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 Post subject: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 8:53 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:23 pm
Posts: 156
I have a LeFever Nitro Special 12 gauge, serial # 1227XX, barrel marked as being made in Ithaca NY. Year of production from web sources shows 1922. Is that correct?

At that date would the chambers have been factory cut for 2-3/4" shells?

I'd like to remove the stock for cleaning and repair of one small crack. I gather from limited reading that it is held on by a through-stock bolt. Does removal of the bolt and stock entail any surprises or complications?

If I remove the bottom plate for cleaning, do I get any flying parts or difficult reassembly chores? I don't intend to go any further in disassembling the mechanism.

Barrels under the forearm are marked "0" and "4." I would be inclined to read this as cylinder and full choke. An ID gauge in the right barrel does indeed show no choke. Cylinder and full seems like an unusual factory choking to me. What say the experts?

Will appreciate any assistance.




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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:39 am 
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Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:09 am
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You are correct on chokes and not uncommon for the times. You will need to measure chamber length. It does have a stock through bolt. I have not had one apart for a long time, I think there is only one spring-and it between the "J" bar and the trigger [late. It won't 'fly out' but watch you don't loose it. I will check on your date but sounds about correct. The Nitros started at 100000.


Last edited by ithacanut on Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:13 pm 
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Every Nitro Special in 12 gauge had 2 3/4" chambers and was made with the heavier loads in mind that were coming out after WW1. In fact, the Nitro Special as really the basis for the NID, after beefing up the Flues didn't work out well enough.

I don't own one right now, but I've owned many of them over the years. The only trick about them is that to replace the coil springs you need to modify a C grip pair of Vise Grips, but not unless you want to mess with replacing the springs. They are a simple, simple gun.

They use a draw bolt. If it's not kept tight they get that little split on the stock. No trouble to epoxy the split and keep the drawbolt tight.

I think they are a far better gun that the Stevens 311, but the trouble with a lot of the Nitros is that the old boys that owned them used them like hammers. You can wear any gun out by constant use, except maybe an Auto Five or a M37 Ithaca.:)


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:17 pm 
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My reckoning shows DOM to be during 1923. Ithaca's chief engineer, Nestor Smith, reported that Ithaca 12 ga, guns were not chambered to 2 3/4 until 1924 so I still suggest measuring the chambers. Please let us know what you find.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:24 pm 
Tournament Grade

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:23 pm
Posts: 156
Thanks for your responses. The closer I examine this shotgun, the more I like it.

Per suggestion, I just measured the chambers. They appear to be 2-3/4". I double-checked by dropping into the chambers a paper casing that had been fired in a modern 12 gauge gun. The casing's crimp is blown out straight. It dropped right into the LeFever without any coaxing and without folding the end of the hull.

Regards safe loads, I had planned on using only one-ounce, low-pressure hand loads. Am I correct in believing that a high-brass hunting round of 1950's vintage (3-3/4 Drams Equiv, 1-1/4 ounce) is too heavy for this shotgun?


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 12:23 am 
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I had no idea that the first year Nitros weren't all 2 3/4". I'd never had one that wasn't.

You need to use a "real" chamber gauge instead of a paper shell, but even if the gun is 2 5/8" using one ounce loads shouldn't hurt the old gun.

It's not nice to use high brass, heavy loads in any old double, whether it's safe or not to do it. It's hard on stocks and parts inside, not to mention your shoulder.:)


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:20 am 
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Nitros may have been 2-3/4 chambered from day one. We occasionally see old Flues guns chambered for 2-3/4 and sometimes 3 inch that appear to be factory. Based upon Nestor's note, worth a check. You may find the photo below of interest. From a 1922 Nitro advertising flier.
Image
Looks like the sear springs may drop out when you remove the trigger plate. Please let us know what you find.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:50 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:23 pm
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I didn't use a fired case to measure the chamber length. To make this measurement I milled a square wood block that just slides into the chamber without pushing. When the squared off end of the block hit bottom, I marked the side with a pencil. The mark is 2-15/16" from the end of the block. When I drop the same block into the chambers of an LC Smith 12 gauge, it stops at the same place. Ditto for a single shot Stevens that is clearly marked, 2-3/4" chamber. I'm convinced the LeFever has 2-3/4" chambers.

Thanks for posting that diagram, Ithacanut. I have the stock off and after repairs plan on removing the bottom plate. Will report back.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2012 8:12 pm 
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For general information: I just hung up after talking to a friend who recently bought a 16 ga. Nitro Special. He measured chamber length is 2 9/16 inches. A 1929 gun.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:43 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:12 am
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The 16-gauge shell in a 2 9/16 inch case was the "standard" in North America until well into the 1930s, and 2 9/16 inch 16-gauge shells continued to be offered by North American ammunition companies into the early 1960s. It is not until the Ithaca Gun Co. catalogues of 1934 that they begin stating their 16-gauges are chambered for 2 3/4 inch shells. Prior to that it was 2 9/16 inch. When "modern" progressive burning powders were introduced in shotshells, Western Cartridge Co.'s Super-X load leading the way in 1922, these 12- and 20-gauge loads were put up in 2 3/4 inch shells. The next year they added a 16-gauge Super-X loading, but it was put up in their 2 9/16 inch Field case. Both Remington Arms Co., Inc. with their Nitro-Express and Peters Cartridge Co. with their High Velocity followed suit in putting up their 16-gauge loads in a 2 9/16 inch case. In 1931, Remington Arms Co., Inc. introduced their Model 11 5-shot and "The Sportsman" 3-shot autoloaders in 16-gauge, and they were chambered for 2 3/4 inch shells. Along with this Remington introduced a 2 3/4 inch 16-gauge shell they called the Auto-Express, containing a bit more powder in the longer case. While Remington's 2 9/16 inch 16-gauge Nitro-Express contained a load of 3 Drams Equiv. and 1 1/8 ounce of shot, the Auto-Express contained 3 1/4 Drams Equiv. and 1 1/8 ounce of shot.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:32 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 3:39 am
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Location: Pennsylvania
Pretty straight forward but DON"T TOUCH THAT SCREW SITTING BY THE SAFETY ON THE TOP TANG!! You don't need to do anything with that screw to remove the stock. I have always had to loosen the bottom plate. Take out the screw holding the trigger guard then turn the guard counterclockwise to remove, the front of the guard is simply slotted in place. Unloosen the two screws that hold the bottom plate. Gently work the plate loose, this is the hardest part of the procedure because that plate is tight. Again don't touch any screw on the top tang. Remove butt plate and unloosen the draw bolt. Further disassembly is unnecessary for cleaning.
Please remember at all times that this is an American built gun made out of American steel so it's put together like a brick $hit-house, so be patient with it as it will eventually work free.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:36 pm 
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ithacanut wrote:
Nitros may have been 2-3/4 chambered from day one. We occasionally see old Flues guns chambered for 2-3/4 and sometimes 3 inch that appear to be factory. Based upon Nestor's note, worth a check. You may find the photo below of interest. From a 1922 Nitro advertising flier.
Image
Looks like the sear springs may drop out when you remove the trigger plate. Please let us know what you find.



Were the Flues 3" marked somewhere. Was it only in steel barrels or twist also? Thanks

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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:09 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:09 am
Posts: 1699
As far as I know Flues chamber lengths were never marked on the gun. I can't answer your second question, sorry.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:28 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:12 am
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Location: WA/AK
The first smokeless powder for shotgun shells was Wood powder introduced in 1876. Shotgunners being a hidebound lot were rather slow to embrace smokeless powder, but by the 1890s it was coming on strong. In 1890, Captain A.W. Money came to America from England, and established the American E.C. and Schultze Powder Company in Oakland Park, Bergen County, New Jersey, with offices on Broadway in New York City, to manufacture smokeless shotgun powders. In 1893, Union Metallic Cartridge Co. was already offering smokeless powder shotshells, and that year Winchester was providing them to selected shooters with Winchester offering them to the general public in 1894. The American ammunition companies held their smokeless powder loads offered in the 2 5/8 inch 12-gauge shells lower than those offered in the 2 3/4 inch and longer shells. Same thing holds for the 2 9/16 inch 16-gauge shells and the 2 ½ inch 20-gauge shells. The very heaviest 2 5/8 inch shells I find offered were 3 1/4 drams of bulk smokeless powder or 26 grains of dense smokeless powders such as Ballistite or Infallible with 1 1/4 ounces of shot. In 2 3/4 inch and longer shells they offered 3 1/2 drams of bulk smokeless powders or 28 grains of Ballistite or Infallible dense smokeless powders with the same 1 1/4 ounce of shot. These loads were very high pressure according to a DuPont Smokeless Shotgun Powders (1933) book I have. It shows the 3 1/2 drams of DuPont bulk smokeless powder pushing 1 1/4 ounces of shot as being 11,700 pounds; 3 1/2 drams of Schultze bulk smokeless powders pushing 1 1/4 ounces of shot being 11,800 pounds and the 28-grains of Ballistite pushing the 1 1/4 ounces of shot being 12,600 pounds!!! There were plenty of lighter loads being offered, but American shotgunners being what they are, I'm sure many were opting for the heaviest loads available. The same situation held with the 16- and 20-gauge shells. Likewise, the "standard" 2 1/2 inch 20-gauge shells and the "standard" 2 9/16 inch 16-gauge shells carried slightly milder loads than the extra cost longer shells in 2 3/4, 2 7/8, and 3-inch lengths.

Many folks believe that the "modern" shotshells loaded with progressive burning smokeless powders, introduced in the early 1920s, Western Cartridge Company's Super-X loads leading the way, were higher pressure than the old bulk and dense smokeless powder loads. Reading period literature, this is not the case. With progressive burning smokeless powders they were able to move out equal shot loads at higher velocity or a heavier shot load at equal velocity, but at lower pressure than the old style bulk or dense smokeless powders.

I've picked up a little 96-page Du Pont Smokeless Shotgun Powders booklet written by Wallace H. Coxe, Ballistic Engineer, Brandywine Laboratory, Smokeless Powder Department, copyright 1928. It is primarily about Du Pont Oval progressive burning smokeless powder, but does a lot of comparisons with earlier style bulk and dense smokeless. As a Du Pont Oval example, he states on page 25 –

"Du Pont Oval can be loaded with 1 3/8 ounces of shot in a 12-gauge shotgun to develop the same velocity and pressure as obtained with a load of 3 1/2 drams of Du Pont Bulk Smokeless Powder or 28 grains of Ballistite and 1 1/4 ounces of shot. The relation naturally holds with other charges, but as Du Pont Oval is used principally for maximum loads the comparison is more striking as it shows the possibility of using a heavy load with Du Pont Oval that would be an abnormal load were it used with Du Pont Bulk Smokeless, Ballistite, or other existing old-style types of shotgun powders. As the pressures developed by this load of 1 3/8 ounces of shot with Du Pont Oval are the same as the pressures developed by 1 1/4 ounces of shot with 3 1/2 drams of Du Pont Bulk Smokeless, or 28 grains of Ballistite, it is impracticable to increase further the weight of shot charge with DuPont Oval. It is not advisable to load ammunition to the limit of safety of a shotgun for the reason that the pressures at this high level will ruin the pattern percentage developed by the load."

None of my early, pre-WW-I, Ithaca catalogues mention chamber lengths, nor do the July and Devcember 1919 Ithaca Gun Co. catalogues I have. However, the 1925 Ithaca Gun Co. catalogue in my collection does give chamber lengths -- "Unless otherwise ordered Ithaca 28 Gauge and 20 Gauge guns are chambered for the standard 2 1/2 inch shell, 16 Gauge and 12 Gauge for the standard 2 3/4 inch shell and 10 Gauge for the standard 2 7/8 inch shell. Longer chambers are furnished if ordered on new guns without extra charge, but it should be remembered that shells of standard length do not give quite as good results in chambers which are longer than the shells and it should be remembered that extra long shells are more expensive and it is much harder to find a dealer who carries extra long shells in stock." I find that 2 3/4 inch pretty strange in the 16-gauge, because 2 9/16 was the standard 16-gauge shell until nearly WW-II!?! The NID-period Ithaca Gun Co. catalogues beginning with 1926 through 1933 all give 2 9/16 inch as the standard chamber length for the 16-gauge.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:29 am 
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ithacanut wrote:
As far as I know Flues chamber lengths were never marked on the gun. I can't answer your second question, sorry.


I have never seen it either, but L C Smith usually didn't either. They did mark 3" guns.

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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:23 pm
Posts: 156
Project Update.
I epoxied the stock and cleaned it up. The only hassle came in disassembling the trigger plate assembly. The small bracket holding the trigger pivot had worked loose. In order to reach the screw holding it to the plate, it's necessary to break everything down. I drilled the pivot pin out. It's soft iron so I made a new one from a nail.

Good advice, nos1958. After struggling to remove the stock and pushing and bumping to get it back on, I saw your note about removing the trigger plate. That's what was responsible for the too-tight fit. The sears were scraping on the stock.

Surprise to me, the stock bolt is soft iron. It was badly mangled on the underside of the bolt head where it bears on a lock washer. Not sure that washer was original equipment, but I left it in place. I used a new bolt, happy to find that the original had common 1/4" bolt threads.

Trying to make the stock line up perfectly with the receiver proved to be a futile exercise. The angle that the draw bolt makes with the receiver more or less guarantees that the stock is going to slide up the receiver as the bolt is tightened. After shooting, it slides up a little further. I noticed from photos on a couple of gunbroker listings that this is a common situation with the Nitro Special and wonder if this is why stocks frequently split near the top, where the greatest pressure occurs. I don't see a simple remedy, unless it might be to eliminate play between the bolt shank and stock.

In repairing the stock cracks, I drilled holes one inch deep into the end grain where the splits occurred and epoxied 1/8" dowels into the holes. I've shot about twenty rounds since the repair. So far the repair has held.

Thanks to all for your input. This is a fun double to shoot. I'm anxious to try it on 5-stand in the spring.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:20 pm 
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The stock bolt should have a very thick washer that is between the wood and the lock washer. Did yours? Also, the stocks I have seen have projections that fit inside the frame to prevent movement.


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 Post subject: Re: LeFever Nitro Special questions
PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:22 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:23 pm
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Ithacanut, I followed your comments and took my Nitro apart to investigate. There was no heavy washer under the lock washer. I found a stout Fender Washer in the hardware and ground it to fit. I suppose the lack of a washer could in itself cause the stock to crawl up the receiver when the stock bolt is tightened. The Fender Washer is 3/16" (hole diameter) by 3/4" (outside diameter) by 0.080" thick. I don't believe it's going to dish.

My Nitro stock has no projections to prevent vertical movement on the receiver. I drilled holes in the end of the stock (about where I drilled to epoxy the splits) and epoxied short dowel stubs into the end grain. I shaped these so they bear against the underside of the receiver top when the stock is pulled up against the metal. Don't know how this remedy will hold up under the stresses of shooting, but for now it's holding the stock where it should be.

Thanks for your comments.




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