Shooting A 150 To 160 Year Old Original English Fowler
Couldn't help but using that pun in the headline or title for this post. But...that's kind of how I felt as I loaded and shot a circa 1860's original Joseph Bourne, Birmingham, England, percussion single barrel shotgun, or "fowler" as they were commonly referred to back in those days, for very likely the first time in more than a hundred or more years. But...I'm getting ahead of myself just a little.
The opportunity to even handle and examine the well built old smoothbore came about when I invited Glenn May and Andrew Mason, both talented gunsmiths and gun makers with Cooper Firearms of Montana (of Stevensville, MT) to do some shooting with me. Both love old guns...or modern copies of old guns...and jumped at the opportunity to take me up on that invitation.
Glenn has been a loyal follower of the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING web site for several years, and had been wanting to do some shooting with the Pedersoli modern copy of a pre-1800's Mortimer flintlock 12-gauge fowler I planned to use for my Montana turkey hunting this spring. In fact, he had become so intrigued at hunting turkeys with a muzzleloading shotgun that he had acquired one of his own .... the mentioned original Bourne single barrel. He had spent some time cleaning up the old gun...and checking to make sure the Damascus twist steel barrel was solid enough to be shot...and wanted me to help him work up a load for the gun.
I've always had a special place in my heart for fine original muzzleloading shotguns, and looked forward to seeing what kind of performance we could get out of the old Bourne single ... so told Glenn to bring it along.
The shotgun seemed to be something of a "loose 10 gauge"...or a "tight 9 gauge". I checked the bore by slipping one of the Ballistic Product Inc. one-piece plastic 10-gauge TPS wads onto my little finger...then easing it about half way into the bore. I could feel the wad making contact with the walls of the bore. But for my first shot with the old percussion single, I decided to try something else first.
The hefty built shotgun weighed in at around 9 1/2 to 10 pounds, with a fairly hefty barrel, especially at the breech end. To play it safe, I went with a "light" load. In fact, I went with basically the same 90-grain charge of Olde Eynsford FFg black powder I shoot out of the pound or so lighter Pederoli-Mortimer 12 gauge flintlock. Directly over the powder charge, I "dropped" in one of the BPI .125" thick heavy 10-gauge Nitro Card Wads. (The card wad did make light contact with the walls of the bore, and it took very little, if any, effort to push the card down on top of the powder charge.) Then, I pulled apart one of the 1/2-inch thick BPI 10-gauge fiber cushion wads, separating it into 5 thinner fiber wafers...and tamped that down on top of the card wad. A .030" thick card over-shot wad was ramrodded over the top of the cushion wad...and two ounces of No. 5 lead shot poured in.
I knew a 10-gauge .030" thick over-shot card wad would fit a bit too loosely to reliably keep the shot from rolling forward and out the muzzle...so instead I simply rolled up a small bit of toilet tissue...shoved it down the bore...and lightly tamped it into a very effective "over-shot" wad. Shooting off of sandbags from the bench, at about 20 yards, I was extremely pleased when the nearly 160-year old shotgun produced the above left pattern ... with the first shot that had likely been fired out of it in a hundred or so years. So were Glenn and Andrew.
The two wanted to try their hand at loading the muzzleloading big bore - so I walked them through the process I had used. Shooting from the sandbags of my old shooting bench, they had no problem duplicating the pattern I had gotten with the first shot out of the Bourne single. Both took turns loading and shooting the shotgun another seven or eight times.
Repeatedly, the two punched patterns on paper that would have absolutely no problem of taking an adult wild turkey tom at 25 yards... maybe a bit farther. Glenn had seen how one of the BPI one-piece plastic 12 gauge TPS wads, with four cup length slits (to form four sleeves), had tightened the patterns of the Pedersoli flintlock 12-gauge I'll be hunting turkeys with this spring...and jumped at the chance to load the old Bourne single with the same powder and shot charges - but using just the sleeved 10-gauge TPS wad ... with a bit of toilet paper tamped over the top to form an over-shot wad.
Well...as you can see from the two photos directly above ... Glenn now has himself one turkey getting muzzleloading shotgun...and a load that should put any wild turkey gobbler on the ground...out to 30 yards! And...that's pretty amazing from a shotgun with a cylinder bore barrel.
Before fall, I may borrow this shotgun for a week or so and get in a little more shooting with the gun ... and some photography as well. Since it now belongs to a good friend, rest assured...you will very likely see more of it on this website. For a look at my loading and shooting of the Pedersoli reproduction of a circa 1790 Mortimer flintlock shotgun...just go to the following link. - Toby Bridges
For More On The Pedersoli Flintlock 12 Gauge Mortimer...Click On Above Photo
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Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
This blog is made possible by Davide Pedersoli & Co., Dixie Gun Works, Traditions Firearms, Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., October Country, and Hodgdon/GOEX powders. The topics presented here will be devoted entirely to shooting and hunting with muzzleloading guns of pre- 1860's design.