A Double Barrel Dilemma
Q: I recently purchased a 12 gauge double-barreled shotgun made by Lefever Arms. It has "Lefever Nitro Express" stamped on one barrel and is in good condition. Is this gun capable of shooting 3-inch magnums? I would like to use it for turkey hunting.
-Mark Kontorchik, Streetsboro, Ohio
A: The Lefever was the first commercially successful hammerless double-barreled shotgun to be made in America. Ithaca assumed production in 1916 and introduced the Nitro Special model in 1921, but discontinued it in 1948.
Under no circumstances should you chamber and fire a 3-inch magnum shotshell in this firearm. The gun is designed for 2 1/2-inch shotshells, and the bottleneck that would be created if you fired the longer shells would escalate chamber pressures. This could damage the shotgun and be dangerous for the shooter and anyone standing nearby.
You could expect this shotgun to perform well with reasonable loads on upland game and waterfowl. Consider taking it to a sporting clays range with target loads and see how it suits you.
.220 Swift: Improved Vs. Standard
Q: I have a single-shot rifle chambered for .220 Swift Improved. Can I safely shoot standard .220 Swift factory ammo through this rifle, and would it affect accuracy?
-Harold Shields, Port Royal, Pennsylvania
A: One of the benefits of a true Improved cartridge is that it shares a common data line with its parent cartridge. This is critical for head spacing. Firing standard ammunition in the Improved's oversized chamber will allow the brass to expand, and then you'll have Improved brass.
The .220 Swift Improved, though, can be considered a wildcat round, and the gunsmith who modified your rifle might not have adhered to the concept of an Improved case. You should take the rifle to a competent gunsmith and have him confirm that it is properly chambered and in good working order.
Solving the .357 Maximum Mystery
Q: I have a rifle that is chambered for .357 Maximum with a 22-inch barrel. Can I shoot .357 Rem. Mag. or .38 Special shells out of this rifle? Also, do you know why they discontinued the .357 Maximum shells?
-Bernie Johnson, Clearfield, Pennsylvania
A: Instead of trying to shoot the other ammunition, why not use this as an opportunity to reload? Make sure that you follow the guidelines since some reduced loads can actually increase chamber pressures. You can shoot the .38 Special and .357 Rem. Mag. loads, but the bullet will have to travel before reaching the rifling. Reloading would be a better way to go.
Why the round was discontinued is a question that seems to plague many rounds that are introduced every few years by ammunition manufacturers. Low sales and high marketing costs, combined with consumer confusion cause some new ammunition recipes to have short shelf lives.
Best Bet For Close-by Bears
Q: I will be bear hunting and can choose from a 12 gauge shotgun or an old Winchester 86 chambered in .33 Win. Both are accurate to 50 yards and adequate for the task. I have 200-grain loads for the rifle, and it seems easier for me to use. What do you think?
-Jim Countney, Appleton, Wisconsin
A: Of the choices you have, I would opt for the rifle, since you mentioned that it is easier for you to handle and shoot. That condition is important in the formula. The 200-grain bullets should be adequate to handle a black bear inside of 50 yards, but remember that those round-noses are not ideal hunting bullets. You're going to have to practice precise bullet placement and be ready for follow-up shots.
What is your experience with these ammo choices? Do you agree with our experts? Share your thoughts in the member forum.