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Guns, Firearms, Projectile Weapon Sports/H&A arms falling block external hammer shotgun

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Question
Got this gun as a gift from my son. Very nice looking piece with hand checkering. Tore it down, cleaned and lubricated it but quickly realized there was no info on the gun except manufacturer. No serial # and no indication of amunition requirements. The barrel appears to not be damascus. I assumed the gague to be 12 and due to the age, assumed it was black powder. At a gun show, I found a box of "Navy Arms" # 6 blackpowner shells. Took it to the range today and carefully ran 3 shels through it. Couldn't hit anything, but the piece performen flawlessly. Even the ejector/extractor worked fine. Question is, can I fire low brass smokeless powder in this gun?

Thanks.
Jeff

Answer
Hello Jeff.
  Sounds like you have found a great conversation piece. Your H&A falling block single shot shotgun was manufactured sometime between 1887 and 1900. Even though it is not marked for 'Black Powder Only', as some are, It will have to be on a diet of black powder shells for as long as it is used. Smokeless powder, like we have today, is even more powerful than the semi-smokeless powders manufactured up to the 1930's. In the words of an old friend of mine, " I wanted to get out just a bit further, so I put just a pinch of powder out of a regular 12ga. shell in it." I guess, if you count the 8-10ft. behind his perch, he may have gotten that shot out to 15 ft., or so. We call him 'Blue Beard' now. The moral of this story is, 'If you want to enjoy shooting this old piece, stick to the black powder shells. If you know of a competent re-loader in your area, he may be able to work up a load that will give you a little tighter shot pattern. Enjoy!
  Thank you for asking for me. Charles Gage

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Charles Gage

Expertise

I can answer questions dealing with firearms and their development due to western expansion. I can answer most questions about any firearms of the world manufactured after the Civil War(1868 - present. I can offer safety warnings about these. I can offer opinions and the reasons behind these. I can also answer questions about Iver Johnson firearms. I can identify by pictures most firearms. If your question involves a firearm you have access to, please include a good quality photo with your question.

Experience

I have been at the study of firearms and their use since my first issue of Field and Stream in 1962.At that time I was completely devoted to rifles, but over the years I have experienced the thrill of the hunt with handguns, shotguns and of course rifles. I moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico in 1972 and, since, I have taken numerous game and non-game animals with all firearms (cannons excluded)including blackpowder muzzleloading rifles,shotguns and handguns. My favorite handgun for large non-game animals, such as feral hogs, is my Uberti replica of a 1847 Colt Walker. Very heavy, but accurate.

Education/Credentials
I am a 1973 high school graduate. Junior and senior year I developed a class on Wildlife Depredation and Conservation of our Rocky Mountain states. My specialty was the brown bear.

Awards and Honors
New Mexico Hunter Safety Program Instructor 15 year award.

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