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Marriage counseling is part of what we do around here, and we are pleased to have renewed love affairs between hunters and forgotten shotguns.

We refer to a recent feature -- a love letter, really -- about a classic Winchester Model 12 shotgun in 16-gauge. Though long discontinued, the Model 12 is the standard by which all manual repeating shotguns are judged.

I'm not alone in that assessment. A regular reader informed us that the article prompted him to rekindle his love affair with his own Model 12, which languished for decades in his safe.

He wrote, "In response to your article about your 16 ga. Model 12, I was motivated to break out my old Model 12 12-ga. on some doves this week. It's a 60-70 year old gun from the 1950's and I had not shot doves with it in over 20 years ... new guns come and you put the old ones away.

"But ... they pump like a dream, it takes so little effort to pump, almost like its 'automatic' and you're not even pumping it. It pointed like a laser. Modified choke really reached out well on long shots. And I shot 15 doves in 32 shots.

"The model 12 is now my dove gun! It just points, and cycles too well to not shoot it."

Our correspondent requested anonymity, but he said he hunts with a Deutsche Drahthaar, as do several of my own dove-hunting buddies.

There is an epilogue to this Model 12 saga that has a similar happy ending.

When Winchester discontinued regular production of the Model 12 in 1964, Winchester's reign as America's pre-eminent gunmaker ended, as well.

Before the company kicked John Olin to the curb in 1964, Winchester was more concerned with quality than profit. New leadership inverted its mission, and Winchester quickly became synonymous with shoddy workmanship and design. The Model 1200, which replaced the Model 12, embodied that ethic.

In 1973, Winchester attempted to restore its reputation by designing a fine new semiautomatic shotgun called the Super X Model 1. It was regarded as the most over-engineered shotgun ever made, and it retained all of the features that made the Model 12 so beloved, including its lines and receiver profile.

Unfortunately, Remington's Model 1100 autoloader, which was just as good, had a 10-year head start on the Super X Model 1. The 1100 was also available in 16-, 20- and 28-gauge, and .410 bore. The 12- and 20-gauge versions were also available with 3-inch chambers.

To date, Remington has sold more than 4 million Model 1100s.

The Super X Model 1 was available only in 12-gauge, and only with a 2¾-inch chamber. It was dead on arrival, and Winchester made only 85,000 units.

I had one for several years with Modified, Improved Cylinder and Skeet barrels, but I could never get the thing to cycle despite repeated visits to different gunsmiths. It was essentially a single shot, and I eventually rehomed it and its multiple barrels. I also parted with another Super X1 that was unfired in the box.

There's a lot more information on the internet now, and I recently learned that the Super X1 had a chronic problem in one of the few areas where Winchester cut corners. It's a tiny, no-account plastic part called the bolt slide buffer. It prevents the bolt from crashing against the receiver when cycling.

Winchester made the part with a low quality plastic that grows brittle. Eventually the bolt shatters the buffer, preventing cycling and causing progressive and irreparable damage to the bolt and receiver.

Every Super X1 message board insists you should never fire an old or newly acquired Super X1 without replacing the bolt slide buffer, even if the gun has not been previously fired.

Originally, the part probably cost less than a nickel. Winchester could have done it right for a quarter. The Super X1 has been out of production for 42 years, and a replacement bolt slide buffer costs $13, or about $15 for one made of tougher, more durable Delrin.

Last week, I scored a first-year production Super X1 for almost as good of a deal as I got on the Model 12. It has never been assembled and is still wrapped in its original waxed paper. Its low, four-digit serial number indicates it is a first-year production model.

I ordered a pair of Delrin bolt slide buffers and will install one as soon as it arrives.

The Super X1 fit me as if it were tailored to me, and having another one feels like something missing has been restored.

But dang it, I sure wish I'd kept those Improved Cylinder and Skeet barrels.

Sports on 09/13/2018

Print Headline: Reader resurrects own love affair with Model 12

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