rifle to shotgun conversion questions


November 7, 2010, 06:20 PM
Is this very common? Has anyone ever just taken an older 50 cal muzzleloader that does not shoot well and turn it into a shootgun. Basically can you put some powder and shot down the barrel and make a reasonable shotgun?

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November 7, 2010, 08:05 PM
I reckon so. A friend and I went to sight in our ML's, saw some dove. He said he wished he'd brought a shotgun, I said, got any shells?. He said yes, so we charged our T/C Hawkens with powder, rammed some toilet paper over the powder, split the shot from a 12 gauge shell, more toilet paper. He actually killed a dove with this. I got feathers a time or two, but no dove.

Anyway, for max efficiency you'd have to drill out the rifling, and of course, you'd have no choke.

November 8, 2010, 09:42 AM
nearly any competent gun smith can remove the breech plug and ream out the rifling. It isn't much to ream the 50 to a 28 guage (55 cal.) The problem is that the time and money involved is about as much as a smoothbore barrel. I approached an old retired gunsmith about doing some barrels and got a price, but it didn't present much savings over buying a smooth bore barrel out right. I thought about getting him to show me the proper way to ream a barrel and then doing it myself. It would probably be cheaper to have "drop in" smooth bore barrels made new in Spain or Italy, which I also thought about.

November 8, 2010, 11:04 AM
So, you are a 'thinker' and not a 'doer'. :evil:

Loyalist Dave
November 8, 2010, 02:55 PM
The spinning or torque the rifling imparts to the shot column messes up the pattern..., so you do need a smooth barrel. The cost may or may not be more than a drop in barrel, but that assumes a drop-in barrel is available for your model rifle. I know of two folks who have had it done, much to their satisfaction, but no drop-ins were made for their rifles.


November 8, 2010, 03:06 PM
There are drop-in's available for some guns. IIRC, T/C drop-in .56 smoothbore barrels show up used occasionally and I think there are some 20 gauge aftermarkets as well. Hit the traditional muzzleloading forum for some better answers.

November 8, 2010, 07:47 PM
Yea I was just about to ask how much it would cost to have a gunsmith smooth out the barrel. Do you think you could make a .50 into a 20 ga which I think is around .63 or would that be to much metal being taken away

November 8, 2010, 10:39 PM
On a 15/16ths barrel, that is too thin for my comfort. Most shotguns have heavy walls at the breech and thin out, for balance etc. rifle barrels tend to be narrower at the breech and don't have enough barrel wall for the breech end to open them up into lage guage smooth bores. I have a 24 ga smoothies and a 50 cal smoothie. But both were intended to be smoothbores. The problem with straight octagon rifle barrels is that they aren't thick enough at the breech and too much barrel wall at the muzzle.

November 9, 2010, 02:15 AM
Green Mountain made drop in .62 smoothbore barrels for the TC Hawkin, and TC made 12 gauge barrels for their New Englander.
For reaming and reboring outfits see post #5 in the thread below:


November 9, 2010, 01:59 PM
could you use a brake cylinder type hone on a electric drill ? Most muzzle loaders have micro groove barrels.

November 9, 2010, 02:58 PM
You could use such a hone on an electric drill, but I shutter to think about the uneven results! :eek::what::barf:

November 9, 2010, 03:45 PM
I've owned a flintlock pistol since the 1970's, and several years ago I decided to get a flintlock long arm..... I wanted a smoothbore, not a rifle.

Bought a .54 Lyman Trade Rifle and a gunsmith in Prescott AZ reamed it out to .62 smoothbore. Cost about $400 altogether, which was cheaper than the flintlock smoothbores I saw advertised at the time.

Someday I might buy another rifled barrel for the thing.

moose owner
November 9, 2010, 04:19 PM
I have loaded 3/4 ounce of shot and 55 grains of black powder in an old 58 caliber Zouave. The patterns were pretty good out to 20 yards (despite the rifling). The biggest issue was that the old Zouave handled like a fence post. It was pretty tough to hit a moving target with that long, heavy barrel.

If you are going to convert a rifle to a shotgun, give some thought to whether the gun will handle well enough to make the conversion worth while. There are not too many rifles which handle like a wing shooting shotgun.

November 9, 2010, 08:51 PM
Thats a good point moose owner, did not think of that. Although this will be used more for squirrel than any sort of flying creatures

November 10, 2010, 11:00 PM
I've been toying around with the idea of reaming out my .50 TC New Englander to 20 gauge. The barrel walls will still be much thicker than the barrels on my Pedersoli Howdah Pistol. The butt on the New Englander looks more like a shotgun butt than a rifle butt, anyway.

You vary the pattern on a BP shotgun by varying the ratio of powder to shot.
More powder=looser pattern, more shot=tighter pattern.

I even thought about boring out my .50 TC Thunder Hawk out to 28 gauge.

November 12, 2010, 09:27 PM
Used to be common. After the Civil War, decommissioned Army muskets were converted into single-shot shotguns. Sears & Roebuck used to sell them for a few bucks each.

November 13, 2010, 12:17 AM
Because cylinder bores typically don't pattern very well at hunting distances, a jug choke section can be honed into the bore to tighten up the pattern. Folks usually report a noticeable increase in performance after having it done.

Definition for "jug choke" :
A type of shotgun barrel whose barrel either does not have a choke, or that has had the choke or choke thread portion cut off. Using an expanding reamer, a small area of the bore is recessed about one to two inches back from the muzzle. When fired, the shot pellets will tend to bunch up at area of slightly larger diameter, be constricted again during the remaining bore of the original diameter and pattern in a slightly tighter formation.


November 13, 2010, 01:42 AM
Fist of all a 15/16th barrel is only .9375. The breech plug threads are 5/8 x 18. or .625 . To ream the bore to 62 smoothbore, will leave a barrel wall thickness at the breech of only .1588. barely more than an eighth of an inch. second the TC hawken standard breech plug being only 5/8 or ,625, will have no threads to accept the breech plug. So a larger breech plug will have to be installed. Threads cut into a breech wall thickness of .1588 to reduce it even more? I would never fire such a gun.

Reaming a Hawken 15/16 barrel to a 24 or 28 gauge seems like a much wiser choice. The breech plug threads will still fit and there will still be more barrel wall thickness. While taking it out to a 24 ga, will permit the breech plug threads to be used, the breech wall thickness will still be only (.9375 -.577) divided by 2 or .18 inch. less than a fifth of an inch. Reaming to a 28 ga will still leave a barrel wall thickness of .195, Now such measurements of barrel wall thickness are somwhat decieving in an Octagon barrel because the 15/16 is across the flats. slightly longer across the corners. While I realize that some folks sold a 62 barrel, for a 15/16 Hawken barrel, it would also entail a new breech plug being fitted and larger threads cut into a rather thin barrel.

At .62 the old breech plug couldn't be used. At 24 ga or 28 ga it could. Keep in mind that some Hawkens had one inch barrels. Not the TC that I am aware of.

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