“Bringing German Hammer Guns Back Into the Field,” by Stephen Wesbrook: Waidmannsheil, Journal of German Gun Collectors Association, Spring, 2017, pp. 8-12.
Engraved on sidelock of the 12-gauge Franz Kettner external hammer shotgun in photograph 1 above is a wonderful scene off flushing game birds. This photograph also shows the outcome every hunter hopes for in such a situation. The game birds in the engraving are most likely hazel grouse or grey partridge; the photograph shows a ruffed grouse. The scene in the engraving probably came from the Thuringian forests at the end of the 19th century; the photograph was taken in northern Maine this past October.
There are two general conditions necessary to bring back into the field many of the century-old German hammer guns sitting in gun cabinets in the United States, a large percentage of which were brought here by returning soldiers after World War Il.
The first is to bring them back physically, so they are safe, reliable, and preserved for decades more of use.
“The Petroleum-Based Oil Threat to the Preservation of Classic Shotguns,” by Steve Wesbrook: Lefever Gun Collectors Association Newsletter, September- October 2018 , pp. 2-5.
I would like to thank the editor for including in the March-April issue of the LACA newsletter pictures and a description of the Nichols & Lefever 10-gauge hammergun, serial number 5462…. I understand that based on the serial number this is the second oldest Nichols & Lefever known to have survived. As someone who spends a lot of time working to preserve late 19th century and early 20th-century doubleguns, I have thought a lot about why some high quality and obviously once very expensive shotguns have been well preserved and others have not.
The formula for the preservation of antique and vintage shotguns is the same as for other complex machines: (1) recognition of value, tangible or intangible; (2) periodic, if not regular, use; (3) routine operator-level maintenance; and (4) scheduled preventive maintenance services. For a shotgun to have survived at all for 120 to 150 years, at least one or two of these factors had to have been present for some of its history. To be well preserved, all four need to have occurred. Many of the existing shotguns manufactured during the golden age of the side-by-side cartridge shotgun, arguably from about 1865 to 1915, have not had any of the last three happen for many decades and are deteriorating rapidly. Yet most of these can be brought back to a condition where they can be used again for their original purposes and be passed to the care of the next generation.
The last of the four factors mentioned above is, in my opinion, the most significant in preserving antique doubleguns that have made it this far but are now at risk. For shotguns, as with all fine machines, 100 years is too long an interval between scheduled maintenance services.
Stock Therapy: 100 Years Is too Long between Oil Changes, Sporting Classics - Guns & Hunting Issue, Autumn 2020, pp. 138-145.
As someone who spends a lot of time working to preserve late 19th century and early 20th century doubleguns, I have thought a lot about why some high quality and once very expensive shotguns have been well preserved and others have not. The formula for the preservation of antique and vintage shotguns is the same as for other complex machines: (1) recognition of value, tangible or intangible; (2) periodic, if not regular, use; (3) routine operator-level maintenance; and (4) scheduled preventive maintenance services. The last condition is, in my opinion, the most significant in preserving vintage and antique doubleguns that have made it this far but are now at risk.
Our doubleguns are many things to us, but at their core they are fine machines made of steel and wood. At some reasonable interval all fine machines, if they are to function properly over long periods of time, need to be taken apart, cleaned, inspected, fully serviced, and major elements repaired or replaced before they fail completely. A majority of the vintage shotguns that people bring to me for servicing or reconditioning are their fathers’ or grandfathers’ guns that they want to pass to the next generation. Or they come from people who have more recently acquired an antique shotgun because they want to preserve a piece of our shooting heritage. Many of these shotguns appear never to have been fully serviced, or at least not in a very long time. As with all fine machines, 100 years is simply to long between scheduled maintenance services.
Most of these doubleguns can be brought back to be functional and beautiful. The case-hardened steel of the receivers can withstand a lot of punishment or neglect without major damage, as can the high-carbon tool steel used to make key parts of the locks and actions. The Damascus-steel and fluid-steel barrels of this period are robust and can almost always be saved if there is enough wall thickness. The wood is the most vulnerable.
In my experience, the greatest single threat to the preservation of 19th and early 20th century shotguns is petroleum-based oil that has accumulated in stocks and forearms. Ironically, owners in their efforts to provide good operator maintenance can contribute to the problem by heavily oiling barrels and receivers and then storing guns with the butt down. Gravity carries the damaging oil into the stock. Also, when owners do not thoroughly wash their hands after cleaning the barrels of doubleguns before putting them back together, they transfer cleaning solvents and gun oil directly to the checkering on the wrist and forearm. These are two of the most damage-prone areas. Also, a generation ago it was also not uncommon for owners to apply cleaning solvent and other petroleum-based products directly to the wood to make it shiny.
Petroleum-based oil causes the wood to discolor, soften, and lose strength. The effects, in the order of their occurrence and severity, if left untreated, are: (1) concealment of the natural beauty of the wood; (2) loss of checkering, excessive dents, and deep gouges; and (3) structural damage in the stock head and wrist.
Download full article at http://digital.sportingclassics.com/2020-guns-hunting-issue.