The First World War and Cheap Shotguns

My shotgun is a Stoeger P 350, 12 bore 3 ½ inch, pump action in Max 4 camo with a 28 inch barrel. I got it on a special offer at around the time of my 50th birthday. It came with turkey, full, modified, improved cylinder, and cylinder chokes: one shot gun for all my needs. Allow me to rationalise why I bought a cheap shotgun.

In 1915, the Canadian army went into battle with the Ross rifle. The rifle was a straight pull bolt action in .303 British. It was an innovative and accurate rifle. However, its chamber and action tolerances were tight which meant that it needed quality ammunition and a clean environment for optimum performance. The heat from rapid-fire could lead to stuck cases. The slack tolerances of wartime mass produced ammunition made stuck cases a fact of life. When the dirt and mud of trench warfare were added to the equation, the action jammed. Indeed, the situation became so bad that the Ross rifle was eventually withdrawn and Canadian soldiers (with the exception of some snipers) were issued with Lee Enfields.

A semiautomatic shotgun is an expensive piece of machinery; and no matter the operating system, it is not easy to field strip and clean. A break open shotgun has some complex mechanics between the trigger plate and the tang; and it requires clean bearing surfaces to close properly. A pump action, on the other hand, is the wildfowling equivalent of a Lee Enfield. It is simple, comparatively sloppy, and fundamentally functional.

Why a cheap pump action shotgun? Years ago, there was an ad on television for an economical brand of wristwatch. In the ad, a Rolex was put on the ground beside this company’s lookalike and a road roller driven over both watches. The punchline of the ad: the difference between the two watches was that the owner of the lookalike could simply go out and buy another identical watch. Wildfowling tends to involve water. Sometimes, it is flowing. Sometimes, it is standing. Often, it is precipitation. And usually, it is present as an ingredient of mud. Were I the owner of one of my shotgun’s rich Beretta or Benelli relatives, and were something to happen, then I should be like the owner of the Rolex. As it is, if the worst came to the worst, I could just about pick up a replacement shotgun.

About Tweed and Briar

I am the pastor of a rather conservative rural congregation. My interests alongside of work are hunting, fly fishing, cooking, and life in an agricultural community. By way of family, I have a wife and two children: a daughter and a son. I am of indeterminate age because my wife is a bit younger than I am and my son is ages with some of my friends’ grandchildren. However, to say that I slip smoothly among the generations would imply an agility which I no longer possess. I aspire to the genteel poverty of the country manse.
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