H&R Topper Model 158 12 Gauge

This is a vintage single shot made in 1973, and it performed well. We’d load it with 00 buckshot and keep spare rounds in the slip-over ammo holder.




You can still find plenty of these old-school single-shot shotguns. Our sample looked like it was hardly used. The hardwood stock was smooth, and a red vented recoil pad with a white spacer was attached to the butt. The barrel wore a deep blue finish, while the receiver had a tiger-stripe case-hardened finish that was easy on the eyes. The trigger guard was plastic.

The shooter depresses a lever on the right side of the trigger to open the action and load a round. Just pressing the lever caused the barrel to open by itself, with no addition effort.

Action Type Break action, manual hammer, single-shot, ejector
Chamber Size3.0 in.
Overall Length 35.0 in.
Dissembled Length20.0 in.
Weight Unloaded 5.8 lbs.
Weight Loaded (23⁄4-in. shell)5.9 lbs.
Barrel Length 20.0 in.
Barrel Finish/MaterialBlack, steel
Receiver Finish/MaterialCasehardened, steel
ChokeFixed choke, Modified
ButtstockSmooth walnut, vented recoil pad
Buttstock LOP13.5 in.
Fore EndSmooth hardwood
Sights None
Trigger Pull Weight 7.9 lbs.
Safety Rebounding hammer
Warranty n/a
Telephone n/a
Website n/a
Made In USA

The hammer spur wore fine serrations that made for slip-free cocking. The trigger was flat and smooth and broke at a clean but heavy 7.9 pounds. It took some effort to fire the Topper. There was no front sight on the Topper, and we didn’t think that was a liability, though the receiver had a shallow sighting groove. The H&R shouldered nicely and quickly because the recoil pad wasn’t sticky. With the hammer fully forward, it visually told the user it needed to be cocked back. Old-school idiot proofing, which we like. The H&R carried comfortably because the bottom edge of the receiver was slightly rounded. The H&R does break down, but you need a screwdriver to remove the fore end. It is not fast to assemble and disassemble.

The choke designation on the barrel indicated it was Modified. Because the choke is fixed, the H&R’s versatility is limited, though Modified is a good all-round choke choice. Going hot with the bird shot, we were introduced to the full impact of 12-gauge recoil. Do the math. A lightweight single-shot shotgun plus 12-gauge loads means it feels like someone is hitting you on the shoulder with a 2-by-4. There is no extra weight or a mechanism to slurp up the battering. You don’t want to run through a box of 00 loads with the H&R.

The Remington No. 6 loads gave us a consistent pattern spread of 21 inches at 15 yards. That is wider than the width of the IPSC/USPSA cardboard targets. So from a defense perspective, 15 yards is too far to guarantee all pellets will hit the target, and there could be some collateral damage, which the shooter is on the hook for. With the 00 buck from Sellier & Bellot, our average pattern measured 7 inches. All pellets hit the target with a center-of-mass hold. The Hornady 00 Buck was surgical, with a tight 4.5-inch pattern at 15 yards. If we owned this shotgun, we’d pattern test at set distances to better understand the pattern sizes.

The H&R ejected empties straight back and into the next ZIP code. We found loading easy, but slow. The H&R performed flawlessly during the test. The short barrel made the H&R easy to maneuver inside our house, pie slicing through doorways and moving in narrow hallways. For home defense, this shotgun isn’t the worse choice, but its capacity will always be an issue, of course.

Our Team Said: The H&R offered easy maneuvering in tight environments. We knocked off points due to the need for a tool to disassemble the shotgun. The fixed Modified choke covers a lot of applications, but we’d really prefer a screw-in choke. Recoil was harsh. It had a tight pattern with the Hornady 00 buck, so there is no doubt this old-school shotgun would be effective. If you like blued-steel and wood, this is a good option as an inexpensive bug-out gun.

12 Gauge Range Data

To collect pattern data with shotshells, we fired at a distance of 15 yards. All shells were 23⁄4-inch long.
Stevens Model 301 Single-ShotHornady Critical Defense 00 Buckshot Sellier & Bellot 00 BuckshotRemington Game Load No. 6 shot
Pattern Size5.0 in.7.0 in.11.0 in.
H&R Topper Single-ShotHornady Critical Defense 00 BuckshotSellier & Bellot 00 BuckshotRemington Game Load No. 6 shot
Pattern Size4.5 in.7.0 in.21.0 in.
FedArm SS12 Single-ShotHornady Critical Defense 00 BuckshotSellier & Bellot 00 BuckshotRemington Game Load No. 6 shot
Pattern Size5.0 in.4.0 in.NA


  1. I read that the shortest barrel length on the 158 12 gauge was 28 inches. Your shotgun may have been shortened by 8 inches removing the shocked portion of the barrel.


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