Snap Caps Or Not?

Dear Bruce,

Do you recommend storing a shotgun (Browning 425) with snap caps in place so that the gun is stored with the firing pins “relaxed” ie. load snap caps, pull trigger (twice) to release spring pressure? Does it harm a shotgun to store it with the firing pins under spring tension?

Thank you for the efforts put into your web site. It is “the best”

Thanks, C

Dear C,

I store my guns fully assembled and muzzle down in the gunsafe with the hammers cocked. I don’t use snap caps for storage. Your 425 has coil springs and “relieving” the tension really doesn’t help much. First of all, dropping the hammers still leaves the springs under considerable tension. Secondly, modern springs really don’t take much of a set. All the modern cameras made today cock immediately after firing and remain fully cocked at all times. They don’t have any problems.

I’ve never had a hammer spring failure in any coil spring O/U, nor have I had any light strikes attributable to weak springs. I do replace all the springs in any of my guns at around 50,000 rounds. This just makes commons sense for a competition gun.

The early 325s did have the reputation of having the opening lever spring break, but that has long since been fixed. Using snap caps wouldn’t have helped that at all.

The only thing that I use snap caps for is when I am dry firing the gun to test the trigger or for practice. I do a lot of dry firing at clay targets. You would be amazed at what you learn when the gun isn’t jumping around in your face.

As an addendum for all you side by side owners out there with leaf springs, I know that it is the custom to store with hammers down on a snap cap. You might be interested that Robert Churchill, the gunmaker and promoter, advised storing the guns with the hammers cocked. He said that the difference between the cocked and uncocked pressure on the spring was insignificant. It’s under quite a bit of tension either way. To be fair, many other sources advice storing with hammers down. It’s up to you.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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5 Responses to Snap Caps Or Not?

  1. Bill says:

    Although this is an old post, when I encountered it I could not help adding the following. In my discussions with some very experienced gunsmiths over the years; they have provided me the same imput as Sir Technoid has done herein. They have universally said that snap caps are for dry firing and storing the guns with the hammer/s cocked does absolutely no harm. In fact, one very reputable smith even stated that if a spring is going to fail you want to find out about it as soon as possible, so keep the springs under tension and let it fail sooner rather than later! In fact if you are like Sir Technoid who is a member of the royalty that shoots a Purdey SXS; you find that there is no way to minimize spring tension on an assembled gun because dropping the hammers just loads the springs again as part of the Beesly self-opening mechanism. It’s the way it is designed. I keep my guns cocked and I believe that as usual, Sir Technoid is correct in recommending that as the proper way to store them.
    Unrelated to shotguns, the only exception to the above is on bolt action rifles where I always remove the firing spring tension by pulling the trigger as I slowly lower the bolt prior to storage.

    • I’m not following the logic on what you do with your bolt action rifles. If it’s not worth the effort of releasing a leaf or coil spring on a shotgun, why is it you are releasing the coil spring on the bolt action rifle?

      • Bill says:

        If you can’t follow my logic, it is only because there is none to follow!
        I am doing it simply because I can do so easily, and to be honest, it’s actually become a habit with me developed over decades of using bolt rifles. Also, I have noticed that those bolt firing pin springs are HUGE compared to a shotgun’s, and when cocked, are under some really heavy tension by comparison. (By the way, I also do it with a concealed hammer rifle like the wonderful Savage Model 99. On those, I pull the trigger as I close the lever). However, you are absolutely right in that it would make no differance if I left them cocked; certainly not in my ever shortening life span! It’s just a habit that is so second- nature to me anymore; I usually don’t even realize I am doing it when I handle a bolt gun. One much more logical and I believe beneficial “habit” of mine is, that I always take a bolt apart when I first acquire the gun. I degrease all of the bolt internals completely. I let it dry completely, then only use powdered graphite or powdered molybdenum disulfide (hard for me to pronounce) in its innards. This totally eliminates any oils or grease to congeal in cold temps that could slow down the movement of the firing pin. (I do the same thing with gas autos when used for cold weather hunting like for ducks). I hope this provides some logic to my otherwise illogical actions. Thanks for asking.

        • A refreshing splash of honesty. I have to admit to “dry firing” an empty chamber bolt action rifle when I’m putting it away, for no other reason than I do it, not because I think I’m preserving the mainspring in any way. I’ve also held the trigger back when closing the bolt allowing the firing pin to slip off the sear and into the “fired” position. Again for the aforementioned reason: no reason.

          • Bill E. says:

            Franklin, I have never been keen on dry firing any gun without something to cushion the firing pin blow. Just another “habit” I acquired from years past of using British side lock guns. Take care.

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