The Double Barrelled Rifle : Function Versus Form

Major Khan

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First off , Happy New year to all of the honorable members of African Hunting forums . I hope that everyone had a pleasant time with their families , friends and loved ones .
Now , back to business .

I have decided that l am going to commence my 1st article of 2020 with a topic that has been generating a significant amount of debate ever since the 1900s among lovers of fine sporting firearms :
Do you NEED a double barreled rifle for the hunting of dangerous game animals ?
In 1963 , l was guiding a group of foreign client shikarees in Uttarakhand for royal Bengal tigers . Among the group was an English gentleman and an American gentleman . The English gentleman brought a .375 Holland & Holland magnum calibre double barreled rifle , built by John Rigby and Co , a most beautiful and ornately engraved weapon . The American gentleman had brought a Winchester Model 70 bolt rifle chambered in the .338 Winchester magnum cartridge . While both gentlemen were exceptionally kind to me , l noticed that the English gentleman was constantly making some rather condescending remarks towards the American gentleman indirectly . He would loudly remark about how a man who could not afford a double barreled rifle had no place hunting Indian dangerous game . He also loudly remarked that bolt rifles were a " Poor American's pathetic attempt at hunting the grand game of India without spending money for the proper tools " . I did not think too highly of the English gentleman making the American gentleman uncomfortable ( especially since the American gentleman was simply minding his own business ) . So , l ended up telling him " Sir , as your professional shikaree , it is my duty to make sure that all our clients undergo no inconvenience . Even if that inconvenience happens to be an other client . " That got my point across to the gentleman . At the end of this article , l will relate how that shikar ended. However , let us examine the English gentleman's statement for a moment . I believe that the English gentleman's and the American gentleman's philosophy was fairly representative of how English gentlemen and American gentlemen of the 1960s viewed hunting in general. While the English gentleman believed that hunting was only something to be enjoyed by the rich upper classes , the American gentleman believed that hunting was a God given right for every common man .


Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself at the Maharashtra police station in March of 1972 , of a vast quantity of British double barreled rifles confiscated from the homes of local Land Lords ( or " Zamindaars" as we would call them ) by the Maharashtra police after the passing of the Wild Life Protection Act in 1972 , when all Indian Police began to systematically confiscate all imported fire arms from Indian civilians . All the fine rifles pictured ( and virtually all other imported fire arms ) were sadly turned to scrap metal ( However , l suspect that a great number were sold in shady deals under the table to rich rich foreigners ) . Fortunately for me , my beloved 12 calibre Belgian shot gun was already safe at my new home in Bangladesh and l had only returned to India to resolve some unfinished business .
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Now , back on topic . The traditional double barreled rifle is a side by side weapon . However the British company , Boss was ( l believe ) the 1st to introduce the over under concept in a double barreled rifle. During my visits to America , Great Britain and continental Europe , l would always visit firearms shops whenever l had the opportunity. My observation thus , is that the side by side concept remained popular in Great Britain predominantly . However , in America and Continental Europe , the over under concept enjoys good popularity .

If anyone has read the works of Sir Samuel White Baker , President Theodore Roosevelt or my childhood hero , the great Jim Corbett , then you will read of what an instrumental role the large calibre double barreled rifle has historically played in the hunting of dangerous African and Indian game animals . In the late 19th century and the early 20th century , the thought of going to an African safari or an Indian shikar without a (few) double barrelled rifle(s) was unimaginable .
This was at a time when the largest bolt rifle calibres were 7 × 57 mm Mauser and .303 British , using a 175 grain and a 215 grain bullet respectively . While countless dangerous game have been taken with both ( and smaller ) calibres , they are certainly not dangerous game calibres by any stretch of imagination.

Today , however excellent bolt rifles and semi automatic rifles (and even the odd lever rifle ) exist in large calibres built for safely taking dangerous game . So , does that essentially make the double barrelled rifle obsolete ? Or is it still a MUST for the hunting of dangerous game ?

Let us take a look at some of the areas where a double barreled rifle ( allegedly) shines :
* Traditionally , double barreled rifles can use larger calibre cartridges than bolt rifles ( Generally speaking )
Indeed , the most powerful rifle which l have ever seen being used in my career as a professional shikaree , was a client's .476 Westley Richards calibre double barreled side by side rifle , built by the English company , Westley Richards .
Loaded with 520 grain ICI Kynoch solid metal covered cartridges , l saw that rifle completely flatten an Indian water buffalo and crumple a charging gaur , like no other rifle l had ever seen .
* A double barreled rifle allows you to squeeze off a 2nd shot immediately by the simple pull of a 2nd trigger ( assuming that your double barreled rifle has twin triggers ) . This supersedes the bolt rifle or semi automatic rifle in terms of sheer speed . This quick 2nd shot might someday be what ends up saving the shikaree ( or someone in the shikar party ) from
getting gored or mauled by a savage beast .
* A double barreled rifle guarantees you the 2nd shot , without needing to rely on any of the mechanical properties of the rifle as there is literally no chance of encountering a failure to fire. This can be a matter of life or death in situations where something big, angry and dangerous is mere seconds away from charging at you . Imagine experiencing an extraction problem in your bolt rifle , while a wounded royal Bengal tiger is getting ready to pounce on you ? I have had this unfortunately happen to my clients more than a few times , which required me ( the professional shikaree ) to step in and stop the charge .

Below , l have provided a few photographs of some wounded royal Bengal tigers which l have had to dispatch after they had charged my client(s) or other shikarees , often at very close range .
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Let us now see how many of these perceived advantages are actually true .

1stly , the notion that double barreled rifles can inherently hold larger calibre cartridges than bolt rifles , certainly is not true these days anymore. Infact , powerful bolt rifle cartridges have existed for at least more than a century now . For instance :
* The .450/ 400 Nitro Express ( a classic double barreled rifle cartridge propelling a 400 grain bullet ) has it's ballistic counterpart in a bolt rifle - The .404 Jeffery .
* The .470 Nitro Express ( a classic double barreled rifle cartridge propelling a 500 grain bullet ) has it's ballistic counterpart - The .458 Lott
* The .500 Nitro Express ( a classic double barreled rifle cartridge propelling a 570 grain bullet ) has it's ballistic counterpart - The .500 Jeffery ( assuming that you are using the 570 grain and not the 535 grain bullet )

The only 2 double barreled rifle calibres which do not ( appear to ) have a ballistic counterpart in a bolt rifle are the .577 Nitro Express ( propelling a 750 grain bullet ) and the .600 Nitro Express ( burning a 900 grain bullet ) .
Below , is a photograph kindly lent to me by my good friend , former colleague and fellow forum member , Sergeant Kawshik Rahman taken by him in an auction house in Sirguja in the late 1950s . It is a .600 Nitro Express double barreled rifle , built by the British company , Holland & Holland for His Royal Excellence , the Maharajah of Sirguja during the British Colonial era.
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His Royal Excellence used this behemoth weapon to hunt the mighty gaur bison of India , which could weigh as much as 2000 pounds in a fully grown male . Below, l have provided a photograph taken by myself of a gaur which l had killed , along with my shikar partner , the late Tobin Stakkatz.
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In practical terms however , this is no handicap . If my observations are accurate , no 1 actually uses anything above .500 bore these days , even for the largest of bull elephants ( as per a survey which l had conducted on these forums last month ) .
Thus , it stands to reason that ( in practical terms ) every calibre of double barreled rifle has a counterpart in a bolt rifle .
Therefore , we can dispel the notion that double barreled rifles can be chambered in larger calibres than bolt rifles .

Let us talk about the factor of reliability for a moment . Yes , it is true that in the old days a bolt rifle did not have the 100 % reliability of a double barreled rifle in a situation involving dangerous game . Even in comparatively recent times , like the 1960s where Kawshik and l were guiding international clients for shikar in India full swing , both Kawshik and l have seen more than a few bolt rifles and lever rifles experience jams for various reasons . In the 1960s , when l used to be a professional shikaree , many of my American clients used to bring custom rifles made by “ Master gun smiths “ which were invariably built on military surplus Mauser actions . These custom rifles were invariably chambered in .300 Winchester magnum , .338 Winchester magnum , .375 Holland & Holland magnum or .458 Winchester magnum . Many of these rifles were notorious for experiencing embarrassing failures , often at the worst of times . A common problem which we encountered with these custom rifles built on military surplus Mauser actions , was that the magazine follower spring would often break after a while . Yes , metal fatigue used to be a very serious problem , during our time .
Another problem common with these rifles was that the magazine floor plate would often spring open after a shot was fired due to the recoil , dumping the remaining cartridges at the shooter’s feet . Imagine this happening when a wild India Bush Boar is charging at you with it’s tusks . I need not belabor the obvious consequences for the shikar party. In my eyes these jams are quite understandable. Those original military surplus Mauser actions were designed for 7 x 57 mm Mauser or 8 x 57 mm Mauser cartridges. You cannot modify them to use a cartridge like a .458 Winchester magnum by simply attaching a .458 Winchester magnum barrel to it. Extensive work must be done to various parts of the action , especially the feeding rails and the magazine follower , to ensure proper 100 % reliability.
There were 2 American custom rifle makers ( whose work l have personally seen ) , whose rifles were unrivalled in reliability . The 1st was the bespoke rifles made by the American company , Griffin & Howe .
The 2nd was the rifles made by a gentleman named " Fred Wells " .

My maternal grandfather , Sepoy Jalaluddin Khan used a .405 Winchester Model 1895 lever rifle extensively for hunting dangerous game . While he put it to good use ( 5 forest panthers and 2 royal Bengal tigers can attest to that ), that old rifle did have certain requirements to keep it 100 % reliable . Even though the rifle could hold 5 cartridges , loading it to full magazine capacity could ( for some reason ) induce a jam , often at the worst of times . My grandfather dealt with this issue , by loading the rifle with 4 cartridges. Attempting to re fill a partially expended magazine could at times , lead to a jam . My grandfather would deal with this problem by not re loading the Model 1895 until he had expended all of the cartridges in the magazine , which was certainly a very inconvenient thing to do , especially when having to deal with man eating royal Bengal tigers and rogue elephants . Also , that Model 1895 could jam if you re loaded the rifle in a hurry. However , l subscribe this more to the rimmed cartridge case of the .405 Winchester calibre than the lever action of the rifle .
In the 1960s , when l was guiding clients for shikar in Nagpur , India , l noticed that there were 3 rifle actions which were EXTREMELY reliable and never experienced jams of any sort :
1) The Pattern 14 Enfield action
2) The Brevex magnum Mauser action
( Kawshik's personal favorite )
3) The pre 64 Winchester Model 70 action ( my personal favorite )


While it is quite a primitive weapon by modern standards , my old ( but well maintained and high quality ) Belgian 12 calibre double barreled side by side shot gun had 1 quality above all others which kept me , my shikar party and my clients alive during the 10 years that l worked as a professional shikaree - It ALWAYS fired . EVERY single time l ever pulled the triggers .
Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of my faithful companion for the last 61 years .
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So yes , in the old days a double barreled weapon was ( generally speaking ) much more reliable than a bolt rifle or a lever rifle for hunting dangerous game .
However , this is 2020 . Any issues relating to reliability in repeating rifles have LONG been resolved many years ago. Indeed , as l read many threads on African Hunting forums , l read so many praises about the reliability of so many modern bolt rifles :
* Montana Model 99
* Blaser R 8
* Heym bolt rifles
* BRNO ZKK 600 series / CZ 550 series
* Mayfair magnum Mauser ( only on English custom rifles , to my knowledge )
As an icing on the cake , Winchester has ( very wisely ) re introduced the control round feed concept in their Model 70 bolt rifles since 1992 .

With modern manufacturing techniques and so many good options present on the market today , an unbiased gentleman honestly cannot say that a bolt rifle is any less reliable than a double barreled rifle these days . Thus , a double barreled rifle can ( in most cases ) be equaled in reliability by a bolt rifle these days with ease .

We now come to the question of speed . This is ( in my mind ) the 1 area where a double barreled rifle will always beat a bolt rifle , 10 times out of 10 .
Even the most skilled operator will need a second to operate the bolt of a bolt rifle , in order to chamber the next round . A double barreled rifle with twin triggers however , will allow the operator to fire off the 2nd barrel in a fraction of a second . This can determine a matter of life and death in certain situations . When you are pursuing a wounded panther into the thickets and it charges , that is when a double barreled rifle begins to really show it's usefulness. The sheer speed of a panther essentially renders the bolt rifle as a single shot rifle . 1 simply does not have the time to operate the bolt in order to chamber a 2nd round . This is where the 2nd barrel of a double barreled rifle comes in really handy . You have the option for that instant 2nd shot should your 1st shot prove inadequate for any reason . To a lesser degree , this advantage also comes to shine when a shikaree is pursuing a wounded royal Bengal tiger or a wounded gaur into the thickets . However, even if a bolt rifle can work acceptably well in those situations , a double barreled rifle is the only way to go if you are having to follow up a wounded panther into the dense bushes .

Thus , we can conclude by saying that in modern times , the only 1 of the double barreled rifles’ perceived advantages is that it allows for the instant 2nd shot in a split second. However , truth be told ... exactly how many client hunters pursue wounded panthers into the thickets anyway ?
This is the work of the White Hunter or the professional shikaree . Their work is to pursue any dangerous game into the thickets which was wounded by their clients.
A client’s main objective is to make sure that their 1st bullet is accurately placed in a vital spot of the brute which they are hunting. Doing so correctly , will negate the necessity for a 2nd shot and make the shikar all the more enjoyable and safe. Thus , this concept alone makes the double barreled rifle’s biggest advantage a little superfluous for a client shikaree.

Now that we have discussed all of the advantages of the double barreled rifle , let us discuss the disadvantages. There are areas where a double barreled rifle falls short .
1stly , a double barreled rifle will invariably be far more expensive than a good bolt rifle . The reason is because manufacturers of double barreled rifles will need to make the 2 barrels of the rifle regulate to the same point of impact . This is an extremely labor intensive task , especially in double barreled rifles of larger calibres , because it will be flat out uncomfortable for the gun makers to keep shooting with the rifle until both barrels regulate to the same point of impact .
As much as we do not like to think of expenses , it is a very important consideration when making any decision in life , not the least being : What rifle do l purchase for my safari / shikar ?

2ndly , most shooters will find that a double barreled rifle is more difficult for accomplishing long range shots than a bolt rifle . This is purely understandable . A bolt rifle with it’s single front sight and back sight will inherently be easier for a novice shooter to line up and accurately fire , than a double barreled rifle , especially a side by side pattern rifle . Take the average American client , for example . This gentleman will have probably spent years since boyhood shooting white tail deer and mule deer in his own homeland with a bolt rifle , like a Winchester Model 70 , a Remington Model 700 or a sporterized Springfield Model 1903 . He will be accustomed to it and treat it almost as if it is an extension of his arm . This gentleman’s shooting skills would only suffer if he suddenly decided to take along a double barreled rifle for his 1st African safari or Indian shikar. At any rate , l believe that the optimal range for using a large calibre double barreled rifle is 45 to 50 yards , but certainly not more .
Below , l have provided a basic drawing made by myself ( rather crudely , l admit ) of how l understand a double barreled rifle works . Excuse the .22 Long Rifle empty cartridge cases . I was out shooting a few wild pigeons earlier this morning for trying out a new recipe .
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The regulation of a double barreled rifle works like this. Up to a certain distance , both barrels are regulated to hit the same point of impact. After this point , the bullets will start producing increasingly larger and inaccurate groups .In a good double barreled rifle , this point of impact is usually at 45 to 50 yards . In a substandard double barreled rifle , this may be as low as 30 yards. In a very poorly regulated double barreled rifle , the shooter may even be unfortunate enough to experience “ cross firing “ . What this means is that the bullets will produce extremely large and erratic groups even at very close distances . I was 1st introduced to the concept of “ cross firing “ as a child , when l had read “ A hunter’s wanderings “ written by Captain Frederick Courteney Sealous . Captain Sealous spoke of owning a poorly made double barreled rifle of 10 calibre which used to “ cross fire “ . Only years later , when l joined the Bangladesh Ordinance Factories as an assistant supervisor in the 1980s , did l learn more about the technical aspects of fire arms . It was then , through extensive reading on the subject matter ( and carrying out a few tests with my 12 calibre Belgian side by side shot gun and hand loaded spherical ball cartridges ) , that l was properly able to understand what “ cross firing “ really is .


The 3rd disadvantage of the double barreled rifle is arguably the most serious of them all in some situations , as my learned fellow forum member and friend , @New Boomer pointed out , in a thread on these forums once . A double barreled rifle ( on account of the 2 barrels and every thing which l have already discussed above , with regards to regulation) is a very picky eater of ammunition. It may produce marvelous results with 1 very specific make and model of ammunition. However , it will produce vastly erratic and inconsistent groups with other kinds of ammunition. Let us take a .470 Nitro Express double barreled rifle made by John Rigby and Co. in 1947 , as an example. It will be regulated for ICI Kynoch 500 grain solid metal covered bullets .
If a shooter attempts to use a box of .470 Nitro Express solid metal covered 500 grain cartridges from Federal ( the brand ) in this double barreled rifle , they will be lucky to hit a tea tray at 50 yards .
Let me share a story with all of you gentlemen from personal experience . An English gentleman who was my client came to Nagpur in 1964 for shikar . He had a .375 Holland & Holland magnum calibre double barreled rifle , built by the British company , Holland & Holland . It was regulated for ICI Kynoch 300 grain cartridges . He wanted to hunt a royal Bengal tiger , but had exhausted his stock of ICI Kynoch soft point cartridges by then ( ICI had already discontinued all of their centre fire rifle ammunition products by then ) . We , professional shikarees ( who did not know any better at the time) managed to acquire a dozen Winchester Silvertip soft point 300 grain cartridges from an American client ( who had also come to Nagpur for shikar at the same time and had brought along a Winchester Model 70 in similar calibre ) for our English client to use in his double barreled rifle . The groupings which the rifle then started producing were extremely poor , compared to the groupings produced previously by the old ICI Kynoch cartridges . Despite knowing this , our client decided to try to use them to shoot the royal Bengal tiger anyway . He wounded it with the left barrel in a lung , but missed the brute clean with his right barrel . When the brute charged towards our shikar party , l had to step in and finish it off , with a 16 calibre spherical ball bullet fired right between it's eyes at a distance of 10 metres ( quite a hair raising experience , l assure you all ) .

Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of the brutish royal Bengal tiger which got to within 10 metres of my shikar party .
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However , the this problem can ( and often does ) also arise with different batches of cartridges , made by the same manufacturer . For example , a double barreled .450 /400 Nitro Express calibre rifle , built by the British company , Jeffery in 1933 , may be regulated for the old ICI Kynoch cartridges . This same rifle may not produce even remotely acceptable groups with modern Kynamco cartridges .
Therefore , users of double barreled rifles must take extra special care when selecting appropriate cartridges for their rifles . Those who hand load will often have their patience tested when they are trying to work out a proper load for their double barreled rifle ( especially if the double barreled rifle is a vintage 1 or happens to be of a calibre which is obsolete or relatively obscure ) .
A user of a good bolt rifle ( like my personal favorite : The pre 64 Winchester Model 70 ) hardly needs to worry about such rigid ammunition selection . Give him Winchester ammunition or Remington. Give him Hornady ammunition or Federal . He will be able to accurately shoot them with his bolt rifle . This can be a God send in those far off places , where a shikaree must make do with any ammunition brand which he can get his hands on , especially if he has lost of expended the supply of cartridges which he had already brought with him.

There is another problem involving double barreled rifles . They do not lend themselves to firing high pressure cartridges very well . Let us use the controversial .458 Winchester magnum cartridge as an example .
Below , l have provided 2 photographs kindly lent to me by Kawshik of 1 of his British clients , who managed to secure both a gaur and royal Bengal tiger in 2 consecutive days .
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The rifle used by the client was a double barreled side by side rifle , built by the British company , Holland & Holland . It was chambered in the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge.

For the brief period of time that Kawshik saw his client bring this rifle to India , it always served the client very well . However , l had a client who used to own a double barreled rifle chambered in the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge as well .
The rifle was built by the Belgian company , Auguste Francotte . It was a side by side double barreled rifle with 24 inch long barrels , twin triggers and no automatic safety . This client would come to Nagpur every year for shikar and he would always bring that double barrelled rifle with him . He would shoot 1 royal Bengal tiger every year with that .458 Winchester magnum calibre double barreled rifle and also 1 sambhur deer , 1 gaur and an Asian Sloth Bear . In 1969 , by the time of his 6th shikar with Allwyn Cooper Limited , l began to notice a problem beginning to develop with the client's rifle . Often , whenever he was firing his left barrel , the right barrel would get discharged as well , due to the jar caused by the left lock ( l believe the correct term is " double discharge " ) . At the time , l had wondered how and why this problem had come to develop in such a well made rifle . It was only years later , that l learnt that the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge is a high pressure cartridge unsuited for double barreled rifles , and no doubt it was this high pressure which eventually caused the action of that beautiful Auguste Francotte double barreled rifle to shoot loose by 1969.

Let us now reach our conclusions .
So , the double barreled rifle has some advantages and some disadvantages . For the most part , these advantages are now matched these days by bolt rifles . The 1 exception is the area of speed , where the double barreled rifle is unrivalled with it's ability to let off the 2nd shot in a split second after the 1st . For most clients , as discussed above , this is not a very important requirement. However , for the professional shikaree or White Hunter , this feature alone might determine a matter of life and death for them .

The disadvantages of a double barreled rifle can be rather serious , depending on a particular set of circumstances . However , with a proper supply of ammunition and a well regulated double barreled rifle , a skilled shooter will not be likely to experience any troubles .

So , is a double barrel rifle completely out of place in the modern world of hunting ? Absolutely not . I believe that the double barreled rifle will always have a market among sports men till the end of time .
If funds and availability allowed it , l would personally love to own a 9.3 × 74 R calibre side by side double barreled rifle with twin triggers , 24 inch barrels and no automatic safety . It would be the perfect tool for pursuing royal Bengal tigers and panthers into the thickets .
Or a .476 Westley Richards calibre side by side double barreled rifle in a similar configuration for pursuing wounded gaurs into the thickets .

However , is it a MUST to own a double barreled rifle if 1 plans to hunt the dangerous game of Africa and Asia ?
Non sense . Fit yourself out , with a nice .30 calibre bolt rifle ( like a
.30-06 Springfield calibre pre 64 Winchester Model 70 ) for plains game and a nice .375 or .400 series calibre bolt rifle ( like a pre 64 Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 Holland & Holland magnum ) for dangerous game , and you will be doing just fine .
If you own a good common side by side double barreled 12 calibre shot gun , with 3 inch chambers , twin triggers , 24 inch long barrels and no automatic safety , then such a weapon , loaded with Brenekke Black Magic Slugs can serve you well for following up wounded panthers into the thickets .
Fellow forum member and White Hunter @IvW has such a shot gun just like this , which he wisely named his " poor man's double barreled rifle " .

Personally , if l were guiding shikars ever again , l would advise my clients like so :
Bring a nice pre 64 Winchester Model 70 chambered in .375 Holland & Holland magnum for your 1st safari / Shikar ( or any other good bolt rifle in .375 Holland & Holland magnum ) . Appreciate proper shot placement and make use of telescopic sights .
After a little experience is built up , then you can ( if you wish to ) graduate to a double barreled rifle . However , if you do not , you will certainly not find yourself lacking . I happen to have a book in my study room : " Elephant " written by the late commander David Enderby Blunt . This gentleman culled African elephants by the hundreds , using a .416 Rigby calibre bolt rifle and 410 grain ICI Kynoch solid metal covered bullets . He never felt the need to use a double barreled rifle . I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes big game hunting . It is truly 1 of my favorites .

I hope that this article has proven enjoyable. For my next article , l offer my dear readers a choice between 3 topics :
1) The Gaur which ended Tobin Stakkatz's dangerous game hunting career.
2) Boar Culling : A comprehensive Guide
3) A royal Bengal tiger shikar from an elephant howdah

I will pick the 1 which you choose . Once again , happy new year .

And by the way , in that little story which l shared in the beginning ? The American gentleman successfully took his royal Bengal tiger with 1 shot , while l needed to finish off the royal Bengal tiger wounded by the English gentleman ( after 5 hours of tracking , l might add ! )
 
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gesch

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Thank you for an excellent examination of this issue. I appreciate everything you write. Brian
 

WebleyGreene455

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I've had a mild fascination with double rifles for a while but since they're so vastly expensive, I doubt I'll be able to acquire one any time soon. But I'm curious, have you had any personal experience with single shot rifles? The double seems to have been more of a European invention, while here in the USA the single-shot reigned during the latter half of the 19th Century. Sharps, Winchester, Remington all cast their lot in with bison and the like, while overseas there was the Farquharson and a heap of German designs including a joint creation between Borchardt and Sharps. And even now you've got single shots by Ruger, Soroka and some others, so there must be some demand for it. Obviously a single shot won't give you the fast follow-up that a double will, but how often is that second shot really necessary with modern bullets and propellant, or for that matter with a second armed person in your party ready to assist?

~~W.G.455
 

Major Khan

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I've had a mild fascination with double rifles for a while but since they're so vastly expensive, I doubt I'll be able to acquire one any time soon. But I'm curious, have you had any personal experience with single shot rifles? The double seems to have been more of a European invention, while here in the USA the single-shot reigned during the latter half of the 19th Century. Sharps, Winchester, Remington all cast their lot in with bison and the like, while overseas there was the Farquharson and a heap of German designs including a joint creation between Borchardt and Sharps. And even now you've got single shots by Ruger, Soroka and some others, so there must be some demand for it. Obviously a single shot won't give you the fast follow-up that a double will, but how often is that second shot really necessary with modern bullets and propellant, or for that matter with a second armed person in your party ready to assist?

~~W.G.455
That is a very good question . In our usual debates of bolt rifles versus double barreled rifles , we invariably overlook the single shot rifle . I have had a client who used to bring a single shot rifle made by the company Winchester . It was a Model 1885 , chambered in the .45-70 cartridge. He used it successfully for killing an Asian Sloth Bear with a single heart shot . Many of the Shawtaal tribal poachers living in hills would use single barreled muzzle loading smooth bore guns for hunting everything . I had an American client who used to bring a single shot .22 Long Rifle calibre rifle made by the American company , Stevens . He would use it to shoot mouse deer.
I think that for a client a single shot rifle is perfectly acceptable . However , a professional shikaree should always have at least the option for a 2nd shot as insurance .
 

Kawshik Rahman

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I never knew that you had managed to take a photograph of all the imported firearms getting confiscated in 1972 !
Those poor rifles ! To end their lives by being melted to scrap - metal ! If l were you , l would have tried to steal one ! I still miss Baba's I Hollis 12 bore side by side game gun with those 65 millimeter chambers . Those filth destroyed it and so many other fine pieces of art .
 

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Major Khan, Interesting timing- looking at your article reminded me ---
I spent time at the rifle range yesterday with my son, Colin, watching him shoot ragged holes with his bolt action and then helping me analyze the scattered pattern of my .458 double rifle.
Then last evening I mastered the simple on line Hornady Ballistics Calculator to calculate the trajectory of my bullets and then to approximate the range for which it was sighted. No wonder close in shots were easy and longer shots- not so much. Next, we go to Colin's indoor range and get to the bottom of the situation.

Doubles can be fun to play with if you have the free time, inclination and $$. If we cannot straighten things out, off it goes to Aaron Little.
 

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Major Khan, Interesting timing- looking at your article reminded me ---
I spent time at the rifle range yesterday with my son, Colin, watching him shoot ragged holes with his bolt action and then helping me analyze the scattered pattern of my .458 double rifle.
Then last evening I mastered the simple on line Hornady Ballistics Calculator to calculate the trajectory of my bullets and then to approximate the range for which it was sighted. No wonder close in shots were easy and longer shots- not so much. Next, we go to Colin's indoor range and get to the bottom of the situation.

Doubles can be fun to play with if you have the free time, inclination and $$. If we cannot straighten things out, off it goes to Aaron Little.
I am glad that you found the article interesting , Crs . What calibre is your boy's bolt rifle ? Also , which company made your .458 Winchester magnum calibre double barreled rifle ? I appreciate both platforms roughly equally although l acknowledge that double barrelled rifles can come up with a few challenges in some situations , while being advantageous in some situations.
 

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That is a very good question . In our usual debates of bolt rifles versus double barreled rifles , we invariably overlook the single shot rifle . I have had a client who used to bring a single shot rifle made by the company Winchester . It was a Model 1885 , chambered in the .45-70 cartridge. He used it successfully for killing an Asian Sloth Bear with a single heart shot . Many of the Shawtaal tribal poachers living in hills would use single barreled muzzle loading smooth bore guns for hunting everything . I had an American client who used to bring a single shot .22 Long Rifle calibre rifle made by the American company , Stevens . He would use it to shoot mouse deer.
I think that for a client a single shot rifle is perfectly acceptable . However , a professional shikaree should always have at least the option for a 2nd shot as insurance .
I've had an idea for a Winchester 1885 High Wall, (or a Sharps or a Remington-Hepburn but the 1885 is the most appropriate design by my reckoning) custom built for one of the Nitro Express cartridges instead of the more traditional American ones like .45-70/90/110/what-have you. Around $3000 at most from a well-regarded US gunsmith vs twice that or more for a double is somewhat appealing. As you say, tribal peoples and myriad hunters, workers, poachers, farmers, etc who migrated around Africa and the Indian subcontinent have used single-shots (and not the most modern or potent ones, either) for quite a long time, so I figure that with correct application and calibre, a single shot would be plenty effective.

But I do heartily agree that an insurance shot is always a good idea. Which, of course, is why the howdah pistol was invented as a close-in double gun.
 

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Major Poton,
Another fine analysis. On the subject of crossfire I had a thought: Are O/U doubles as susceptible as SXS? Can they be regulated to shoot "straighter" by being vertical?
 

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Major Poton,
Another fine analysis. On the subject of crossfire I had a thought: Are O/U doubles as susceptible as SXS? Can they be regulated to shoot "straighter" by being vertical?
I do believe that the phenomenon exists in all double barreled rifles , New Boomer . In an over under double barreled weapon , the lower barrel is designed to shoot higher than the top barrel . However , many shooters in modern times generally find over under configuration weapons easier to shoot accurately than side by side configuration weapons , due to the single sighting plane . Speaking for myself , l have never had problems shooting a side by side configuration weapon accurately , but that is because l have been using a side by side since 1959 extensively .
Speaking about Kawshik ... even though he used a side by side exclusively from 1962 to 1970 and now owns both a side by side AND an over under , l find that he shoots better with an over under ( even though he also shoots side by side guns acceptably well )
 

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Thanks for an interesting and thorough analysis of doubles and bolt rifles. While everyone agrees that a pre-1964 Model 70 is perhaps the best American made bolt rifle, I have to say that the current Model 70's I own, a 300 winmag and a 375 H&H mag, shoot every bit as well and are every bit as reliable as my pre-1964 Model 70 30-06 (which I used on my first plains game hunt in Namibia in 1987) The only difference I can see is that the current Model 70 Safari Express and Supergrade versions have much nicer wood than the older versions. I would add that my new Rigby Big Game chambered in 416 Rigby has a very similar "feel" to the Model 70's, just much finer finish, wood, etc. and a significantly longer throw on the big Mauser magnum bolt. (But you could buy a gun safe full of Model 70s for what the Rigby costs.) Easy to see how Winchester developed the Model 70 as an affordable version of rifles like the Rigby.
As for doubles, they definitely have the advantage of speed and I love shooting my Chapuis 375 H&H and have used it on Cape Buffalo and plains game on two safaris along with the Model 70 300 winmag. Both are great rifles and both are fun to shoot. For those who want the classic experience of hunting in Africa with a double, but don't want to spend $100,000+ on a Rigby Rising Bite or Holland & Holland Royal, there are several current makers of doubles for reasonable prices. I can recommend Chapuis, but Heym, Kreighoff, etc. are also making fine new doubles. Look for a second hand rifle made by one of these manufacturers if you are on a budget. (I did.) I found my Chapuis online at William Larkin Moore in Phoenix for a significant discount over new price. Check their website and Champlin Arms in Oklahoma. They always have second hand doubles at good prices.
 

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Major Poton,
Another fine analysis. On the subject of crossfire I had a thought: Are O/U doubles as susceptible as SXS? Can they be regulated to shoot "straighter" by being vertical?
This was recently discussed at length in another thread Newboomer: Understanding the regulation of double barrels rifles (https://www.africahunting.com/threads/understanding-the-regulation-of-double-barrel-rifles.54344/)

The reason why O/U are much less susceptible to regulation issues is because they do not produce sideways "yaw" under recoil. See the other thread for detailed explanation, and here under for a summary :)

...
The regulation of a double barreled rifle works like this. Up to a certain distance , both barrels are regulated to hit the same point of impact. After this point, the bullets will start producing increasingly larger and inaccurate groups...

I shall amicably disagree with the above statement. Well regulated double barrel rifles are regulated to shoot parallel trajectories, the mechanical convergence of the barrels being regulated to overcome the diverging yaw of the SxS rifle under recoil. The fact that indeed may double rifles cross, is not by regulation design, it is either as a result of poor regulation, or shooting a rifles with a load different from the regulation load. The reason for this is that the characteristics of the regulation load (bullet weight, bearing surface, powder charge, burn rate, etc.) all combine for the bullet to exit the barrel at the precise moment where the trajectories will be parallel. This is called "barrel timing." Bullets that exit the barrels before this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are lighter, faster, have less bearing surfaces, etc. will cross. Bullets that exit the barrels after this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are heavier, slower, have more bearing surfaces, etc. will spread. The convergence of the barrel is based on the regulation load. Other loads can be developed with other bullets (lighter, heavier, different constructions, etc.) but the load must be developed so that perfect barrel timing is achieved. Alternatively some people prefer to have their rifles re-regulated to a new load. This is achieved by de-soldering the barrels, moving the wedge that regulates the convergence of the barrels, and re-soldering the barrels. A well regulated double will shoot good groups from muzzle to well passed 100 yards, some out to 200 yards because perfect parallel trajectories have been achieved.




Because O/U do not produce yaw under recoil since both barres recoil in the same vertical axis as the center of the action and stock, their regulation is much easier because barrel timing is very much less relevant.

I hope this helps :)
 

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PHOENIX PHIL

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This was recently discussed at length in another thread Newboomer: Understanding the regulation of double barrels rifles (https://www.africahunting.com/threads/understanding-the-regulation-of-double-barrel-rifles.54344/)

The reason why O/U are much less susceptible to regulation issues is because they do not produce sideways "yaw" under recoil. See the other thread for detailed explanation, and here under for a summary :)



I shall amicably disagree with the above statement. Well regulated double barrel rifles are regulated to shoot parallel trajectories, the mechanical convergence of the barrels being regulated to overcome the diverging yaw of the SxS rifle under recoil. The fact that indeed may double rifles cross, is not by regulation design, it is either as a result of poor regulation, or shooting a rifles with a load different from the regulation load. The reason for this is that the characteristics of the regulation load (bullet weight, bearing surface, powder charge, burn rate, etc.) all combine for the bullet to exit the barrel at the precise moment where the trajectories will be parallel. This is called "barrel timing." Bullets that exit the barrels before this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are lighter, faster, have less bearing surfaces, etc. will cross. Bullets that exit the barrels after this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are heavier, slower, have more bearing surfaces, etc. will spread. The convergence of the barrel is based on the regulation load. Other loads can be developed with other bullets (lighter, heavier, different constructions, etc.) but the load must be developed so that perfect barrel timing is achieved. Alternatively some people prefer to have their rifles re-regulated to a new load. This is achieved by de-soldering the barrels, moving the wedge that regulates the convergence of the barrels, and re-soldering the barrels. A well regulated double will shoot good groups from muzzle to well passed 100 yards, some out to 200 yards because perfect parallel trajectories have been achieved.




Because O/U do not produce yaw under recoil since both barres recoil in the same vertical axis as the center of the action and stock, their regulation is much easier because barrel timing is very much less relevant.

I hope this helps :)

Do the O/U type doubles not produce a yaw along the center line of the barrels in the vertical plane?
 

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Do the O/U type doubles not produce a yaw along the center line of the barrels in the vertical plane?
Typically not, because the yaw happens sideways in the horizontal plane. In a SxS rifle, the left barrel is located left of the stock and pulls up and left under recoil, and the right barrel is located right of the stock and pulls up and right under recoil.

In an O/U both barrels are located in the axis of the stock and theoretically do not pull sideways but only pull up under recoil. I say "theoretically" because if a rifle has a lot of cast in the stock, or if the shooter tilts the rifle to one side when shooting it, the O/U rifle may yaw a little bit.

On an O/U regulation typically addresses the fact that the upper barrel generally tends to pull up more under recoil because it is higher above the center of the stock. The lower barrel tends to recoil a little more in a straight line, and a little less up, because it is closer to being aligned with the stock.
 
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Thanks for an interesting and thorough analysis of doubles and bolt rifles. While everyone agrees that a pre-1964 Model 70 is perhaps the best American made bolt rifle, I have to say that the current Model 70's I own, a 300 winmag and a 375 H&H mag, shoot every bit as well and are every bit as reliable as my pre-1964 Model 70 30-06 (which I used on my first plains game hunt in Namibia in 1987) The only difference I can see is that the current Model 70 Safari Express and Supergrade versions have much nicer wood than the older versions. I would add that my new Rigby Big Game chambered in 416 Rigby has a very similar "feel" to the Model 70's, just much finer finish, wood, etc. and a significantly longer throw on the big Mauser magnum bolt. (But you could buy a gun safe full of Model 70s for what the Rigby costs.) Easy to see how Winchester developed the Model 70 as an affordable version of rifles like the Rigby.
As for doubles, they definitely have the advantage of speed and I love shooting my Chapuis 375 H&H and have used it on Cape Buffalo and plains game on two safaris along with the Model 70 300 winmag. Both are great rifles and both are fun to shoot. For those who want the classic experience of hunting in Africa with a double, but don't want to spend $100,000+ on a Rigby Rising Bite or Holland & Holland Royal, there are several current makers of doubles for reasonable prices. I can recommend Chapuis, but Heym, Kreighoff, etc. are also making fine new doubles. Look for a second hand rifle made by one of these manufacturers if you are on a budget. (I did.) I found my Chapuis online at William Larkin Moore in Phoenix for a significant discount over new price. Check their website and Champlin Arms in Oklahoma. They always have second hand doubles at good prices.
I am glad that you enjoyed the article ,Chashardy .I began my career as a professional shikaree in 1961 and my career ended in 1970 . I was relatively out of touch with the international hunting community after that time until very recently . Infact , only after joining these forums , did l learn that Winchester had reintroduced the Mauser style extractor on their Model 70 rifles again . Knowing Winchester and their quality , l have no doubt that the new 1s are just as good as the pre 64 variants ( which l am personally familiar with ) . Infact , l have even heard that the new design is an improvement from the pre 64 Winchester Model 70 of my time.
 

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This was recently discussed at length in another thread Newboomer: Understanding the regulation of double barrels rifles (https://www.africahunting.com/threads/understanding-the-regulation-of-double-barrel-rifles.54344/)

The reason why O/U are much less susceptible to regulation issues is because they do not produce sideways "yaw" under recoil. See the other thread for detailed explanation, and here under for a summary :)



I shall amicably disagree with the above statement. Well regulated double barrel rifles are regulated to shoot parallel trajectories, the mechanical convergence of the barrels being regulated to overcome the diverging yaw of the SxS rifle under recoil. The fact that indeed may double rifles cross, is not by regulation design, it is either as a result of poor regulation, or shooting a rifles with a load different from the regulation load. The reason for this is that the characteristics of the regulation load (bullet weight, bearing surface, powder charge, burn rate, etc.) all combine for the bullet to exit the barrel at the precise moment where the trajectories will be parallel. This is called "barrel timing." Bullets that exit the barrels before this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are lighter, faster, have less bearing surfaces, etc. will cross. Bullets that exit the barrels after this precise point of the recoil yaw because they are heavier, slower, have more bearing surfaces, etc. will spread. The convergence of the barrel is based on the regulation load. Other loads can be developed with other bullets (lighter, heavier, different constructions, etc.) but the load must be developed so that perfect barrel timing is achieved. Alternatively some people prefer to have their rifles re-regulated to a new load. This is achieved by de-soldering the barrels, moving the wedge that regulates the convergence of the barrels, and re-soldering the barrels. A well regulated double will shoot good groups from muzzle to well passed 100 yards, some out to 200 yards because perfect parallel trajectories have been achieved.




Because O/U do not produce yaw under recoil since both barres recoil in the same vertical axis as the center of the action and stock, their regulation is much easier because barrel timing is very much less relevant.

I hope this helps :)
Thank you very much for correcting me , One Day and helping me understand the technical aspects of how double barreled rifles are regulated . Your diagram was most helpful , because it helped me to understand how cross firing really happens . I found it very helpful , indeed.
However , l did write in my article that cross firing occurs only in poorly regulated rifles .
 
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One Day...

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You are welcome Major Khan. In theory it is quite simple actually:
  • Left barrels goes up and left, right barrel goes up and right.
  • Bullets must leave their respective barrel at the precise moment when each barrel, one at a time, comes parallel under recoil to the line of sight.
  • Barrels are assembled to mechanically converge just enough so that by the time the bullets leave them they come both, one at a time, parallel to the line of sight under recoil.
  • Shoot a load slower than the regulation load and the bullets leave the barrels after the barrels have passed the parallel point, and the rifle spreads.
  • Shoot a load faster than the regulation load and the bullets leave the barrels before the barrels have reached the parallel point, and the rifle crosses.
In practice, because perfect barrel timing is a function of BOTH the load; add the temperature and atmospheric pressure that day for good measure; AND the shooter (no two shooters control recoil and yaw the same way), it is a rare factory-produced double (as opposed to bespoke) that truly shoots parallel in the hands of its owner, even with its regulation load...

And because it is better in dangerous game hunting real life situations for a double to group tight around 50 to 75 yards, rather than spread, most makers of factory-produced double rifles play it safe and have just a touch more convergence built in the regulation than would be ideal if they were building a bespoke rifle that the actual owner would come and shoot during regulation, as was done in the old days...
 
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Excellent write up Major Khan, I would like a double rifle, but for the cost of one, I could do a lot of hunting with my bolt action.
That's why I've looked at (and asked him about) single-shot big-bores. For less than or around half the cost of some of even the budget doubles out there (i.e., the Pedersoli Kodiak), it's mighty appealing at the cost of not having a quick follow-up.
 

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