action Shooting took off so did the sawed off shotguns.   I used to look for early turn of the century hammer guns that had been cut down.  I could easily make a profit on these.  I still have one in my safe.  I guess the TV cowboy is still in me.

December 6, 2020
7:00 pm
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Chuck said
Ever since the movie industry started doing this sawed off shotguns have become collectable to some point.  Then when Cowboy Action Shooting took off so did the sawed off shotguns.   I used to look for early turn of the century hammer guns that had been cut down.  I could easily make a profit on these.  I still have one in my safe.  I guess the TV cowboy is still in me.  

I shouldn’t be surprised that these have become so desirable.  It’s a nostalgic/emotional appeal.  That counts for a lot in collecting.  I can’t argue with collecting what you like.  Heck, look at me, I like .32 specials, .33 WCF’s and shotgun butts!  While I’m in confession mode, I have more round barreled Winchesters than octagon barreled.  Embarassed

Still, it bugs me that original shotguns are desecrated for this purpose.  

December 6, 2020
11:58 pm
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Hopefully this comes across the right way (it does not reflect the way I think or act)but… when somebody finds a way to make a buck, they aren’t looking at anything but the money to be made, and if it means ruining something someone finds to be more valuable in its original state,so be it……..

December 7, 2020
12:30 am
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Bill Hanzel said
Hopefully this comes across the right way (it does not reflect the way I think or act)but… when somebody finds a way to make a buck, they aren’t looking at anything but the money to be made, and if it means ruining something someone finds to be more valuable in its original state,so be it……..  

Bill – this is an interesting topic with many prongs.  As an example, we see a lot of vintage rifles that were modified long ago by their owners.  I’m talking about modifications made to make the rifles more suitable for what they were intended.  Drill and tap holes to add a receiver sight or scope, swivel holes to add a sling, or maybe a M1894 with a 26 inch barrel that was shortened to make it more manageable to carry and maneuver in the woods all day.  I have memories at gunshows, where I’ve watched dealers and collectors look over a modified piece.  On many occasions, I’ve heard a comment to the effect, “I hope there’s a special place in hell for the dumb-asses who do these things.”  Well… good grief.  These past owners purchased these pieces to hunt with.  That they would modify them to best suit that purpose is not, in my opinion, deserving of any spot in hell.

I have another example that gets at a different angle.  I knew a gunshop owner who specialized in vintage and antique firearms.  He was the proverbial scrooge.  He was very (very) focused on making a buck.  One day, a customer wondered into his shop and was taken with a very nice (all original) M1892 .44-40 SRC.  The shop owner had it marked way up – probably 200 to 300% of what he had in it.  The customer was not deterred by price.

The deal was progressing nicely but just before it was clinched, the customer mentioned he would be having the carbine rechambered to .44 magnum.  I was amazed to watch the shop owner (for whom I had never witnessed having any scruples about anything) grab that carbine out of the customer’s hands and tersely tell him there was no amount of money that would prompt him to see it to him. 

I chatted briefly with the shop owner about his thoughts on the matter.  He pointed out that there is a finite amount of these vintage original pieces, they’re not making any more, and he felt a strong obligation to help preserve them.   He saw no need for this very nice Winchester to be turned into a .44 magnum when there were plenty of Winchester and Marlin lever rifles to be had in that chambering.  He just saw no excuse for it. 

I have also seen gunsmiths talk customers out of requested modifications to collectible firearms.  Generally, they are successful doing this as often the firearm has greater monetary value as a collector item than the owner was aware.  However, I have seen examples where when the customer wanted to proceed anyway, the gunsmith has refused.  Their attitude is something to the effect, “yes, you own that rifle and can do what you want to it, but that doesn’t mean I have to do it.”  Were I a gunsmith, I think I’d have a hard time drilling scope mount holes into the receiver of a nice vintage collectible rifle. 

There’s a lot of variations of this and as many perspectives.  I find it a thought provoking topic and am interesting in what other’s think.   

December 7, 2020
12:31 am
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steve004 said
  I know an internet dealer who does a brisk business on gunbroker…
This leaves me shaking my head.    

I’d like to use one ON this SOB.  Leaves me shaking my fist.

December 7, 2020
12:49 am
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steve004 said

On many occasions, I’ve heard a comment to the effect, “I hope there’s a special place in hell for the dumb-asses who do these things.”  Well… good grief.  These past owners purchased these pieces to hunt with.  That they would modify them to best suit that purpose is not, in my opinion, deserving of any spot in hell.     

Good grief, man, you’re not equating owner-mods done at the time the gun was in use with what that greedy SOB on GB is doing?  No comparison WHATEVER!

In my experience with gunsmiths, which started when I was still in Jr. High & getting around on my Cushman scooter, I haven’t run across many who’d turn down the money to be made from a reblue job out of respect for a gun’s originality.  I’m talking about the neighborhood gun-butcher, not the ones building custom rifles & doing other premium quality gun work. 

December 7, 2020
1:07 am
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Steve, I reread my post and the ‘so be it ‘ at end of my post is NOT my take, it was meant to be from the angle of the person making the buck. If someone owns something, whether its  a car, vintage drum set, firearm, and they want to customize it- they absolutely can. I have a nice model 63 that someone put one of the period correct side scope mount on, and I actually like it because it represents what was done at the time. I am not a fan of  building a firearm to match a letter or changing it to make it more sellable, but that’s just me.

December 7, 2020
1:14 am
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clarence said

Good grief, man, you’re not equating owner-mods done at the time the gun was in use with what that greedy SOB on GB is doing?  No comparison WHATEVER!

In my experience with gunsmiths, which started when I was still in Jr. High & getting around on my Cushman scooter, I haven’t run across many who’d turn down the money to be made from a reblue job out of respect for a gun’s originality.  I’m talking about the neighborhood gun-butcher, not the ones building custom rifles & doing other premium quality gun work.   

Clarence – I wasn’t equating them at all.  Rather, I picked two examples of what I considered far ends of the spectrum.

And yeah, the neighborhood gun butcher… not only would they be willing to, say reblue a nice collectible, they’d talk the owner of the rifle into it!

December 7, 2020
2:47 am
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A few years ago I happened across an 1897 with an 18” barrel. I thought maybe it was a factory riot gun as the bead was correctly placed but the “MOD” choke marking should have tipped me off. I was impressed by what seems to be rack numbers and other markings. I feel pretty sure it was a period modification and the gun has seen some heavy use. I recall when the 1897 was the hottest thing in CAS but I’m pretty sure this gun was pretty well worn out before all that started. It’s still a hoot to shoot a round of skeet or even trap with but the action is so badly worn it binds up if not cycled carefully. I think it’s a shame so many of these guns were modified for CAS competition but there are a couple of bright spots; with every barrel this butcher cuts off, all the original guns get a little more valuable. Another is that like the TV shows and movies we grew up with the CAS matches are creating interest in the guns and the era they represent. That’s not such a bad thing. 

 

Mike

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December 7, 2020
3:37 pm
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World War II caused a lot of shotguns to be modified also.  Many of the Model 12s and Model 97s were cut down for guard guns.  There were a lot of civilian guns turned in to help the war effort and they too were modified to suit the current need.  RDB

December 7, 2020
4:45 pm
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TXGunNut said
A few years ago I happened across an 1897 with an 18” barrel. I thought maybe it was a factory riot gun as the bead was correctly placed but the “MOD” choke marking should have tipped me off. I was impressed by what seems to be rack numbers and other markings. I feel pretty sure it was a period modification and the gun has seen some heavy use. I recall when the 1897 was the hottest thing in CAS but I’m pretty sure this gun was pretty well worn out before all that started. It’s still a hoot to shoot a round of skeet or even trap with but the action is so badly worn it binds up if not cycled carefully. I think it’s a shame so many of these guns were modified for CAS competition but there are a couple of bright spots; with every barrel this butcher cuts off, all the original guns get a little more valuable. Another is that like the TV shows and movies we grew up with the CAS matches are creating interest in the guns and the era they represent. That’s not such a bad thing. 

 

Mike  

Mike – that’s an interesting and helpful perspective.  The future of firearms has no future if no one in the future is interested in them.  

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