Larry's Short Stories

The Parker 11 Gauge Shotgun

This Parker has serial number 284 and was made in 1870; please note the back-action lock.
This Parker has serial number 284 and was made in 1870; please note the back-action lock.

It was a very early Parker shotgun, with a three-digit serial number and in pretty nice condition - which was what got me interested in the first place. But, the clincher was the back-action locks, which feature a v-type mainspring behind the hammer, rather than in front of it. Only a small portion of the early Parkers were made with back-action locks, so obviously I needed one for the collection.
When the gun arrived, I inspected it thoroughly and gave it a good cleaning. Except for a small coil spring that was missing, but easily replaced, it was completely functional and sound enough to shoot - with black powder loads, of course. However, as we soon discovered, there was another problem; it wasn’t a 12 gauge and it wasn’t a 10 gauge – no, this gun featured the rare 11 gauge chambering – Parker only chambered 124 shotguns in 11 gauge, between 1869 and 1874, and now I had one and of course wouldn’t be satisfied until I could shoot it.

We marked the heads of the turned brass shells just like the originals.
We marked the heads of the turned brass shells just like the originals.

But, there weren’t any 11 gauge brass shotgun shells lying around, and I didn’t expect to find any on the internet; however, one inch brass bar stock is readily available and we did have a lathe, so we just made our own shells. After casting the chambers with Cerosafe to get the dimensions, we bored out the inside, and then turned the outside diameter, which was slightly tapered -- and finally the rim. We parted it off, then turned it end-for-end, and drilled the flash hole and primer pocket. This was all relatively easy work, but it did take time, so we only made up four – just enough to shoot. As a finishing touch, we marked the heads, using a small electro-chemical etching machine.
The loading was entirely by hand, using 10 gauge wads, which was appropriate for the 11B gauge, along with three drams of black powder and 1-1/8 ounce of shot – a standard 12 gauge load. At the range, everything worked according to plan – but only for four shots, after which we had to stop and reload before we could shoot some more.
Finding an 11 gauge back-action Parker in good enough condition to shoot was a real joy for the gun collector in me, making up the ammo and shooting it was a shooter's dream. Now perhaps I need to take it turkey hunting next spring.

Yes, the old Parker still shoots, and shooting it brings a smile to my face.
Yes, the old Parker still shoots, and shooting it brings a smile to my face.
Larry's Short Stories