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Ask The Experts

Q & A

Shells For 3½-Inch 12-Gauge Remington Model 870?
Q. I recently received a Remington Model 870 in 12 gauge chambered for 3½-inch magnum shells. Can I safely use 2¾- and 3-inch 12-gauge shells with this gun?

Art Zimmer
Parker, CO

A. All lengths of 12-gauge shells that are 3½ inches or shorter can be safely fired in your Remington pump gun.

Layne Simpson
Senior Field Editor

.45 Auto Gelatin Tests?
Q. I read very carefully the ballistics column in the August 2008 issue about the ammo gelatin tests. I like what Allan Jones reported, but I am curious about him telling police recruits that the .45 Auto Model 1911 firing 200-grain hollowpoints is his personal favorite when he provided almost nothing in the piece about the characteristics of the .45, except the inclusion of some data in the table and the comparison of the .45 (Long) Colt revolvers at the end of the column.

Frankly, I agree with him, but he gave no real basis for his "druthers." Did I miss something?


Jim Thompson
Bucklin, MO

A. I'd have loved to have given my .45-caliber "druthers," but I felt the space limitations would not permit. The things we discovered during the Dallas testing would make a decent book.

Basically, my personal choice of .45 Auto ammo followed the same pattern as the steps we used to recommend a .38 Special load--wound profile, recoil, potential for over-penetration, etc. The .45/200 wound profile was equal to a number of good .357 Magnum loads, but my control of the semiauto was much better. I could quickly pile a lot of 200-grain HPs into a pretty small group; if I tried the same thing with a .357 revolver, the group looked like a distant buckshot pattern.

Remember, the time frame of those tests was the late 1970s. Nearly all the .45-caliber pistols were Model 1911 variants, the larger police community had not yet embraced the cartridge, and the revolver was still "King of the Police Sidearms." As a result, ammo makers were not strongly pressured to do much with the .45 Auto cartridge, and those of us who valued the old veteran were glad to get what hollowpoints we had.I selected the 200-grain Speer "Ashcan" because, in actual shootings, it showed more reliable expansion. It also had a better wound profile than any of the 185-grain HP bullets. I also liked the second-generation Super Vel 190-grain load, but it had a lot more recoil. Both of those loads are now either discontinued (Super Vel) or replaced with new technology (Speer Gold Dot), and my two-part column was offered for its historical interest rather than recommendations of currently available products. That's a reason I did not list a lot of brands and specific varieties we tested; too many are now "no more" 30 years later.

Allan Jones
Ballistics Editor

Can I Shoot This Ammo?
Q. A friend of mine was cleaning out one of his apartments and found 2,000 rounds of 7.62x39 ammo. It is military ammo, and I am not sure of the manufacturer. It is Boxer primed, steel case, and loaded with pointed softpoint bullets. I unloaded a round and miked the bullet; it measured .311 inch in diameter. The markings on the head of the case appear to be "324" and "94," nothing else.

I purchased a Ruger Mini Thirty to shoot some of this ammo in, but since my Mini has a bore diameter of .308 inch, I am wondering if it is safe for me to shoot this ammo in it. What damage can be done? Should I just forget about firing this ammo in my Mini Thirty? I also have an SKS and could shoot the ammo in it if it is the only choice I have. Since I don't really care for this round, I plan to shoot about 1,000 rounds and then sell the Mini Thirty and the SKS.

Tracy Arbaugh
Inglewood, CA

A. Years ago when I purchased an early-production Mini Thirty, I also wondered if it would be okay to shoot steel-cased, military-type ammo in it. At the time, domestic ammo was scarce, but as you point out it's loaded with .310/.311-inch-diameter bullets. So I called Ruger and was assured the Mini Thirty chamber throat was configured to accommodate military ammo safely. When I received your letter, I called

Ruger again to confirm that previous advice. So, just enjoy shooting any surplus ammo in both of your rifles.

Lane Pearce
Reloading Editor

Turkey Gun Barrel Length?
I have a question about shotgun barrel length. I'm in the process of purchasing a new shotgun primarily to be used for turkey hunting, and I have noticed that most turkey-gun configurations come with 24-inch barrels. One very popular manufacturer tells me that the 24-inch barrel will shoot just as far as the 28-inch barrel. What's the real scoop on shotgun barrel length? Does longer barrel length really equate to farther range, or is this just an individual preference issue?

C.L. Corley
Bristow, VA

A. The burning of propellants used in modern shotshells is usually complete by the time the shot charge travels 22 to 24 inches down the barrel. The barrels of shotguns used for wingshooting and clay target shooting are typically longer because they improve the dynamics of a gun. In addition to swinging more smoothly, a shotgun with a longer barrel also encourages follow-through, which is critical in wingshooting. But none of that applies to a turkey gun because, most often, it is carefully aimed like a rifle. And since the amount of choke constriction in a barrel rather than its length is what determines pattern density at various ranges, the latest fad in turkey guns is a relatively short barrel.

A lot of the turkey hunting I used to do was in extremely steep mountain country, and the 21-inch barrel of the Remington Model 870 Special Field I used delivered patterns as tight as any gun I have ever used. I used that gun not because it had a short barrel but because it was so light. A great disadvantage to a short barrel on a turkey gun is the increase in muzzle blast. The Model 870 I now use for most of my turkey hunting has a 28-inch barrel, and never do I find myself wishing it had a shorter tube.

Layne Simpson
Senior Field Editor

Gold Cup Trigger Work?
I recently traded for a Colt Series 80 .45 Gold Cup. The trigger pull is not good for target shooting (6 pounds with creep). The pistol has the firing-pin-lock plunger. What trigger work and/or parts replacement would be necessary to impr

ove the trigger pull?

Bill Skidmore
Bremen, GA

A. You really should treat your Gold Cup as you would any 1911 as far as trigger work is concerned. The problem with the heavy trigger pull can be corrected by alteration of the angle of the nose of the sear. That plus perhaps a bit of work on the sear spring, hammer spring, and maybe--just maybe--a bit of work on the hammer itself should do the trick.

I need to caution you that any work on the sear must be done carefully, or you could easily end up with a ruined sear or, what's worse, an unsafe handgun. If you are not 100 percent comfortable and experienced with this type of work, I strongly encourage you to have the trigger job done by a competent gunsmith who will guarantee his work.

Reid Coffield
Gunsmithing Editor

.40-65 Load Data?
I have an odd Winchester Model 1886 in .40-65 that was made in 1892. It is a short rifle with an octagon barrel. I had it to Winchester shortly after World War II; they said it was original, and I was the second owner.

Can Lane Pearce give me some smokeless-powder loading information for the .40-65 in my 1886 Winchester?

Frank Bolden
Jefferson City, TN

A. My experience with the .40-65 WCF cartridge is limited to handloads for the discontinued Browning BPCR single-shot rifle. I typically load 400-grain cast bullets over a modest charge of Accurate's 5744 smokeless propellant. Your rifle was made in 1892 when blackpowder cartridges topped with 260-grain lead bullets were the norm. Several years later, factory ammo topped with similar-weight jacketed softpoint bullets was also available.

According to several old Lyman loading manuals I looked at, various smokeless powders can be safely used to load ammo for your rifle with cast lead bullets. That's probably your best bet because I don't know where you can purchase jacketed bullets for the .40-65.

However, before you try to shoot your vintage 1886 Winchester, have a competent gunsmith check it over and verify it's still in shootin' condition. You should inspect the bore and slug it to determine the exact bore size.

If the bore is not dark or pitted badly, you can cast, size, and lube or purchase lead-alloy bullets that should deliver satisfactory performance. However, if the bore's too rough, cast bullets will quickly foul it, and only jacketed bullets may shoot decently. If that's the case, depending on the bore size, you might be able to swage .41-caliber handgun bullets down and load them to modest (1,500 fps or less) velocities. Excellent .40-65 cases are easily formed from new .45-70 brass using the appropriate dies.

Sounds like an interesting and fun project to reactivate your old rifle again.

Lane Pearce
Reloading Editor

What Revolver Do I Have?
I have a vintage revolver that I am attempting to identify. I am also interested in discovering its value. I am not even sure of the caliber, as no ammo that I have found fits this gun.

The unique features of this revolver are the folding trigger, floating cylinder (no frame over it), firing pin on the hammer, and hexagonal barrel.

Can any of the experts identify this revolver? What is its value?

Mark Menashe
Orange, CA

A. Your revolver is a copy of the LaFaucheux revolver, except it is chambered for a centerfire rather than a pinfire cartridge. Aside from that, I can't tell anything else about it from the photos you enclosed.

Paul Scarlata
Vintage Firearms Editor

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