... .July 2008 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Shotgun Barrel Length – The Long and Short of Things by Red Sun SASS#635

Have you ever wondered how and why shotgun barrels varied in length? I’ve looked through a number of vintage catalogs and found that virtually no shotgun was offered in a “short” barreled configuration. Now we know that law enforcement back in those days all had short-barreled guns including those commissioned for couriers like Wells Fargo & Co. So they must have been modified by the local gunsmith or just special ordered depending on the agency involved. Vintage guns all had long barrels at the nominal 30” variety. So the saying goes that with black powder and it’s relatively slow burning rate, you needed those long barrels to complete that process. Now, there still were short-barreled guns carried riding “shotgun” on those stagecoaches. So I guess it was that “handling” feature that made it convenient? Starting to sound like Andy Rooney on 60 minutes now.

Let’s take a look back and see what was going on with these barrel lengths. The burning rate of black powder was a major influence but how about shot patterns? Now I’ve found that chokes were not in play until the 1880’s. Nobody really commits to the evolution of choking the muzzle but do cite that many game shooters in that era were “experimenting”. It was clearly understood that reducing the muzzle diameter improved shot patterns and that many well to do gamers had their gunsmiths modify the muzzles on their guns. Now, these modifications were on the fly and under the table, so not much was documented. It wasn’t until the early 1890’s that standardized chokes were published in most catalogs. But still, these were special ordered. For what I’ve gathered, the consistent chokes on “field” guns were of the MOD and FULL variety. These were setup as MOD on the right barrel and FULL on the left. They were based on right-handed shooters pulling the front trigger first for a larger pattern and if the fowl was not hit and further out, the back trigger pulled to chase it down with the tighter patterned FULL choke. So now that we’ve talked about the shotguns, long barrels and the choke configurations, what’s with short-barreled guns? Is it just a preference or do we have a purpose?

If you go down the line at typical CAS match, what do you see as far as shotguns? I see 99% of us shooting guns at or near the legal limit of 18.25”. Now most all will tell you that it’s the handling and convenience. When shooting smokeless powders, it just doesn’t matter and the fact that moving around props and not having an extra 2 pounds of steel flop down when you open it for the reload makes a difference. Now if you are shooting black powder, here’s where some of the factors may be of interest. We have to ask, are you a traditionalist or purest? Would you go out and buy that really cool 30” barreled hammer gun and give it someone to cut the barrels off? Oh my God, hopefully you haven’t done that. But I guess it’s your gun. But before you go and do that, do a little soul searching.

In some earlier practice matches at Pala, I shot both short (20”) and longer 30” barreled guns with black powder. Now I had some of the guys watch the muzzle flame during these exercises and behold the flame-thrower with the shorter barreled gun. You can’t really see it when you’re shooting, but it is there. I was told that the flame was in the 2-3 feet range from the muzzle. Wow, that is spectacular, but it’s also the fact that the black powder was still burning. So should I use less BP with the shorter barreled gun? Well, I’m going to try that loading some very short cases, probably in the 1.50 – 2.00” range. So I’ll let you know the outcome of that next month. In the meantime, be nice to your long barreled SxS shotgun.

Red Sun #635

Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN 

   'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.' 
..............................Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt indeed wrote these words, but not in 1907 while he was still President of the United States. The passages were culled from a letter he wrote to the president of the American Defense Society on January 3, 1919, three days before Roosevelt died.

SPURS from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids (commands) and to back up the natural aids (the leg, seat, hands and voice). The spur is used in every equestrian discipline. There are rules in most equestrian organizations about spur design, use and penalties for using spurs in any manner that constitutes animal abuse.


The very old word derives from Anglo-Saxon sputa, spora, related to spornan, spurnan, to kick, spurn; cf. Medieval High German Sporn, modern German Sporn, Dutch spoor, Frisian spoar. The generalized sense of "anything that urges on, stimulus" is recorded in English from circa 1390.


Western-style cowboy spurs with rowels,
chap guards and buttons for the spur straps.

Parts of a simple spur
The parts of a spur include:

    * The yoke, branch, or heel band, which wraps around the heel of the boot.
    * The shank or neck, which extends from the back of the heel band and is the area that usually touches the horse
    * The rowel, seen on some spurs, a small revolving wheel or disk with radiating points at the end attached to the shank.

Spurs are usually held on by a leather or leather-like strap, called a spur strap, that goes over the arch of the foot and under the sole in front of the boot heel. Some western designs have a leather strap that goes only over the top, with a heel chain or a rubber "tiedown" instead of a strap under the boot. There are also styles with no straps where the heel band simply is very tight and slips on wedged between the sole and heel of the boot. Some spur designs have a slot for running the spur strap through, others have "buttons," sometimes on the heel band itself and sometimes attached to the heel band by hinges, that allow a strap with buttonholes to be attached.

When used in military ranks, senior officers, and officers of all ranks in cavalry and other formerly mounted units of some armies, wear a form of spur in certain orders of dress which is known as the box spur, having no spur strap but a long metal prong opposite the neck, extending between the arms of the heel band, which is inserted into a specially fitted recess or "box" in the base of the boot heel. Due to the prong, such spurs can only be worn with appropriately equipped boots. This construction is shown in the illustrations of the swan neck and waterford spurs below.

Spur straps on an
English "Prince of Wales" spur

Spurs seen in western riding may also have small curved-up hooks on the shank in front of the rowel, called "chap guards," that were originally used to prevent the rider's chaps from interfering with the rowels of the spur. Some cowboys also added small metal Pajados, also known as Jingo Bobs or Jingle Bobs, near the rowel, to create a jingling sound whenever the foot moved.

In the history of veterinary science, the word "rowel" described a small disk of leather or other material that was used as a seton stitch.


The spur's use cannot with certainty be traced further back than Ancient Rome. Early spurs had a neck that ended in a point, called a prick, riveted to the heel band. Prick spurs had straight necks in the 11th century and bent ones in the 12th. The earliest form of the horseman's spur armed the heel with a single prick. In England the rowel spur is shown upon the first seal of Henry III and on monuments of the 13th century, but it does not come into general use until the 14th century. The earliest rowels probably did not revolve but were fixed.

An iron prick-spur (13th-14th century) and an iron
spur with eight-pointed rowel (15th century).
The spurs of medieval knights were gilt and those of esquires silvered. "To win his spurs" meant to gain knighthood, as gilded spurs were reckoned the badge of knighthood. In the rare cases of ceremonious degradation, they were hacked from the knights heels by the cooks chopper. After the battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302 where the French chivalry suffered a humbling defeat, the victors hung up bushels of knights' gilt spurs in the churches of Kortrijk as trophies of what is still remembered by the Flemings as the Guldensporenslag (the battle of the golden spurs). For another reason the English named the French route beside Thérouanne as the Battle of Spurs.

Prick spurs were the standard form until the 14th century, when the rowel began to become more common. The prick design never died out entirely, but instead became a thicker, shorter neck with a dulled end, such as the modern "Prince of Wales" design commonly seen in English riding.

Though often decorated throughout history, in the 15th century, spurs became an art form in both decoration and design, with elaborate engraving, very long shanks and large rowels. Though sometimes it has been claimed that the design changes were used because of barding, the use of barding had fallen out of fashion by the time the most elaborate spur designs were created. More likely, the elaborate designs reflected the increased abundance of precious metals, particularly silver, that followed the European exploration of the Americas that began in 1492. Spur designs in Spain and colonial Mexico were particularly elaborate. For example, the spurs of the Spanish Conquistadors were sometimes called Espuela Grande, the "Grand Spur," and could have rowels as large as six inches around.[1]

In northern Europe, the spur became less elaborate after the 16th century, particularly following the Stuart Restoration, but elaborte spur designs persisted, particularly in the Americas, descendants of which are still seen today, particularly in Mexico and the western United States, where the spur has become an integral part of the vaquero and cowboy traditions. The spur as an art form as well as a tool is still seen in western riding, where spurs with engraving and other artistic elements, often handmade and utilizing silver or other precious metals are still worn.

Collecting of particularly beautiful antique spurs is a popular pastime for some individuals, particularly aficionados of western history and cowboy culture.

Spurs as modern honours

Just as a medieval knight was said to have "earned his spurs," analogously, the awarding of spurs has continued in the modern era as an honour bestowed upon individuals in organisations with military heritages. Members of the Papal Orders of Chivalry receive gilt spurs directly from the hands of the Pope; members of the British Order of the Garter similarly receive gilt spurs from the Monarch. Inductees into the American Order of the Spur receive yellow-coloured (usually brass) spurs if they have earned their membership through combat, or silver-coloured (usually nickel) spurs if they have passed a proficiency test and not seen combat.

Basic designs and wear

Spurs should always be worn with the tip of the neck pointed downward, sitting on the spur rest of the riding boot, if there is one, with the buckle of the spur strap worn on the outside of the foot.

Spur styles differ between disciplines. Spurs for western riding tend to be heavier, often decorated, and have rowels that rotate. The neck of western spurs is usually longer and the rowel wide in diameter, to accommodate the leg position of the Western-style rider, where the stirrup is adjusted long, and the heavy leather used for the saddle's fenders and stirrups places the rider's leg a bit farther from the horse.

Spurs in English riding tend to use a spur that is very sleek, slim and conservative in design, with a shorter neck, as the saddle and leg position is closer to the horse. They usually have a rounded or blunt end. Rowels are not as popular as the plain blunt end, although there are types that include a rowel or smooth disk on the end. When used in sports requiring finesse, such as dressage, the spur's purpose is not to speed up a horse, but to give accurate and precise aids in lateral and complex movements, such as pirouettes, travers and renvers, and the airs above the ground. Dressage riders tend to ride in "Waterford" style spurs with a rounded knob at the end. Conversely, show hunter and jumper riders may use a flatter end to encourage forward movement, such as the Prince of Wales design.

Motorcycle Spurs from 
Loop Spurs
Modern types of spurs also includes motorcycle spurs. They are basically rowels worn as foot jewelry, hung off of boots. They can be similar in appearance to spurs worn by equestrians. Some designs may improve motorcycle safety, when their bright material attracts motor vehicle drivers to the presence of motorcyclists, especially to their feet where riders are most vulnerable when stopped in traffic. Their owners will further customize them by adding miniature strobing LED lights, or rare-earth magnets that activate traffic lights.

English riding spur

The spur is a refined tool, designed to allow the rider to transmit very subtle signals to the horse that are nearly invisible to any other observer. No matter the discipline, it is important that a rider has a correct position before using spurs, with a deep seat, legs lengthened to the extent allowed by the stirrups, heels down, with knees and thighs rolled in so that the rider has a solid base of support. A swinging or unstable leg may inadvertently jab the horse with the spur as the rider sits, thus irritating, distracting, or frightening the animal, and chronic misuse may deaden the horse to the leg aids. Improper use may also provoke dangerous or undesirable behaviors such as bucking or running away.

Spurs are rarely used in sports such as horse racing, where the rider's leg is not significantly in contact with the horse.

Most spurs are activated by the rider flexing the heel slightly up and in. A roweled spur permits an additional type of action; a rider can roll the spur lightly against the side of the horse rather than being limited to simply pressing inward.

Rodeo spurring

The exception to the use of spurs in a subtle fashion is in the rodeo events of bull riding, Saddle Bronc and Bareback Riding, where the rider is required to spur in an elaborate, stylized fashion, touching the horse or bull at every stride. This requirement is designed to resemble the behavior of old-time horse-breakers who would deliberately provoke a horse to buck. In modern times, riders are required to use spurs in a manner that is merely encouraging an animal that is already predisposed to buck; they are not to produce pain. Spur design and use is strictly defined by rodeo rules, spurs are dull and rowels must turn freely. In fact, the way spurs are to be used in bucking events generally makes it harder for the rider to stay on: in bareback bronc competition, the spurs must be above the point of the horse's shoulder at the first jump and remain forward at all times, deliberately creating a very awkward position for the rider that requires both strength and coordination to stay on the horse. In saddle bronc competition, the rider must make a full sweep with the spurs from shoulder to flank with each jump, requiring great concentration and any error in balance putting the rider in a position to be quickly unseated. Bull riders are allowed a position that is the closest to that of classic equestrianism, they are not required to spur the bull, but if they choose to spur, may do so with their legs down in a style that approaches a normal riding position.

Types of spurs

Spurs are divided into Men's, Women's, and Children's, according to width (which must fit on the heel of the rider's boot). Spurs are further divided into length of the neck, with 1/4" being relatively small (and a common size in children's spurs), with some being 2-3" long. Many competition rules limit the length of the neck.

    * Round end: end is a metal ball about the size of a small marble, making it one of the milder spurs
    * Knob end: end of the spur is squared off but blunted at the edges
    * Prince of Wales: has a flat end, making is slightly sharper. This is a popular spur.
    * Rowelled spur: the end of the spur has a toothed wheel which spins. This is the most common western-style spur, although it is seen on some English-style spurs. Teeth are dulled at the points. A rowel with many small teeth is milder than one with only a few, larger teeth. Most rowels have at least eight teeth on each wheel. Other variations, more common in English riding, include:
          o Disc: the end has a small rowel-like rolling disc without teeth, which allows the spur to roll on the horse's side when applied, decreasing chance of spur marks. Popular in dressage. Severity depends on thickness of disc.
          o Roller spur: end of the neck has a plastic "roller," which moves as the horse's side is touched. This spur tends to reduce spur-rubs on sensitive horses. It is considered very mild.
    * Swan-neck: the neck of the spur goes upward at an angle, before leveling off, looking similar to the neck of a swan. This is commonly seen in dressage.
    * Waterford: the end of the neck has a large, round metal ball, making the spur softer and less likely to cause spur rubs.
    * Le spur (English) or Barrel Racing Spur (Western): a spur with small "teeth" or ridges on the inside of the heel band, instead of a neck. For use, the rider does not have to turn in the heel. A quicker and more subtle design, but also more apt to be accidentally used when not intended.


Prince of Wales


Swan neck, rowels

Waterford spur
All articles submitted to the "Brimstone Gazette" are the property of the author, used with their expressed permission. 
The Brimstone Pistoleros are not responsible for any accidents which may occur from use of  loading data, firearms information, or recommendations published on the Brimstone Pistoleros web site.