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 Post subject: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:29 am 
Utility Grade

Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2013 2:17 am
Posts: 1
Hello,

I was handed down a US Arms 12 gauge double barrel shotgun recently. From reading your forums I know that it was manufactured by Crescent Fire Arms Company however I don't know what year it was manufactured. I'm hoping you could enlighten me.

I also know not to shoot modern loads with it but was wondering if you could tell me what type of load it did shoot. I'm not looking to fire the weapon. I would just like the history of the type of loads.

The serial number is a 6 number serial number. 1184XX

Thank you in advance for your help.


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 Post subject: Re: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:13 am 
Crown Grade

Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:42 pm
Posts: 3466
Good Evening. You almost gave enough information to date your gun. Yes, the gun is what I and others call a "Trade Brand Name" shotgun which is a shotgun made by a major maker (and before 1940) for and was sold by a wholesale sporting goods dealer. a retail chain store or an independent seller ( your local hardware store) who chose the name to go on the gun. Guns with the name U.S. ARMS CO (the full name, that matters) were made by the Crescent Fire Arms Company of Norwich,CT (1892 to 1930+) for and were sold at wholesale by the Supplee Biddle Hardware Company of Philadelphia,PA, a wholesale sporting goods dealer. Crescent started serial numbers on all their shotguns whatever model with serial number 001 and continued numbering until production stopped or the company went out of business. If the gun has outside hammers,it was made in 1903 and if it is a hammerless model, it was made in 1908. You are correct about shooting the gun. No correspondent here on the forum will advise you that the gun is safe to shoot as we can't see it to determine its condition. We will advise you to take the gun to a good qualified gunsmith for a check out before attempting to shoot it. Guns this old were designed and made using the technology and metallurgy of the times and for the ammunition in use back then which was either black powder and lead shot loaded 2 1/2 inch shotshells or maybe, just maybe very early low pressure smokeless powder loaded shells. It was not designed or made to shoot longer, 2 9/16 or 2 3/4 inch shells loaded with higher pressure smokeless powder and certainly not modern 3 inch or magnum shells loaded with high pressure smokeless powder, steel shot or solid slugs. If the gunsmith says the gun is safe to shoot, use appropriate ammunition. I too would like to know the history of various shotguns shells and loads as well, when various gauges and shell lengths were introduced and by who.


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 Post subject: Re: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:09 am 
Crown Grade

Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:12 am
Posts: 3230
Location: WA/AK
As Ned stated, no one can tell you over the internet what ammunition may or may not be safe in a give shotgun.

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. By their July 20, 1891 price list, Union Metallic Cartridge Co. was offering American Wood or Schultze smokeless powder shotshells. In 1893, Winchester was providing smokeless powder shells 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. 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 the early 1900s. Before 1910, according to the ammunition company catalogues I have, the companies backed off on the 2 5/8 inch 12-gauge shells to nothing heavier than 1 1/8 ounce, and one needed to go to the 2 3/4 inch or longer 12-gauge shells to get 1 1/4 ounce payloads. In 2 3/4 inch and longer shells they offered up to 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 20-gauge shells. The "standard" 2 1/2 inch 20-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.


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 Post subject: Re: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:18 pm 
Crown Grade

Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:12 am
Posts: 3230
Location: WA/AK
In reviewing old Union Metallic Cartridge Co. catalogues and price lists, the first time I see mention of paper shotshell lengths is in 1895 where they offer 10-gauge shells in 2 5/8 and 2 7/8 inch lengths, 12-gauge shells in 2 5/8 or 2 3/4 inch lengths, while 16-gauge is just 2 9/16 inch and 20-gauge just 2 1/2 inch. In the September 1896 catalogue they offer 12-gauge paper "Smokeless" shell in lengths up to 3-inch. All brass 10- and 12-gauge NPEs were offered up to 3 1/4 inch length. By the April 1899 UMC Catalogue things are really taking off and they've added 2 3/4 and 2 7/8 inch lengths to both 16- and 20-gauge offerings, and the 3 1/4 inch 12-gauge length in their "Trap" shell. By the May 1900 UMC catalogue the 3-inch 16- and 20-gauge length is being offered in their salmon colored "Smokeless" shell and their green colored "Trap" shell.

That pretty much covers paper shotshell lengths and when they appeared. So, by 1900 we had paper 12-gauge shells in 2 5/8, 2 3/4, 2 7/8, 3 and 3 1/4 inch lengths; 16-gauge shells in 2 9/16, 2 3/4, 2 7/8 and 3-inch lengths; and 20-gauge shells in 2 1/2, 2 3/4, 2 7/8 and 3-inch lengths.


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 Post subject: Re: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:59 pm 
Crown Grade

Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 10:42 pm
Posts: 3466
Thank you. I have printed the information out and will include it in my note book. May I ask the source ofyour information?


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 Post subject: Re: Year of manufacture and load type
PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:18 pm 
Crown Grade

Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:12 am
Posts: 3230
Location: WA/AK
It is primarily my original research going through the literature of the period. As I stated, the bulk of my information comes from Union Metallic Cartridge Company catalogues and price lists up through 1910. In 1911, Marcellus Hartley Dodge combined his ammunition and firearm companies, so after that, Remington Arms - Union Metallic Cartridge Co. catalogues. Also, two Du Pont Smokeless Shotgun Powders booklets written by Wallace H. Coxe, Ballistic Engineer, Brandywine Laboratory, Smokeless Powder Department. One 96 pages copyright 1928, and the larger one 103 pages copyright 1933. I've also got a pretty good selection of Western Cartridge Co. paper, but only from 1915 into the 1960s, nothing covering this early period.

The comment about Winchester smokeless powder shotshells comes from the book Winchester Shotguns and Shotshells, Second Edition, by Ronald W. Stadt.


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