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Design Evolution of American Pump-Shotguns

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by dak0ta, Jun 13, 2012.

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  1. dak0ta

    dak0ta Member

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    Hi, so I recently acquired a Win M12 and Ithaca 37 in addition to my Mossberg 500. I posted on ShotgunWorld and I got some interesting information about the development of these shotguns from a member there called SuperXOne. I have decided to share some of his knowledge with you guys. All quotes are his.

    On the Mossberg 500, Ithaca 37, and Winchester M12... ''The Mossberg 500 is a remake of the High Standard Flite King which was in turn inpired by the Remington Model 31, which was designed originally to compete with the Winchester Model 12. Mossberg 500's are good, reliable, dependable pump shotguns, and have all the charm and handling characteristics of a cheap pine two by four.''

    ''The Ithaca Model 37 is a remake of the Remington Model 17, which was designed by the immortal John Moses Browning, and is unique. The quality of the gun rivals the Model 12, but it's lighter and easier to manufacture. For walking up game birds in upland hunting, it has no rival except the finest side by side double guns for handling characteristics.''

    ''The Winchester Model 12 was designed by Thomas Crosley Johnson, a long time Winchester employee, and is the most complex, best machined, most inspected, and most collected and coveted pump shotgun ever made. All other pump shotguns are compared against the Model 12, almost fifty years after they went out of regular production. It handles, points, and shoots very well and the quality of the shotgun in materials and craftsmanship is superb and is not exceeded by any other American made repeating shotgun.''


    ''I don't believe I've ever heard of or seen a problem of any kind with a Mossberg 500, other than a broken plastic safety or a broken plastic trigger guard, hardly the gun's fault. They shoot forever, and somebody will have to endure the severe cheapness of the gun's design for at least a century.''

    ''The M37 is in a lot of ways superior in design to the M12. The M37 has interrupted thread design for it's barrel, and it's simply not going to shoot loose. The M37 doesn't have to lift it's bolt to lock up. Shells eject out the bottom. The entire design is remarkably trouble free and lasts virtually forever. The only "flaw" is the right hand shell stop, and occasionally they will wear out the little spring that operates that shell stop. Another occasional problem is that the shell lifter/ejector forks will get out of alignment, but they can be bent back using nothing but hand pressure.''

    ''The Model 12 is an extremely long lasting, durable, reliable shotgun, but only because it's made so well, with so many inspections. When Model 12's wear, and they do wear, they have lots of different problems, too many to really list here. The barrels occasionally need tightened up, which can be done at home. Otherwise, if your M12 begins to "blow open" on firing, then it needs the services of a good gunsmith. The design is complex, and required a lot of precision machining and a ridiculous number of inspections to make the gun work at all. I have about a half a dozen M12's, and at any given time there's something just a little bit wrong with one or two of them.''

    On other American pump designs...''The Model 31 is a favorite of many, but not of mine. While the M31 is very well made, I favor the replacemnt 870, and I know I'm one of the few that do. An 870 has a certain "mojo" that's hard to describe. An 870 does have stamped parts, but those stamped parts work very well and for a very long time, and the handling of the shotgun is what attracts me to an 870.''

    ''The High Standard Flite Kings were excellent, wonderful shotguns made with milled steel parts. I've owned both the Model 31's and the High Standards, and it's hard to say which pumps smoother, but I'll give the nod to the High Standard. The High Standard had but one flaw, and it's a bad one. The action slides (the part that "pumps" the bolt) was made of some kind of alloy steel, had a bend in it for some reason, and the things tend to break right at that bend,,,in which case the gun is worthless, the slides are unavailable, and nobody I've ever heard of can weld one and it work. So if you buy one, don't play Rambo with the slide, and stay right with Jesus.''

    ''The Savage 520/620 was a successful design, but the worst shotgun that John Moses Browning ever made. They occasionally will not function, but the worst thing about them is that cool looking "artillery bolt" takedown system. All those grooves look like they would wear forever, but they simply do not, and when they get shaky all the gunsmiths that knew how to tighten them by peening the lugs back are long dead. Avoid paying over a hundred dollars for one.''

    ''The Springfield/Stevens/Savage Models 67/77/30 were excellent shotguns with no real design faults, rather ahead of their time for a cheap shotgun, and wound up being made for about forty years. The first production guns would and will shoot forever, but the last ones made in the 1980's are the worst modern American made shotguns by reason of continual manufacturing shortcuts and bad quality control simply making the guns so cheap that about half of the last production simply would not reliably work. If they are older guns, which you can tell because they are well blued, well shaped, and well finished,,,,they are real sleepers. The Model 30 Savage is the one to buy, if you have the choice. The last guns, distingished by blocky, cheap actions and wood that looks worst than a chair leg are simply worthless.''

    ''Another good old shotgun are the modern Marlin pumps, made from the 1970's through the 1980's. Good shotguns, which didn't catch on.''

    ''There really is no reason to buy any one of these antiques, unless you a shotgun addict like I am. The Remington 870 Wingmaster is an excellent shotgun, with no real faults, that's still being made, and parts and barrels are available everywhere. I recently bought a nearly perfect 870TC (a custom shop grade) for $350 that has a Remchoke barrel and a super nice condition 1961 870 field model Wingmaster for $200 that has a plain round modified choke barrel. Ithaca 37's are good buys too, for those who don't like spending lots of time and money fixing your old shotgun.''

    ''But I'm still a sucker for a Model 12. Until you have a Model 12, you'll want one, and after you have one you'll want more of them.''

    ''(And all Model 1200/1300/120/1300 "Winchester" shotguns are cheap aluminum and stamped part conterfeits not worthy of the name they bear. They work, they are safe, and they suck. Don't buy one, and if you have one sell it to somebody who doesn't realize what a POS they are.''

    About the Savage 520 and 620s...''As to the 520's and the 620's, I didn't mean to be hard on them. They were expensive, well made shotguns with real walnut stocks and good finishes. The main difference between the two was cosmetic. The 520's look like a slide action Auto Five and the 620's elminated most of the humpback,,,but they are under the skin the same gun.

    Both guns had the unusual problem for a Browning design that unless they were right side up, and pumped carefully, they can drop a shell out of the side. Also, the massive slots that Browing used look very impressive, and the first time you see one you wonder how to get it apart. They have a screw down magazine tube that holds them together. The idea was that the magazine tube would compensate for wear, and it might to some extent, but what's really going on is that John Browning was trying to design a take down shotgun around his own patents that had been sold to Winchester,,,and John got it right the first time. When a 520 or 620 gets shaky you either have to keep on shooting that way or sell it.

    If you have one, you'll soon learn to compensate for the odd habit of dropping shells out of the side (it's not very often they do that) and you must refrain from the temptation of taking the gun apart very often. Even a Model 97 or Model 12 shouldn't be taken apart that often, as parts do wear. I don't think that many people realize that until the 1930's that Savage was a premium gun, not a cheap one. Stevens made boys rifles until Savage bought them out, and was the premier maker of those. It was only in the 30's that Savage started it's long, long slide down to the bottom of the heap of quality, and eventual corporate death in the late 1980's, and amazing rebirth as the maker of some of the most accurate rifles with the best triggers on the market. The 520's started out when Savage was a prestige brand, and show all the quality that go with it.''

    ''I hope to make it clear to everybody that reads my posts, that before you start dabbling in obsolete shotguns you first need a modern 12 gauge shotgun with three inch chambers, factory choke tubes, and proofed for steel shot. Of those, there's none really better than the 870 Remington Express with a 28" barrel and a laminated wood stock. You may have to polish out the chamber, and nobody can really be all that proud to own one, but they work and you can fix them and they can do anything. Old shotguns will break something on you from time to time, and you may have to set them back as a trade gun.''

    On post-64 Winchester pumps (1200/1300/120)...''Every part and piece of every shotgun has some purpose, and they every part and piece costs something to make, something to finish, and something to inspect. The purpose may only be for looks, such as colors on the reciever of a Technys, or a the white line spacers on all those old guns fro the sixties and seventies. But it's there for a reason.

    High Standard was a company that made it's reputation and name building semi automatic .22 pistols in fierce competition with the Colt Woodsman, and did NOT have the company ethic of building the cheapest stuff there was. Winchester, too, was the very best American made gun brand until 1963, and they prided themselves on that fact.

    So when High Standard wants to do a pump gun in the 1950's, they were gunning for the Model 12. The Flite Kings of the 50's, by whatever name they were sold, were cheaper than Model 12's but they were made righteously. The parts are milled steel. They are finished well, inspected well, and it's a quality product. No surprise they are smooth, slick, nice handling products. Their association with Sears didn't hurt them at all, because at the time Sears was still striving to sell GOOD stuff, not just the cheapest stuff.

    Come 1960 Mossberg has already built their reputation as a cheaper than the rest. God only knows how many bolt action shotguns, cheap .22 autoloaders, and the like they had built. It's easy to say they copied the High Standard, but the High Standard itself was based on a Remington Model 31. Mossberg wanted a reliable, durable, but above all cheaper gun to sell at the very lowest price point against the other pumps out there. They succeeded in that, and if it wasn't smooth or pretty or slick handling,,,that really wasn't the point.

    Winchester had started severely cheapening the Model 12 in 1960 in appearance and finish. The worst piece of walnut I've ever seen was off a 1963 Winchester Model 12. I think Winchester's problem was that they were so much bigger than Mossberg or High Standard they had the engineering savy and the marketing skill to produce an excellently engineered, beautifully finished, safe beyond any question,,,,piece of absolute counterfeit modern garbage that was unfortunately made to resemble the quality gun it replaced, named after a Model 12, and marketed as being better than a Model 12. Every maker builds every gun to a price point, even Purdey and Holland and Holland. But where Mossberg and High Standard were trying to make something good that was a cheap as it could be made and still be good,,,,Winchester was shaving pennies,,,even less than pennies,,,,to try and see just how cheap a part or a process could be made in order to appear good, and to to be the barest minimally acceptable. This relentless cost cutting goes deep inside a Model 1200, and affects every little part. Chevrolet did the exact same thing to the Vega, and it almost cost them the company.

    It's hard to express this difference, but I sincerely believe that there is more to my complete hatred and contempt for the Winchester Model 1200's and Model 1400's than merely the fact that they replaced the Model 12. The damn things are just not "honestly built".

    To be honestly built, there has to be a designer that's given a budget and told to make a certain part as well as he can on that budget. If he can't do it, maybe they give him a little bigger budget. The designer has a budget,,,but his goal is to make a good product, the best product he can for that amount of money.

    But when you see products like the Winchester 1200 series I maintain that what's happening is that the designer is given a budget that's an absolute top end, and the management is going to have him cheapen and cheapen and cheapen the part until it fails,,,and then go back to one notch over failure. I've seen this in products liability cases, and I find it just plain disgusting. Nobody would be building their own stuff that way. Here the designer is trying to wring the last tiny mill, a mill being one thousandth of a dollar, not a penny, which is one hundreth of a dollar, of off every single part in the entire gun. He'll have ample margins for safety. Styling is "free", so to speak. They have the expertise to make the gun appear beautiful, handle well, and last the average owner a reasonable length of time,,,,but the gun is just a few mills per part better than it absolutely needs to be and not work at all. Yuucckk.''
     
  2. TurtlePhish

    TurtlePhish Member

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    That's really neat. Thanks for posting!
     
  3. Andrew Wyatt

    Andrew Wyatt Member

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    I'm shocked at the gulf of opinion between myself and the man who wrote the first post.
     
  4. dak0ta

    dak0ta Member

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    Post yours please. I would like to know them.
     
  5. SEE IT LIKE A NATIVE

    SEE IT LIKE A NATIVE Member

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    Great post ! anybody want to buy my 1200 winchester ? ::cuss:
     
  6. stan rose

    stan rose Member

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    I liked it, agreed with most of his reviews. Thanks dak0ta
     
  7. Andrew Wyatt

    Andrew Wyatt Member

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    I come from a very different place, experience wise and I don't place as much value on the fit and finish of a shotgun as the original writer does. I don't see as much difference in useability between the 870 and the 500 as he does, for example.
     
  8. rbernie
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    rbernie Member

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    Fair point - for the first shot. But all of the 500's that I've owned (one of which was my firstest shotgun evar) felt far clunkier to cycle and manipulate than even an Express model 870.
     
  9. throdgrain

    throdgrain Member

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    My second Mossberg 500 would deposit a shell at my feet instead of from the magazine into the chamber, every 3rd or 4th shot :) It was a nightmare, that turned out to be the cartridge interruptor if I recall correctly. This was on a brand new gun too!
     
  10. dak0ta

    dak0ta Member

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    I had that problem once during sporting clays with the round dropped out of the mag tube. I figured out that it was due to the magazine tube becoming loose so the gap prevented the rim of the shell from being caught by the shell stop, and it screwed up the timing so that the elevator misses the shell resulting in the shell being ejected out the bottom. I should have put some blue loctite back on after unscrewing the magazine tube. That's what they do at the factory anyways.
     
  11. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I once lived next door to the town repair gunsmith. He considered the Model 12 to be the Gunsmith's Friend. Very popular, but typically used hard and put up wet. There was always one or more in his shop for repair after hard use and neglect.
    Browning A5s, too. They tended to get beat up because the typical user would put the friction rings in the light load position for quail and then go duck hunting without setting up for express loads.

    He liked the Remington M31 and I thought it a nice gun as pump guns go, which is not very far with me. The shaky foreend just distracts me after long experience with singles, doubles, and autos.

    You seldom see any mention of the Marlin 120 which was kind of a knockoff of the Winchester, but it seems a solid gun.
     
  12. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Nice writeup, though I do disagree on some points.

    500s, IMO aren't nearly as "Clunky" as 97 Winchesters. All that finely made steel takes more arm to overcome the inertia.

    Much as I love 870s, I believe Model 12s, 31s, and 37s have better "Shucks".

    520s and 620s are tanks. Like 97s, 37s and other JMB designes, they're not user friendly inside.

    Never cared for the High Standard shotguns, though I revered the Super Trophy-matic 22s.

    All in all, a decent writeup.

    Thanks....
     
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    One mans opinion, but I wouldn't take it to the "History of the shotgun" bank.

    I fail to see much similarity between the High-Standard Flite King design and the Mossberg 500, other then they are both pumps.
    I also fail to see the similarity between the HS Flite King and the Remington Model 31.

    The other thing is, the HS Flite King was introduced in 1959, and the Mossberg 500 in 1960.
    Hard to call it a remake of something that basically came out within a year of it and sold concurrently with it.

    Pretty sure High Standards patent lawyers would have had their panties in a wad if Mossberg copied it.

    rc
     
  14. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    I am no expert on pump action shotguns but neither is he. I believe some of his opnions have merit and some are biased related . To compare the Winchester 1200 to a Chevy Vega is a bit over the top. My brother has a 1200 that he has been shooting clays and hunting with for more than 40 years and it is a fine gun.My Win model 12 has had more probems with it than any pump gun I have. While parts are machined does not give it any advantage that I can see. My 2 cents... Snoop
     
  15. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    I'm by no means a shotgun connoisseur, but having fired a few thousand rounds at clays with both a friend's 870 and my own 590, I have to say my 590 handles much better and more smoothly. Maybe it's just me. *shrug*
     
  16. Youngster

    Youngster Member

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    IMO, the Ithaca 37 would have been a lot more popular if it hadn't been made by an underdog company. Even as long ago as the '50s I think they were having trouble producing a product that *appeared* to be as well made as most of its competitors, though they functioned as well as any.
     
  17. Milkmaster

    Milkmaster Member

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    A lot there to agree with in your write up. However I would disagree with the opinion on the 1300 Winchester. Some small differences made it a little improved IMHO over the 1200.

    In any case I have yet to find a completely worn out pump shotgun that was cared for properly. That includes the Winchester 1300. Thanks for your write up. I enjoyed reading it.
     
  18. kcshooter

    kcshooter Member

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    I've never met anyone who has shot a Winchester 1400 say they hate Winchester 1400s.
    I understand on principle, but in practice, it's one of my favorite shotguns.
     
  19. Virginian

    Virginian Member

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    Ever notice not many people hate their shotgun, and while the brand and model may be suspect, theirs has never even hiccuped?
    Back in the mid 60's Winchester opened a skeet and trap range in my hometown. The barrel of 1200s and 1400s going back to the factory for fixing on a regular basis did not endear me to those models. (my buddy worked there)
    I would rate the BPS an evolution of the Model 37. Simpler made, heavier yes, but every bit as well designed and even more likely to run longer between trips to the gun doctor in my opinion. But, I could never grow to love bottom loading thru the magazine enough to like them nearly as much as a Wingmaster. As soon as tungsten arrived, I sold my 10 gauge and went back to the 3" 12.
     
  20. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Member

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    Huh? My Ithacas (a 47 & 56) are easily as well made, and look it, as the Model 12's from that era I've looked at. I do want to get a 12 someday, more as a bucket list item than anything, but if I'm going out the door with pump, I want one of the Ithacas.

    Ithaca has had a problem, repeatedly, of not being as big as it's ambitions require. But I love my 37's & want to get a 16 or 20 gauge NID someday as well.
     
  21. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    Calling the Winchester 1300 a "POS" is a bit of the Winchester pre-64 "Snobbish" opinions that is still alive and well long after many very good quality guns have replaced them.
     
  22. Virginian

    Virginian Member

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    I wouldn't call them a POS. I have seen POSs, and they ain't nearly that bad.
    A lot of those "replacements" haven't had Winchester on them either, and some feel there was a reason for it. I think Winchester shot themselves in the foot with the 1200/1400s. Hard to live down serious quality issues AND a ticked off customer base, because you dared to change their pet gun, and then ignored their wails. Think "New Coke". I actually shot more than a few rounds from a 3" 1300, and I liked it; just not enough to replace a Wingmaster. The whole "Speed Pump" thing just irritates me to no end, sorry if you love them.
     
  23. snooperman

    snooperman Member

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    I do not love them or shoot them, but it is a bit much to hear the Pre 64 snobbish attitude about these guns when many other guns are just as good including the wonderful 870 and Ithaca 37.
     
  24. dak0ta

    dak0ta Member

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    Anybody know what the upgrades to the 1300 were that made it better than the 1200?
     
  25. CatManDo

    CatManDo Member

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    With me it's not a snobbish attitude about the 4 Model 12's that I own, it's more about pride in knowing I have a gun(s) that have and will continue to go down in history as one of the best American made Shotguns. Also, it's what I grew up with and shot from age 9, hard to change ones mind when childhood memories are involved.
     
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