B-SS and M-42

Hi Bruce,

Let me first say that I thoroughly enjoy reading your column and will leave my PC on while awaiting your response…

I love to hunt birds of all kinds, in fact, during hunting season I’ll probably go every day. For the last two years I’ve been using a Browning B-SS Side-lock 20ga. for pheasant. This is a beautiful little gun that fit’s me almost perfect.

The problem is that this year I’ve noticed that the Pheasants I’ve shot have been a little more mangled than usual. To the point that some are uneatable. I tried using lighter loads than the 5’s I normally use. I’ve even tried using 8’s but I fear that I will wound birds and that is not acceptable.

Now, to the meat of the issue… I went out and purchased a grade VI Browning model 42 that fit’s me as well as the B-SS. I’ve been using the #6 2 1\2″ shells and it is working wonderfully. It just seems that this little gun isn’t all that sturdy. It has to come apart to fit in the case that I purchased for it.

Will breaking it down all the time hurt it? Is this a sturdy design? Maybe it’s just the pump action giving me false impressions? What do you think?

Thank you in advance for your response…


Dear Jim,

If you are mangling your pheasants, why not just have your chokes opened up a bit or get it screw choked? That 20 gauge BSS Sidelock is definitely a keeper. Briley can screw choke it for you for $350 and you can experiment with chokes to your heart’s content.

As to your Browning M-42- those guns are as long lasting as you could ask for. I own an original Winchester M-42 that was made in the first year of production (1933). I have owned it for over 20 years and have shot it an entire ton. It was a well used skeet gun when I bought it.

The weak spot of these take down guns is the threaded collar at the point of take down. This threaded collar can be adjusted for wear and it can be replaced with a larger size when the original has no more adjustment left. I don’t know if Browning stocks larger take-up collars for its reproductions, but you should get a tremendous amount of use out of the gun before you need one.

When I had my M-42 rebuilt by a man who used to work in the Winchester Custom Shop, he advised me against taking my M-42 down into two pieces after each shooting session. I simply bought a full length case for travel and store the gun muzzle down in my gun safe. I don’t think that I have taken the gun down very often since it was rebuilt- just when I disassembled it completely for major cleaning at the end of each year. If you only occasionally take the gun apart, the threaded section will last forever.

The single action bar does account for some sloppiness in the forend, but don’t mistake that for looseness in the gun. All M-42s and M-12s that I have used have had a bit of slop in the forend. That may be what makes them so slick.

I never owned a Browning M-42, but I did buy one of their 28 gauge M-12s. I was impressed by the workmanship (machinemanship?) and only had two complaints. I didn’t like the arched rib (yes, I know that Winchester did it originally) and I really, really hated the trigger interrupter that was added to the repros. I ended up selling the gun due to this latter feature. I have shot pumps for 25 years and I simply can’t abide that trigger interrupter. The little guns don’t have enough recoil to “set” the interrupter, so I always had to give a little push forward before coming back. It drives me crazy, but it doesn’t seem to affect some other people I know who own them.

The workmanship on the Japanese M-12 28 gauge repro was far, far cleaner than the insides of my original M-42 and my old M-12s. Of course, there was absolutely minimal hand work on the repro, but I didn’t find the work in any way inferior to my original gun (which also had minimal hand work for the period).

Now- as to using a .410 on pheasants. You must have a hell of a pointer and really be comfortable shooting that little gun to use it on pheasants. Even on preserve quail, I find that a high percentage of my birds are retrieved wounded when I use a .410. Still, if your .410 works for you and you aren’t getting too many running pheasants, don’t worry about wearing your little M-42 out. There aren’t enough pheasants in the world.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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2 Responses to B-SS and M-42

  1. bamaskeetshooter says:

    Bruce, before you recommend the Browning model 12/42, please talk to some people that have shot them for any length of time. Unlike the original Winchester’s, the Browning copies have been less than reliable when shot for any length of time.


  2. Bill E. says:

    I will have the temerity to disagree with Sir Technoid in his recommendation to put screw chokes into the BSS Sidelock. It is in my opinion inappropriate at best, and lacking in proper rearing to equip a nice SXS with screw chokes.

    The advice to have the existing chokes opened up is the optimal modification if the owner does not want to use spreader shells such as those by PolyWad.

    Screw chokes nowadays in an O/U are de rigueur; but please, NO, on a side by side double.


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