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 Post subject: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:12 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:51 pm
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Location: Texas, USA
While looking for a Merkel SxS, I stumbled onto a 2 1/2" 12 gauge English SxS shotgun in SK & SK with a listed bore size of 0.729".

First, the few factory loads I found all seem like they are Pheasant loads with 1oz of #6 or #7 shot. This makes me wonder if this cartridge with a SK choke is really appropriate for a heavy bird like a Pheasant.

Do 2 1/2" 12 gauge loads perform like 2 3/4" loads? What sort of pressures are they loaded to and what sort of velocity should one expect? Is reaming a shotgun like this to a 2 3/4" chamber a reasonable thing to do?

What would you use a shotgun like this for? Would you just put this beauty under a Banker's light and admire this artistry in the wood and metalwork, or would you take it to the field and hunt birds with it?

TIA,
Sid



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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:20 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:11 am
Posts: 4684
Location: Western Tampa, FL
What brand of English shotgun? How was it proofed? Some detailed pictures of the barrel flats will give some on here the ability to tell you a great deal about your gun. The rest would be up to a competent double gun gunsmith. They are not that common anymore.

Will 2 1/2 inch chambered and loaded doubles kill pheasants? Yes, and yes and yes. 2 1/2 inch appropriate loads for your gun will perform beautifully depending on the chokes and distances its employed. I have killed wild pheasants quite dead using 2 1/2 inch Lylevale shells with Cyl/IC chokes. 1 1/16 is the more common English game load for a 12 gauge and it does a great job if in the right shot size.

If it checks out as being in great condition, I would use it without hesitation. 2 1/2 inch ammo is as available now as any 2 3/4 inch ones which means; that none of it is very available. I personally would not relieve the chambers to 2 3/4 inch but use appropriate ammo of 2 1/2 inch.

I would love to see some pictures of your new beauty. Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 12:43 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:03 pm
Posts: 172
The listed bore size of .729 was when the gun was proofed at a proof house. That may be 120 years ago! No way to know if the bore is still .729 inch.

A competent double gun smith will "mike" the bores for their current diameter, measure the actual chamber length now (it could have been extended or reamed previously) and also measure the barrel wall thickness. He can confirm the choke constriction at the same time. He will also check for dents , bulges or repairs to the barrels, pitting of the bores or exterior, whether the gun locks up tight and is "on face" , whether the ribs are loose, and a number of other functional issues like triggers and safeties, ejector/extractor function, etc.

Even with great photos there is no way for someone on this board to evaluate these conditions or physical characteristics on an older gun. So when Oyeme says "if it checks out as being in great condition" he means the gunsmith's opinion.

The typical 2 1/2 inch chamber 12 gauge British "game gun" from 1900 to the mid 1920s was designed for not more than a 1 1/8 oz load of lead shot. 1 oz loads were the most common service load. Depending upon barrel length, the gun likely weighed from 6 1/2 to 7 pounds. Pigeon guns and waterfowl guns were built heavier with 2 3/4 and even 3 inch chambers to accept heavier payloads and they were proof tested with heavier loads. The shotshell wads in that era were fiber, not the modern one piece plastic skirt with integrated shotcup.

When one of these older 2 1/2 inch chamber guns is opened up to 2 3/4 length and modern ammo at SAAMI pressures is used, you are subjecting a 100 plus year old gun to a level of stress, pressure and recoil that it was not designed for. It may not fail catastrophically (let's hope not) but lock parts, action parts and stock parts and barrel to breech face fit may start to break, crack or suffer from the pounding. There is no supply of spare parts. A gunsmith has to make them on a lathe and/or with a file.

Having said that, a 2 1/2 inch shell of 1 oz of number 5 or 6 quality shot moving at 1125 to 1175 FPS will bring down pheasants within moderate range if you do your part. With those SK/SK chokes I'd be more comfortable killing pheasants over pointing dogs at say 20 to 30 yards rather than longer shots. If your pheasant hunting conditions demand consistently long shots with heavier and faster payloads then I'd say a 2 1/2 inch chamber British game gun is not the best choice.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 9:04 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:11 am
Posts: 4684
Location: Western Tampa, FL
Simslax states: Even with great photos there is no way for someone on this board to evaluate these conditions or physical characteristics on an older gun. So when Oyeme says "if it checks out as being in great condition" he means the gunsmith's opinion.

Thank you for that clarification that I should have stated rather than assume it was understood.

OP: There is some very sound advice provided by Simslax in his response.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 11:14 am 
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Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:09 pm
Posts: 32
I lived in western Nebraska for twenty years and hunted there, in ND and SD throughout that time. I did hunt over good pointing dogs, and I will admit that their abilities helped my opinion, but I never felt undergunned when hunting pheasants with my 2 1/2” guns. The gun I used most was a Dickson Round Action with 2 1/2” chambers and choked .008/.018 - IC/LM. My typical hunting load was 1 oz. of nickel plated #5 shot at 1190 FPS (handloads). I’ve never felt undergunned, and the 5 lb. 14 oz. weight of my shotgun was a pleasure afield, especially as I’ve aged.

RST is the pre-eminent manufacturer of 2 1/2” shells in the US, and they build appropriate loads for most any activity for which your gun would be suitable.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 11:24 am 
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Tom Bryant wrote:
I lived in western Nebraska for twenty years and hunted there, in ND and SD throughout that time. I did hunt over good pointing dogs, and I will admit that their abilities helped my opinion, but I never felt undergunned when hunting pheasants with my 2 1/2” guns. The gun I used most was a Dickson Round Action with 2 1/2” chambers and choked .008/.018 - IC/LM. My typical hunting load was 1 oz. of nickel plated #5 shot at 1190 FPS (handloads). I’ve never felt undergunned, and the 5 lb. 14 oz. weight of my shotgun was a pleasure afield, especially as I’ve aged.

RST is the pre-eminent manufacturer of 2 1/2” shells in the US, and they build appropriate loads for most any activity for which your gun would be suitable.


Thanks Tom!

That's awesome feedback. As I get older and my back and dominant shoulder age, heavy rifles and shotguns are problematic at best. As they get lighter, recoil becomes harsher which is harder on my aging body.

1oz + loads a tad under 1200FPS sounds good and is better than I expected. A shorter shot column seems to be helpful for better patterns too so, that leaves room for other shell components and won't need as much powder/pressure to get the shot column up to speed. I'm not shooting steel so, a 2 1/2" 12 gauge is even more appealing to me.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 11:27 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:11 am
Posts: 1084
British guns with 2 1/2 inch chambers were made at various quality levels, depending on how much the buyer was willing to spend.
Time, use and abuse has not been kind to many of them.
Because 2 1/2 inch guns were built as light game guns, many are not suitable for lengthening the chambers. They are thin already in the area which receives high pressure. Some have been altered and passed proof, but altered guns are devalued.
The only way to find out if a British 2 1/2 inch gun is a good buy, is by having a qualified double gunsmith do a detailed examination, including measuring barrel wall thickness.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 08, 2021 11:53 am 
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saskbooknut wrote:
...The only way to find out if a British 2 1/2 inch gun is a good buy, is by having a qualified double gunsmith do a detailed examination, including measuring barrel wall thickness.


Thanks!

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 10:16 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:03 pm
Posts: 172
Tom Bryant

Almost exactly the same choke dimensions that I had Mike Orlen hone on a Merkel O/U for me last summer. I went with .007 and .016 constriction on a slightly under bore (.723 ) 12 gauge. That gun came to me as full and extra full. Not ideal for shooting over pointing dogs IMO.

Sid
1 oz. loads pattern beautifully out of almost every 12 gauge barrel and do not beat up you or the gun. That is one reason why so many target shooters are now loading 1 oz or 7/8 oz. loads for their 12 gauge guns.

I do not believe that today's pheasants have evolved in 100 years to develop "armor plating" such that 1 3/8 oz. loads propelled at 1400 plus FPS are necessary to bring them down. I label it as marketing hype. We miss because of "operator error" --not because of any deficiency in our shotshells! Like Tom Bryant, I hand load copper or nickel plated premium quality shot in 1 oz. loads for my 12 gauge field guns in size 5 or 6 shot and around 1200 FPS. I have been very satisfied with its performance in the field.

I know that others feel "more" is needed, especially over wild birds and late in the season. Check out the thread on "Pheasant Load Recommendations." https://www.shotgunworld.com/bbs/viewto ... 3&t=526952
Whatever floats your boat I suppose. But I have to wonder if those folks have tried lighter loads before joining the "more is better" camp.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 2:26 pm 
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simslax wrote:
Tom Bryant

Almost exactly the same choke dimensions that I had Mike Orlen hone on a Merkel O/U for me last summer. I went with .007 and .016 constriction on a slightly under bore (.723 ) 12 gauge. That gun came to me as full and extra full. Not ideal for shooting over pointing dogs IMO.

Sid
1 oz. loads pattern beautifully out of almost every 12 gauge barrel and do not beat up you or the gun. That is one reason why so many target shooters are now loading 1 oz or 7/8 oz. loads for their 12 gauge guns.

I do not believe that today's pheasants have evolved in 100 years to develop "armor plating" such that 1 3/8 oz. loads propelled at 1400 plus FPS are necessary to bring them down. I label it as marketing hype. We miss because of "operator error" --not because of any deficiency in our shotshells! Like Tom Bryant, I hand load copper or nickel plated premium quality shot in 1 oz. loads for my 12 gauge field guns in size 5 or 6 shot and around 1200 FPS. I have been very satisfied with its performance in the field.

I know that others feel "more" is needed, especially over wild birds and late in the season. Check out the thread on "Pheasant Load Recommendations." https://www.shotgunworld.com/bbs/viewto ... 3&t=526952
Whatever floats your boat I suppose. But I have to wonder if those folks have tried lighter loads before joining the "more is better" camp.


Yes, marketing and advertising budgets have people looking for things they don't really need. Do I really need the latest boutique whizz-bang magnum to kill a deer at ~100 yards?

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2021 4:09 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2006 9:31 pm
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You buy a 2-1/2" 12 gauge because they're light.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 2:56 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Posts: 212
2 1/2" shotguns leave nothing on the table. What they lose in power is more than made up for by there handling.

2 1/2" with 7/8 oz ITX-10 6's
Image

Bigger birds you just need to let them get a little closer, same 7/8 oz of ITX-10 6's
Image

Wild MT pheasants 2 1/2" B&P High Pheasant loads withh 1 oz 6's. 5lb 15 oz 12ga
Image

Even smaller gauge 2 1/2" work quite well, 2 1/2" 16ga with hand loaded low pressure 1 oz of Nickel plated BB's . I use these for coyote hunting, The day I shot this guy with the shotgun barrels I shot a very nice round of trap with 3/4 oz of 8's
Image

My dedicated coyote hunting 2 1/2" 16ga and most of the kills with this are with the shotgun barrels, same 1 oz of NP BB's.
Image

2 1/2" guns work just fine for game of all sorts, I even have a few boxes of 2 1/2" Brenneke 16ga slugs for my old drillings.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:43 pm 
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AWS wrote:
2 1/2" shotguns leave nothing on the table. What they lose in power is more than made up for by there handling.

..


AWSOME post!

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 7:44 am 
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MEC makes a plate to add to their reloaders to load 2 1/2" shells. I have one on my 12 and 16 and don't even bother with 2 3/4" shell for my shotguns that can shoot them.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:08 am 
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:)

Looks like you have an awesome setup there for these older shotguns.

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:35 am 
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What are the better setups for a 2 1/2" loader? Do you have to do anything special in terms of components? I have heard wads/shotcups are a problem.

I'm a total novice to MEC reloaders so any guidance there is appreciated!

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:23 pm 
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Components haven't been a problem for me. BPI has most of the stuff I use. their "Short Shell Wad" is a good place to start and adjust the shot height with a 20ga fiber wad in the base. The original "Piston Skeet" works well and the "HCD-18" work. Look for a wad that is under 1.5" in overall length and adjust with fillers (keep them under the shot) or with charge size. I shoot 11/16 of 9's in the Piston Skeet for skeet shooting out of my 12ga, makes a gentle load that breaks birds ust fine and is easy on the shotgun for a day of shooting. My trap and SC load is 7/8 oz of 8's in either the old PPT-1210 or Z-21 Trap Commander. You can trim petals on a wad also but it is a pain.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:00 pm 
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Sid.....get the Merkel..

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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 3:16 pm 
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This has been an interesting thread. Lots of information with no pontification.


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 Post subject: Re: 2 1/2" 12 gauge English shotguns? Good, bad, or other?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 3:52 pm 
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For me the MEC 600 is the best bet out there for 2 1/2" shells, I modded a Lee Load All to load to load 2 1/2" 16ga but it was a pain to use like all Load Alls compared to the Mec. I have three Mec's a short 12, a short 16ga and a 20ga that I'm modding to a short (2/78) 10ga for an 1870 10ga sxs upland shotgun.




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