An Actual Dream Gun…My Grandfather’s Hand-Me-Down Shotgun

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Grandfather's shotgun
Courtesy Have Dash

By Have Dash

My teenage son’s entry into shooting sports began two years ago when my grandfather approached a cousin and asked him to pass down a vintage shotgun. This was noteworthy because my grandfather died in 1977.

Like many ghost stories, this one involves a dark and stormy night. I was driving home in the rain, thinking about a new 20-gauge I’d eyed a few days prior. It would be a great entry-level piece for my son who had been mentioning that his experience at Boy Scout camp got him interested in shooting. I’d grown up with guns, but life and kids and work had intervened for most of my adult life.

The cell phone rang on the seat next to me and I saw it was my cousin. It wasn’t safe to talk at the moment, but I heard his voicemail, which asked me to give him a call when I had a chance.

A few years prior, over dinner, he’d mentioned that it was actually my grandfather who got him interested in shooting back in the early 1960s. As a young boy, he’d go into the marshes with my grandfather and learned how to duck hunt, how to safely handle a gun, and the joys of a quiet morning out in nature.

His own father was a wonderful man who loved the outdoors and was an avid fisherman, but never touched a gun after the war. He had returned with a back full of Japanese steel that stayed with him until his death, fifty years later.

The night before my cousin called me and a few days after I went window-shopping, my cousin had a dream. He was in the marsh and my grandfather appeared, looking as he did in 1962. He asked my cousin if he still had the old 20 gauge that he bought for him. My cousin said he did. My grandfather then asked him to pass the shotgun down to me so that I could use it for my son.

My cousin awoke, disbelieving what had just happened. He went to his safe and opened it, making sure the pump action gun was still there. It was. He knew he had to call me.

My jaw dropped when we described this and he was stunned at the timing of my shopping trip. We met up and transferred the smoothbore a few weeks later. I took it to a gunsmith to have it inspected since it dated back to the 1930s, hadn’t been used in some time, and my cousin warned me the safety had been missing for decades.

The gunsmith gave it a tentative OK, but said that he couldn’t recommend firing it yet since the chamber unlocking latch was also broken. He pointed me in a few directions to look for parts and said he’d do the same.

After a few days of calling around, I found a small gun store in the midwest with seemingly the right part in stock, but the older gentleman who owned the store said he didn’t know how to send a digital photo to me to verify. I called the gunsmith to get his thoughts, and he warned me that what seems like the right part often isn’t on older, less-common guns. Still, he suggested I give it a try.

I walked in a week later, put the part on the counter, and he said, “You are one lucky son of a bitch. That’s it.”

We took the shotgun out in June, on Father’s Day, and I brought my grandfather’s World War II Navy cap with us. The shotgun did great and I’ve been babying it with low-recoil, low-power loads ever since. It’s not a regular-use piece. That role has since been filled for my son by a Mossberg pump and a Browning over-under.

We’ve had countless great times at the range and on the sporting clays course. He’s a better shot than I am and that’s perfectly OK with me. He’s since taken to pistols as well, using the Ruger I got from my father at age 16, and he’s even joined a rifle team.

It’s all brought us closer, brought us outside, and helped carry on a legacy of shooting. One of these days he’ll discover girls, or he’ll tire of his father’s company. But until that point, and hopefully after that period is over, we have a priceless gift from my grandfather to thank for giving us the priceless gift of time together.


This post was originally published in 2017.

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  1. I had my grandfather’s Mossberg 500 12-gauge pump cleaned up and re-blued before giving it to my son. Cost a lot more than the gun is worth on the pre-owned market, but worth every penny as a family heirloom. He’s taken turkey and various other game fowl with it and will certainly hand it down to one of his sons. Imagine that conversation starter: “Yeah, it’s just an old Mossy pump – it belonged to my great-great grandfather.”

    • My grandpa’s Marlin model 28 hangs on the wall of my workshop in all of it’s beatup glory. A local gunsmith recommended not shooting it with today’s loads due to a weak bolt design, but I’ll bet it was run for most of it’s life on volume-measured handloads. I do know it kept a family of nine kids fed (including poached birds, out of necessity) back in it’s heydays. If only it could talk, I’d love to hear the stories every dent, scratch, and gouge could tell.

  2. I don’t notice you identifying the manufacturer and model of the heirloom shotgun. However; any gun handed down by an ancestor through multiple generations is precious to descendants.

    • I noticed the same thing. The entire article I was wondering what kind it is, only to get to the end and get nothing.

  3. Receiving a old gun that was owned by a family member makes it worth much more than any new gun no matter how much the new gun costs. I have seen people spend ungodly amounts on a gun that had a very low market value. One gunsmith that had a refinishing business told me he learned early on never to say “You want that thing refinished?”.

    Time flies by like an express train when you are old and about 2 years ago I ran across a gun I always wanted to own but when I found one it was usually either a basket case or a basket case with an outrageous price or one that was chambered only for .22 shorts and not the shorts, longs, and long rifles. It was of course the ubiquitous Winchester .22 pump rifle that went through 3 design changes from 1890 to the 1906 to the 1962 model. I had fond memories as a kid from days of yore when shooting galleries existed in every amusement park. The slow moving ducks to the rapid, now you see the rabbit , now you don’t , challenged the inexperienced shooter up and through the old time crack shots.

    Its amazing how many millions of rounds these guns endured without breakage back when the American firearms companies made “real guns” of blued forged steel and walnut wood (well in case of the Winchester some models had gum wood but at least it was wood and not fking gut wrenching junk plastic.

    One day on my way through town to my Wednesday night shooting match I always stopped at two stores, the pawn shop and small town gun shop. At the pawn shop I found a old Winchester model 1906 pump and it was, joy of joys, chambered for all 3 rim fire cartridges, short, long and long rifle. The gun was not in the best of shape suffering from the usual hill jack neglect and abuse complete with the standard bent magazine tube. Par for the course. The price was right so I decided to take a chance and see if I could restore it. I spend weeks removing the rust and neglect. The gum wood stock had been crudely repaired and was not worth saving so I bought a knock out gorgeous walnut highly figured stock that I finished with 8 coats of True Oil, far better than the original stock that was originally proportioned for a young boy and not for a mans fit. The fore arm was in excellent shape and looked original but had obviously been replaced sometime in the distant past. It had a missing screw in the forearm and a missing cartridge lever spring which I replaced with new parts. The bore was rust free and the muzzle crown looked good. I straighten the bent magazine tube to get it to function again and replaced the take down screw and the knurled magazine tube plug with new ones. I replaced the Marbles front sight with another Marbles front sight of the proper height to zero it at 50 yards. The rear sight was also an old Marbles adjustable V notch sight adjustable for both windage and elevation which was an improvement over the original Winchester sight that was only adjustable for elevation.

    I convinced a retired friend of mine to fire up his old and abandoned bluing tanks after I spent weeks preparing the metal by removing the rust and of course polishing it for a high luster bluing job. My friend put me off for over a year and then one snowy night called me up and wanted me to get over to his house in 20 minutes. I skipped supper and was not in the best of moods. It did not take long for him to blue it and he told me “You did a better job than I would have done on the polishing and it turned out great”. I could not have agreed more.

    Finally taking the old and now restored gun to the shooting range it once more made the familiar shooting gallery crack and was still as accurate as the day it was made. No surprise there as Winchester in those days made excellent guns, far to good for the average kid. Now the old kid was young again for the moment and memories of now long since dead friends and the boyhood adventures I had with them came back with the smell of gun smoke coming out the end of the Winchesters barrel.

    The old amusement park with its nostalgic shooting gallery is now long gone along with my boyhood friends but as long as the Winchester .22 is still around they somehow all will still live on.

    We all own nothing in life rather we are just temporary care takers of the objects we own. Hopefully the next owner will be a kid that takes good care of the old gun and will stare in awe and wonder at it and say to his Father who bought if for him “Gee Dad I cannot believe they made guns that good in the olden days”. Then his Father will tell him “Take good care of the Winchester Son because if you do not the old man I bought it off of will come back to haunt you, and I fking will.

    • Wow little d, you and Moxie really came up with a whopper today, but a few flaws in your tale…. Mom would have kicked you out of the basement because of the gun solvent smells, and you claim to have friends. Cool story though.

      • Actually she did bitch her head off about the smell of the “original” Hoppe’s No. 9 which was super cancer causing because it contained benzene , now banned from its ingredients. And you are correct it stunk up the entire house even though I did indeed work on my guns in the basement.

      • quote—————–You are lucky you didn’t use Sweets 7.62 solvent. Much stronger than Hoppes.———–quote

        I as an adult some years ago about 30 to be exact had a friend who had just bought some Sweets to try out. He got it out to clean his gun on the range and I said “Does that stuff smell as bad as the old original Hoppe’s No.9? He poured some on a patch and said “take a whiff”. Like a dumb ass I did and it spun me around and took my breath away while my buddy laughed his ass off. Needless to say It did not make me fall in love with it and partially because of the smell and mostly because if you do not get it all out of the bore and damn quick it can etch the bore.

        I believe it was Shooters Choice that made a copy cat variant of Sweets but they also made a companion solvent for you to put into the bore to clean out the their copy cat version so that no etching would take place. All this was too much rigmarole for me to use it. Although I will say either solvent will take out copper fouling right now. That was the bragging point my buddy used when recommending it.

        My favorite still is the Hoppe’s no. 9 and not the bench rest Hoppe’s and there hangs a strange tail for sure. I called Hoppe’s many years ago when the bench rest solvent first came out and asked them what was the difference and if would be more likely to damage the bore. They laughed and said it was the opposite because the bench grade was deliberately made more weak although they claimed the standard grade Hoppe’s would also not damage the bore because it was PH balanced and you could even leave it in the bore because it does also contain a thin oil as part of the formula. Most people today still think the bench grade Hoppe’s is more powerful and quicker acting when its the exact opposite. Yes either is slow to use and often if the bore is in bad shape like some old military rifles are you can soak the bore once a day for a month trying to clean the copper fouling out of an old neglected military rifle. This is one case where Sweets would probably be the better way to go.

        I of course came up with my own method for cleaning out the bores of old neglected military rifles. You will probably disagree with me but it works for me and does not damage the bore if you do it right. I soak a patch down with Hoppe’s no. 9 the wrap it around an undersize bronze bore brush, some new brushes will work if they are not too oversize. After that immediately rub on some Issoi paste or even better yet the more powerful JB bore cleaner and then work the brush back and forth until the past is about gone. Then clean everything out and soak the bore with Hoppe’s and let it stand overnight and that will show 90 per cent of the fouling is gone assuming the bore is not a total disaster.

        And another bit of good news about moly coat and as usual this stuff also has to many untrue stories about it. Moly coat resembles graphite when you look at it which is known to attract moisture and damage gun bores. Strange that outers still makes a graphite gun grease for use in bores. I have never had moly rust a bore.

        At any rate some guys at our range use moly coated bullets and to save money put on the moly coat themselves myself included. The copper fouling reduction is fantastic on bores that are not previously damaged with corrosive ammo and even when using those coated bullets in old military rifles it will still reduce copper fouling by a good 90 per cent. On new bores most of the guys never clean their bores for the entire summer shooting season myself included. I clean once at the end of the summer and even that is probably a total waste of time when using moly coated bullets. Now I have never used commercial moly coated bullets because of the extra expense so I cannot say how good those bullets work on reducing fouling.

        • Cleaning process with Sweets. Run wet patches until the last one is white. Patches will start black from powder fouling and then blue with copper fouling.

          Let sit for 5 minutes (never more than 15).

          Run dry patches until the last one is white. If you’re going to use the gun next week, just pack away. Otherwise run a patch soaked in methylated spirit up the barrel before storing.

          Strong stuff but works well. Also why I clean at the range and not at home.

      • You live in an alternate world. It is totally beyond your backwoods comprehension that there are millions of democratic voting gun owners out there. Our own club has 1,000 members and more than 3/4 vote democrat and yes some like myself are radical liberals, others are left leaning independents and some are radical conservatives.

        My uncle was a hunter and gun lover and WWII Vet and voted Democrat his entire life but supported 2A. Again beyond your comprehension.

        Put this in your pipe and smoke it. The White Russian Right Wing Army got the shit beat out of it by the Red Army who were liberals, radical liberals and they did not do it by throwing cream puffs at the Conservatives.

        France is a super liberal country and one town is still run by old fashioned communists for the last 100 years. And guess what guns are owned by millions of French people. Some take a month off just to hunt wood pigeons once a year. Of course they are mostly Liberal they are French.

        Come down out of the hills and talk to real Americans once in awhile.

        • You and your “I vote Democrat but I am gun owner” (That is cognitive dissonance btw) are not “liberals”.

          You are a Socialist, Communist, Marxist, Statist, and Fascist. You are what the Founding Fathers warned us about.

          As such you are not a real American.

        • You live in an alternate world. It is totally beyond your backwoods comprehension that there are millions of democratic voting gun owners out there. Our own club has 1,000 members and more than 3/4 vote democrat and yes some like myself are radical liberals…

          Sure buddy! LOL
          How many of them have AR15s? Any of them distrust the government. – or are you all collectivists looking to have the gov micromanage your life while you have no privacy?

  4. The only firearm my grandmother kept after my grandfather died, was his 1903 Colt pocket auto .32ACP. My mother gave it to me 31 years ago. Manufactured in 1921, 100 years old now. I shoot it about once a year.💟

  5. I have my great grandfather’s Remington 1889 side by side 12 gauge. The stock was cracked and the inside was gummed up from years of sitting and not being used. I tore it down, cleaned it up and am waiting for a stock to be made to bring it back to life. I had my cousin take it to his smith to check the barrels and it is safe to use with blackpowder shells in his opinion. I will probably just let it be and put it on a quarterly cleaning but will have some shells loaded and take her out once for exercise.

    I have a war trophy my grandfather brought back from Normandy and carried to Berlin.

    These old guns have a unique history, and often still work long after the original owners take their place in that great formation in the sky.

  6. Hey any old time shotgun connoisseurs out there. Now I am wondering as to the make and model of the shotgun in the story. Its hump back appearance and sloping rear receiver should give it away .

    I would take a guess that it might be an old Marlin model 28 or 43

      • So are you agreeing that it might be a model 23 or are you as usual just hurling insults having nothing to do with the original post.????

        • For fuck sake, learn how to multitask. Have Moxie Kowslowski ( a.k.a. Miner) look this shit up while you’re busy hurling insults about how it sucks over here in uncivilized Capitalvania… talk about the pot callin’ the kettle black !!!

        • Don’t you have some gun control to Peddle? No- the gun controllers are probably never going to go after your single or double shot break over shotguns. Meanwhile, you try to push gun control on everything else that you don’t mind getting rid of because it doesn’t affect you.

          Who knows about you. Maybe you are just a FUDD, or maybe you are Josh Sugarmann who just got bored and wanted to troll. Either way, regardless of your affinity for old shotguns, your social engineering collectivist ideas in support of gun control are garbage.

  7. I’ve got the k98k and a berthier m16 my grandfather brought back from ww1. Both still shootable. Don’t shoot the 16 to much ammo is kinda expensive but the 8nm Mauser got me a nice doe back in mid 90s.
    Also have a type 99 arisaka dad brought back from the pacific. He traded for it has he was a navy aviator, tail gunner in a pbm, so didn’t get to “pick it up” himself.
    Not sure what will go to which of my kids. They will get to choose when that time comes.

  8. My first gun was a Stevens-Browning 12 ga that was handed down from my grandfather to me though my father. Unfortunately, it was stolen almost 40 years ago and to this day, i look for it in pawn shops and at gun shows. It has a very distinctive chip on the stock just behind the trigger guard. If I ever find it, someone is going to have some explaining to do!

    • I ran into a similar situation where the fellow did indeed find his gun at a gun show on a table for sale. The greed monger at the table refused to give it back and the cop at the show asked the original owner if he ever made out a police report with the serial number when it was stolen. The answer was no so the greed monger at the gun show got to sell the gun back to the original owner at double its worth. This is why I hate going to gun shows because of the type of people who hang out there, most are low life scum bags.

      • Most are NOT low life scum bags. And how does the gun seller know that the buyer is telling the truth? And why should the seller take a loss of hundreds of dollars because some rando shows up and tells him it’s his gun? My wife works in retail, and there is no end to the number and creativity of people trying to get free stuff. This guys beef should be with the thief and not the new owner. And let’s be honest, he is the owner of this shotgun. He’s been the owner of it for some time.

  9. I love old shotguns…..much more interesting than newer stuff that all pretty much looks alike.

    Appears to be an old Marlin with a beehive on the end. Great fun.

    The best of fun gunning is hunting or loafing with an old shotgun and a pocket full of shells.

    • Funny you mentioned loafing.

      When I was a kid with a Savage single shot 16 gauge model 220 that was hammerless I was loafing with my young cousin who as of yet had no firearms. Strange since his father was a hunter. Never the less we were sitting on an old very small wooden bridge that let the farmer get his tractor from one field to the other. It was spring time and we saw a lone ferrule city pigeon flying and then out of his dumb curiosity he altered his course and flew right over us. The old Savage being full choke was ideal for this situation of a high flying bird and I nailed it. What was equally strange was that 3 more pigeons that afternoon all flying alone also veered off course when they saw us sitting on the bridge and I nailed them too. My cousin then asked me “Hey is there something wrong with your shotgun I saw all these rings flying out of the barrel when you shot? I laughed and told him those were the wads that are part of the loaded shell. He had no idea what wads were or what their function was.

      This was back in the early 60’s when there were still lots of paper hunting shells still being sold but the gradual transition to plastic shells had already begun. I liked the new Remington green shells better because they were more symmetrical and worked through my dads and my friend’s savage pump guns but the newer red Winchester plastic shells were out of round and crooked and sometimes jammed both guns up. Later Winchester corrected this, probably because they got so many complaints on their poor quality control.

      I was also fascinated with the Remington shells because the first ones to be made were somewhat translucent and I could see the plastic wad and shot inside the shell. I can remember paying as little as $2.00 for paper shells and $3.00 for plastic shells which never swelled up when they got wet. I made the decision right then to switch to plastic shells and never looked back.

      I also remember the weird Wanda all plastic shells made decades ago that had no brass casing on the lower part of the shell. They were so far out and advanced that they failed in the market place but I never had a problem with them. I wish now that I would have kept a few to show people in present days in regards to the evolution of shotgun shells. I heard later in time another company also stared making shot shells without the brass on the lower end of the shell. I cannot recall the name of that company or if they are still making them.

      • Yeah I remember them plastic based shells, I think they came from Italy first, then Winchester made some I think. I tried them but seem to remember them getting stuck or the bottom of the shell breaking when the extractor caught it.

        • I might still have a few of those, I’ll look around for them. Bright orange 12 ga. I used them to make blanks because they were easy to identify. Don’t remember who made them?

      • I’ve got a few total plastic hulls that a friend gave me.

        These were sold by Herters back in the day.

        I have them just for showcase you mentioned.

        They are next to my industrial Winchester 6 GA slugs from a smelting plant. Fun conversation piece.

        And I absolutely do not miss paper shells…….but I have some of those as well for show.

        • Yeah I never got more than 1 reload out of the paper shells.

          I do remember one strange thing that I had forgotten about for years. I was at a pheasant farm hunting and the owner was reminiscing about the different smell of shotgun powder after the shell was fired long ago and when I said, “yes I remember that” what caused it. He seemed to think the gun power they used was a different chemical formula back then.

  10. I remember back in the 60’s an old guy lent my brother a Remington double barrel in 16 gauge. It was a great gun and I begged him to sell it as he was very old but he loved that gun and I gave it back to him at the end of the hunting season. I guess he just could not bring himself to part with it even though he was too old to hunt anymore. I have thought about finding one like it on the internet but the prices these days are so ridiculous I think that is a remote possibility besides their being scarce as hens teeth.

  11. I got a bunch of guns from my mom when she passed a few months ago. My dad wanted me to have him, and he passed years ago shortly before Robert Farago’s mother died in 2017. So my mom passed them to me. I got some nice guns from the 70s that I grew up with. My son is too small for these and we’ll enjoy them in a few more years when he’s a bit older.

  12. Aaron Lewis “Granddaddy’s Gun”. “Just an old double barrel 12, stock is cracked and it kicks like hell, and it damn sure ain’t for sale.”

    Only shotgun from from my Grandfather is a Wards Western Field bolt action 410. Threaded for various chokes. The one on it now says Mossberg. Long as a deer rifle but rabbits and squirrels still fear it. 😎

    Watch the Lewis video it’s easily found on the tube of you.

  13. That was a nice story.
    I wish my father had a gun to hand down to me.
    I will give each of my 2 daughters a pistol and my son will get the rest of the collection

  14. Right on, a heart-warming story.. the part about your grandfather’s appearance in a dream.. well, depending upon how you look at it, he could indeed have been there, or as a Jungian, it was a part of your psyche/Unconscious telling you in no uncertain terms that you needed to do some shooting and to introduce your son to the sport…

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