I recently read Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo, which frequently mentions an eight-gauge shotgun. What can you tell me about that weapon?

Jeff Blackstone

Dayton, Texas


The eight-gauge shotgun dates back to the blackpowder days. The firearm is obsolete and has not been made in the U.S. since the late 19th century; in fact, gauges bigger than 10 are now illegal.

These blackpowder firearms weren’t that potent; a modern 12 gauge can outperform a vintage eight gauge.

You can still find eight-gauge shotguns in antique stores, museums and in private gun collections. I saw one on the Internet selling for just under $30,000. You’ll occasionally see one on the silver screen—Viggo Mortensen used an eight gauge in the 2008 film Appaloosa.

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