Less Satisfactory Little Skeeters

Dear Bruce:

I read your recent response on this subject and decided to write. I always enjoy your comments. I recently purchased a pair of Little Skeeter 20 to 28 ga tubes from Orvis. This last weekend I shot a 100 rounds through them at a local sporting clays course. I agree they shoot very well and extraction of spent shells can be tough. One of mine was not finished very well inside and the shells were extremely difficult to get out. A little work with an emery cloth improved that.

The problem was when I got home I found the face of the receiver on my gun had two rings gouged into its’ surface where the tubes contacted it. The gun is a Browning Citori Gran Lighting and I was shooting 3/4 oz reloads, WAA hulls, claybuster wads, CCI primers and Unique powder, with a published psi of 8,400. Needless to say I am not pleased with the impact to my gun. Before noticing this I had determined the tubes were too cumbersome for sporting clays, but had looked forward to using them for grouse and woodcock hunting in my Ithaca/SKB 100 20 ga SxS. Now I won’t use them at all for fear of marring any other guns.

Have you seen anything like this? Any ideas on causation? Thank you for your time.


Ottumwa, IA

Dear Kirk,

I had some trouble fitting 20>28 and 20>410 Little Skeeters (LS) into my 20 gauge Superposed O/U. The rims on the LS were a touch too thick and the gun wouldn’t close. I asked the manufacturer and he said that there was a great deal of variance in the rim cuts on many 20 gauge guns. If there’s a problem, just send the LS back and they will make whatever adjustments are required to get them to fit. The gun I ended up testing them in was a 20 gauge Beretta 391. There was no metal damage to the face of the bolt at the end of the test.

Obviously, your gun closes and works with the LS. Something else is wrong. I don’t remember if the LS in 20>28 were steel or aluminum alloy. Obviously, if it is alloy, it has no business gouging the steel standing breech of your Citori. If they are steel and gouged the surface, then perhaps it’s a question of that rim thickness. But if the LS stuck out enough to gouge the breech face, the gun should have been exceedingly hard to close. That should have given you ample warning that there was a fit problem.

I don’t see a situation where, even if the LS fit very loosely, they could be driven back under recoil with sufficient force to gouge the breech face. Many factory shells have brass coated steel heads and cause no marks on the breech face. Maybe that was the cause of the gouges, but I would be surprised. Of course, the fact that the sun comes up every day surprises me, so I’m an easy mark.

One possible answer is that you might be seeing a build up of soot and carbon, rather than a gouging. LS are absolutely filthy. The don’t seal well at the chamber walls because they don’t expand the way a regular plastic shell hull does. The consequence is a great deal of blowback powder that covers the inside of the receiver with carbon. You definitely get two black ridged rings built up on the breech face where the brass on the hulls abuts. But it’s only carbon, not gouging. A proper cleaning with a good solvent will remove the carbon and show you whether you have metal damage or just crud. Please excuse me if you have already done this, but I want to cover all possibilities. Obviously, if there is gouging, you are wise to stop using them.

I’m not so sure about using the LS 20>28 on grouse and woodcock. You are carrying the same weight gun so why use a smaller, less efficient load? I can see using subgauge guns for grouse and woodcock because they are lighter and easier to carry. That’s important. At the end of the day I will usually shoot a lighter gun better than a heavier gun with a larger load because my tail is dragging and it’s hard to lift anything more than my feet. But if two field guns weigh the same, I prefer to use the one that can handle the larger shell. This allows me the option of a larger pattern and a better chance of a grouse meal at the end of the day. When it comes to grouse, I need all the help I can get.

Best regards,

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

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