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Monday, February 2, 2009

Harrington and Richardson Topper

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.


Anonymous said...

Your right you know. there is something so effortless and undervalued about a good solid break open single shot 12 bore.......... I have one that folds right over..... a handy feature if you want to tuck it into the big pocket at the back of your 'Barbour' oil skins rain jacket.... a fave of poachers in the past. but also quite handy !

I have an M6 scout coming, but also have a very similar 410/410 Adler copy of the M6 which also folds right over. it is so utilitarian it doesn't even look like a gun until it is closed shut.....

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Thanks for your comments!

You from the UK?

Ed Harris said...

One of the great "survival" rigs if you can find one, is an H&R combo with 20-ga. shotgun and companion .30-30 barrel. I punched out the 20-ga. chamber to 3 inch and put an XS ghost ring sight on the .30-30 barrel. There isn't much you can't do with such an outfit.

NEF makes similar versions with a .44 Mag. option which makes good sense, as this round is more effective in a rifle than in a handgun. Using light .44 Special loads it is also low noise.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

I've always wanted one of those H&R 30-30 over 20ga. It just sounds ... great! It's getting late in life for me to be adding to the collection ... then again, if I run across one for the right price ...

Take care, Ed.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Have been given an H&R 12 gauge shotgun. Pat MAY 14 1901. Could you let me know if it is worth my while getting it restored? Not for shooting, just for show. Thanks JIM

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Without looking at the gun, it is hard for me to say. Generally there is not much of a collectors market for old H&R Shotguns, so would probably be putting in more money than the guns is worth. If it has sentimental value (great great Grandpa's gun) it may be worth it for that reason; even then, the old dents in the wood stock and the blemishes in the barrel have their own sentimental value. If the gun is in sound condition, I would just clean it and oil it.

Thanks for stopping by,


DGC said...

My my the memories. My first shotgun was a Topper .410. I never regretted it. It was an excellent gun for those pesky rabbits and even a quail or two when they popped up at my feet. It taught me shooting discipline and target aquisition - having only 1 shot!
I also learned to appreciate the much under-rated .410 chambering.
All of this at 12 yrs of age. I had my .22, also a single-shot, and my Topper .410...the fields were mine!
It held a special place long after I 'graduated' to bigger, and more expensive, guns.
Thanks for the memory kick.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

DGC, your comments put a smile on my face. Dad was pretty sharp with the .410... as a youngster back in Tennessee, he put lots of meat on the dinner table.

Thanks for sharing your memories, and thanks for stopping in.


Josh B. said...

Heh. My first shotgun was a .410" break-top NEF I picked up for $90 a couple years ago. Other than the broken plastic butt "pad", the thing looked brand new out of the box. Unfortunately with the price of .410" these days it has been sitting on the sidelines. But it gave me a good sense of target aquisition shooting things on the move. Love that little thing.

Always wanted to try boar hunting with 3" slugs. Maybe in the Spring when everything comes back to life. Been itching for a good hunting trip.

Anonymous said...

Grandpa had a collection of these Topper shotguns. He always said the 12 gauge was his, the 16 gauge was my cousin's, the 20 gauge was mine and the .410 gauge was grandma's. I still have mine today. It is prized (by me). My sister put it away wet once and the exterior of the barrel has rust pits. The inside of the barrel looks like a mirror.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm waaaayyy late for the party, but just saying ...

I'm also a fan of the 'Farmers Friend'. For when you are just roaming / woods loafing and just want to be armed for 'just in case' the light single shots are a good choice. For me, the 12 is a bit too much recoil, the 20's and .410s are more my speed. I still have my youth 'firstest shotgun', a Savage 94Y in .410. A favorite of my wife to carry because of the light recoil.

"Zack" said...

Nobody is ever late for this party, Anon. Thanks for stopping by.