Tiger Tamer, A 12 Bore Howdah Double Rifle

Discussion in 'Hunting Asia & Middle East' started by monish, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Tiger Tamer, A 12 Bore Howdah Double Rifle
    from the collection of Tony Orr

    The original web-publication was in the Northern Territory Arms Collectors Club newsletter, published on the web here.

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    By all accounts this lofty sanction was far from secure and a range of emergency weapons has been carried in the howdah to be pressed into service in the not-unlikely event (apparently!) of a tiger attempting to leap onto the elephant to attack the hunters. No doubt swords and short jobbing-spears served this purpose well enough in the very early days however large-bore single-barrel or side-by-side double-barrelled pistols had taken over as outright favourites by the mid-1800s. Ranging from percussion dragoon-pistols or side-by-side muzzle-loaders early on, to break-open breech-loading handguns usually built on a rotary or snap-action under-lever design, these specialised heavy side-arms were usually sheathed on or side-by-side double-barrelled pistols had taken over as outright favourites by the mid-1800s , these specialised heavy side-arms were usually sheathed on or in the howdah within easy reach of the occupant, or holstered on the hunter's person for instant accessibility in the gravest extreme.

    In those days, there were no illusions about the most effective projectiles for close-quarter conclusions with an angry tiger. The bigger the bullet, the better! At such short ranges trajectory was immaterial and penetration rarely limiting, hence the powder-charge was of secondary importance to bullet diameter. Common chamberings ranged from the various .450s, .455s and .476s through the .577 Revolver and .577 Snider, right up to the short 16-bore! In a hand-gun, the latter would have been a handful indeed!

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    Less common, but nonetheless effective as a close range tiger-stopper, was the light, handy, short-barrelled bore-rifle. These specialist double-guns were designed for spherical ball or a short conical bullet, and were chambered for either a brass or paper-case cartridge. The crucial quick-handling qualities and capacity for a fast follow-up shot were enhanced by the side-by-side coach-gun design and total weight rarely exceeding 8 lbs. Powder-charges were relatively light in order to minimise recoil, although admittedly "recoil is insignificant when there is a tiger on the head of your elephant", as the Maharajah of Cooch Behar was once heard to remark!

    The howdah rifle presented here bears the inscription "W & J Kavanagh" on the lock-plates, having been built by the very talented Irish gun-making family by that name. The top rib carries the firm's address: "12 Dame Street, Dublin". We know that William Kavanagh originally set up shop at Lower Ormand Quay around 1817, and moved up to the Dame Street foundry in 1821 where the company continued to trade for over 100 years! Like the rib and locks of this gun, trade labels from the second half of the 19th Century read "W & J Kavanagh", however the Dublin City Directory of 1850 listed only William Kavanagh as a gun-maker and no-one by the name of J. Kavanagh was listed in the trade. We can surmise that he joined the firm some time after 1850, a younger brother perhaps? Later guns made around the turn of the century were marked "Wm Kavanagh & Son", implicating the next generation of this famous gun-making dynasty.

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    The Kavanagh firm hung its shingle alongside other well-known Dublin gun-makers, the most notable being William & John Rigby of Suffolk Street, and William Trulock of several addresses in the Dublin gun-making quarter including Dame Street. The well-respected London maker, Stephen Grant, apprenticed to William Kavanagh in his youth.

    The rifle photo is an early side-by-side double-barrelled hammer gun built on the Jones-patent rotary under-lever action. While this might suggest a date of manufacture some time after 1859, a number of other features of this remarkable vintage firearm speak to us of a far more interesting origin! Neatly-executed and barely-visible metal patches dove-tailed into the tops of the chambers indicate that the gun was converted to central-fire from the earlier pin-fire ignition system. The relatively thin chamber walls and the shallow fences provide further evidence that the firearm is a conversion. The pin-fire system lasted only 15 years or so from its appearance in 1847 till the widespread acceptance of Daw’s central-fire patent by 1862. Conversion from pin-fire to central-fire was common as the benefits of the new system were quickly realised.

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    A prominent patch-box adorns the right hand side of the butt-stock, suggesting that the stock, and therefore probably the locks and possibly even the barrels, may have been salvaged from a percussion side-by-side muzzle-loader prior to the pin-fire conversion! The patch-box is of the correct diameter for 12-bore spherical ball patches, and is engraved with a tiger prowling among palm trees although the style is markedly different from the bold scroll engraving on the remainder of the gun.

    The short barrels measure just under 22 inches, with their wide 4-groove rifling making almost half a turn in that length for perhaps a 1:48 twist rate. The rifling lands are a little steeper on the leading edge and slightly rounded on the trailing edge, giving the impression of an intriguing ‘ratchet’ effect. The top rib is equipped with three folding leaves ambitiously marked for 100, 200 and 300 yards, with a moderate front bead measuring 80 thou in diameter. The absence of a standing leaf would have proven very handy for point-blank personal defense when the tiger was in dangerously close proximity to the hunter! This firearm is obviously intended to be pointed at the adversary at times, rather than aimed, and perhaps even 'prodded' at the point of discharge in dire circumstances!

    Information on the early 12-bore ball cartridge for which this double-gun was probably intended is rather sketchy in the historical literature. According to W.W. Greener’s tome, the most likely charge of the pin-fire cartridge used in these barrels prior to the conversion was 2 ¾ to 3 drams.

    Could this particular rifle have been intended for more general hunting than from a howdah? Most historical writings from Baker to Burrard would tend to indicate otherwise. Even at the beginning of the breech-loading era, the 3 dram charge and spherical ball was not considered particularly adequate for jungle shikar, and was probably rather light even as the primary arm in a howdah. As well as tiger and bear, buffalo and gaur were common quarry, and a rhinoceros or wild bull elephant in 'must' could not be ruled out.

    For such game, heavy bore-guns from the 5-dram No.12 up to the 10-dram No.8 were sine qua non during the mid to late 1800s. Double express rifles from .450 to .577 would soon become popular as bore-guns gradually faded from the scene, and although the 'Paradox' or 'Jungle Guns' were to enjoy brief popularity around the turn of the century, the various cordite express rifles would eclipse them all by the beginning of the Kaiser's War.

    Like the better-known howdah pistols, however, this stumpy 12-bore 3-dram rifle would have possessed all the short-range power required to dislodge an angry tiger from the elephant's head, at distances measured in feet and sometimes barely inches! Sadly, the attempts of modern man to distance himself from the soil have relegated many marvellous artefacts like this howdah rifle to insipid curiosity, and as a result the majority are now lost. For the avid hunter/collector, however, merely shouldering this surviving example conjures up the sights, smells, and excitement of shikar in that distant land so long long ago!

    Sources
    “Wild Beasts and Their Ways” by Sir Samuel Baker. MacMillan & Co, 1890.
    “Notes on Sporting Rifles” by Sir Gerald Burrard. 3rd Edition, 1932.
    “The Gun and Its Development” by W.W.Greener 9th Edition, 1910.
    “Gunmakers' Row, Dame Street and Environs, Dublin” by David Stroud pp 43 –45 in Classic Arms & Militaria Vol. XV Issue 2, 2008.
     
  2. Red Leg

    Red Leg GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    The twelve bore rifle is an extremely useful weapon. I have a William Evans paradox in 12 bore which I would be comfortable using out to a hundred meters on any cat in the world. It shoots 740 gr bullets, L/R into two inches at a 100 meters with total reliability. I have yet to take it to Africa, bit I have taken grouse and whitetail from the same ridge on the same morning with it.
     
  3. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Red leg,

    Do agree the .12 bore paradox are & were very fine guns, I have one .12 bore Lyon & Lyon , 22 inch non fouling oval barrelled , hammered grooved gun . I did use it firing very old Explora brass boxer cased conical bullets by Westley Richards , have to sun the cartridges but they hang fire slightly.
    Do take on the game in Africa with this ....


    Monish
     
  4. Marrakai

    Marrakai New Member

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    Hey Monish:
    Just curious about your personal ethics here mate.
    Signing your name at the bottom of the 'Tiger Tamer' article as if you wrote it is a bit steep.
    I'm the actual author of that article, also the photographer for the most part, and the Kavanagh bore-gun pictured is in my gunsafe.
    The original web-publication was in the Northern Territory Arms Collectors Club newsletter, published on the web here.

    Look, I'm a new member, my first post, a very late one on this thread, and this is a regrettable beginning....
    But Geez, surely this blatant plagiarism with absolutely no acknowledgement of the actual author is not an acceptable standard for the 'Africa Hunting' forums?

    If there is more to this, and I've missed something, apologies- perhaps the moderators would be kind enough to enlighten me.
     
  5. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Interesting...
     
  6. Red Leg

    Red Leg GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Marrakai, Monish has been posting articles here since I joined, but with the very different levels of comfort in english exhibited in his original postings and the articles, I just assumed he was reprinting them for the benefit of the broader audience on the forum. Several are extracts from anthologies in my own library. In short, I never even considered these as his original writing, and so never noticed that he never cited the source. But you are correct, neither with regard to yours nor the several others that I just pulled up does he credit the actual author or photographer. I would like to believe that there is some sort of lack of understanding of copyright, but you would think he would have at least accidentally scanned the actual author once. Having published a bit in my real profession, it would react just as you have done.
     
  7. Marrakai

    Marrakai New Member

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    Red Leg:
    Thanks for your explanation. Appreciated.
    I might have come to the same conclusion had it not been for the realization that Monish can only have downloaded the text and pictures separately to his own computer, altered some of the text, uploaded the photos to Africa Hunting (which are now water-marked) and then recompiled the article in the body of his post, adding his name at the end. I must confess to being rather annoyed at this level of deception and the clear inference that it is his own work, even if you all know better.

    While I'm a newbie on this forum I am no stranger to hunting & shooting forums per se, with thousands of posts on other sites over the years. If something is found that warrants sharing, the correct protocol is to flag it in a post and provide the link. Even uploading some of the photos is fine in context, provided that the author/owner is happy and proper acknowledgement is given. Those of us with common sense and good manners do this all the time. Only the profoundly ignorant would deliberately omit acknowledgement of the source and try to pass the research off as his own.

    My friends and I have no problem with stuff being passed around on the web, hopefully it all contributes to the corporate knowledge. That's why we toss it up there. If we wanted stuff kept private, we wouldn't post it. That said, this is the first time I have ever found any of my articles overtly misappropriated in this manner.

    Anyway, here to learn, not to pick fights, so hopefully this is the only personal violation I trip over on here.
     
  8. Red Leg

    Red Leg GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Altering some of the text would seem to indicate an act of commission rather than ommission. Not good. I would strongly urge you to send a note to Jerome directly with your concerns. He seems to monitor the site very closely, and I am certain he would not want to be complicit in misshandling intelectual property (i.e. watermarking your photography inappropriately after it had been published elsewhere.) Not all might be as understanding as you have been.
     
  9. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Marrakai, First let me welcome you to AH. I appreciate you being such a gentleman in regards to this matter as many in your position would not necessarily have reacted in such a polite manner. Please let me know if you would like me to remove this article and/or pictures from AH. As you can see I have edited the post to reflect the source including a link to your original article. Concerning the watermark, when pictures are uploaded into the photo gallery they are automatically watermarked. Just let me know what you would like me to do.
     
  10. James.Grage

    James.Grage GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Marrakai

    Welcome to AH and may you return to share some of your great insight.

    I also did not think Monish wrote the well written article, however he found it and was sharing another well written article with history and for all to read and see.

    When you do a search on the internet you will find articles and sometimes there is no reference to the author. Further check can be generated, however it becomes clouded as to who the real author is. I will not use that as an excuse for Monish, i should say.

    I would like to thank-you for letting us read your article.


    Jerome thank you for replying..
     
  11. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Hi Jerome,

    Our dear AH member Marrakai has taken the matter too seriously to heart.

    Nearly all members on this forum know that I put forth these write ups to enlighten & let the members know about the life of great hunters and their hunting experiences,and for that I need to take snips from the web and books and compile it for the members of AH.com.This is not easy as it sounds as I have to put in my precious time,effort,money and brains to gather information.

    When I compile,I am not saying nor did I ever project that they all are my original piece of writing ,but because they come under named 'Monish' should not be the reason to annoy members,as I am not using any of the original pieces for any commercial reason or purpose.

    I would really like to ask how many of us ever knew or know about the great hunters of the yesteryear's,their hunting wanderings and record class trophies they took or about the famous calibers & the famous guns /rifles,if I as a member contribute to bring to light these findings,I should be appreciated and not condemned as if am here craving for fame.
    I just enjoy learning more about the hunters of lost golden era & the present .......

    Monish
     
  12. Marrakai

    Marrakai New Member

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    Monish:
    Just to put this thread to bed...

    In partial agreement with your sentiments and justification, I (like the rest of us) am keen to learn about the history of shikar and bygone times. Lifting sections from unpublished or out-of-print works and tossing them up on the web is perhaps the only way many of us will get to see much of this marvelous material.

    I sincerely hope you continue to do this.

    I would suggest however that if an article is already published on the web, as this one is, the only ethical course of action is to post a link to the webpage, with your own words in a covering post as you see fit.

    The story in question is published on a 'permanent' registered domain (not just a 'dot-com') and has been available to all global web-surfers without restriction for several years. It went up more than two years before you appropriated the text and photos and is still there today of course.

    As a final point, deliberately omitting any reference to the author and source of original material 'quoted' in your posts is considered unethical and would not win you many friends in my hunting camp.

    If you ever publish any of your own work on the web, I trust you will not have to experience seeing your words appear without acknowledgement in someone else's post.


    .
    .
    .
    ps: Thanks for adding the source info Jerome, and thanks all for your patience...
     
  13. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    As someone who has also published articles (magazine and compilation type books), I have to agree with Marrakai as well. While I too assumed Monish did not write the article, he really should have given credit to its author.
     
  14. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Hi Marrakai,

    I sincerely apologize , for not mentioning the original source of the write up in question .

    You have written a brilliant article, about the lesser known Howdah rifles.Lot of our AH members have come to know about the versatility of these rifles during the black powder tiger hunting days.

    My quite a few articles have been depicted in some hunting & gun forums, and my original personal family hunting pictures projected by writers as from the collection of their own, but I am not gunning them down instead I am happy that the hunting fraternity & enthusiasts across the globe do gather some information about the Royal hunting era in India & Africa once upon a time.

    I am sorry for have had offended you. Thanks for all your kind patience.

    Monish
     

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