by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at two older American air shotguns. These two have nothing to do with the current fad of big bore airguns. Both were conceived as genuine shotguns to serve as replacements for firearms, though at reduced ranges, and both are .410 caliber.
Paul’s .410 air shotgun is a front-pump pneumatic.
First, the Paul
The Paul model 420 was created and made by William Paul from about 1924 to sometime in the 1930s. His first patent is dated Jan. 22, 1924. In all, Paul made about 1,000 guns, give or take a few, and I have handled one of the more common improved models.
Pump it many times!
Paul’s gun is pumped by a straight rod, similar to early Benjamin rifles, but requiring 150 pumps to completely pressurize the reservoir. All that work nets you around 10 shots, each with diminishing velocity. But shot No. 1 propelled a 54-grain load of No. 6 lead shot to 820 f.p.s. in an actual firing test conducted by Larry Hannusch. That’s about 80 foot-pounds, which is a lot of steam for a vintage gun!
The later Paul shotshells were rolled metal plate.
Like all air shotguns, the Paul uses hollow tubes to hold the shot charge. The early ones were made of cardboard, but the ones I’ve seen were made of rolled metal plate. Both ends of the tube are patched with paper, with the shot charge sandwiched in between.
A modern replica is worth as much as an original!
As an interesting side note, big bore maker Dennis Quackenbush made a handful of very accurate Paul replicas, which he sold at the Winston-Salem airgun show for several years in the early- to mid-1990s. They are much rarer than an original Paul and now command about the same money! The Blue Book of Airguns says a nice original Paul should fetch about $1,000 and a Quackenbush replica, of which there were just 10, will bring about the same.
Vincent came next
Frank Vincent was an avid trapshooter who wanted to do more than simply bust caps, so he designed and manufactured air rifles and an air shotgun of his own design from 1942 to about 1955. He may have made a total of 500 pieces, with the rifles being in the majority. His .410 shotguns were pumped by an underlever, similar to Crosman rifles of the time.
The Vincent air shotgun was an underlever multi-pump that looked more like an airgun than the Paul.
As luck would have it, I have also handled and fired a Vincent .177 rifle, though I’ve only seen and held the shotguns at airgun shows. Like the Paul, the Vincent is mostly handmade of brass and is remarkably light weight for its rather large size. That’s because it’s mostly hollow inside. A Vincent shotgun brings about $2000 today, and most of them are in pretty rough shape.
Many shots – more pump strokes!
The Vincent was tested by W.H.B. Smith and written about in his famous airgun encyclopedia, though he wasn’t certain of what he had or how well it was supposed to work. Larry Hannusch also fired a Vincent and got 714 f.ps. with 200 pump strokes! That’s just over 61 foot-pounds for the first shot, and it was supposed to give enough compressed air for 12 shots of diminishing velocity.
The .177 rifle I tested leaked down so fast that shot No. 1 was just over 600 f.p.s., and only 13 total shots were possible. Smith mentioned getting a total of 26 shots, with a top velocity over 780! It’s obvious from his report that the gun I shot wasn’t up to snuff.
Not really credible as shotguns
Like the other air shotguns I have covered, neither the Paul nor the Vincent is a credible shotgun. To use them in the shotgun role would require vastly reduced ranges and lighter, more breakable targets. I see no possibility for hunting with shot, unless you are wingshooting moths! On the other hand, both guns deliver enough muzzle energy that a hit at close range would be very lethal if a solid bullet were used.