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Double Barrel Hammer Shotgun Find

By: Eric R.

Even though I first caught the metal detecting bug about 40 years ago, each unique find still brings that same special "rush" of excitement just as it did four decades ago. Such was the case in late February of 2019. I entered a two-day group hunt in the nearby King & Queen County region of Virginia. An area rich with colonial, revolutionary war, and civil war history, and real potential for a some bucket-list relics! In the weeks prior to the hunt I conducted extensive research on the area, and identified several mid-late 19th century homesites...these were my priority targets. On the morning of the first day, as a steady rain drenched the gathered detectorists, I made a beeline for the first homesite. Hiking off into the thick woods with my Garrett AT Max, and guided by my GPS, I soon encountered telltale signs of life from an earlier age. Scattered iron tones under my coil, which became more dense with each step, told me I was hearing the remnants of someones boarded walls. And a couple stray patches of daffodil flowers surely had at one time decorated the outside of those walls. I had found it. I began a grid search and was rewarded almost instantly with a fine example of an 1894 Indian Head one cent piece. Heartened, I eagerly continued the search. A half hour or so later I encountered one of those ugly, obnoxious iron tones that screams of irregular shapes and edges. Slicing into the rich loamy soil with my Predatortools Piranha shovel, I uncovered an indescribable mass of heavily rust-caked iron. Indescribable, except for the complete lockplate hammer assembly that fell away from the mass! This was my first full lockplate ever recovered, and I was elated. However, when I began examining the rest of the lump of rusted iron, I quickly realized I had discovered not one, but TWO lockplates...as the lump was a near-complete firing assembly section of a late 1800's double barrel double-hammer shotgun! Whether this was the home owners hunting weapon lost to time, or possibly a war time gun brought back to be re-purposed on the farm, it was undoubtedly one of their prized personal possessions. In the weeks that followed I performed the restoration and preservation process. First electrolysis, then painstakingly hand-working the piece to ensure the most iron possible was saved, and finally repeated coats of oxidation prevention solutions to seal this relic for hopefully another 150 years. The result is indeed one of those unique historical finds that detectorists just don't see every day!