Baker Cavalry Shotguns

At the beginning of the Civil War the majority of soldiers who remained loyal to the North were armed with smoothbore and rifled muskets, shotguns, Colt revolvers, and various single-shot pistols that had been developed and in use by the U.S. military since the 1840s and early 1850s. The predominant military sidearm was the .36 caliber Colt’s Model 1851 Navy revolver. Larger caliber arms were older .44 caliber Colt Dragoons: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Models. Outside of the new Colt Model 1860 Army, which was not readily available until well into 1861, most Federal troops were armed with weapons more than a decade old. Thus with the outbreak of war, any U.S. troops in the Southern States who remained loyal to the Confederacy had the same complement of weapons at their disposal. Southern volunteers brought the arms they had at home — for many that was little more than an old shotgun and a single shot belt pistol.

The shotgun had a storied history in the South, having been one of the principal weapons used by the defenders of the Alamo in 1836. During the Civil War, shotguns were carried by infantry and cavalry alike—the latter often being armed with shorter barreled models better suited to use on horseback. The so-called cavalry shotgun could have been any make available, but one of the most desirable were the long- and short-barreled London-made Baker double-hammer guns with single, non-selective trigger. These were mainly used by Confederate Cavalry but the Union had them as well since shotguns, both domestically made and imported from England, had been carried by U.S. troops as far back as the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842.¹ Pictured in a book published during the Civil War is a photograph taken at an armory in Tennessee showing three different shotguns then in use, one of which was a Baker identified by the author as follows, “…middle is a true ‘sawed off’ shotgun by Ezekiel Baker, having heavy 10-inch barrel bored for shot or ball. Piece has single non selective trigger, made in 1850!”

The British Baker shotgun (not to be confused with the American Baker shotguns manufactured by W. H. Baker & Co., and L.C. Smith circa 1878-1884; L.C. Smith circa 1886-1950²) was manufactured in England in the shops of Ezekiel Baker, a master gunsmith from Whitechapel, London, who became known for his design of the Baker military rifle in 1800. Baker also produced sporting rifles and shotguns (fowlers) with the double-barrel percussion lock Baker shotgun dating back to the 1820s. One of the finest ever manufactured, c. 1854, can be seen on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Baker Doubles

Introduced for 2012, the new 12 gauge and 20 gauge Baker doubles from Pedersoli are available with 20.06-inch or 28.56-inch barrel lengths in 12 gauge; 27.56-inch length barrels in 20 gauge and the Cavalry model with 11.25-inch barrels. With a suggested retail of $950 for the Cavalry model, the new single trigger hammer guns will be available through Dixie Gun Works, Cabela’s, I.F.G. and Flintlock’s.

Like all Pedersoli arms the fit and finish is meticulous with the engraved lockwork and tang all color casehardened. The one-piece short stock is of high-quality walnut with a blued steel buttplate. The balance of the gun’s furniture is color casehardened with the exception of the triggerguard. The Pedersoli Baker Cavalry Gun features high-polish bright blue barrels, brass tipped ramrod, brass bead front sight and, of course, the distinctive Baker single, non selective trigger, which on the test sample had an average pull of just over 12 pounds. When discharging the Baker, the left hammer drops first and the single trigger allows a quick second shot sending the right-hand hammer plunging home with a firm second pull. The distinctive back action lock also helps reduce fouling of the trigger mechanism from powder residue.

The 20 gauge Baker, when fired as a slug gun, loads a .570 round ball (Hornady .58 cal #6120 for our test) wrapped in a 0.20 Ox-Yoke Wonder Patch and backed by 35-grain of Goex FFg Black Rifle powder. The .570 round balls clocked an average of 624 feet per second (fps) through the traps on the chronograph. A slightly heavier charge of 40 grains increased muzzle velocity to 663 fps.

As a 20 gauge shotgun, Pedersoli tests (conducted in Italy by Pierangelo Pedersoli) call for 28 grains of FFG powder, shot card, fiber wad, 1 ounce of bird shot (#4), and an over shot card. I elected to try a version of the venerable Civil War era buck-and-ball load, which for the test was comprised of 1 ounce of lead shot combined with three .375 lead balls (roughly 000 buckshot) and the appropriate powder, shot card, wad and over shot card; the 19th century equivalent of a Federal Premium Personal Defense Shot Shell. The first test used BBB shot, the second #4 shot.

During the Civil War shotguns and smoothbore muskets alike were often loaded with various combinations of buck-and-ball, which allowed a single shot to have greater overall effectiveness at close range. The most common buck and ball combination was a load of buckshot covered by a single lead ball of musket or shotgun bore caliber, generally .69 caliber round (Please turn to page )
ball for muskets. The buck and ball load dates back to General George Washington, who recommended its use during the Revolutionary War.

Fired from a distance of 25 feet, both barrels of the Pedersoli Baker shotgun delivered center body mass strikes on a full size silhouette target. Two sets were fired with a total of approximately 250 pellets and a dozen .375 lead balls striking the target. Nine of the .375 balls hit within the 8, 9, 10, and X bull, the remaining three striking within the 7 ring on the left side of the target. The pellet pattern delivered better than 55 percent of the shot within the 8, 9, 10, and X rings, with the balance spread mostly into the 7 ring and left arm of the target, the latter having come from the second group using #4 shot. At ranges from 25 to 50 feet the cylinder bore 11.25-inch barrels can deliver tight groupings. It is no wonder that sawed off shotguns were used by the Cavalry in close-quarter battle. The buck and ball load, when effectively delivered, was definitely a fightstopper. For more information visit davide-pedersoli.com.

  • jon

    I just got one from a local pawn shop, appears to have never been fired, Its perfect, not very practical, but very high in cool factor. !

  • jon

    Got one