To chop it or not?


February 11, 2013, 08:53 AM
I inherited a non-sentimental 12ga NEF shotgun from my Dad. It's in good shape and I plan on keeping it where I hunt so I don't need to lug my 870 up there. I use it to go out in the swamp when the urge gets me to hunt rabbit or woodcock.

The gun currently has a 27.5" modified choke barrel. I'd like to chop it to 18.5". I use a lathe at work and could reinstall the bead on a Bridgeport so the only question I have is the open choke. I know it would be good for protection of the cabin, but how about hunting in the situation I described? How much louder should I expect it to be?

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February 11, 2013, 09:05 AM
Your rabbits & birds would need to be fairly close shots, {maybe no more than 25-30 yds} and that open bore should work quite well with standard plain lead slugs if your are hunting Bambi.

Chevelle SS
February 11, 2013, 09:10 AM
You will have a lot of kick if you cut down that barrel.

February 11, 2013, 10:02 AM
Why more kick? I'll be removing under a half pound from the total weight of the gun. Are you saying that a short barrel somehow generates more recoil?

February 11, 2013, 10:33 AM
Why more kick? I'll be removing under a half pound from the total weight of the gun. Are you saying that a short barrel somehow generates more recoil?

The shorter barrel won't generate any more recoil on its own.

I think the issue is that even removing under a half pound of weight from a gun that's already very light for a 12ga might make it just plain brutal.

February 11, 2013, 10:42 AM
I used to have an NEF with a 19" barrel. I rarely shot slugs through it, but when I did I used low recoil slugs. It wasn't bad at all.

February 11, 2013, 10:44 AM
I have 2 winchester pumps that I cut down to 18". This has made them much handier in the woods. I have not noticed any increase in muzzle blast, nor any appreciable difference in max range. There is definitely NO increase in recoil. And I love the way it looks with the shorter barrel. Go for it.

February 11, 2013, 10:50 AM
Take it to a gun Smith and have it cut down and treaded for screw in chokes unless you can do it at your work shop.

February 11, 2013, 11:08 AM
Cutting down the barrel will definitely reduce the guns moment of inertia, or inclination to swing at a steady rate. This is fine in snap shooting circumstances where you do not need to follow a moving target, but it makes moving targets where you need a steady swing more difficult.

Cylinder choke is also usually a little too open for most hunting circumstances, but if the woods are think and you do not take long shots, it might be OK for you.

If you are just itching for a project, how about using a gauge to figure out where to cut the barrel to get an Improved Cylinder Choke (maybe 1-2" into the barrel) and cut the barrel down to make it so. You will probably wind up with about a 26" barrel, the swing should be a little more lively and you will have a decent choke for most hunting.

February 11, 2013, 11:53 AM
I would cut it in a heartbeat.

It should be perfect for swamp rabbits and woodcock.

I grew up quail hunting with a sawed off 20" 12 ga single-shot.

That gun killed more quail in the thick brush then you could shake a stick at.

And my 1 quail per shell ratio went to heck when I got a better gun with a long Mod choke barrel again.


February 11, 2013, 12:41 PM
The gun is an heirloom. Once you cut it down it's trashed. You can not put it back. Buy a $200 pump and play I wana be a gunsmith with it.

Bud Tugly
February 11, 2013, 01:32 PM
If it had been my dad's gun I'd keep it exactly as is. Take it out to shoot it a couple of times a year but otherwise keep it in a place of honor to remember him by.

Then go to nearly any gun shop and you can find an old beater single shot for less than $100 to cut down. I cut down an old H&R 12 gauge and used it as a swamp gun for grouse, rabbits, and woodcock. It patterned great out to about 30 yards and that's all you ever need if you're hunting thick cover.

Unless you enjoy a bruised shoulder, I'd stick to lighter loads of 1 1/8 oz or less. Those single shots get brutal with heavier loads, especially in 12 gauge. No need for them for what you're planning anyway.

Sav .250
February 11, 2013, 02:10 PM
I believe Remington makes a load/box for such a set up. Load stays together for a little longer. Could help your non-choke situation.. I believe.

February 11, 2013, 02:17 PM
Cutting the barrel from 28 to 18" will definitely make it louder:
12 Gauge
28" barrel 151.50dB
26" barrel 156.10dB
18" barrel 161.50dB

A 10 dB increase is a lot.

It will also ruin the swing. I know that it's possible to adapt, but there is a huge difference in how a 18" and a 28" barrel swings. If you plan on doing wingshooting, I'd leave it as is.

I'd keep the family heirloom original and get a $50 beater to cut down.

February 11, 2013, 03:28 PM
Even though it's not a Parker, it was something more dear, it was youdr Dad's!
Keep it as is, even without restoration. It's an heirloom.
Go to a Hock shop and do as I did, buy a $200 used gun. Cut and play to your hearts content.
Chopping will increase discharge noise and increase recoil.
A Doouble with 20" bbls is ideal. You can flat out buy a Choked 20" Stoger Coach Gun. Maybe $250?
I bought a Stoger Uplander and did some measuring and found thT MY 26" CHOKED barreks and 42" OAL matches the size of a chopped 870 cut to 20". I have full choke tubes and can change at will. The Uplander is a 20 Ga 3" chamber, so I can make power if I want. Besides it's a pretty, english style straight pistolgrip stock with a wide beavertail foreend. Triple"A" wood!
I was gonna cut it in the beginning but tried it first and thought about the power and control of the shot string I would loose, and decided No Way!
Please keep Dad's gun as-is!

February 11, 2013, 03:52 PM
I'm also in the don't cut crowd, for four reasons:

1. Sentimental value. It may seem OK now, but in future years you might regret it.
2. You can get a new shotgun for about $100 at a walmart if you're determined to cut it down. I've also bought one of this exact style of gun at a garage sale for $40, in pretty good shape. Wait till summer and you might find a good buy.
3. Cutting it yourself will never get the muzzle as square as a gunsmith or the factory can, and this can produce inconsistency in the pattern. Also be careful of how short you cut it.....
4. For about $100, you can buy a spare barrel to go in your gun. Literally a drop-in fit. I've built a couple of this style of gun from bare receivers, and you can pretty much find barrels to make any combination you want. You can get a 20" or 22" barrel in 12 gauge, with a modified or full choke if you'd like. This way you can keep shooting your dad's shotgun, save the long barrel, and have a short barrel WITH the choke you desire.

One source of parts:

Anyway, think about it, and good luck. I hope you make a well-thought choice. ;)

Black Knight
February 11, 2013, 09:04 PM
Why not try to find another barrel for it? If you do have to chop it, think about a 20 inch barrel. It is short enough for defensive use and long enough for hunting. Both of my 870 Wingmasters have 20 inch barrels and are great all around guns.

February 12, 2013, 10:34 AM
OP, did your dad pass away or did he just give you this gun because he no longer uses it?

If it's the later, hack away.

February 13, 2013, 01:58 PM
My Dad is alive and well, I don't know where a couple guys got it from that he has passed away. I guess death is the only reason many people get guns from their Dads... I was thinking about picking up a cheap shotgun and asked him if he still had that H&R he never liked (shot it with some heavier loads and bruised up) and he gave it to me. The stock was chipped so I sanded it down (fit the stock to the action while I was at it) and re-stained it. It's definitely not factory original anymore.

I guess the meat of my question is: will it drastically reduce the hunting abilities of the gun to have a short barrel and cylinder stroke? I am hoping to get advice from someone who hunts bunnies and woodcock with a similar gun to see if they wish they had a tighter choke.

February 13, 2013, 02:08 PM
H&R (a.k.a. NEF) has a program where they will fit a new barrel to your shotgun starting at a cost of $55. Since the gun is not "original" (whatever bearing that might have for some folks) and bears no real sentimental value, you could actually 'have your steak and eat it too'. You can even have them change the caliber, if you care to.

February 16, 2013, 11:10 PM
So, I've decided to cut it down. I took the gun out to pattern it (something many people seem to never do) and noticed it shoots low and to the right. At 25 yards there were about 4 pellets (7 1/2 shot, 1.25 oz) in the center 6 inches at POI, with a nice (but off-center) center of pattern being close to a foot off...

I'm going to go for an 18.5" barrel and re-mount the bead....

February 16, 2013, 11:28 PM
Why more kick? I'll be removing under a half pound from the total weight of the gun. Are you saying that a short barrel somehow generates more recoil?

Yes it does because the projectile expends less kinetic energy on the bore, and more to your shoulder.

February 17, 2013, 07:25 AM
I cut and rebeaded an old Wards Hercules single that my wife's grandfather sold to my Dad when they were kids. It had a bulge at 19.5-20" all the finish was gone. It has a short stock and a cracked butt plate. Makes a good behind the door gun but that's about it, tosses a nice 8-9" 00 buck pattern from the hip at 7 paces. In retrospect I probably should've just hung it on the wall.

Carl N. Brown
February 17, 2013, 07:48 AM
Removing a half pound from a single barrel shotgun will significantly increase the recoil velocity of the gun and impact energy is a square of velocity, so yes the recoil will jump.

Also, with a 12ga single shot break action, a 20 to 22" barrel will be shorter than a pump with a 18.5" barrel, but probably easier on the ears and with slightly longer sight radiius. I have had single barrel shotguns from 30" barrel to 18.25" barrel, and if shortening an old shotgun for brush use again, I would probably chop the barrel at 22" and add lead weight to the forearm and stock for balance and recoil reduction.

Modern smokeless powder shotshell with cupped shot charge is unlike the oldtime black powder and bare shot on steel barrel: an 18.5" cylinder bore barrel should give similar velocity and pattern to a much longer barrel with cylinder bore (no choke) and modern ammo. The choice is what your shoulder and ears will bear.

Pete D.
February 17, 2013, 07:54 AM
A 10 dB increase is a lot.
A 10dB increase is is perceived as doubling the loudness of a sound.
In turn, for many folks, a very loud gun is often perceived as having more recoil than it actually does (I have only anecdotal evidence for that last idea, based on my reading through discussions concerning recoil and shorter barreled firearms)

February 17, 2013, 09:39 AM
Yes it does because the projectile expends less kinetic energy on the bore, and more to your shoulder.
No offense, but that makes no sense. For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction... Meaning the exact thrust that pushes the shot from barrel also exerts an equal response force on the breechface which is felt as recoil. If there is any reduction in the thrust the shot sees, the shoulder will feel the same reduction. This doesn't takes into account the reduced weight of the shotgun, just the reduced recoil from the slower shot.

February 17, 2013, 04:52 PM
An H&R/NEF single barrel is a good candidate for shorter barrel. I bought one cheap at a garage sale, cut the barrel down. Makes a handy dandy little cabin gun. Kicks like a mule though.

February 17, 2013, 04:59 PM
Hey Mac,

Following this post as I have the same gun as you (no medallion) that I picked up used. Can I ask what length you cut and process you used (hacksaw, lathe, etc?)
Not sure I want to make the plunge but it is interesting and not my only shotty.
I think 18.5 is Fed min - not sure if you went that short.
Also, have you patterned it?

February 17, 2013, 06:04 PM
Use a straight edge or fishing line to mark a spot for the bead before you chop it.

February 17, 2013, 09:06 PM
After discovering a very disappointing pattern in this shotgun yesterday I spent the afternoon in the shop turning this gun into something fun I had a great time doing it. Pictures can be seen here. (

February 18, 2013, 12:52 AM

I've got one identical to yours, a real lead slinger too ! The 3" chamber is a good deal, shoots the 2 3/4" also. My younger brother and i were shooting some clays one afternoon, I told him about my "new shotgun". We shot a few times, not a Beretta, but it did okay. His turn to shoot, I slipped a 3" 00 buck into it, "Its ready, just pull back the hammer." WOOM ! "Man, that jasper had a little more powder in it that the rest did," He knew as soon as the shell popped out, he just laughed.

July 6, 2013, 08:37 PM
Hey fellerz! First post here on THR. Was reading a bit before I signed up. Great forum! :)

I've got an HR "Columbia" that looks like an early Topper.

The unique thing about this particular, run-of-the-mill, inexpensive, older break action is it's 34" barrel... what little info I've run across about these guns tells me that 32" was the longest barrel commonly available...

Which brings me to my point: I too am thinking of chopping this barrel to 20" (masking tape line)... and, as Carl N. Brown noted earlier, it's still shorter than the Wingmaster in the picture wearing an 18.5".

Should I chop the 34" barrel? I do have a another long-barrel'd trap/bird gun; a S&W Model 3000 pump.

July 7, 2013, 09:14 AM
chopping it was the right call. i have a NEF 2ga that i cut down to 18.25" and its ideal for woodcock and snowshoes. I've been using it for about 5yrs now and anytime im going to be in the real thick stuff i grab it.

July 7, 2013, 09:18 AM
200apples I'd leave that one the way it is but thats just cause i like having stuff thats a bit unusual. Always makes me smile when im hunting with friends and when i get my gun out they are like "what the heck you got there"?

July 7, 2013, 09:41 AM
when i was a kid i had in old single shot that i cut down to 20"
in old Newport wish i still had it

July 7, 2013, 01:42 PM

200apples I'd leave that one the way it is but thats just cause i like having stuff thats a bit unusual. Always makes me smile when im hunting with friends and when i get my gun out they are like "what the heck you got there"?

Hahaha... that's good.

As I mentioned earlier, I do have a long-barreled shotgun for trap or birds (although an O/U might be best for those jobs). It's a S&W Model 3000, 30" full choke barrel.

I forgot to mention why I'm interested in cutting the H&R: I like the look of a coach gun, and a short break-action would be a neat "camp defender"; one that could take some dirt and abuse and I wouldn't get so fussy about it. My other shotguns, though previously-owned, are near-immaculate.


when i was a kid i had in old single shot that i cut down to 20"
in old Newport wish i still had it

You might run across one of these old things, then you could re-create that gun.

Thanks for your input! and please excuse any thread detour... :)

July 7, 2013, 08:42 PM
IIRC a lot of older grouse hunters bought up police riot guns at action for Grouse, cheap (they hunted for food), rugged, and the open patterns with 7 1/2 shot helped with hitting those "surprise" flushes. The best were 37s and 12s, but 870s and 500s worked.

July 7, 2013, 09:10 PM
You will have less recoil with no choke. Cut it and it will be good for up close and handy to boot.

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