Review: “Ye Ole Smoke Pole” single shot 12 gauge shotgun

Today’s review is of the “The Ole Smoke Pole”

"Ye Ole Smoke Pole"

“Ye Ole Smoke Pole”

This review is going to be completely different, because I am not talking about one gun, I am talking about one TYPE of gun, a gun you probably already own, a single shot standard-gauge shotgun, typically 12 & 20 gauge, and also .410 caliber. This also includes any other single shot break-loading shotty, from 8 gauge on down.

The first gun I ever owned is a smoke pole. My father gave it to me in 1975, it’s an H&R Topper Youth Model 20 gauge, blued barrel, stainless receiver and black stock and fore grip. Dad and I would go out to Pilot’s Bluff and hunt rattlers… we must have killed hundreds of them with our “Ole Smoke Pole’s”.

Dad used an old Stevens Special “Smoke Pole”, which is pictured here (I don’t actually shoot this gun any more and I have very much outgrown the Topper, but it has sentimental value at least to me. It’s now a wall-hanger).

This is an interactive review, I am going to present a philosophy of use and some options and hopefully generate a discussion about whether these guns are something every prepper should have, or something best left as decorations on the wall.

Additionally, the merits of a double barrel (whether shotty, coach gun or over/under rifle/shotty combo) can be discussed here as well…

Philosophy Of Use:

The idea of a “Smoke Pole” for prepping is simple, as simple as the guns themselves.

They give you one shot of extremely violent firepower for hunting & self preservation in a light, easily carried absolutely bombproof package that is so simple that virtually ANYBODY can use one.

These guns break down into a compact and light weight group of 3 parts, something easily stored in a truck or pack.

"Ye Ole Smoke Pole"

“Ye Ole Smoke Pole” disassembled for carry/cleaning

Additionally, they are easily convertible into other firearms by the use of “inserts” in the barrel. You can get inserts in all popular shotgun shell sizes, and you can get inserts in pistol and rifle calibers as well. These inserts vary in effectiveness depending upon their size, length, rifling (if applicable) and the sighting system of the firearm.

12 gauge to 20 gauge insert

The idea behind this gun, especially if you own inserts, is that you can easily carry a firearm that can shoot many different types of calibers (to varying degrees of effectiveness).

I personally only own two adapters, from 12 gauge down to 20 gauge, and 12 down to .410. I will discuss them in the shooting section of the review.

Design: As simple as can be. Break open at the breech of the barrel. Shell ejector pops the round lose. Generally they disassemble into 3 major pieces (give or take one screw).

Tale Of The Tape:

Here’s the specs on my 12 gauge H&R Topper (not pictured)

Stock: Wood, black
Capacity: 1 shell
Finish: Blued & stainless
Barrel Length: 28”
Overall Length: 43”
Front Sight: Bead
Rear Sight: Notch
Weight: 5.52 LBS
Choke: Modified

Ammunition: Any standard 12 gauge ammo


These guns kick like a bloody mule, but… you know… that’s rather comforting, kind of like an old friend punching you on the shoulder to say “hello, how are you?”

There’s really not much to say about a 12 gauge shotty, either you’ve shot one or you haven’t. However, I can talk a bit about the inserts because they are a bit different.

I have both the 20 gauge and .410 caliber inserts, and they both shoot great.

12 gauge to .410 caliber insert

In my H&R, the 20 gauge is, frankly, exactly the same as shooting a 20 gauge shell out of a 20 gauge single shot modified choke. There’s no difference whatever, which in my mind makes this a handy little “arsenal multiplier”.

I find that the .410, however, behaves a bit differently… it has a larger dispersal pattern than if coming out of a .410 shotgun… it’s pretty much like shooting a .410 open bore, which is pretty fun since I don’t own one of those… making the insert another valuable “arsenal multiplier”.

I don’t own any of the pistol or rifle caliber inserts, but I am curious if any of you have shot them. If you have, please leave replies to this review.

The Bottom Line:

Everybody has one of these guns (or, IMHO, if they don’t, they should) and there are definite survival uses for one, and they might be an option to consider in a GHB/BOB type situation where compactness is important.

They are not a self-defense weapon if you have ANY other option, since the one shot with slow reload is a bit 1862 for most people’s taste today… but you could use your one shot and then swing the shotty like a club…

Some survivalist guru’s go nuts over how good of a survival/prepping gun this is while others disregard it entirely. I fall somewhere in the middle… it has it’s place as a hunting gun, but there are far better choices for self defense.


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