Sunday, January 11, 2009

Judgement: Zombie's Bane

Sometime over the Summer, Jenni and I decided to buy a shotgun. I don't know why we wanted a shotgun, but we did. We had heard and read from several sources that the pump-action shotgun is the definitive king of home defense. That inspired us some, I think. Jenni has had some back and neck problems, so we specifically wanted to get a 20-gauge for the reduced recoil, so it would not beat her up. We went to the corner pawn shop and fondled every shotgun they had in stock. The one that really grabbed us was a beat-up, well-used, 20-gauge, Winchester 1300 pump-action. We walked out of the store with this gun, after parting with $150.00. We stopped and purchased a couple boxes of $6-birdshot, and proceeded to the range. Well, we were hooked.

I showed the gun to my friend, Will, who works at the range. He thought it was interesting that this gun had an improved cylinder choke in the 28-inch barrel. He found it even more interesting that he was able to remove the choke by hand, rather than using the wrench. What was more interesting still, was the fact that the choke tube refused to thread back into the barrel at that point.

Long story short, we decided to lop off the barrel and call it a house gun. When my brother saw the section of barrel that had been cut off, and its choke tube, he nonchalantly screwed the choke tube back into the severed barrel tube. As it turned out, even though the threads in the barrel are damaged, if you hold your mouth right, it is a fairly simple task to thread the choke back in - but that's neither here nor there.

At that point, we had a home defense shotgun. So, we did the only reasonable thing we could think of. We took a home defense shotgun class with Oklahoma Shooting Skills. We did well in our class, and were really having fun with this combat shotgun idea! I started to get the desire to have a 12-gauge of my own. I decided that I really liked the Winchester 1300 platform. The Remington 870, and the Mossberg 500 are both fine weapons, but the Speed Pump is really sweet! I liked wood furniture, so I would probably wind up getting a Defender, and putting a wood stock and for on it, or a 1300 Hunter, and cut down the barrel, and install a magazine extension.

When I got my Christmas bonus at work this year, I kind of knew that I was going to be shopping shotguns. I had seen a few Winchesters around town, but they were either VERY used, or priced higher than I wanted to pay. With the recent gouging increases in gun prices, I wanted to pay about $200.00 for the right gun. At the same pawn shop where we bought the first one, I found a Winchester Ranger Model 120 in very nice condition. I was not familiar with the Ranger, but it looked like a 1300 to me.






So, I googled it on my BlackBerry. It turned out that the Ranger was indeed the entry-level version of the 1300 Hunter. The biggest difference is that the Ranger had an integrated choke rather than changeable tubes. Apparently, that cut the cost down. Either way, it didn't make a difference to me since I would cut off that part of the gun anyway. This gun looked like a brand-new, 20-year-old gun that had a maximum of a hand-full of shells through it, and had spent its life at the back of Grandpa's closet. The biggest flaw was a little rust on the magazine nut, which would be replaced with an extension anyway, so it didn't really matter.



As I was eying it, one of the guys who works in the shop looked at the price tag, which read "$230.00." He remarked that he would sell it for $200.00 after tax. I told him that he had just sold it. After a little more research, I found that this is probably a 1987 gun, and a thorough break-down and deep cleaning revealed no evidence of prior shooting or cleaning. I had to clean the factory preservative goo out of the cracks and crevices, and I had to clean dust out of the bore! Not powder residue, but dust! The 20-gauge became Jenni's gun, and we now had a his and hers set.

So, I took it to the range and put its first fifty shots through it. Jenni's gun has the long fore grip on it, which I thought I liked. Mine came with the short, corn-cob fore. After shooting it, I decided that I really do like the short fore. The gun was exactly what I wanted. The action started loosening up after the deep-cleaning, and even more so after I popped its cherry with the first fifty rounds. I was beginning to get a vision of what I wanted the gun to be.

I decided that I wanted the barrel in the size range of 18.5 to 20.5 inches, to make it handle better, but to remain legally above reproach. I wanted to go with a small magazine extension, to extend the capacity by two or three shells, to not put a bunch of extra weight on the nose. I decided that I wanted some kind of reload saddles, but didn't know what type or format. And, I wanted to go with a tritium night bead, so it would be easier to sight in the zombies and gremlins at night - when they are more likely to strike anyway.

I decided to do my own work as well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my preferred gunsmith is backed up by about 4-weeks, with the recent frenzy on firearms. I don't have that kind of patience. Secondly, I have access to some tools that make the job easier for a do it yourself gunsmith, and I've done some simple machining before. I even decided to make my own saddles since I couldn't find any that I really liked, and I work leather pretty well.

I ordered two ATI '7-shot' extensions from Impact Guns, as the mag tubes on the 1300 derivatives are identical between the 20-gauge and 12-gauge. I figured I could slap one on each of our guns. I picked up two Meprolight tritium beads - one for each gun. The thread pitch is a 6/48, and I was unable to find a tap in stock anywhere in town. I wound up ordering one from a supplier that I use at work. I was determined not to cut the barrel until I had the mag extensions in hand, to make sure to leave enough steel over the extension. I would then mount my bead, of course.

To pass the time, I stitched together a nice, leather, stock saddle that holds eight shotshells on each side. I put the center-line of the elastic low enough on the stock that the shells do not interfere with the proper cheek-weld. The shells hold securely, and pull out easily with minimal deliberation, and I call it a success. On subsequent trips to the range, I've received many compliments on the saddle.




Then, I found out that there was a problem with both the tap and the magazine extensions. It looked like the tap was delayed by several days, and the folks at Impact Guns couldn't tell me when I would get my extensions. So, I lost my patience, chucked the barrel in the band saw at work, and cut 8-inches off the barrel. I used the belt sander to even my cut and deburr the outside of the cut, and used a 1-inch drill bit to chamfer it. When I got home, I did a little more work with a piece of emery cloth, and touched up the white metal with a cold bluing compound. If you have never used that stuff before, you have got to try it! It is so cool! I applied the fluid with a Q-tip, and watched it go from white to blue-black in seconds!

Fortunately, my tap came in the next day and I was able to drill and tap the barrel for the new sight. The Meprolight sight is a glowing, green dot on both sides, front and back. I suppose that they do this so that you have 180-degrees to align it. I used Locktite to secure the sight in its newly cut threads. I didn't really want the gremlins to have a green dot to shoot at, so I touched the front of the bead with some black fingernail polish to allow its luminescence to come from the back only. A couple days later, I mounted the other sight to Jenni's gun.

Here's my gun, with the barrel length corrected, and the night-sight installed:


Here are both guns together (12-gauge, "Judgement" on top, 20-gauge, "Deliverance" on bottom):


And, here's a low-light shot of both sights (They are a lot brighter in real life. This was just the best pic I could take with the equipment on hand):


Impact Guns keeps telling me that they will ship my magazine extensions any minute. In reality, I have no idea when or if I'll actually get them. We shall see. I'm also thinking of putting an additional side-saddle on the receiver, but I haven't decided yet. Jenni's gun will also get leather saddles, but she wants a new holster for her 640 before that. I may have to post an update at that point.

2/11/09 - UPDATE


instinct said...

Thinking of doing the same thing for the me and the wife. 20 gauge would probably suit her just fine.

Since I know a guy out here who is an armorer by profession I bet I can get him to do all the mods for me since I don't have the tools :D

Michael said...

And, there you have it! Safe shooting!