The Parker VH Project: Repair, Restore or Refurbish?

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Page one of the online shotgun listing service had some of the sweetest Parkers that I couldn’t afford. It was more of the same on pages two and beyond, but it was on the middle of page 15 where I saw that little bit of magic. If you’ve waded through those listing pages before then you know that anything past page 5 might be called the Bargain Basement. Sometimes that’s just the place to give your spirit a shine.

 

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The seller, a Californian, had been trying to hawk the Parker VH for the better part of a year. In reading through the text I couldn’t understand why? Isn’t a 20/28 gauge two-barrel set on an O frame about as perfect an upland combo as you can get? Her 20-gauge tubes measured 26 inches in length while her 28-gauge pair taped out at 28 inches. She was hammerless, made from Vulcan steel, and had a modified pistol grip. Her extractors – and not ejectors – further contributed to her low brow status. 

I clicked on the photo gallery while I was pulling out my credit card. You know the saying about what one picture is worth? Well, there was a gallery of a few dozen of ‘em. Rather than tell you about the labor pains I’ll just show you the baby; both sets of barrels were silver, there wasn’t a lick of a trace of color case, but the stock was most unique. There was so much drop that it resembled the working end of a hockey stick, while five drywall screws held the frame and trigger guard together. I can’t imagine it’d remain intact upon discharge.  

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Pastor Rice said, “opportunity knocks, blessed are those who wait.” It’s not the first time I didn’t follow sound advice ‘cause I punched in the numbers of my credit card so fast that I knew I’d need to beg His forgiveness. I didn’t want that Parker to get gone, especially because restoration quotes would bring my total investment under market value. But that really wasn’t the point, was it? I mean, how do you put a price tag on the girl of your dreams?  

Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Restoration Company in Bloomfield, New York, says for a shotgun to remain original it must remain intact. “There are different ways to answer the repair, restore or refurbish question,” he said. “A collector really doesn’t want much – if any – part of a shotgun to be altered. If there is a new stock or if the barrels have new black or brown then the firearm no longer can be considered original. Some shotguns can be considered original if they are properly repaired. Let’s take a buggered screw for example. To retain the shotgun’s value as original condition, a gunsmith would need to source an original screw made by the same manufacturer of a similar make and model. That’s tough to do for an individual and that’s why we maintain such an extensive parts library. But once you start making changes, such as a new stock, new case, or new barrel brown, your shotgun is being refurbished. Though they may look like they did when they left the factory they are not, and they cannot be considered original.” 

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Rare shotguns or ones with historical significance are usually left alone. If they are non-fuctioning, then it makes sense to fix them. But if you’re a shooter or a hunter then you’re probably okay with some work. 

Turnbull’s advice is to invest an amount of money that won’t put the project underwater. “Many customers want their shotguns to look as they did when they left the factory,” he said. “We’ll use charcoal blue for triggers and trigger guards, a rust blue for barrels, or a black oxide for the barrels of modern shotguns. There are over 500 different colors to choose from, but we take the time to match the color to the specific shotgun. There is a cost to all parts of the process, and customers should think if they exceed the shotgun’s worth.”  

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All bets are off when it comes to a type of provenance, though, and that comes when a shotgun is passed down through generations. “An owner should have an idea of the value of the shotgun as well as how much he wants to spend prior to beginning a project,” Turnbull said. “Putting $10,000 of work into a shotgun that might be valued at $5,000 is an example of throwing good money after bad. The exception to the rule is if the shotgun is a family heirloom. In that instance it may be worth the cost to refurbish. If it is a vintage shotgun that has been used regularly and passed down through multiple generations then there is a personal provenance and connections that can affect the decision. If there is no personal connection to restoring a shotgun that might put an owner upside down then hold off on the purchase. Take your time, talk with gun dealers, go to gun shows, and find one that is what you want but doesn’t require extensive work. You’ll be just as happy.”

2017

It's been close to 20 years since I refurbished my Parker. These days, early season sweat from my hands has lightened the case colors. There are a few dings in the stock, and the barrel brown isn’t as dark as it once was. I might touch her up in a few years, but probably not. When the time comes that’s a question best answered by her new owner. He won’t know that I my first shot with the 28-gauge barrels dropped Rebel’s first grouse. He won’t know that I shot a first woodcock over a Cider point or a Bobwhite quail double over an honored Albert/Rebel point. He won’t know it but I bet he can feel it. He’ll feel it every time he throws that Parker up to his shoulder. And when he does he’ll write in his own stories, as well. 

Useful resources:

The web site for Turnbull Firearms Restoration  

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer and regular contributor to over a dozen magazines and blogs. His favorite time of year is in October and November where you can find him in woodcock and grouse coverts or quail fields with his wife, two kids, and three English setters. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer and regular contributor to over a dozen magazines and blogs.  His favorite time of year is in October and November where you can find him in woodcock and grouse coverts or quail fields with his wife, two kids, and three English setters.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.

www.tomkeer.com