Free Gunsmithing Lesson

Jack Landisby Jack Landis
AGI Technical Services Manager


The Smith & Wesson Model 1000 Semi Auto shotgun of the early 1980’s was a pretty good and very reliable shotgun, at least in my experience. The gun was built in Japan by Miroku and, like most of their guns, was of high quality and sound design. There was also a pump gun, the Model 3000, and an evolutionary version of the 1000 called the Super 12.

S&W Super 12

S&W Super 12

The Super 12 was one of the first autoloading gas guns that would reliably shoot and cycle any 12 gauge round of the time from 2-3/4” Ultra Lite Target to full bore 3” magnums without any adjustments. It accomplished this with a valve that had a spring washer on the front end that flexed and allowed more gas to escape from the system as the pressure rose. I got one of the Super 12’s in 1983, about a year before S&W quit importing them. Mossberg imported them for a few years thereafter.

In any event, at the time it was my only shotgun; having traded away 2 Mossberg pumps because they didn’t feed reliably when I really banged on them. I loved the gun, it was absolutely reliable, good looking, soft shooting, and shot a little bit high, making me think that I was a much better Trap shooter than I really was.

I put a few thousand rounds through the gun and after the first couple of shooting sessions, cleaned it less and less often. Ain’t that always the way with tinkerers? After it ceases to be a project (You know, the usual; swapped the “DeLuxe” stock with its recoil pad to the S&W warranty station for the “Standard” which didn’t have a pad, added a pad to make it fit a normal size (6’3”, 260#) person, did a trigger job and smoothed and deburred the whole gun), you don’t do anything to it any more until it quits running, kind of like the mechanic’s car.

Well (I really DO have a point here!), over the next couple of decades I put another few thousand rounds through it and didn’t do a lick of maintenance, other than wiping it off with an oily rag now and again. Gun continued to work perfectly . . . until last Fall.

I was with “Full Auto Bob” Chavez at our annual Thanksgiving Steelhead Chase and Gluttony Extravaganza on the Klamath River in Northern California. We always shoot some clays at the ranch where we stay because they have a double deck trailer with a half dozen traps mounted on it. We supply the birds and pull the traps and we’re the only ones there. Is that a deal or what?

Anyway, I brought the S&W this time and loaded her up. First shot hit the bird but the action made a CAAAAAALUNK . . . Kaaalllunkk sound??? Empty ejected and second round loaded, but that was the last time it managed to load itself. The opening of the action was very sluggish and it was not ejecting. Since that was the first time this gun EVER malfunctioned I was shocked. I bagged the gun and dragged out a SXS Turkish 28GA and finished playing.

A few months ago I got around to taking the gun down while I was watching a Dodger game, my Boss just loves it when I do some gunsmithing in the recliner in her living room. After I pulled the piston’s locating pin out of the mag tube extension, I had a heck of a time getting the piston out. It was like it was glued in with a big glob of black silicone sealant that was still soft. Yuck, what a mess! I finally got it out, along with the steel recoil washer, but they were both coated and clogged up with the black sticky mess.

Gas system disassembled

Gas system disassembled

It had slipped my mind sometime in the past few decades exactly what parts were in the gun, but luckily J.B. Woods remembered and it was in his Book of Shotgun Assembly/Disassembly. I love that guy! Since the rubber recoil buffer washer pictured in the book was nowhere to be found, I logically assumed that it was the source of the black goo. It’s true, I really am a Genius!

I called up Ken Brooks at Bob’s shop (Bob has since retired and Ken now owns Pisco by himself–Ed.) and asked him if he’d ever seen such a thing. He said “Yep! Every time one of those 1000’s or Super 12’s comes in and won’t autoload, that’s the trouble.” He said that he gets the rubber washers (they look like a 1/4” section of heavy garden hose) from Gun Parts Corp for a couple of bucks each and always keeps about three on hand. I asked him if he had any idea what caused the originals to dissolve like that and he said no. Apparently it takes a REALLY long time to happen, and neither one of us knows if frequent use of solvent speeds it up or not. Certainly gross neglect (mea culpa!) does not.

Gas system parts from left: recoil washer, recoil buffer/rubber washer, piston, piston pin and collar, valve assembly, mag tube cap

Gas system parts from left: recoil washer, recoil buffer/rubber washer, piston, piston pin and collar, valve assembly, mag tube cap

Well, to make a long story interminable, one of my true talents, I got a couple from Gun Parts Corp, stuck one in the gun, and it works like a champ again. There are quite a few of these guns still out there, so maybe this tale will help you with your gun, a friend’s, or a customer’s. By the way, brake cleaner dissolves that nasty gunk pretty well.

7 Responses to Free Gunsmithing Lesson

  1. Very interesting story, and a beautiful shotgun! Kind of reminds me of an A303 I had once. They had a ridiculously simple design, and it too digested whatever you threw in the magazine. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who does a little smithing in my recliner. My boss loves it too!

  2. Some rubber like materials simply liquefy with age. Several years ago I found a blue, sticky, gooey puddle in the floor of a rarely used closet. Turned out to be the soles of a pair of moms shoes.

  3. There are many types of rubber used to make o-rings and washers. Nitrile is a common material as is Buna-N. Both of these materials stand up pretty well to most oils and solvents. Viton is a more expensive material but it will take about anything. How do you know what your o-ring or gasket is made of? If your are in the hardware store, sometimes it is marked on the box or package. I use Viton as a replacement whenever I can. When it gets old, it tends to crack or break. I have never seen it turn to Goo. Never ever use EPDM rubber in a gun. It will absolutely dissolve when exposed to any petroleum product. This is after it swells up and cannot be forced back where it might have come from. An interesting test for Viton is to lay it on a hard surface and drop the end of a punch or screwdriver handle on it. If it’s Viton, the tool will not bounce!!

  4. I’ve owned the Water Fowler model of the same gun since they were offered. At the time, I worked at The Bullseye Gunshop in Waterbury, CT. I too had your experience, and solved it the same way. As I recall, I learned that the cause was gun (or other) oil applied to the gas tube – a No-No. I just recently cut the stock to my size, and fit it with a brown Pachmayr decelerator. Also had to stain the comb to match the rest of the stock (for some reason it was almost blond). I have it still drying with abouit 6 coats of hand rubbed linseed oil. Beautiful! Next comes the foreend.

  5. I’m working on bringing one of these back to life myself at the moment. It had the washer fully disintegrated inside of it, and I’ve been cleaning up the goop. The valve assembly didn’t have much goop on it, but it was completely crusted in carbon and powder fowling. I’ve sprayed some solvent through it. Would you recommend taking it apart and cleaning out the internals by hand? Your example is one of the only ones I’ve seen that’s actually the same one I’m working with. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for the amazing tips and advise. I’ve recently got the chance to use a S&W 1000 model in 20ga but was not able to make it cicle. I used standard shells and had no luck. It turned out to be all that goo you were talking about and a malposition due a bad gunsmithing. Now it works like a charm.

    Regards. L