Watching the highlights of the Clint Smith defensive shotgun / firearms videos brought a Cheshire Cat grin to my face. There was a time in my life when the only heavy artillery I could afford for hunting and home defense was a single-shot break action shotgun. One of those old guns I still have, an approximately 27 years old, single barrel 12 gauge H&R Topper, much like the one Clint Smith was demonstrating in his videos. I even used a stock mounted shell holder similar to what Clint had on his demo gun. My Kolpin shell holder has lost all elasticity over the past quarter century and no longer will fit snug to the stock, but I still keep it even though it has no tactical or practical use. I’ve made a note to buy a new one.
Back then, my hunting companions were forgiving, no one every kidded me about “the poor man’s gun” although I referred to it as my “peasant pheasant gun.” I sported it for wing shooting while my companions all carried expensive Browning shotguns. No, I will not lie and say that I shot as well with my Topper as they did with their classy guns; I am a lousy wing-shot with any gun, but for me hitting a running rabbit was usually a sure thing with the Topper.
As a kid, I noted that almost every home we visited in Tennessee had a single-shot 12 gauge leaning in a corner. Every barn also seemed to have one. My parents grew up in an era when a shotgun often kept a family from going hungry. Poor farmers made due with the basics, and the single-shot shotgun was often all they could afford. They are the most basic utility shotguns available and their simplicity is a thing of beauty to me. They are a part of my family heritage.