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Why a 36" shotgun barrel??

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by samjoe, Mar 13, 2010.

  1. samjoe

    samjoe Well-Known Member

    I was in a pawn shop today and I saw an old single shot 12 ga. with a 36" barrel called a Long Tom. Light research showed it was probably an old Sears/Meridian whatever version from the 1920's.

    What is the benefit in having such a long barrel on a shotgun?
  2. jmr40

    jmr40 Well-Known Member

    With black powder the longer barrels were an advantage to help with velocity. Modern smokeless powder does not need barrels nearly that long. Even after smokeless powder had been out for a while many shooters refused to believe they did not really need the extra length. Many still don't believe it today.

    DRYHUMOR Well-Known Member

    There was also the advantage of a longer sighting plane.
  4. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    long range goose hunting comes to mind - with pass shooting, a longer heavier barrel made swinging on the birds easier
  5. bobelk99

    bobelk99 Well-Known Member

    Great-grandfather used such to harvest ducks. I was told he didn't call it hunting. Just tried to get 3 or 4 at a time sitting on the water.
  6. Otony

    Otony Well-Known Member

    A little off topic, but I just picked up a Metro barrel by Hastings. It is a 32" long extension that screws into your existing barrel in lieu of the choke (which is re-installed in the end of the Metro extension BTW). It has extensive porting.

    This results in a barrel 56" long (host is a 24" turkey barrel)! It is typically used with lower pressure rounds on golf course and city parks (hence: Metro) to eliminate problem geese and ducks. Firing it results in a "bloop" sound, a low muffled report that doesn't disturb the sheeple. :neener:

    I intend to take it to the next three gun match just to get a laugh, but it could be used per the above posts, to make smooth pass shooting swings, or to cleanly burn black powder! :evil:
  7. samjoe

    samjoe Well-Known Member

    so what would be the difference if I shot the same shell from a 28" 870 or a 36" long tom?
  8. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

    With modern ammunition, there would be essentially no difference in performance. They're not that uncommon, some people still go for long barrels, it seems-

    Stevens by Savage Arms Model 940E single shot break open action shotgun chambered for 3" - 12 gauge shells. Features a 36" proof tested barrel, side lever, exposed hammer

    Marlin 5512 12 Ga.The original goose gun in very nice condition.It has a 36" full choke barrel

    The folks at Colonial Arms used to have an old single shot on the wall in their shop. They'd taken all the sections of 12 gauge barrels they cut down and attached them all to this poor old single shot end to end, then dressed them all to the same diameter and blued the whole thing. That barrel looked to be six feet long. Of course it wasn't shootable, but it was meant as a joke.

  9. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    There's been a trend in clay sports towards longer barrels lately. Skeet shooters are using 30" and 32" O/Us, when 26" was common not long ago. Sporting clays shooters have moved up towards 32" as standard, and 34" for taller/bigger shooters, with extended chokes.

    Note that an O/U has two barrels, and therefore more weight up front than a single barrel gun, all other things being equal.

    This isn't done for pattern, or for velocity. It's done for how the gun feels when it swings.

    Maybe some people in the 1920s just liked a long barrel for pass-shooting geese. These things ebb and flow over time. My 1926 SxS has 28" barrels, just like a modern gun would, so presumably the 36" was considered long in its day, just like now.
  10. tactikel

    tactikel Well-Known Member

    Back in the day of muzzle loaders there was no choke, longer barrels were perceived to throw a tighter pattern. Today barrel length has no effect on pattern. 36" was totally marketing- splash geese at 40 YARDS!!!
  11. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    A smooth swing has nothing to do with range, and I don't think that people in the 1920s thought it did, either, if you look at the guns of the era. Most guns from the 1920s, of whatever type, have modern dimensions, i.e. 26"-30" barrels. Again, I'm guessing this gun was something for some specific purpose that required a good smooth swing (whether or not the gun actually provided that).
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2010
  12. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I'm guessing it was a marketing ploy designed to get people to buy bolt-action shotguns who didn't know any better.

    There has long been a myth that long barrels shoot harder, further, etc.

    That was an old misconception, leftover from great-great-grandpas 40" muskets & black powder that needed a long barrel to get all the velocity possible out of it.

    But it doesn't work that way with this new-fangled smokeless powder we all use now.

  13. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    The barrel length differences will be most evident in the gun's swing dynamics. Pattern is determined by the choke constriction at the end of the barrel, velocity between the two will have a negligible difference (if any).
  14. CajunBass

    CajunBass Well-Known Member

    "Back in the day" as they say, a lot of people thought they "shot harder." I never heard it described as "higher velocity", just that they "shot harder." There was also the belief they patterned tighter. My father had a 36" barrel single shot that he won a half a pickup bed full of turkeys and hams at the local fire-dept turkey shoots with. It was a Sears gun IIRC. We looked all over for that gun after he passed away and never did find it. No idea what happened to it. That old Sears gun shot so well he used to rent it out at the turkey shoots. You paid $5.00 a shot to get in the shoot, and paid him $5.00 to shoot his gun. He made a fair ammount of money on Friday and Saturday night.

    He also had a Sears pump gun with a 30" barrel, full choke, he won the other half of the pickup load with. I've got that one.
  15. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Friend Superreverb has an 870TC trap gun with a 36" factory barrel. Swings like a wrecking ball. He demolishes clays with it.

    Some newer SBT guns have 36" barrels. More inertia, longer sighting plane.

    Yeah, I know we're not supposed to aim a shotgun, but some trapshooters do.....
  16. RyanM

    RyanM Well-Known Member

    A longer barrel should also be quieter.

    Way back before plastic shot cups were invented, the longer barrels probably did pattern a hair tighter, for the same reason as the reduced report. More expansion room in the barrel means less pressure at the muzzle, which quiets down the shot a little, and means the muzzle gas won't mess up your patterns so much. With black powder, that throws little bits of soot and other solids everywhere, that could make a real difference.

    A good quality muzzle crown combined with plastic shot cup wads should all but eliminate the effects of muzzle gas on the pattern, though. My Serbu Super Shorty throws patterns maybe 5% to 10% wider than a 24" cylinder bore with birdshot, which could easily be barrel-to-barrel variation more than the loss of 17" of length. With cheapo buckshot with no cup, however, the Shorty tends to throw doughnut-shaped patterns due to the muzzle blast messing everything up.

    I would guess the belief in barrel length persisted even after plastic shot cups became common, because chopping off part of the barrel with a hacksaw, truing it with a mill file, and crowning it with a marble and sandpaper is unlikely to produce the same quality of crown as the factory puts on. Much like how Bubba-ed milsurp rifles with shortened barrels almost never shoot as well as the original (and of course Bubba blames it on the missing section of the barrel, rather than his own craftsmanship).
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2010
  17. samjoe

    samjoe Well-Known Member

    Okay. So help me get my arms around this then. I always thought that a longer barrel increased speed range etc. Most are saying that barrel length does not matter when it comes to these aspects with modern ammo. Which leads me to this question. Barring swing, why wouldn't an 18" barrel with a choke do just as good of a job as a 28" barrel with the same choke??
  18. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Well-Known Member

    It does, more or less.

    Barring swing, I have no use for a shotgun with a choke, though.
  19. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Unless you are rifle-style shooting at a static target like a deer, swing is everything to being successful with a shotgun on clays, birds, etc.
  20. brassdog

    brassdog Well-Known Member

    We used to call the long barrels "AAA" as in anti aircraft artillery.

    Kind of fitting since I mostly saw them during duck/goose hunts with the oldtimers.

    I guess the extra weight/length provided a smoother swing and longer sighting plane.

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