Single-Shot Steal

Hatfield's $99 Knockabout Folder

A single-shot shotgun is an ideal trainer. Breaking it open for reloading
naturally points the muzzle safely at the ground.

I’m a secondhand-rack junkie and I love cruising the “used” inventories of local gun shops. It’s like a year-round gunshow — maybe even better — because dealers don’t usually overprice their stocks of “pre-owned” stuff.

They want to move those safe queens out and pocket a neat 15-20 percent margin on the sale. But one thing I’ve noticed is, there aren’t any used guns priced below $100 these days, not even a rusty old .22. So when I spied a new, good-looking single-shot shotgun at Walmart with a price tag of $99, I was intrigued.

The American single-shot shotgun market has become largely a used one. Stevens and Rossi hang in there with a couple of single-shots, but gone from the market is Harrington & Richardson and New England Arms, gone is Winchester, gone is Iver Johnson. Yet on my gun shop rounds I notice used single-shot (and bolt-action) smoothbores sell quickly. There’s an untapped market there, but it’s very price sensitive.

Enter Ted Hatfield. The old feudin’ and fussin’ Hatfields have been heavily involved in the gunmaking business for decades. You might remember their svelte muzzleloading rifles or their featherweight 28-gauge doubles. Ted had spent years in Turkey assisting Turkish gunmaking firms in refining their product lines for the international market. More recently, Ted resurrected the Hatfield Gun Company.

A 4-lb. weight and a 43.5" length make the SGL a pretty nimble little smoothbore.

20-Gauge Trainer

Reviving a single-shot .410, 20- and 12-gauge was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off. Walmart bought the whole year’s production of the Turkish-made Hatfield Model SGL, offering it at a price point of $99. I’ve handled it, shot it, given it a critical examination. Believe me, it’s a remarkable bargain.

To my way of thinking, the single-shot fulfills two roles well. In its traditional niche it’s an ideal training shotgun in 20-gauge for new shooters of any age (with some exceptions), size or gender. Why? Because the operation of the gun is so simple, logical and understandable — open breech, drop in shell, close breech, cock hammer (assuming it has one), pull trigger. It doesn’t take much experience to work through the procedure, but hand a semi auto or even a pump over to a beginning shooter and the learning curve can explode.

There’s also a safety factor involved. After one shot, the gun has to be cracked open and reloaded by hand rather than mechanically, so the direction of the muzzle is typically pointing to the ground. Also, because reloading is a slow process, it’s easier for the instructor to keep visual track of the muzzle and correct the novice immediately if necessary.

A nice mechanical feature of the Hatfield is its safety. Typical single-shots rely on a half-cock notch for hammer safety. The hammer of the Hatfield is rebounding, and it can be blocked by the cross-bolt safety. In short, after you engage the safety the hammer can be cocked but not fired by pulling the trigger. It’s an excellent design.

Speaking of pulling the trigger, it is a little stiff on the SGL. I would recommend applying a drop or two of Slip2000 or Tetra Gun oil down into the action internals and then cycling the hammer and trigger on an empty chamber by pushing forward on the back of the hammer while pulling the trigger. That tends to polish up the sear notch and mated hammer, lightening and smoothing out the pull to a degree.

Holt’s knockabout SGL folder rides in a jump case in the back of his Jeep for opportunistic small game hunts.

A stone-simple mechanism — external hammer plus a crossbolt safety.

Light, Handy, Simple

Another quality endearing the single-shot to the novice is its weight, or I should say its lack of weight. Hand a 7.5-lb. gun to a novice, and you’ll get that “Who me?” stare. The Hatfield DGL weighs only 4 lbs. With its plastic buttplate and chambered in 20-gauge, there’s enough recoil generated by a standard 3/4 oz. loading at 1,200–1,250 fps that I wouldn’t recommend the gun for training sub-teens though. Ideally, I’d use a light handload or order a case of Fiocchi 20Lite training shells featuring 3/4 oz. of No. 7-1/2 shot at 1,075 fps. Ballistic Products is a good source if your dealer doesn’t stock the Fiocchi brand.

With an overall length of 43.5″, the SGL simply folds in half to form a compact 28″ package. It’s also an ideal knockabout gun.

Folded, I store it in a WWII-vintage M1 Carbine jump case in the back of my Jeep Wrangler. With a few shotshells stashed in the console, I’m ready for anything. When I’m cruising the desert outback, if I come across a covey of quail in season or a cottontail crossing the road, I stop, uncase the DGL and go hunting.

What do you get for $99? A walnut stock with a checkered pistol grip, a 28″ satin finished barrel fitted with a very attractive vent rib and a fixed Modified choke delivering excellent patterns, and a safety-fitted action. All in all, a remarkable value.

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