Seen at the Gunsmithing Shop–Why Not to “Mortar” Your Pump Shotgun

    “I bought a pump shotgun because they never jam.” This proud statement is a staple of gun store conversation. Normally it comes either just before or just after the “you can’t miss” and “sound of the pump scares ’em off” statements, and like the others, it is also patently untrue. Pump shotguns jam and break and fail in all sorts of interesting ways that keep gunsmiths quite busy.

    When a pump shotgun doesn’t want to pump, a tried and true redneck method of forcing it to open up is to grab the pump and only the pump, point the barrel at the sky and smack the buttstock on the ground as hard as you can. This is called “mortaring” the shotgun. Yeee haww! That’ll properly punish the gun for doing the thing we bragged was impossible. “Mortaring” usually violates several rules of firearms safety at once and for that reason alone it should not be done. For those who require further persuasion, I present to you Gunsmith’s Exhibit A, an otherwise very nice Winchester 97 takedown that angered its owner by refusing to open after a spent hull became lodged in the chamber.

    Winchester 97 one


    Winchester 97 two

    “Mortaring” the shotgun has severely bent the single action bar inside the receiver. This is a problem because disassembling the 97 takedown requires us to pull the pump forward and put the gun fully into battery so the action bar can be withdrawn entirely from the receiver. That is never going to happen in this gun ever again. Someone with more time and better tools than I have might be able to take a high speed rotary cutting wheel and position it inside the receiver, and cut off a good section of the bend without hitting the receiver at all. Then they might be able to pry and hammer away at whatever bend is left in the action bar until it can be prized away from the receiver. And they might even be able to do this without catastrophically damaging the receiver. Then they would have to go looking for a replacement action bar– Numrich has the bar and forend assembly for $112.85 but there are no promises on the condition of those pieces.

    None of that is realistically going to happen. This gun lasted darn near 100 years before impatience, misunderstanding, and the abuse that followed turned it into a wall-hanger. Don’t let this happen to you, folks. Don’t “mortar” your shotgun.