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I have inherited a decently old shotgun, sxs double barrel. I know it is a 12 gauge, but unlike my other shotguns, there is no marking anywhere to see what length shells it takes. Does length really matter, or can I put 2 3/4 on up in?
 

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Of course shell length matters- put too long a shell in and KABOOM goes fingers, eyes, and whatnot else.

What gun is it?

Did you remove the barrels to see if it mentions anything underneath?
 

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If it takes 2 1/2 inch shells 2 3/4 would be dangerous. They will not fully open. And will cause excess pressures. You need to measure the chamber with a depth gauge. Not an unshot 2 3/4 shell . I have an old 16 gauge. It did not state what length shells. It takes 2 1/2. I found out by measuring the chamber.
 

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Yep shell length is the FIRED length, NOT the unfired length. This is where a lot of folks get in trouble because an unfired 2-3/4 will fit in a gun chambered for 2-1/2"
 

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I am sure it is listed somewhere; if it is American, it will clearly state it in standard dimensions; if it is European, it will be on the barrel flats where the proof marks are, typically in MMs.
 

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How old is the gun? Does it have Damascus barrels? It's quite possible you can't even shoot smokeless powder in it and would require black powder loads. That and the shell length really matter if you value you the gun, hands and face......not necessarily in that order.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
There are zero markings at all. There is no gauge or length markings, even when disassembled. How would I measure the barrel, and what tool would I need?
 

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I used my calipers. But if you don't have them. You can use an unsharpened pencil. Look down the breech. You will see a ''lip''. Put the pencil against the lip. Mark the shaft of the pencil where it meets the end of the breech on the outside. Then measure with a tape measure or ruler.
 
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Measure the barrel? Simple - with the breech closed put a dowel down the barrel and mark a line;

Measuring the chamber is a tad different

Why don't you post pics of this thing so some of us can better help you?

That would include left and right side, underside and barrel flats, water table, and any other place where the markings might be

IF it IS a really old Damascus gun, it might be for BP oinly
 

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If it takes 2 1/2 inch shells 2 3/4 would be dangerous. They will not fully open. And will cause excess pressures. You need to measure the chamber with a depth gauge. Not an unshot 2 3/4 shell . I have an old 16 gauge. It did not state what length shells. It takes 2 1/2. I found out by measuring the chamber.
This might just me being dumb but I have never hear of 2 1/2 inch shells. Could also be one of the many things that I am just too young to understand. Perhaps they are an older thing?
 

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This might just me being dumb but I have never hear of 2 1/2 inch shells. Could also be one of the many things that I am just too young to understand. Perhaps they are an older thing?
Yup, an older thing. I believe they were really 2-9/16" and not 2-1/2".
 

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Double check on the Damastic barrel. That’s very important. If the metal is rolled around a mandrel and hammered into a tube, it won’t Handel the pressure and you’ll be wearing that barrel as a hat. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! This is important.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I have looked up central arms, they were a brand that sold to hardware stores from the earlier part of 1900’s til mid 1900’s. The serial number returned nothing, for me that is, and there is not much I can find about this gun, save it was probably bought from the hardware store. Pictures really don’t do much, and I can post others if needed. The closest smith to me seems like an ass, really short in speaking and way too busy to answer any questions or guide me through the process of figuring out.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Upon finding a dowel, there is a spot that has a slight difference in feel when sliding the dowel down the barrel. If this is the lip, it is about 2 3/4” down the barrel. Closer to 3” I would say.
 

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Yup, an older thing. I believe they were really 2-9/16" and not 2-1/2".
There were both - depends on the gun and sometimes the country of origin
 

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the Central Arms co was a trade name shotgun made for the Shapleigh hardware co of St Louis by the Cresent Arms company,,Cresent Arms co made alot of doubles and singles for hardware stores and mail order firms from the early 1900's thru the 1930's when the firm was bought by the J Stevens arms co.typically these trade name shotguns will value in the 150 good to around 300 for nice examples,,alot of times i see these tradename shotguns in fair to poor condition because they were USED..and it's very common to find them with cracked stocks .

See if any of that helps
 

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And BTW, even IF it is safe to shoot, NO way I would be using modern ammo; you need to go to RST and buy some of the Vintager ammo - low pressure ammo made for very old guns. First you need to determine the true chamber length.

Personally, I would make it a nice wall hanger over the fireplace.
 
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