Thanks for the insight Mike,Fletchpair
You are absolutely correct….I think the poor fitting fore-end must have had something to do with the break on this one, looks like the wood had shrunk quite a bit over the years, and no longer fit the contour of the barrels…. this, combined with the loose fit between the F-E iron and the F-E loop allowed enough wobble on the knuckle to pinch and bend the end of the plate upon opening the gun.
I smoked the wood back on to the barrels…fortunately there was enough wood to do this, and welded up the iron, now that the F-E is properly fitted I think I have substantially reduced the chances of a reoccurrence.
Mike, I will build up the plate a bit more as you suggested and engrave to match.
The gun is a top lever non ejector…patent # is on the picture
Thanks and all Best