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Looking at a Savage 720

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Thunderchicken, Apr 22, 2019.

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  1. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    The serial number is 18XXXX so I assume this was built early in the 1930's. I do not know why it appeals to me, but I have been thinking of learning to shoot a shotgun (skeet, trap or whatever) well enough to not embarrass myself if I go bird hunting with my son-in-law so I was looking around and saw it at a local pawn shop. It has a tiny crack in the forend but I see that they are still available new or I imagine I can epoxy in a bit of walnut using GunnyUSMC's tutorial.

    Everything looks like it works and the finish seems good (for a 1930's gun) but I was wondering how to carry out at least a bit of due diligence. Or, alternately, am I simply delusional and should I just use the field barrel that came with my Mossberg 500 that I've never even used? I suspect part of it is that it is an extremely cool old shotgun with wonderful patina and I'm kind of a sucker. Thanks for any words of wisdom, derision or whatever.
     
  2. Deltaboy1984

    Deltaboy1984 Member

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    Solid gun!
     
  3. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    I have one. It’s been a hell of a project, but when it runs right, it’s a smooth and gentle shooter that is a pleasure to shoot. The gun is basically a copy of the Remington Model 11, but with one important change-the 720 features a cutout in the back of the receiver that eliminates the need for the fiber cushion and rivet used in the M11. I see the cutout as a benefit (closer to the Auto 5 in design).

    What is the asking price of your candidate?

    If you chose to buy it ask to remove the foreend. Don’t just look at the receiver end of the foreend for cracks. Look at the other end as well. That piece of wood is a structural element and can take a beating every time the gun cycles. On the magazine tube look at the recoil springs to make sure everything is there, and nice and snug. There should be a big long recoil spring, a bronze-colored friction piece, and a blued ring-shaped spring that fits over the friction piece. Also there should be a steel ring somewhere on the magazine tube-either with the friction piece or sitting against the receiver.

    Look not just at the forearm for cracks but also the butt. There is a return spring in there.

    If you’ve been allowed to remove the barrel, look at the chamber end to make sure the ejector is present and not chipped or anything (i bought a barrel once that was missing the ejector. Had to install one. PITA). Look down the inside of the barrel to make sure the bore is good and that there are no halos in the barrel (sign of a barrel bulge). Look at the square hole on the chamber end to make sure there are no odd wear points or soft corners. The hole should look fairly uniform.

    While the barrel is dismounted take a look at the extractor on the bolt face and make sure it’s sharp and not chipped up. Don’t release the bolt without the barrel in place. It’s poor form, and the bolt handle will smash into the receiver.

    If you choose to buy the gun plan on replacing the major springs (recoil and action) and friction piece. They are available and not expensive. Your gun will thank you.

    Also, post pics! Love these guns.
     
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  4. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    The asking price is $330. I will take off the foreend for sure. Not sure I know how to get the barrel off. Can I tell if the extractor is there with the barrel in place? Thanks for the information. I am glad to hear the friction piece is available--I was wondering how to be sure it was there from the diagrams I'd seen. I will post a picture if I get it. Thanks again.
     
  5. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    That's not terrible, depending on the finish, barrel length and choke. For bird hunting and skeet, lots of people like a 26"-28" barrel with IC or MOD choke. For trap, lots of people like a longer barrel with a more full choke. These make a difference in how the gun swings, and how the gun patterns at given distances. Arguably, barrel lengths and chokes are better suited to different activities. Be sure you at least know length and choke so that you can learn what to expect from your gun.

    You've already observed at least one crack in the forearm. Look for others toward the front of the forearm. These can be hidden under the barrel or inside the forearm itself.

    You can look for the ejector on the barrel when it's in the gun. just open the bolt and lock it back. you can view the ejector in the ejection port on the opposite wall of the receiver. The extractor is on the breech bolt, and will look like a sharp little finger on the bolt.

    Please note, this gun uses a reciprocating barrel. The barrel actually moves back and forth along the magazine tube as part of the cycling process. To verify the recoil system is there you'll need to remove the forearm. Here's how to remove the forearm and barrel:

    Ensure the gun is not loaded.
    Place the butt on a soft surface like carpet.
    Grab the barrel with one hand and apply some pressure to move it backward into the receiver. Won't need a whole lot-just enough to move the barrel and take pressure off the forearm and magazine nut.
    Keeping pressure on the barrel, unscrew the magazine nut.
    Pull the forearm toward the muzzle and off the mag tube. This will expose the recoil spring and friction piece.
    At this point, the barrel will slide right off the gun. Be sure to maintain control of the barrel and receiver to keep parts from falling on the floor.

    Installation is a reverse of this process.

    Ejector:
    ejector2.jpg

    Friction and Steel Rings:
    friction rings.JPG

    How they could be arranged on the gun. In this image, the steel ring is on the left, the bronze piece and spring are on the right. Recoil spring in the middle. It's also normal to see the steel ring together w/ the bronze piece.
    friction ring setup.jpg

    As far as the rest of the gun goes, all the parts are connected to each other somehow, and they all perform specific functions. When the gun is together, you can open the bolt and lock it back. You can press the bolt release button and snap the action closed. Those motions should also move the lifter up, then down. Watch for these actions. They should be prompt, snappy and forceful, and not sluggish or soft. you can pull the trigger. Should break pretty cleanly and reset. The safety should move freely and snap open/closed. Obviously, you'll want to engage the safety and try to pull the trigger. Should function as expected and without surprise. Nothing should feel syrupy or spongy in terms of how the gun responds to your input.

    You've already observed at least one crack in the forearm. Look for others toward the front of the forearm. These can be hidden under the barrel or inside the forearm itself. There isn't much else you can do except to look for anything that's obviously missing or broken, or parts that flop around on their own without springing back, or don't seem to be connected to anything else. That's about all you can do without shooting it. And shooting it is really the test of truth w/ these guns.
     
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  6. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    The photos especially are super helpful. Well, okay, the description of how to take the gun apart is also super helpful.

    One other question: a person who I know who bird hunts a lot just told me that if I want to hunt anything, "the steel in an old shotgun will not stand up to steel shot." Is that true? And if so, does it mean the barrel will wear out after 10,000 rounds or that it will basically be broken after I shoot it the first time?
     
  7. jaguarxk120

    jaguarxk120 Member

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    Not so much the steel used, but the choke's don't work well with steel. They are tighter and steel
    shot does not compress or flow like lead shot. You could have bulges in the barrel at the muzzle.
    Just shoot regular lead shot.
    This gun is based on the Browning A-5 shotgun.
     
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  8. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    The above is correct.
     
  9. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    I’d like to add something to Sovblocgunfan’s excellent advice. I’d bring some dummy shells with tape over the primers. Load, and cycle the gun by pulling the barrel all the way back and releasing. The shells should all load, extract, and eject and the taped primers should only have a hint of being touched by the firing pin. Then I’d do it again, this time pulling the trigger on each shell to see that the tape is broken.

    Another concern for me would be parts. I know Browning springs and friction pieces will work, but will Remington extractors and ejectors work? Are Savage parts available? Will a broken locking block rail retire the gun?

    EDIT: I just looked at Numrich and parts are available. But parts changed over the years. I’d want to know if the parts for my particular version were in stock.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
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  10. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    Good advice as always, sir. I have the savage 720 and a mid-to-late '20's M11. With the exception of the fiber cushion, safety configuration, and firing pin design, I can confirm majority of parts on my two guns are interchangeable (minor fitting not withstanding). Shell stop, lifter, lifter latch, screws and springs, extractors, etc are all the same. Fortunately, the 720 has the locking block with two rails, a la the later A5 design, and I recall the later M11's as having them too. I'd need to check mine to be sure.

    That being said, I do understand that Remington had a couple of different design iterations, so I can't really say same about OP's candidate. Furthermore, I will say that my experience only applies to the savage 720. I do know for a fact that later iterations of the savage offering (like the 755) had differences in trigger plate assemblies, breech bolt, and extractors (added one to the inboard side of the breech bolt!). So if the OP's gun is mislabelled by the LGS, all bets are off.
     
  11. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    Sov,

    Of all the Auto-5 & Clone guys, you are the most qualified to answer the OP’s question. I don’t think anybody has more experience mixing and matching parts as you do. If you say parts interchange, I believe you.

    I did notice that like the Remington, the Savage used both square and round firing pins, I guess requiring different bolts. Also, as you said, some bolts have only one extractor, and others have two. Hopefully everything will be in working order before he has to start trying to figure out exactly which part he needs.

    By the way, only the very earliest Auto-5’s had dual rail locking blocks. I think the switch to the single narrow rail took place before WWI. The change to the single thick rail took place in 1958. That’s one part they should have left the way JMB designed.
     
  12. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    Yes!!! Of course you are right. Earlier rather than later.

    Of course, the earlier M11’s and RAS’s like yours have some parts compatibility differences w the later M11’s. But I don’t think much of this matters to the OP at the moment.

    I agree that in all likelihood the OP’s candidate will probably be in good working order. And I’m also convinced that should the need for replacement parts arise he’ll be able to find what he needs.
     
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  13. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    I am still trying to work through in my mind how I can get this gun for my purpose, which is to learn to shoot clay well enough to occasionally go out hunting birds. Obviously practicing with lead is fine, but all hunting on public land seems to require "non-toxic" shot. I have read about bismuth shot. Could I use that in an old 720 without hurting it? I really feel like I understand a lot about this particular gun now (an illusion, I know) after all the generous posts, but I want to be sure I can actually make use of it. Thanks again for all the time informing me about the gun. I really appreciate it.
     
  14. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    You can use bismuth.

    We still dont know what the end of the barrel looks like tho.

    Does it have an adjustable choke on it or a fixed choke? And does the shop tell you how long the barrel is?

    A well-done video that shows the action in slow motion. Ignore the cheesy music..

     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
  15. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    I finally got over to look at the gun armed with my new knowledge. It is a 30 inch barrel with a full choke. The extractor is there and looks good. All the parts are present on the recoil mechanism. The barrel looks bright and shiny and seems to have no bulges to the eye or the hand.

    Also, I tried holding it and it seems to fit me quite well--my eye is actually looking right down the rib, whereas I tried my Mossberg 500 and I the stock is almost above my shoulder and I still have to hunch down like ... I don't know, something that hunches a lot. But a full choke is not ideal for birds, right? Could I make it work?
     
  16. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    Sounds to me you've got a good one. 30" full isn't exactly ideal for skeet or little birds. The full choke throws a pretty tight pattern and you'll need to be a good shot to hit a dove or clay with it. But you could make it work, I guess. Personally, I like that barrel combination for trap and bird shots that are kinda far away.

    However, if you like the swing of a 30" barrel you can have the choke opened up by several different people--Mike Orlen is one that comes to mind. He'll open it up from full to mod, or IC, and that should cover you for most of what you want to do. Very reasonable and fast, well-respected by most of the internet gun community.
     
  17. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    Fabulous. And who knows, since I've never shot at a moving target before, maybe I'll turn out to be a shotgun natural at sixty! Otherwise (and much much more likely), I will keep the "open it up" option in mind... Thanks again for all your generous help.
     
  18. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    Post pics!
     
  19. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    If the gun fits you, buy it. Getting the choke fixed is no big deal. I suggest screw-in chokes — Mike Orlen, Briley, and others can do those. You can probably get away with shooting steel without damaging the barrel so long as you don’t try it with the full choke.

    Looking forward to pictures.
     
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  20. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    Well, I finally got back to buy the 720 and it sold two days before. But I am now super interested in all the A5-style older guns and I *am* going to find one. Unfortunately life got in the way for too long (translated: I was a lazy ass). I feel kind of dumb after all the folks that explained things so clearly to me. Thanks again.
     
  21. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    Well then, I suggest a 1950’s or ‘60’s Auto-5. Parts are still plentiful and it’s the Gold Standard of the type. I like Poly Chokes. They’re almost universally reviled (on the internet at least) but they work and you can get a great gun for $100 less than a similar Auto-5 without one. It also adds weight to the end of the barrel which I find smooths my swing.

    Good Luck!
     
  22. Hookeye

    Hookeye Member

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    Steel shot reacts differently to choke.
    Tends to pattern tighter.
    So with steel shot, an IMP CYL bbl might shoot like a MOD.
    Or a MOD shoot like a FULL.

    Remington FAQ now says they don't recommend any steel shot to be used in bbls made before 1963.
    They used to state something where it was OK in the IMP and Mod bbls, but choke wear would happen over time.
    And IIRC they had a different cutoff date.

    Browning says no go with steel on older Auto 5's IIRC.

    Personally, if you like the old gun, just run lead or bismuth in it.
    If you have to go steel, run it in something else.

    I had a Rem Sportsman 58 20 ga and checked on it, back then the Remington site said it was OK but would wear the choke over time.
    Wish we had dove hunts like the old days, so that after a few yrs of that kind of shooting I could have worn the choke LOL
     
  23. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    Not that anyone probably cares, but I went to Ahlman’s and picked through their dozen or so A-5’s and found an older one that gauged as IC (marked with two stars but they said on an older gun it could have been changed) in pretty nice shape. Not as nice as the 720, but whatta ya gonna do? So everyone’s advice wasn’t wasted on me. Thanks again for all the info.
     
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  24. Sovblocgunfan

    Sovblocgunfan Member

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    See my post 18. Good job!
     
  25. Thunderchicken

    Thunderchicken Member

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    This is the first time I’ve tried posting a photo so hopefully it works. Sorry for the mess, I should’ve tidied up more before taking the photos...

    F925B3CF-AC8F-4E76-B206-AED99A7A5743.jpeg 0C9BEDF8-F390-4DD3-8D24-AEFA014CD363.jpeg
     
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