Gratuitous Gun Pic: Hammer Shotguns

Smart-Ass Reader Joe G writes and asks me:  “If you’re as old-fashioned as you say you are, why have you never considered a shotgun that uses hammers instead of those newfangled hidden devices?”

It’s a good question (if a trifle impertinent), but let me open the discussion by showing one such, the (new) CZ Hammer Coach (~$900):

It is a strange thing that while we gunnies are all over the idea of single-action handguns (e.g. Colt Single Action Army revolvers), the same principle doesn’t seem to apply when it comes to shotguns, and it shows in the sales thereof.

Not many gun manufacturers make the old-style hammer guns anymore, other than in a style reminiscent of the old “stagecoach” short-barreled things (like the above).  And I’m not interested in a 20″ barrel, unless in a designated self-defense piece like a pump-action.

But if one wants a long-barreled hammer shotgun, the choices are scant:  either a hammer gun that is so old it’s unusable, like this old Gibbs from 1885:

…or else one that is old but still usable, like this Purdey Best Bar Action 12ga (~$16,500):

By the way, this Purdey would already be mine apart from reasons of poverty, because it is drop-dead gorgeous (right-click to embiggen both pics):

So why don’t I have or want one of these oldies?

It’s a simple reason, really:  nobody makes (or has ever made, apparently) a hammer gun in 20 gauge.  My days of shooting 12ga shotguns are over (brief as they were to start off with) because my shoulder just can’t take the sustained pounding of the big guy anymore.  And given that I mostly shoot clays nowadays, I am likely to pull the trigger upwards of a hundred times or more in a session.  And even that creates a sizeable bruise with 20ga, not that I care — but with a 12ga?  Yikes.

Of course, there’s this fine W&C Scott offering, which although originally barreled for 12ga, has been re-sleeved to 20ga, and is a steal at a mere (coff coff ) $7,500:


So I’m not that averse to the idea… but practicality gives me a kick in the ass, as it usually does (sigh).


  1. Hello Kim,
    Hammerguns are a favorite topic of mine. I regularly shoot vintage hammerguns and there are hundreds of others like me who gather at vintage style shoots. I know you probably don’t want a gun from the 1870s to the 1920s but we regularly shoot guns of this age in competition. Ammunition that is appropriate was readily available until recently which leads me to the point of my post. Most of us shoot light 7/8 oz. loads in our 12 gauges. A 20 gauge load in a 12. Recoil is very light and that is the key. Easier on the old wood stocks and easier on the shooter. In sturdier fowler or live pigeon guns heavier loads are used.

    If you’d like to see all this in action check out:
    The Classic / Southern SxS Championship
    Deep River Sporting Clays
    Sanford, NC
    April 21-24

    Video on YouTube

  2. It’s interesting that you have posted this. My go-to 12g is an AYA side by side hammer gun, 32″ barrel, I bought it 35-40 years ago and immediately stopped using all my other 12g shotguns. I’ve used it for clays, trap, game, (when I still did that), (including a Terrapin that had killed half of my brother’s ducks and swans), the only other shotgun I ever use now is a .410 Anschutz single shot bolt action, my brother gave to me 64 years ago, (yes, I’m getting old and decrepit). (Re: The Anschutz, if you don’t get it with the first shot, you’d better go and have a lie down in a darkened room).

  3. Bernadelli made a hammer 20 that was imported by Stoeger once upon a time. Never ran across one, but I’d love to find one south of a grand. “A shotgun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears.”

  4. Nice looking shotguns but I’ll stick with my Browning. I think it checks all the boxes you don’t like, single trigger that is selective, over/under like a man and his mistress rather than side by side like a man and his dog (great description), hammerless or concealed hammers or whatever, 12ga Is that enough?


  5. Some years back a co worker gave me an old store brand sxs exposed hammer 20 gauge. It dated back to the turn of the last century but did have 28″ steel barrels. One barrel was bulged about 6″ from the muzzle and a visit to Mr. Chop Saw got us down to about 20″. No choke of course but I had an idea about giving it to my 4’10” wife as a house gun. The gun was in pretty rough shape and I test fired it with the lowest of low brass loads. I discovered that the hammers were pretty worn and the gun would fire if you used harsh language around it. So that went out to another friend who was a good machinist and thought that he could fix it. I came home with a Charter Arms .22 mag pathinder. My petite wife did pretty well with the pistol and six rounds of .22 magnum can ruin your day. That was her nightstand gun until she passed away and I’m sure that she would have given a good account of herself if necessay. Just another rambling Dave story on a cold snowy morning. The dog gave me the “I think that I’ll poop in he house today” look.

  6. At one time the Italian repro gun makers offered the Kodiak double rifle muzzle loader in 50 X 12Ga. My army buddy from Wisconsin had a running joke about some nimrod hunting during overlapping bird and bear seasons, and getting the triggers backwards–rendering a flushed bird into a puff ball of feathers with the 50, then peppering a bear’s ass with a load of bird shot.

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