Sticky Situation

Hi Bruce,

I encountered a situation that was disturbing. I have been shooting my grey AA reloads (2-3/4dram, 1-1/8 oz.) very successfully in several over unders (yes, I have become a total gun nut). I also own two Spanish SxS 12 gauge guns that were probably built in the sixties. After shooting two rounds of skeet with my Beretta, I loaded the Spanish Shotgun, fired it successfully and then tried to open it to extract the shells. It was very difficult to break open the gun to the point I had to do it over my knee a few times. I shot all 25 rounds and it was that way the entire time.

I have seen this once before. It was also a 12g. SxS and the guy really had to use his knee to break it open to get the shells out. He also shot the complete round with it that way. We all thought it had something to do with the shells he was using. He had gotten them at closeout at the end of the last season at Walmart and we assumed that even though they were Winchesters, they were made expecially for Walmart and were substandard.

My shells work fine in my four over unders and I do not want to shoot the SxS if there seems to be something wrong. Any ideas?



Dear Milt,

I’ve seen this before. The problem is usually firing pin drag on the primer. When it happens again, carefully check the face of the spent primer in the fired shell in the barrel. Is there a line or notch scratched from the center of the indent to the edge of the primer? If so you have a firing pin that is dragging on the primer. When the gun has been shot and is being opened, the firing pin may be staying in the forward position and catching in the dent in the primer. In a O/U this usually occurs in the lower barrel, but it can be either barrel in a SxS.

After shooting, the firing pin (which is spring loaded) should retreat slightly into the face of the standing breech as the gun is being opened so as not to restrict opening. When it doesn’t something is wrong.

The problem could be

1) a broken firing pin;

2) a broken firing pin return spring;

3) improper function of the rebounding hammer.

The first two are the most likely. I don’t really think that the problem is with a “soft” primer. The problem is that the firing pin doesn’t return to its place within the receiver, not that it punches into the primer too much.

Now, after having given all this learned advice, I want to make it clear that I’m not a gunsmith. I’m just barely smart enough to know when to take my gun to an expert and plead with him to fix it. I’m just relating the situation as I’ve observed it over 40 years of shooting. There certainly could be another cause of your difficulty in opening the gun, but as I can’t see the gun I have to sort of guess. That’s what makes this long distance advice so much fun. I can be sooooo wrong! Something of which my wife constantly reminds me.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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