Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stoeger Coach Gun Range Report

I have a brief range report on the Stoeger 20 gauge Coach Gun that I bought earlier this month.

I was able to put about 10 rounds through the gun today.  I patterned both barrels with Remington 2-3/4" No.3 buckshot, and the equivalent from Federal. At 10 yards both loads and barrels will pretty evenly saturate the -1 zone of an IDPA target.

I also fired some Remington 2-3/4" "Slugger" slugs from 25 yards. At that range the right barrel seems to shoot to point of aim, while the left barrel is high and right.

Recoil was noticeable but not too heavy. Even though the Stoeger lacks a recoil pad, it was more pleasant to shoot than my H&R 158 Topper 20 gauge, which is about a pound lighter but has a factory recoil pad. With a good pad like a Pachmayr Decelerator or a Limbsaver, the Stoeger should be downright nice to shoot with defensive ammo.

I had one light primer strike which resulted in a failure to fire. I think it's because I failed to fully disengage the safety for that shot, and there was enough drag on the hammer to cause it to give light primer strike. Until I have the safety modified so it's manual-only, I need to make sure that I'm mashing it into the fire position.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Stoeger Coach Gun

A lot of people -- including myself -- favor a shotgun as a home defense weapon.  Shotguns combine effective terminal ballistics with limited range, which is ideal for the majority of Americans who live in urban or suburban areas. The most common shotguns chosen for home defense are slide or pump actions. Good quality pumps are readily available at modest cost, especially if you can find police trade-ins.

Another kind of shotgun which has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past 10 to 15 years is the side-by-side double.  This is due to the popularity of cowboy action shooting, or CAS.  Most CAS shooters use a short side-by-side double commonly referred to as a "coach gun," the name coming from their use in defending stagecoaches in the Old West.  Probably the most common of the modern coach guns are those from Stoeger, who describes them thusly:

The Stoeger Coach Gun was developed in response to the demand for a value-priced, short-barreled scattergun for use in Cowboy Action Shooting. The sawed-off shotgun has been romanticized in hundreds of Hollywood Westerns as the stagecoach guard’s weapon of choice, and this one is as handsome as it is affordable.

Also a potent home security gun, the Coach Gun is chambered for 2-3/4” and 3” shells in 12-gauge, 20-gauge, and .410 bore.

The Coach Gun is available in blue, matte nickel, and polished nickel-plated finishes. The Nickel Coach Gun has a polished nickel-plated receiver and barrels and a black-finished, hardwood stock. The Silverado Coach Gun features a matte nickel receiver and barrels, and a standard stock with pistol- or straight-style grip, or an English stock—both in satin-finished American walnut.

The Stoeger Coach Gun is built on the same action as their Uplander hunting gun, one of which I've had for several years. The Coach Gun is basically a shorter version of the Uplander.  Aside from the length, the primary difference is that the Uplander's barrels feature interchangeable choke tubes, while the Coach Gun has fixed Improved Cylinder and Modified chokes.

They Stoeger doubles simple, robust guns designed around a box lock action.  As with most doubles, they feature extractors rather than ejectors.  (Ejectors are required in CAS.)

Today was a vacation day and since the weather was absolutely crummy, I went up to Cabela's instead of going shooting as I'd planned. While there, I bought a 20 gauge Stoeger Coach Gun.  One of the reasons I bought it is for possible use as a home and camp defense gun, as well as something to take on road trips.

While in my old post about my Uplander I expressed some reservations about a gun with extractors for HD, viewing this video from Clint Smith has caused me to reconsider.  The vast majority of civilian gun usage involves no shots being fired.  In the event that shots are necessary two rounds of 20 gauge buckshot will probably suffice, while practicing my reloads will make keeping the gun running feasible.

My Coach Gun is well finished and has some pretty decent looking wood on it. Actually, the forearm is really nice, with a lot of curl.  The bluing is even and the metal has a good polish.  The action is a bit stiff but that will improve with use. 

After I got it home I took the gun down to clean off the factory preservative and properly lubricate it.  While I had the gun taken apart, I lightly polished the bearing surfaces with some Flitz metal polish to help speed the break-in period. I'd wanted to remove the stock from the action so I could hose out and relube the mechanism, but the stock bolt is tight and I couldn't get it to budge.  The stock bolt has a hex head with a slot for a large screwdriver. I have one that I bought so I could remove the butt from my Uplander but this gun's bolt ain't moving. I'll have to see if I can get a socket on a long extension down the bolt hole and remove it that way, then put some anti-seize on the threads before reassembling it.

Anyway, why would I want a coach gun for defense when I have a couple of perfectly good pumps?  A couple reasons. First, both my pumps are 12 gauge and too much for my wife to handle.  A 20 may be easier for her.  Second, a double gun with 20" barrels is short, really short.  For example, comparing the Stoeger with my Remington 870, the Coach Gun is at least 4" shorter, even though both guns have the same barrel length.  The double doesn't have a reciprocating bolt behind its chambers, enabling the gun to be much shorter.  Additionally, the manual of arms for a double is simpler than that of a pump shotgun.

The light weight and short length of the Coach Gun make it very fast handling. With the butt tucked under your shoulder it doesn't protrude very far in front of you, making navigating one's home easier.  I wouldn't generally recommend trying to clear your home if you think there's an intruder, but some homes may require you to navigate from one part to another to protect a loved one.

I also mentioned camp defense as a potential use.  My friends and I go truck camping at least once a year in Tioga County, PA.  It's a very rural area and while we don't expect crime, there are black bears in the area, some of which have been losing their fear of humans.  And unfortunately, there are good camping spots around the US where concern about criminals is warranted.  Loaded with slugs, the Coach Gun would be just fine for bear.  For defense against criminals my load of choice would be No.3 buckshot.  Some high brass No.4 shot would be good for taking care of vermin, such as raccoons or skunks.  (Mainly a concern if they are rabid. Rabies is a problem in many parts of the US, including Pennsylvania.)

I also mentioned the Coach Gun for use when traveling.  Double guns take down easily for compact stowage in a vehicle, whether it's a car, boat, or aircraft.  In particular, the Coach Gun takes down into a package that's 20" long.  Related to this, ammo for the 20 gauge I selected is lighter and more compact than 12 gauge ammunition, although the latter remains the most popular choice.

Once I've proven the Coach Gun to be reliable there are a couple of mods I have planned for it:

1. Have the stock cut and a Pachmayr Decellerator recoil pad installed. Along with this I want the length of pull shorted by about 3/4 inch.

2. Have the automatic safety disabled. An automatic safety is tolerable on a sporting gun but not desirable on a defensive arm.  Fortunately, this is a simple modification requiring removal of a small bit of metal with no impact on other functions, and leaves the safety as manual only.

I'll post a range report once I get to shoot it, probably in a couple of weeks.