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Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions #16141979 06/04/21
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I love reviving old guns to shooting condition and needed a beater to leave in my cabin. I've always, like many country people (former, in my case) kept a single shot .410 for "things that go 'bump' in the night," and wanted another.

Found an Iver Johnson "Champion," a very common gun behind the back door of ranches and cabins when I was a kid (they came in many hardware store brands, too. The one I remember was "Bay State"--they were made in MA).

This one cost well under $100, including all the CA tax and background check bumf, so I got it. It is complete and functional, with a chip off the tip of the forend, a chunk off the plastic buttplate, and the whole gun brown "patina" with only minor pitting. Bore is clean except darkness in the choke area.

Serial number is 68601A, and a source on the internet tells me that those with s single letter suffix on the serial number were made between 1909 and 1919. That makes it a gun made before Winchester introduced the 3" Mighty Magnum shells in 1935, and it is not marked "For 3" ctgs." like most of the guns made for them are.

But a 3" snap cap drops right into the chamber, so I take it that the gun was re-chambered for 3" shells at some point. I've seen IJs and other cheap singles that have been fired with 3" shells WITHOUT rechambering. Sooner or later they "shoot loose"--a space develops between the barrel and the standing breech and case heads start bulging ahead of the rim. I've never see any worse symptoms than that, but suspect that there may have been some, especially with the cheapest guns (there were much worse-made guns than the IJ....). I once saw a Winchester Model 20, cute as can be, but wrecked that way--you had to knock fired cases out of it with a cleaning rod!

I intend to shoot only 2 1/2" shells in this gun--they are enough to kill varmints like snakes and possums and old Mr. Coon at very close range and clean the rats and pigeons out of the barn. There are "home defense" loads (I have some) that will serve for social interactions of the middle-of-the-night variety--if not I always bring a heavy-frame Ruger DA.38 when at the cabin. The IJ is tight at the breech, so I suspect that that 3" shells weren't fired in it much before the rechambering, but it's 'way over a century old and I'm too old to be an experimenter.

I intend to refinish the wood, replace the buttplate with one from Classic Gun Grips, and remove any surface rust with bronze wool, Kroil, and elbow grease. Then I'll Cerracote it matte black and shoot it with a couple of skeet 2 1/2" shells and a borrowed welder's visor.

FINALLY to my questions: 1) can anyone get a more definitive date of manufacture for the serial number? 2) Am I right about 1935 being the first date that factory guns were chambered for 3" .410 shells? 3) What's the best way to get rid of the roughness (lead fouling? Plastic?) in the choke area without making the barrel walls too thin? (I don't care what choke this gun is--the less the better in my experience of many .410s....

Thanks for any insights you can spare, except please don't advise me to take up rescuing cats instead of clunkers!

Mike Armstrong aka Mesa

Last edited by Mesa; 06/04/21.

Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
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Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16146136 06/05/21
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For cleaning up chambers (and choke area, too), you can chuck up a 12” section of cleaning rod in a drill, and put a folded piece of emery cloth in a patch holder. Let it spin, and work the drill back and forth. It should polish it up pretty well.

Cerakote is nice, but flat black paint, or Alumahyde, would likely do what you need, much easier (no baking). Have fun!

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16146273 06/05/21
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[email protected] I have some black medium emery cloth that should work, and a shotgun cleaning rod and tip that should hold it OK. I'll go easy--just get the dark areas off--there aren't any deep pits. (These .410s have thin barrel walls!).

I have seen painted firearms, but only WWII British Enfield .38s ("War Finish") and French Model 35A 7,65L autos, and, I think, one SMLE made in India. Didn't look too bad but were all, if I remember, "baked-on enamel." Once I get the IJ to a smooth finish, I'll try some different paints on a section of an old single shotgun barrel after giving it the bronze wool and Kroil treatment and see how it looks.


Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
Mike Armstrong
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16146789 06/06/21
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WARNING !!! A 3" shell will drop into a 2 1/2" chamber. The problem is that when a 3" shell fires, the case opens up and becomes longer. it is the extra length that causes high pressure. I agree, it may be converted to 3". I would much prefer a 3". Big time. I would want to know. A snap cap is not a test.

There are a couple tricks or methods to determine. Starting with a narrow steel ruler and super sharp eyeball. You can turn a wood/metal rod to exact diameter of the ammo and measure how deep down it goes. Another WARNING, the transition from chamber to barrel is most likely a ramp and not a sharp edge. Hard to get an exact read on where the chamber ends. Obviously, you can do a chamber cast. if you had the materials I am sure you would have done that already.

I have an H&R folder in 410. These old small bore shotguns are much sweater handling than some of the more recent guns. In the old days, they had gauge specific frames. Later on it was one frame for 410 up to 12. Made for a nice 12, but; a stupid heavy 410.

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16147103 06/06/21
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Don’t forget about “engine enamel”, if looking for a cheap paint for bare metal. Sticks really well without primer, is tough, and cheap ($8 a can).

IC-A

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16147232 06/06/21
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Thanks for the responses, both of you! I finally measured my snap cap, which I had thought was 3"....duuuhh, it's 2 1/2! So I don't know yet if the gun has been rechambered (don't have the special stuff to make a chamber cast).

But it's really a non-problem for this gun, since I know it was made for 2 1/2" shells only (too early for 3") and the uses I have for it don't require the extra shot capacity of the 3"--it will be used for shooting critters that I don't want near the cabin only, and the 1/2 oz. shot load will do the trick at close range--it has plenty of times before in my other .410s and an old "Bay State" single that I use when "ranch sitting" for a friend. Actually two of my rancher friends have these "Bay State" .410s, which look identical to an IJ.

I agree that if you are wingshooting with a .410, you need all the help you can get, in this case a 3" shell's bigger payload. But I have a.4l0 Remington"Wingmaster" for that.

I recently handled a new Henry Arms hammer single shot .410. Handsome gun, but weighs a TON! No thanks.

fburgtx, I'll drop by Pep Boys later this week and see if they have engine enamel and what it's like. Thanks for the tip!

Last edited by Mesa; 06/06/21.

Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
Mike Armstrong
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16147547 06/06/21
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Sure thing. The other nice thing about engine enamel, is that it’s almost always formulated to be impervious to gas/oils/cleaners, since it’s made for use in hot oily environments (engine bay).

The old Iver’s, (and Stevens, too), were neat old single shots. Way more streamlined/svelte than the old H&R’s. They always seem to be a pound or two less, and feel a lot thinner through the wrist of the stock. They can look pretty cool in an old “plum brown” finish, too.

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: fburgtx] #16147704 06/06/21
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Originally Posted by fburgtx
Sure thing. The other nice thing about engine enamel, is that it’s almost always formulated to be impervious to gas/oils/cleaners, since it’s made for use in hot oily environments (engine bay).

The old Iver’s, (and Stevens, too), were neat old single shots. Way more streamlined/svelte than the old H&R’s. They always seem to be a pound or two less, and feel a lot thinner through the wrist of the stock. They can look pretty cool in an old “plum brown” finish, too.


Shh don't tell anybody how good the old Ivers are, they're still relatively cheap in pawn shops and flea markets.

An old 20 gauge Iver is my favorite small game shotgun of all time.

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16147745 06/06/21
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These are neat little guns. I picked one up in 28 ga a while ago,

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16148525 06/06/21
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I found out that the "Bay State"singles were made at first (for many years) by Hopkins and Allen, and later by H&R. They must have had a serious connection to small town hardware stores and maybe the Grange Supply in 'way northern California when it was rural and agricultural, because they were really common on farms and ranches up there when I was a kid in the '40s and '50s.

(I say "'way Northern" so people won't think I'm talking about the SF Bay Area, which we considered almost a foreign country.... And for us, the "East Coast" was the far side of Lake Tahoe!).

Last edited by Mesa; 06/06/21.

Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
Mike Armstrong
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Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16153940 06/08/21
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Harrington & Richardson did make a "Bay State" model single shot. Earlier, in the 1880s there was a Bay State Arms Co. which was acquired by Hopkins & Allen in the 1890s. I've never heard of there being any connection between Bay State Arms and H&R, though, other than the name.

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16154428 06/08/21
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The pressure of a 3" shell won't hurt the gun, but the recoil will stress the hinge and shoot it loose.

I fired a couple of 3" paper shells in an old 2.5" hammer gun once, about 60 years ago. Rebroke a poorly glued stock repair, and I had to pull the empties with a pair of pliers. Worked OK otherwise ;-)

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16157389 06/09/21
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My wife's 20 Ga. Champion is close to new. The serial numbers(?) are four LETTERS. My 20 Ga. 'cabin gun' is exactly the same but says 'Philadelphia Arms' and also has either 3 or 4 LETTERS. I thought I heard that prior to 1935 that serial numbers on guns were not MANDATORY(?). Got lots of shotguns; but, shooting clay pigeons and other stuff is like a step back in time. Even one of my kids who just got an AR says "there's just something about stepping into the woods with one of these single shots".


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doo-wop music."
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16157578 06/09/21
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SNs weren't mandatory until the 1968 gun control act. I have an 1890s Remington rifle with an SN, a 1919 Remington shotgun with SN, and a 1959-1962 Remington rifle without.

I hear you on the single shots. Cuts down on the tendency to fire "warning shots."

Last edited by Hogeye; 06/09/21.
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Hogeye] #16160091 06/10/21
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[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]
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Have this 410 single made by Bridge company, very tight condition, shoots 3" shells fine. Anyone heard of Bridge Gun Co ?

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16164008 06/12/21
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Bridge Gun Company, according to Dr. Google, was a brand name of Crescent Arms which was assigned to guns sold by the Shapleigh Hardware chain. Crescent sold TONS of inexpensive but sound shotguns; they are best known for their doubles which had either sideplates or sidelocks (not sure which). They were ultimately absorbed by Savage in the early 1930s, I think.

My general rule with old .410s is to limit them to 2 1/2" shells unless it says "3 inch chamber" or "for 3" ctg." someplace on the gun. Most 2 1/2" guns will FIRE 3" fine. But the cumulative increased pressure effect of shooting them in the short chamber loosens the action over time.

The I J that I started this thread with is clearly too old to have a 3" chamber unless it was rechambered sometime in the past. It shows the effect added 3" pressure by not being quite as tight as it should be (I've seen this before, and on better quality guns). It doesn't matter much if you're going to only shoot the gun occasionally, but I don't need the extra shot that are in a 3" shell and so won't be shooting any.

Last edited by Mesa; 06/12/21.

Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
Mike Armstrong
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16165700 06/12/21
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Thanks!

Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16169196 06/13/21
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My grandfather had an Iver Johnson revolver in the Alaskan Gold Rush.
So we bought a bunch of those at gun shows.
I bought some books by Goforth on Iver Johnsons.

Then we started buying beat up 410 break action shotguns and restoring them.

I have shot double charge 454 Casull loads in a Stevens 410, but the OAL was too long to fit in a 454 Revolver. Some complain that the 410 is designed for 13,500 psi and the 454 for 65,000 psi.
I respond... the steel in the shotgun does not know that. It is too thick.


There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. -Ernest Hemingway
The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.-- Edward John Phelps
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16169892 06/14/21
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A surprising number of centerfire ctgs. will FIRE in a .410. I have to admit to firing some of them back when I was young and immortal

But the only sensible use for this knowledge is to remember that when you only have a .410--but no .410 shells-- and ABSOLUTELY HAVE to kill something up close and personal, you can if you know what else will chamber and fire. The .410 may never be the same, but you'll be alive.


Was Mike Armstrong. Got logged off; couldn't log back on. RE-registered my old call sign, Mesa.
FNG. Again.
Mike Armstrong
Re: Aged IJ "Champion" .410 questions [Re: Mesa] #16169932 06/14/21
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A shotgun barrel makes a pretty good club when you take the gun down. Just saying


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