4 Bore Smoothbores for dangerous game?

4 Bore

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an interesting part of this discussion is the need to harden projectiles in order to get anything like penetration.
today, the commonest way to harden lead bullets is by adding tin.
the max hardness that can be obtained with tin added is 1 part tin to 10 parts lead.
to go harder you need to add antimony, but this cannot alloy with lead unless ton is also present.
the problem with antimony is that the harder the bullet gets, the more inclined it is to shatter on striking a target.
this could be signing your own death warrant on dangerous game.
the victorians used mercury added to lead to harden it, but who wants to do that!
hardened conical bullets would be a given for dangerous game, which means a rifled barrel.
bruce.
Further reason to stick to my .450 Nitro Express instead of trying to use a 4 bore Smoothbore on those brutes
 

flatwater bill

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Since your 4 bore is a smooth, you can fire only roundballs, shot or Foster slugs. Not conicals. The shot and Fosters would not be suitable for any real hunting of heavies. Fosters must be soft enough to obturate, or swell. That leaves you with the RB. While there is much good advice posted above, there are also many misunderstandings regarding the RB. 4 bores were often not rifled because as one old gunsmith wrote "as soon as we added any rifling, the recoil became intolerable". Also, very difficult to pound a hardened patched ball down a rifled bbl, especially after a few shots had fouled the bore. At local Mtn Man shoots, at 50 paces, it is not uncommon for a smooth bore to win the target shoot. At 60 paces things start to change rapidly. Dinner plate at 100yds is optimistic. The penetration of a RB can be as great as you like....just by getting it big enough and hard enough. Of course, 4 bore is the reasonable limit for humans, and the penetration therefore is velocity and bullet hardness dependent. Samuel Baker shot 3 oz roundballs entirely thru the head of bull elephant. Exiting laterally. And while that gun was a two groove rifle, at shorter range it would have done pretty well as a smooth, I imagine. I have shot literally thousands of RB in the last 50 years. Targeted a lot, tested penetration a lot, shot about 100 head of game. At short ranges I cannot see much difference in penetration between the rifled and the smooth, all else being equal (hardness, vel). And having met Lwv, I would have great confidence in his ability to back me up if needed. You have big enough balls. Use them.....load them up and go after a buff.....and report here.............................good hunting .......FW Bill
 

4 Bore

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Since your 4 bore is a smooth, you can fire only roundballs, shot or Foster slugs. Not conicals. The shot and Fosters would not be suitable for any real hunting of heavies. Fosters must be soft enough to obturate, or swell. That leaves you with the RB. While there is much good advice posted above, there are also many misunderstandings regarding the RB. 4 bores were often not rifled because as one old gunsmith wrote "as soon as we added any rifling, the recoil became intolerable". Also, very difficult to pound a hardened patched ball down a rifled bbl, especially after a few shots had fouled the bore. At local Mtn Man shoots, at 50 paces, it is not uncommon for a smooth bore to win the target shoot. At 60 paces things start to change rapidly. Dinner plate at 100yds is optimistic. The penetration of a RB can be as great as you like....just by getting it big enough and hard enough. Of course, 4 bore is the reasonable limit for humans, and the penetration therefore is velocity and bullet hardness dependent. Samuel Baker shot 3 oz roundballs entirely thru the head of bull elephant. Exiting laterally. And while that gun was a two groove rifle, at shorter range it would have done pretty well as a smooth, I imagine. I have shot literally thousands of RB in the last 50 years. Targeted a lot, tested penetration a lot, shot about 100 head of game. At short ranges I cannot see much difference in penetration between the rifled and the smooth, all else being equal (hardness, vel). And having met Lwv, I would have great confidence in his ability to back me up if needed. You have big enough balls. Use them.....load them up and go after a buff.....and report here.............................good hunting .......FW Bill
Thank you so much for your advice , sir. Do you fire your round ball loads from rifled guns or Smoothbores ? And what caliber are they ?
 

flatwater bill

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4B..............I have cast, and shot a variety of RB's from many guns. James Forsyth's book from 1869 was big influence on me, and his favorite all round gun (Ha) was a 14 bore. (69 cal) This would of course, shoot a 500 grain ball, but patching and hardening agents reduce this a bit. 478 was actual weight. 180 grains 2F. I have a similar gun. But as I hunt mostly in the Rocky Mtns of the USA, I principally use .62 caliber. I have both rifled and smooth, and both flint and caplock. I also shoot a 45, 50. 54 and .58, and own 16, 12, and 10 bores. A round ball cuts the biggest hole for bullet wt, has the highest velocity all else equal, and the flattest trajectory out to about 150 yards, of the old guns. The killing power of a RB is often underestimated, because rifle hunters can't get their minds around the fact that .50 is tiny, and with an RB load may deliver 22 rimfire energies at 100+ yards. So with RB is very underpowered. Small RB loads lose about half their energy at 50 yds. Big ones plough the air a little better. Combine that with the absolute requirement to shoot pure lead (liability reasons) and penetration and bone breaking are limited. Not so with a big round ball gun. A .62 RB, lightly hardened, Driven with 140 2F in my rifled caplock, or 115 3F in my smoothbore flint, have killed 13 elk and bunch of other game here in the west. Cleanly. FWIW, a 2oz hardened RB in an October Country 8 bore has killed many a bull elephant..(regretably, not by me)..................good hunting.........................FW Bill
 

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4B..............I have cast, and shot a variety of RB's from many guns. James Forsyth's book from 1869 was big influence on me, and his favorite all round gun (Ha) was a 14 bore. (69 cal) This would of course, shoot a 500 grain ball, but patching and hardening agents reduce this a bit. 478 was actual weight. 180 grains 2F. I have a similar gun. But as I hunt mostly in the Rocky Mtns of the USA, I principally use .62 caliber. I have both rifled and smooth, and both flint and caplock. I also shoot a 45, 50. 54 and .58, and own 16, 12, and 10 bores. A round ball cuts the biggest hole for bullet wt, has the highest velocity all else equal, and the flattest trajectory out to about 150 yards, of the old guns. The killing power of a RB is often underestimated, because rifle hunters can't get their minds around the fact that .50 is tiny, and with an RB load may deliver 22 rimfire energies at 100+ yards. So with RB is very underpowered. Small RB loads lose about half their energy at 50 yds. Big ones plough the air a little better. Combine that with the absolute requirement to shoot pure lead (liability reasons) and penetration and bone breaking are limited. Not so with a big round ball gun. A .62 RB, lightly hardened, Driven with 140 2F in my rifled caplock, or 115 3F in my smoothbore flint, have killed 13 elk and bunch of other game here in the west. Cleanly. FWIW, a 2oz hardened RB in an October Country 8 bore has killed many a bull elephant..(regretably, not by me)..................good hunting.........................FW Bill
Bill, You have far more BP round ball experience than me, but he is having a SxS shotgun built - not a rifle. It will be proofed for shotgun loads, not for 8, much less 4 - bore rifle loads. I will be a heavy brute, but I doubt designed to fire the sorts of loads one of the old single barrel 4-bore muskets could tolerate (BP or in modern smokeless guise) - or something like the modern October Country 8-bore reincarnation can handle which is, after all, a rifle and designed for rifle loads and pressures. Like any SxS, it will be able to safely handle loads generating pressures within the range of its shot loads. That would indeed be a big hunk of lead, but not with the sort of velocity or accuracy to make me comfortable suggesting someone take on thick-skin DG with it.
 
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flatwater bill

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Red Leg...........ya....you may be right, I have no knowledge of the specific firearm that is being made. But the standard charge for a 4 bore with shot, in the samples that I have here in my collection, is 3 oz of no. 1 shot and 8 drams of powder......so I would be surprised if modern steel barrels would be weaker. A hardened 4 oz ball and even 8 drams of powder would be worth practicing with, and testing before writing it off. Selous said of his weapon, "it is an ordinary duck gun"....and never less than "20 drams of powder (550 grains)"....I agree, care should be taken.....An interesting project..........................FW Bill
 

bruce moulds

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my own experience with shooting big lead bullets at game is limited.
it consists of shooting feral pigs with 577 pure lead minie bullets driven by 240 gns of 2f black powder.
when these bullets hit the fighting pads on the pigs' shoulders then went into the shape of a coin and failed to penetrate dismally.
several times i was lucky to be in the vicinity of a friend with a 30/06.
bruce.
 

BeeMaa

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3) A .450 Nitro Express Double Rifle made by John Rigby . I bought this gun myself , after saving years of my wages as a lawyer. I use Hornady solids with it and it is my favourite all round weapon. I have used solid bullets for cape buffalo and expanding bullets for deer sized game. I really like it because it is more than powerful enough to reliably stop dangerous game ( even in a charge ) , while still being acceptable to use on the lighter class of game with the right kind of bullets , unlike a .577 NE or a .600 NE . It also has a very controllable recoil and outstanding accuracy ( something l was not expecting in a double ).
Love to see a picture of your buffalo.
 

Russ-F

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Red Leg...........ya....you may be right, I have no knowledge of the specific firearm that is being made. But the standard charge for a 4 bore with shot, in the samples that I have here in my collection, is 3 oz of no. 1 shot and 8 drams of powder......so I would be surprised if modern steel barrels would be weaker. A hardened 4 oz ball and even 8 drams of powder would be worth practicing with, and testing before writing it off. Selous said of his weapon, "it is an ordinary duck gun"....and never less than "20 drams of powder (550 grains)"....I agree, care should be taken.....An interesting project..........................FW Bill

Bill,
I don’t know about elsewhere but the charges used in 4 bore cartridges in the UK varied from 3 oz to over 4 oz with the 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 oz 9 dram load & the 4oz 8 dram loads being the most popular. The last production run Eley-Kynoch did (1960’s from memory) was the 3oz load which Eley picked as it was suitable for even the shorter chambered 4 bores. As it’s the most recent production this is the cartridge most commonly seen now.

Few wildfowers used a 3 oz load as heavier ones were preferred, just how heavy depended on the weight of the gun & the fortitude of it’s user.

Brass cased cartridges allowed heavier loads (with BP) to be used compared to paper cased loads. Some makers offered 10 dram loads with 3-1/2 oz of shot.

My own gun was built for 4oz 9 dram loads.

Regards
Russell
 

flatwater bill

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Thanks for info Russell........3.5 oz backed by 10 drams should have been a beast of a load for swans. Would have like to have seen them, and even shot a goose or two with a 4 bore. Yes, my loads are later Eley and they are 3 oz, but even so, they would have been quite a cloud of shot. Some of the older literature lists the weight of 4 bore round balls, with their heavy patching and lighter-than-lead hardening agents as not too much over 3 oz. Depending upon bbl length and a few other variables, a 1600 grain round ball (ave enough figure) driven by 8 drams (218 grains) should have produced about 1000- 1100 fps...(3600-4300 ft lbs energy)....I believe it would be quite lethal for buffalo.........but then, I'm not the one that must stop a charge. ...perhaps this thread author will show us a foto of the gun one day!......................good hunting.....................FW Bill
 

4 Bore

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Thanks for info Russell........3.5 oz backed by 10 drams should have been a beast of a load for swans. Would have like to have seen them, and even shot a goose or two with a 4 bore. Yes, my loads are later Eley and they are 3 oz, but even so, they would have been quite a cloud of shot. Some of the older literature lists the weight of 4 bore round balls, with their heavy patching and lighter-than-lead hardening agents as not too much over 3 oz. Depending upon bbl length and a few other variables, a 1600 grain round ball (ave enough figure) driven by 8 drams (218 grains) should have produced about 1000- 1100 fps...(3600-4300 ft lbs energy)....I believe it would be quite lethal for buffalo.........but then, I'm not the one that must stop a charge. ...perhaps this thread author will show us a foto of the gun one day!......................good hunting.....................FW Bill
Mr. Bill , you are 100 % right about the older guns firing 3 -3.5 ounce round balls.
George P Sanderson , the only known hunter to use a 4 bore breech loading Smoothbore ball gun ( made by WW Greener ) said in his great book " Wild beasts of India " that his " 4 Bore " actually fired a ball weighing 3 1/2 ounces . So you are right . His gun was regulated for 12 drams . But there are a couple of things about Mr. Sanderson's book that l noticed. He is the ONLY documented Big Game Hunter to use a Breech loading 4 Bore Smoothbore Ball gun ( that l know of ) . Every one else who used Breech loading 4 bores were using rifles ( Like Ewart Grogan and Harold G C Swayne who used fully rifled 4 bore Holland and Holland 4 bores ).
Also , Mr. Sanderson's himself admits that his total bag was 20 elephants in his entire life. Out of these 20 , He killed 5 of them with a RIFLED 4 BORE single barrel made by Lang. He Killed 7 of them using an 8 Bore Double RIFLE. He also said he killed " several " with a 12 bore double rifle . From his wording , it would appear that he actually got very few of those 20 elephants with his 4 Bore Smoothbore. And he does mention that that in 3 occasions , the 4 bore Round ball fired from his ball gun failed to penetrate an elephants brain , after a temple shot.
This , combined with what my gunmakers said ( About a Smoothbore 4 bore firing slugs / round balls lacking the penetration of a rifle ) and the words of wisdom from most of the gentlemen here , seems rather disconcerting.
I think that when l go off to shoot the cape buffalo with my Watson Bros 4 bore ball gun , l will try stalking them as close as possible and try using a lung shot to take it down . As a backup , l will Obviously have my .450 NE nearby . If l see impressive results , then the 4 bore will accompany my .450 NE to all my Safaris to use on Buffalo and other big game. If l am unsatisfied with the results , then l will probably send the gun back to Watson Brothers to get it rebarrelled with fully choked barrels and from then on , l will use it as a dedicated wild fowling gun only , and use it to replace my Beretta 12 bore Over under shotgun for Duck and Geese .
 

4 Bore

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Interestingly enough , l found this old advertisement online from J & W Tolley in the early 1890s . Apparently Tolley WAS offering a paradox style Ball- And - Shot gun in 4 Bore . I wonder if any were ever actually made though.

Screenshot_20181201-225603_01.png
 
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BeeMaa

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BeeMaa

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You said you had used solid bullets for buffalo...
Was this some new type of catch and release I'm not aware of?
 

4 Bore

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You said you had used solid bullets for buffalo...
Was this some new type of catch and release I'm not aware of?
Ha Ha .
Oh , that . I am afraid l don't have any photos yet. I was still using a Nokia Flip phones in that time. I'm not very tech savvy and didn't buy a smart phone until this year ( Hell , l wasn't even a member of this forum until last week ) . But now that l do , you guys will constantly be seeing pics of my latest hunting experiences.
BTW , that gun was a. 450 NE using Hornady DGS( Dangerous Game Solid ) rounds
 

BeeMaa

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I'm pretty close to dropping this thread.
Done having my time and energy wasted.
 

cal pappas

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Gentlemen:
So sorry for the late reply. I should spend more time here but I'm not much into computers or phones.
Anyway, this thread is of great interest to me and for the past few days I have been emailing 4-bore. It is my hope he will attend the double shoot here in Alaska May 4th.
For what it is worth:
Greener states in his book a smooth bore will shoot as accurately as a rifled bore to about 60 yards.
I've had a a couple of smooth bores and they all shot very well--better than I could shoot.
If all is equal (barrel length, powder charge, projectile weight, etc.) a smooth bore will give higher velocity as the projectile does not lose velocity by forcing itself through the rifling. And, recoil will be less for the same reason.
I believe there is a 4-bore Paradox in the Holland showroom in Manhattan, in the gun room on the 5th floor.
Now, I'm not much of a shot, but here are two 40-yard targets from my 4-bore Hughes; 28-inch barrels and fully rifled with a bore diameter of .970". I have shot both loads with an additonal 20 grains of Blue Dot but the groups opened a bit. The distance here should easily give pie plate accuracy at 100 yards. I've only shot two animals with the 4--two bison in South Dakota. One was a meat animal and the other a good trophy.
Oh, if anyone is interested, the 4 is for sale. It's not cheap but it's one hell of a double: accurate, good condition, 22 pounds (23 when loaded), shiny bores, rebounding hammers.
In researching my book on British bore rifles, I would guess approximatley 100 double rifle 4s were made in the vintage years, more shotguns, of course, and some single shots that were made for the lighter charges of powder and lead.
4-bore: can I interest you in this 4? I will make a nice pair with the one you are having made.
Good day to you all.
Cal



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Sir , that's exactly the problem. I tried getting one gun that could do both. I figured that since l already own two rifles and a shotgun , l could have a gun made which could serve both purposes. Then , l got the 4 bore. It will weigh 20 pounds and have 26 inch barrels. I knew from the beginning , that it wouldn't be the ideal weight for wingshooting , but l can carry a 20 pound gun slung on my shoulder for an hour or so , without feeling much discomfort. ( I carried a friend's .600 NE Double once , the whole day , during our walk from camp ) It wasnt going to be a dedicated wing shooting gun . More of a Ball Gun , which can be used for taking down wild fowl in a pinch. And what you said about the 40 % pattern is exactly what my gunmakers said . He said that a 4 bore carteicar carries 3 times the shot of a 12 bore. BUT he also added that with ZERO choke , the pattern would be bad , since it would spread TOO much , with many holes in it. I still went forward with the idea of getting the gun hoping that at least it would be a powerful Smoothbore ball gun.
And l 100 % agree with you about having two sets of barrels ( one rifled for bullet and one choked for shot ) . It would be a good thing indeed. I suppose l was tempted at the idea of being able to use both bullet and shot from the same set of barrels without needing to change it in the field ( Because even though l don't object to carrying a 20 pound 4 bore , l wouldn't always want to carry a spare set of barrels with me ).
Then l found out that a 4 bore Smoothbore firing slug would lack the penetration / stopping energy of a Rifle . This combined with the " Dinner plate " accuracy up to 50 yards , got me to realize that l could only use it for lungshot via broadside at very close range and that it won't be a " charge stopper " like l thought.

4 bore, I would love to see your old .450 Rigby..any photos..?

You also casually mention that you carried a friends .600 double in Africa....would you care to elaborate wich brand it is..? History..? Any pics..?

We love old double rifles around here, especially the old british ones...(y)
 
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