Trap Shooter and Duck Hunter Par Excellence
By: Tom Armbrust
In Field & Stream, February 1930, a rather remarkable article titled "Burning Powder" authored by Fred Kimble as told to Charles B. Roth appeared. Another in the American Rifleman titled "My Shooting Days" November, December 1936. Fred Kimble is credited with perfecting the choke bored gun in our country. His experiments with muzzle loading 6 bore and 9 bore shotguns have been written about in American Wildfowl Shooting by Joseph W. Long in 1884. After boring a number of different musket barrels through trial and error Kimble's choke bored barrel would place all of the shot pellets into a thirty inch circle at 40 yards, amazing performance to say the least! In fact, his huge 6 bore shotgun at times would place its entire 1-1/2 oz shot charge of St. Louis 3 lead shot in a twenty-four inch circle at 40 yards. This tremendous pattern performance has still not been approached to this day with smokeless powder, modern plastic shotshell wads, and high antimony lead shot. You may question the validity of this extra ordinary pattern performance. Mr. Kimble explains his reasons for his old muzzle loading shotguns very high performance in his article.
As of late this information ties into ballistic tests I have been conducting using an Army & Navy single barrel 4 bore shotgun. Its bore measures 0.936. Choke constriction in this huge bore runs 0.054, about a modified choke. Nitro proofed in England this 38 inch steel barrel is suitable for very heavy smokeless powder loads. Alan Myers of Garstang, England, who both repairs or can build you a new 4 bore or 8 bore shotgun, passed along this reloading info as follows:
Shell: 4 GA 4" Eley-Kynoch Paper Primer: Eley Surefire Powder: 10 Drams (273 GR) Black FF Granulation Wads: .135 NC + 1/2" Fiber Shot: 3-1/2 oz Lead 4, 2, or BB Velocity: 1230 FPS EV 37 Pressure: 8040 PSI EV 400 7680 LUP EV 500 Roll Crimp: OL 3.900
Using a one inch flare shell four inches in length, capped with a Win-209 primer and 273 GR of GOEX F Black powder, patterns were excellent at 40 yards with 74.5% of the 3-1/2 oz BB lead shot charge in the 30 inch circle. All 186 pellets were inside of 38 inches, high performance supporting just what Mr. Kimble had learned through all his hard work many years ago. I soon will be pattern testing a heavy smokeless powder load for the 4 GA paper shell that I have worked up in a velocity and pressure barrel.
Shell: 4 GA 4" James Purdy & Son Paper Primer: Federal 209 A Powder: 90 GR Alliant Blue Dot Wads: .135 NC + (3) 3/8" Alcan Fibers Shot: 3-1/2 oz 2 Lead 308 Pellets Velocity: 1244 FPS EV 17 Pressure: 9980 PSI EV 1200 9640 LUP EV 1400 Roll Crimp: OL 3.845
Recoil is not a big problem as many would think as the very heavy gun's weight of sixteen pounds is a blessing in disguise. L.P. Brezny, a gun writer from New Brighton, Minnesota, fired this heavy load from the shoulder, while Wallace Labisky another member of the Ballistic Research team looked on. Much to their surprise, Brez lived to talk about it. Recoil moved him back two full steps, yet he commented, "recoil was not a horrible problem, just a big push, not a sharp jab like many heavy 12 GA and 10 GA magnum loads in much lighter guns". This is very interesting as Kimble used 6 drams of powder behind 1-1/2 oz of shot in his 6 bore while duck shooting. Shooting 4 drams less powder, and 2 oz less shot vs. my 4 bore load, recoil must have been rather mild in Kimble's heavy 6 bore shotgun.
In 1875, at the Illinois State Shoot held in Chicago, Kimble was still allowed to shoot his big 6 bore gun in live pigeon competition but the new rules limited the shooters shot charge weight to 1-1/4 oz of shot. By 1877, due to the outcry of fellow trap shooters, Kimble's 6 bore was barred from further trap shooting events. Making the 10 bore the largest gauge allowed. Next he bought a 10 bore Parker double barrel breechloader for hunting and trap shooting competition.
This prompted me to dig out a fine old G Grade Parker 10 GA Damascus shotgun, serial number 58233. According to Ed Muderlak's dated serial numbers on page 250 in his book Parker Guns the "Old Reliable" this fine old Parker double was made in 1888. Eleven years after Kimble got his 10 bore Parker. My Parker was nitro proofed in England prior to 1955 for a service charge of 1-1/2 oz of shot at 3.50 tons per square inch service pressure or around 9800 PSI.
Curiosity got the best of me and I put together the following 10 GA reload:
Shell: 10 GA Remington Plastic Composition Base trimmed to 2-7/8 inch Primer: Win - 209 Powder: 23 GR Hodgdon Clays Wad: Remington SP-10 + 20 GA .135 NC Shot: 1-1/4 oz 7-1/2 Lead Winchester High Antimony 442 Pellets Velocity: 1250 FPS Pressure: 8800 PSI
I have checked a number of these old Parker 10 GA shotguns with an inside bore micrometer finding out the bores run larger than the 0.775 10 GA standard. This gun's left bore ran 0.795 and the right bore ran 0.805. Full choke constriction ran 0.043 with a full taper choke running 3.425 in length. These older Parker shotguns had no parallel section at the muzzle. At 40 yards patterns averaged 68.9 percent with 304.4 pellet hits in the 30 inch circle. The 20 inch core contained 181 hits for 41 percent, and the annular ring contained 123.4 hits for 27.9 percent. Very similar patterns to a modern 12 GA full choke trap gun. Pattern variation in the 30 inch circle was only 4.3 percent showing the precision and care that went into the choking of this fine vintage Parker shotgun.
Kimble was a very remarkable fellow not only as a machinist boring and choking shotgun barrels, but he was also granted a number of different patents in other areas. His most important contribution to trap shooters was his "Peoria Blackbird" clay pigeon. In Kimble's words a dead ringer for today's clay target. His name and shooting feats are now just a dim memory to most trap shooters, especially the young shooters who have never heard of him. His great strength and stamina are truly remarkable as Kimble weighed only 140 pounds. Yet he shot his huge 6 bore in many different trap shooting events with deadly efficiency as his many records of long runs on both live birds and clay targets prove. Just try to imagine the fatigue from dumping powder, ramming wads, then dropping shot down a muzzle loading shotgun's bore hundreds of times in a days shooting event! The old expression when men were men is surely true, when I think of Fred Kimble's shooting feats that have taken place well over 100 years ago in my home state of Illinois. I think old Kimble would really get a kick, excuse the pun or lack of it, out of modern trap shooters guns with all their gadgets, like screw in chokes, adjustable ribs and stocks, plastic shot shells, plastic wads, etc.
I would like to thank Slaton White of Field & Stream magazine for giving me permission for reprinting a portion of the article "Burning Powder". Also a big thanks to Edna Shalev for taking the time out of her busy work schedule for photocopying part one of this original article as it appeared in Jan 1930, Field & Stream.
One incredible duck hunt that Fred Kimble and some hunting friends very much enjoyed was at the mouth of the Sangamon River and on down river near the little town of Meredosia. The net result of the exploit of the hunting party was 1744 ducks, 23 brants, and 53 geese. Just imagine a wildfowl bag total of 1820 birds in a weeks time. Birds were not wasted, being sold for $4.00 a dozen at a St. Louis market. Duck hunting on the Illinois River back then was beyond our biggest dreams. The above information is from The Life and Times of Fred Kimble by John N. Davis taken from Page 22 of the above book dated March 23, 1870 "Peoria Daily" transcript. Contact John Davis, PO Box 622, Vienna, GA 31092 for a copy of this wonderful book.
Hopefully readers will truly enjoy reading this remarkable trap shooting history and duck hunting exploits from so many years gone by with as much enjoyment as I have!