By Dennis Adler
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The Colt’s Model 1878 was the inspiration for the new E.M.F. F.lli Pietta 12 ga. Hartford Model 1878 double barrel shotgun. This hefty double has 20-inch barrels, a steel buttplate, slightly shorter and more upright hammer spurs (than the Colt) and an unadorned varnished Turkish walnut stock and forend. It is neither inexpensive nor overly priced at $1,095 compared to E.M.F.’s Pedersoli “Wyatt Earp” hammer gun, which for a hefty $1,600 offers a handsome color casehardened frame, high polish finish, and deluxe walnut stock and forend.
The Pietta’s double hammers are a little shorter than the 1878 Colt’s but can still be easily cocked together with one sweep of the hand, as shown. Only better built hammer guns work this smoothly.
The Pietta model has nicely polished and blued barrels, with the Hartford name in tall script on the rear of the right barrel, and a flat blue forged steel receiver and lever; the only case colors are on the hammers. It does have a round knob pistol grip, and very accurate triggerguard and trigger configuration. The Pietta is clean, rugged and simple but lacks the Colt’s fine checkering and wrist contours which are found on the more expensive Wyatt Earp model.
The Pietta Hartford goes together effortlessly and uses an Anson and Deeley design boxlock action, which was originally developed in 1875 for the Westley-Richards Company. The Pietta’s welded steel barrels mount using a monoblock with two lugs that engage a frame mounted horizontal wedge. The wedge is moved out of place for mounting the barrels by operating the release lever and engage when the action is closed; the barrels are secured with a splinter-type forend.
The break-open lever is easy to thumb to the right and the shotgun so well balanced and smooth in operation that you can open and close the action one handed. The hammers, while a little shorter than the Colt’s, and with slightly less curve at the top of the checkered spurs, are still easy enough to double cock with one sweep of the hand. Lower-priced double barrel hammer guns are rarely this easy to handle.
With an overall length of 37 inches (14-1/2 inch length of pull), 20 inch 4140 steel barrels choked cylinder bore, and a weight of 7 pounds, 2.5 ounces (empty) it is an ideal CAS shotgun. With that in mind, the test was done at a competition range of 16 yards (48 feet) using Ten-X brand 2-3/4 inch black powder shot shells dispensing 1 ounce of 7-1/2 shot.
For a final test I threw in a pair of 00 buckshot rounds to see how well it patterned at that range. Back in the Old West, a scattergun in town would have been used at an even closer distance. In SASS the closest range for shotgun competition is 8 yards (24 feet) so at the maximum of 16 yards we’re doubling down with the double gun. The target is an IPSC cardboard silhouette, which is just slightly larger than a SASS target for shotguns, which is 16x16 average, the IPSC target is 18 inches wide by 24 inches high (at the shoulder).
The IPSC cardboard silhouette target shows hits from two number 7-1/2 birdshot rounds and two 00 buckshot loads from a distance of 48 feet.
The Pietta 1878 uses a sliding tang safety similar to the design seen on the later Colt Model 1883 Hammerless model. The original Colt hammer guns did not use a tang safety; on the Pietta the sliding safety has to be manually engaged. The shotgun has manual extractors, and the triggers fire front right, rear left, with a trigger pull average of 8 pounds, 2 ounces and 7 pounds, 6.4 ounces, respectively.
From 48 feet out, two blasts of 7-1/2 shot peppered the upper two thirds of the target with the greatest concentration of shot in the A-Zone with scattered shot in the B and C-Zones. The two 00 buckshot rounds put the better than half the 00 pellets into the A-Zone with the remainder spreading left and right in the C-Zone. The majority of pellets from the two Ten-X birdshot rounds and two 00 buckshot shells all hit within a 12 inch circumference at 16 yards.
Whether for putting food on the table or saving your own skin, back in the Old West a double barreled shotgun was the best gun you could grab for just about any situation.
The advent of pump action shotguns in the 1890s rewrote the books for lawmen and a lot of hunters as well, but for sport shooting, even in this century, a double gun is still an appropriate option, and the new E.M.F. Pietta Hartford 12 ga. is a worthy competitor in the hammer gun market.
For more information visit emf-company.com; 800-430-1310.
E.M.F. Hartford 12 ga. Double Barrel Hammer Gun
Caliber: 12 ga.
Barrels: 20 inches
OA Length: 37 inches
Weight: 7 pounds, 2.5 ounces (empty)
Stock: Turkish walnut
Sights: Brass bead front
Action: Double triggers