Recently I bought one of the cheap $99 single shot shotguns from good ol' wally world. That shotgun was the Hatfield SGL 12ga single shot shotgun (you can catch the review of that gun by clicking HERE). To sum it up, the gun kicked like a mule, was stiff as a board, and handled like a tank. But hey, it was $99 after all, so you can't really expect too much. On the plus side though, the Hatfield SGL did fold down, was reasonably accurate, solidly built, and reliable.
Low price range, pack-able, reliable, and sturdy sounded to me like the makings of a good pack or survival gun. That was the plan for the Hatfield since the day I saw it on the shelf, but it needed a few tweaks and modifications to help it earn a worthy spot in my pack. Today I'm going to go over step-by-step how I modified my Hatfield SGL single-shot shotgun.
This how-to doesn't have many steps, but each step has the potential to be very time consuming. Keep in mind this is just what I did on my Hatfield. You may want to do something different or feel something isn't necessary. That is completely up to you.
If you're not too keen into reading, you can always skip down to the bottom where I went ahead and linked to the how-to videos for this project.
Step 1: The Barrel.
This step is fairly simple. All I was doing is cutting down the barrel. The reason for this is to accomplish two things, shave off a bit of weight and make the entire shotgun a bit more compact and able to fit into a pack more easily.
The minimum federal barrel length for a shotgun is 18" (be sure you check all local laws and regulation before attempting). To measure the length of your barrel you measure from the end of the barrel to the face of the closed bolt. Seeing how we don't have a bolt in this shotgun you measure to the nearest stationary point. How this is measured by law enforcement is they stick a wooden dowel rod down the barrel of your gun until it won't go in any further, mark the dowel rod at the end of your barrel, and then take it the dowel rod out and measure the distance from the mark to the end of the rod. For us, because this is a simple breech loading gun, this means that what is measured is the end of the breech to the end of the barrel. Simple enough.
Here I opted for 19" instead of the minimum 18". This still puts the barrel of my gun shorter than the stock when folded flat and also allows me to keep a support under the last vent rib. If I cut it at 18", that last vent rib would be free floating and could easily bend or break off if dropped or hit accidentally. You can either use a hacksaw (this takes foreeeeverrrr), or opt for the much faster hand grinder like I did. The downside to using the grinder is there will be quite a bit of "clean-up" you will have to do on the barrel by filing off burrs and other imperfections. You can reduce this quite a bit by grinding very slowly and steadily, but you will never be able to eliminate all of the burrs. It's just the way it is.
Once I got my barrel cut down I had to clean it up a bit like I said you would have to do. All you really need to do is take a metal file and take nice long consistent strokes making a flat surface free of burrs. Work the outer edges and anywhere you see imperfections. Don't forget to cleanup the inside brim of the barrel as well. There is inevitably burrs on the inside that will mess with accuracy and could potentially be dangerous. Take your time and use your finger to feel around the inside of the barrel. Where ever you find a burr or your finger catches, start filing. File down the inside of the barrel tip until it is smooth and slick. This barrel is a smooth bore meaning there is no rifling so we don't have to worry about ruining the rifling or making it potentially dangerous by filing the inside brim of the barrel.
Step 2: The Trigger Guard.
Next I wanted to work on getting the Hatfield to fold nice and flat to make it even more packable. The first step in accomplishing that was trimming back the curved lip on the trigger guard.
The lip on the trigger guard is there for your finger to have something to catch onto when operating the breech release mechanism (the entire trigger guard slides backwards to activate the release). Once you have your release worn in a little bit and work it a bit, it becomes significantly easier to operate and can easily be done without the curved finger lip on the trigger guard.
To cut my trigger lip off, I took my trusty grinder and cut off as much as I could without losing structural integrity. Next I went back in with an old coarse-grit sharpening stone and ground it into the shape I wanted. I tried to the keep the width of the metal the same throughout the area where the lip used to be and make it look somewhat natural that way. You can use a file for this part as well, just careful not to take too much material off the trigger guard since you can't easily put it back.
Step 3: The Foregrip.
After trimming down the trigger guard, the next part that I saw obstructing the Hatfield SGL from folding flat was the fore grip. I went ahead and took the fore grip off the gun using the single screw on the underside of the fore grip that was holding it on. After that, I took a drill bit that was the same diameter as the trench that the trigger guard nestles into when folded and drilled a hole at each end of the trigger guard trench. Next I took a jig saw and connected the the two holes, giving me one solid hole where the trench was.
After I put the fore grip back on the Hatfield I saw the trigger guard was still hitting on the fore grip. I quickly remedied this by carving a shallow groove or incline at end of the trigger guard trench that was closest to the trigger guard.
Step 4: The Stock.
Once the trigger guard area was taken care of, the next part of the Hatfield SGL I had to modify was the stock. When attempting to fold flat you can see where the bottom of the handle grip on the stock was hitting the barrel. This is what I had to fix. Easy enough. All I did was take a black marker, trace my new handle profile, and cut it out with a jigsaw. Once that was done I took it to a belt sander and cleaned it up a bit.
Removing the stock from the Hatfield helps to make this part a bit easier. This is done by taking out the two screws on the end of the stock's butt plate to reveal a large deep bolt hole. Using a socket wrench with an extension, reach down the large hole in the center until you find the bolt at the end. That single bolt is what holds the stock onto the gun frame.
Once both of these issues were taken care of the Hatfield SGL folded nice and flat with the barrel touching the stock. Awesome.
Step 5: Sanding and Staining.
This step may seem unnecessary to you, and that's quite OK. I took the time here to sand and stain the stock and fore grip to give me a more natural look to the gun. This also allowed me to get rid of any imperfections the gun may have gotten along the way in the modification thus far. Would the gun function without being sanded and stained? Sure would. But I like the extra level of protection the stain and polyurethane gives the wood for a much longer lifespan.
To sand down the stock and the fore grip I used a coarse-grit sandpaper such as a 60 or 80 grit to remove as much of the old finish as I could, as well as putting some finishing touches on the overall shape of the stock. Once that initial sanding was done I swapped over to a finer grit sandpaper like a 220 or 320 grit and gave it a final sanding to smooth it all out.
Once the stock and fore grip were sanded, I suspended them from the rafters of my barn using 50lb test fishing line. Next I used walnut wood stain and followed the directions on the can of stain to apply it to my stock and fore grip. Once that was completed and had half a day to dry I pulled out my can of polyurethane and started liberally applying the clear coat over all parts of the stock and fore grip. I let it dry for half a day and then came back to check on it. At this point you could hit it with that high-grit sandpaper again and apply a second coat of polyurethane if you wanted to, but since this was just a simple little pack gun project I though the single coat was enough for my needs.
Step 6: The Compartments.
Here I wanted my Hatfield SGL to have that true "survival" gun feel. So I opted to put in some compartments for a few survival items in the stock.
Luckily the bolt hole for the bolt that holds the stock onto the frame of the gun was perfect for holding extra shotgun shells. So no further modification needed there, I just popped two 3" 12ga shells in to measure, and they fit awesome.
There was still a lot of potential room in the stock though. So first I had in mind a fishing kit I wanted to include in the stock. So I took an old travel size Aleve pill bottle and filled it with hooks, sinkers, and fishing line. That would be my fishing kit. Then after removing the butt plate, I took a drill bit that was just a smidgen bigger than the diameter of the pill bottle. I marked on the drill bit with tape for the depth I needed for the pill bottle to fit comfortable and drilled a hold in the stock between the bottom screw hole of the butt plate and the large bolt hole for the stock bolt. That's where my fishing kit would live.
Now I had an idea to make the compartment door more accessible that I'll get to in a bit, but what that meant for me is that that I no longer needed the top screw hole for the butt plate. There was some good room I could utilize for a ferro rod I was trying to incorporate in so it worked out perfectly. I pulled out an old spare ferro rod and got out a drill bit that was just about the same diameter. I drilled out the top butt plate screw hole with the drill bit and dropped the ferro rod in. Perfect fit.
Step 7: The Compartment "Door".
Next I wanted a door for my compartment that was super easy to open without the use of any tools or outside devices. This seemed hard at first until I thought about it a bit. I would use the bottom screw of the butt plate to act as a pivot point to allow the butt plate to "slide" open and give access to the compartments. This works because on the back of the butt plate where the screws come through there are little plastic mounds that protrude out on each end. The bottom mound would help act as a pivot point along with the bottom screw, but the top mount would act as a latch allowing the butt plate to essentially latch and stay securely closed.
The first problem I had to solve in making this compartment door was how to open it easily. For this I simply filed in a few notches at the top end to act as finger catches or lips to allow you to get your fingers under and open it easier.
The second problem was when the door was in the "open" position it partly blocked off access to the fishing kit compartment. Not a problem. I just took a large rounded file and filed out a "U" shape that would allow the fishing kit to come out freely when in the open position.
The final problem was figuring out how to stop the door from coming loose. I only had one screw in the bottom to hold it on. So what i did was I took some thread locker, squirted a generous amount down into the screw hole and screwed the butt plate back in place as tight as I could, then turned the screw back out one half turn. This would give the door enough wiggle room to open and close on the pivot point and still remain tight and snap shut.
After allowing the thread locker a day to dry completely I tested it out. It worked great. The finger catches at the top worked really well for opening it, the door snapped shut when closed and stayed tight. I was fairly pleased with the overall outcome.
Step 8: The Sight.
Now if you remember I cut the end of my barrel off. Unfortunately this meant I lost my front bead sight. Luckily this wasn't a big deal as it sucked anyways. What I really wanted was a good adjustable sight so I could used slugs fairly accurately if I wanted to.
The answer to this was the Truglo Universal Xtreme shotgun sight. It does come in some cheaper plastic versions, but I opted for the rough and tough solid metal version that came with spare ghost ring type rear optics. This sight was a bit on the pricey side at $40, but it was solid metal, had completely adjustable rear sights for windage and elevation, and it also came with a spare optic.
I used my old 12ga laser-bore sight to get the sights onto the paper and finished sighting them in with a few rifled slugs at 25 yards. Shooting the slugs at 25 yards the gun was performing great with 1-2" groupings. That kick though...whew, should of got a recoil pad. But, you know, it's a pack gun and will probably seldom see use so I can manage.
If you watch the videos at the end of this article you can see some of our grouping at 25 yards on various other shots to give you an idea of patterning. Overall I think the gun will be terrific for upland game birds, small game, and even ducks or geese at close range, but to get an ethical kill on a turkey without ruining all the meat it's pretty much out of the question unless you're confident in a head shot with a slug.
Overall I think this was a great little project gun to put together. I added in some camo wrap on ours to give it that outdoorsy survival look, but that's completely unnecessary. Without the camo wrap this project came in at about $150 including the gun, which for me, was pretty awesome considering it was a lot of fun to make and most pack rifles or guns are in the several hundred dollar range. You also have the added benefit of being able to change up the compartments in the end to hold whatever you need. Some people opted for barrel inserts and .22lr ammo instead of the shotgun shells and ferro rod. It's completely up to you.
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