single shot shotgun
John’s Western Field. Phil Bourjaily

Single shot shotguns were, once upon a time, the first guns of kids and the “behind the back door” guns of farmers, and now they are a vanishing, or perhaps even vanished breed. My dad had a pair of folding Berettas he kept for new shooters, a 12 and a .410. I took my first shots with that long-gone .410 and many of you may have started with single shots as well.

H&R recently discontinued all Topper single shots, and the Western Field — and Montgomery Ward — are long gone and kids rarely start with single shots any more, unless they have been handed down.

h&r single shot
Chad’s H&R single shot shotgun. Phil Bourjaily

Chad’s H&R: This is a Harrington and Richardson Topper model Greenwing Special chambered in 20 gauge 2 3/4 and 3-inch magnum single shot with a fixed Modified choke. It was my first gun.  I was 12 years old and came home from school earlier than was expected the day my dad got it for me for Christmas. It was laying on the box on the couch and when I walked in I couldn’t help but find it. Talk about being excited. I had my first real shotgun.  Since then it has been the bane of countless squirrels.  I’m 40 now and I’ve passed it on to my 13 year old so that it may continue the legacy that began with me so long ago on a two-acre lot out by the lake.

single shot shotgun
John’s Western Field Phil Bourjaily

John’s Western Field: This Montgomery Ward SB100A is the same as the Savage 100B.  I bought this for a younger shooter. Its 30-inch, Full choke barrel will be cut to a 24-inch, Cylinder choke.  The stock would be cut to fit a good recoil pad at the right length of pull for the kid.  The lightest 7/8th oz or 1 oz. 12 gauge load would make the recoil manageable where the same load in a 20 gauge single at a half a pound lighter would be too much.

I never liked the single shots that required the hammer to be pulled back.  That makes it hard for a kid’s thumb to cock, and it makes it easy to accidentally discharge, and there’s no safety on a hammer single.  It’s hard to find a hammerless single shot but possible.

There are your choices: a hammerless 12 gauge vs a 20 gauge hammer gun. Vote, comment and wax nostalgic below. I should add here that John writes in his post-script: “P.S.  I plan to keep sending you Friday Gunfight photos until I run out of guns.  That may take a long time.” That is the spirit that keeps Gun Fight Friday going. Send your gun pictures to

Take your pick
Chad’s H&R
John’s Western Field