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Old guns and modern ammo

7936 Views 29 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  gcbailey
I have 1919 Ithaca 4E coming in and have read that new ammo shouldn’t be fired in these old guns. I also have read where people have shot whatever fits in the chamber for years without any issues. I’d like to hear from those who shoot modern ammo or reloads through old trap guns. Thanks in advance.


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I have a 1927 Parker single that I shoot [on occasion] and use 1-oz target loads, only because the gun recoils more than my K80. I have used modern ammo in older hunting shotguns with no worries. I don't shoot magnums in them, but nothing I use IN LEAD SHOT, would be a concern.

All that said with the knowledge that there are no corrosion issues, and a competent gunsmith has been consulted as to the chamber thickness, in case the chamber has been lengthened and perhaps making the barrel wall thickness unsafe.

Your 4E was made for target loads and they are very well-built. As long as you are using target ammo, and you have had it examined to ensure no one has messed with the barrel, you should be fine.

Scott Hanes
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have a 1927 Parker single that I shoot [on occasion] and use 1-oz target loads, only because the gun recoils more than my K80. I have used modern ammo in older hunting shotguns with no worries. I don't shoot magnums in them, but nothing I use IN LEAD SHOT, would be a concern.

All that said with the knowledge that there are no corrosion issues, and a competent gunsmith has been consulted as to the chamber thickness, in case the chamber has been lengthened and perhaps making the barrel wall thickness unsafe.

Your 4E was made for target loads and they are very well-built. As long as you are using target ammo, and you have had it examined to ensure no one has messed with the barrel, you should be fine.

Scott Hanes
Thank you Scott. I always value your opinions. I appreciate it.


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Ithaca 4Es are well built. Please be sure to check the chamber length. A 1919 gun may well have a 2.5” chamber. Trying to shoot a 2.75” shell in a short chamber greatly increases pressure which you really don’t want to do. If you have a short chamber, RST makes good 2.5” shells. Both of my 4Es and my 5E have short chambers.
 

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If you are worried about pressures do yourself two favors.

1) As mentioned verify chamber length. Remember a 2-3/4" shell will still fit into a 2-1/2" chamber - the forcing cone area will accept the shell. You need to have the chamber properly measured.

2) Research through back issues of The Double Gun Journal - there are many mentions of modern re-loads that will have very low pressure levels - which should be fine to shoot in an older gun that is otherwise in good shape.
 

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Old trap guns, like the Model 1897 Winchester and Model 12 Winchester were built like a tank. Cowboy action shooters sometimes shoot the old Winchester lever action (Model 10 I think) and these guns were also very well made. Shooting modern ammo, assuming that the shooter uses ammo of the proper length, should not be an issue. If in doubt, take the gun to a smith to insure that the gun is in good condition and suitable for use.

While not a trap gun or even a shotgun, I sometimes shoot a 1903 Springfield match rifle. The barrel was made in 1907 and the receiver, a high number over 1,000,000, was made in 1920. I do not know the history of this rifle other than I bought it in 1980 at a fishing tackle and live bait shop, covered with grease and closet dust, for about $100. The original walnut stock has a well made, attached, walnut pistol grip and the sights are a Lyman #48 receiver sight and a Lyman barrel type front sight with inserts. The rifle, even with the added pistol grip, I am told, is eligible to shoot in the 1,000 yard modified military rifle matches at Ft. Knox. While shooting at a local range many years ago, I was offered serious money for the rifle but turned it down.

The rifle, like most Springfield's, is a 30-06. I reload for it and use a load from the Speer # 13 reloading manual to push a 150 grain bullet at 2,500 fps using 45.5 grains IMR 4895, which is similar to the lower powered .300 Savage cartridge. The rifle is a "tack driver". With the peep sights and off of a mechanical rest, I can shoot 3 shot groups of 1" at 100 yards in good sunlight. The rifle weighs about 9 pounds and I can shoot it all day with a pleasant recoil sensation.

If I was to load and shoot an older firearm, I would have a gunsmith first check out the firearm and then stay with lower powered shells. I used to load a lot of IMR PB which generated lower pressures and PB would IMO be a good powder to load for an older shotgun. Alas, PB is no more. Federal used to load a 1 1/8 Extra Lite 7 1/2 shell at around 1100 fps. These were pleasant to shoot and would break 27 yard targets with authority.

I would not use heavy shot weights.

Enjoy shooting the old Ithaca.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This ones been around the block a little bit. Refinished at some point, wrong butt pad etc. supposed to be one of two made for the Olympic Club in San Francisco back in the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone on here has owned this gun. I thought was cool.












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With Black Powder...lower pressure.

Scott Hanes
Yes, yes, but in 1919 wasn’t it 3-1/4, 1-1/4 oz with smokeless? Smokeless was showing up in the last quarter of the 19th century. The cut off for “modern“ firearms using smokeless powder cartridges was 1899. This is reason any gun made before 1900 is exempt from Federal Firearms Act.

I know it cannot be a hard fast rule, but I seem to remember reading all gun manufacturers quit using Damascus a decade or two before 1900.
 

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I shoot my own trap & skeet loads in my vintage trap guns. One ounce & no faster than 1180. My old Model 12s & my 1897 are partial to Federal papers. My c.1920 Chas Daly SBT & pre-1911 Rem Auto-Loaders prefer plastic. When very occasionally shooting factory loads in any of these, I stick with Winchester AA Xtra-Lite loads. You can no doubt get away with shooting Gun Clubs, Top Guns & the like, but why stress these old beauties with such modern high-pressure loads? I save those for my modern (1950s & 60s) guns. Oh, and strictly 7625 & Lage Uniwads (neither available anymore) for my few Damascus loads.

Enjoy that classic 4E! Had one of those myself once...
 

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1. Check the chamber length.
2. If 2 9/16" decide whether you want to lengthen the chamber and forcing cone, or shoot RST 2 1/2" shell.
3. If already 2 3/4, or you have it lengthened to 2 3/4", shoot lighter loads in it. I'd probably max it out at 1200 fps 1 1/8 for Handicap, 1 oz. for the rest.
4. Enjoy shooting that beautiful 4E!
 

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c. 1900: The “standard” U.S. 12 gauge Field and Inanimate Target load was 1 1/4 oz. shot with 3 1/4 Dram Equivalent (1220 fps) of Bulk (DuPont, “E.C.”, “Schultze”) Smokeless (not Black Powder) in a 2 5/8” or 2 3/4” case, with a modern transducer pressure of 8000 - 9500 psi.
Live Bird loads were usually 1 1/4 oz. 3 1/2 Dr. Eq. Bulk Smokeless Powder with a pressure of about 11,500 psi - today's SAAMI max.

Just before WWI: The “standard” U.S. 12g Field and Target load was 1 1/8 oz. shot with 3 Dr. Eq. (1200 fps) Dense (“Ballistite” or “Infallible”) Smokeless in a 2 3/4” case with a transducer pressure of 8,500 - 10,000 psi.

It was not until April 1940 that the ATA disallowed 1 1/4 ounce loads.

Ithaca Flues SBT did occasionally break the cocking rod, and tended to crack around the FE push-button release.
The gun is > 100 years old now, and trap shooters being trap shooters, it may have been...uh...inexpertly modified. Before use a smith with the experience, equipment (bore scope and wall thickness gauge) and interest needs to look over the gun; and possibly repair cracks in the head of the stock.
I've had 2 Flues SBT and they both had 2 3/4" chambers.

In light of the age of the wood, I would stick to 1 oz. at 1200 fps target loads.

Rick - the latest Parkers with damascus barrels were SN 220,657 GH D3 1927, SN 222,845 DHE D4 1927, and SN 227,020 VHE D3 1928.

Damascus barrels were not uncommon on post-1913 L.C. Smith Ideal and Specialty grades. A 20g Field SN 14788 shipped October 21, 1919 is the latest Damascus barreled Smith gun known, but Damascus barrels were still listed as an option in sporting dealer catalogs into the late 1920s.

Some Ithaca threads

ITHACA WINS! ITHACA WINS! | Trapshooters Forum

Ithaca Flues SBT Lineup

Ithaca Flues SBT Prototypes

Ithaca Flues SBT - Evolution of the Top Bolting Mechanism

Difference between Flues and Knick Ithaca SBT?
 

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Interesting fact about how late Damascus barrels were made. Like I said, cannot assume 1900 cutoff means “ modern” can handle smokeless.
 

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From an NRA article

” Determining barrel type can be made by polishing the finish off a small area of the barrel under the forearm and treating that area with a small amount of hydrochloric acid (a test that should only be done by those well-trained in the handling of chemicals of this type, and with appropriate safety equipment!). Where the acid is applied, a solid gray patch will be seen if the barrel is solid steel; if Damascus, the original pattern of alternating iron/steel layers will be apparent.”
 
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The U.S. doublegun makers guaranteed their damascus, twist, decarbonized and fluid steel barrels for smokeless powder by 1895, and proved their guns to "prove" it.
Damascus Mythology & Reality

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Ithaca Flues SBTs were never offered with damascus barrels and I believe it is quite unlikely one was ever fitted with damascus by special order.
 
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Kreighoff still makes Damascus barrels, right? Sorry I could not help myself.
 

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With Black Powder...lower pressure.

Scott Hanes
I have a 1927 Parker single that I shoot [on occasion] and use 1-oz target loads, only because the gun recoils more than my K80. I have used modern ammo in older hunting shotguns with no worries. I don't shoot magnums in them, but nothing I use IN LEAD SHOT, would be a concern.

All that said with the knowledge that there are no corrosion issues, and a competent gunsmith has been consulted as to the chamber thickness, in case the chamber has been lengthened and perhaps making the barrel wall thickness unsafe.

Your 4E was made for target loads and they are very well-built. As long as you are using target ammo, and you have had it examined to ensure no one has messed with the barrel, you should be fine.

Scott Hanes
Scott,

I'm sure you have them or remember those the old Brown Cover Dupont/IMR reloading manuals ? I still have them, 50 + years old, data is still good. Since you mention "Parker" I shot 7/8's in my DHE Trap gun, softer/lower pressure loads. Their were a few Parker shooters who shot "Damascus" barrels using the old "PB" powder and loading data, I think pressure was 5500/6000 PSI. They tested the loads using a string on the trigger, most were the heavy # 2 framed and a few 1 1/2 frame models. Then when Briley began sub-gauge inserts they ceased the practice of smokeless in twist barrels.
 
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