The Mystique in the Double Rifle


Gary Costello
In case you know anything about firearms, the double rifle has always elicited awe and respect. It reminds of the early days of hunting dangerous game in India and Africa; when men pitted their hunting prowess contrary to the most dangerous game on the "dark continent. It elicits respect because of the fine workmanship bestowed on double rifles and also the technology involved to help make the rifle into a highly efficient firearm.

Gary Costello
Prior to the invention of smokeless powder, semi-automatic rifles and even bolt action rifles, it turned out the hunter furnished with a single shot rifle and cartridges full of black powder. What was needed was a large thereby powerful cartridge to be able to bring down an elephant or charging lion using the one shot on the hunter´s disposal. If this shot failed, there would be one less hunter in the world!! Enter the double rifle. If still fired a substantial diameter projectile with black powder, but it had two barrels in the event the first shot should fail. These rifles were created in large calibers such as the 12 bore (12 gauge) so the black powder propellant could deliver maximum shock for the target. Some of the these double rifles specified into what is called a paradox double rifle. Describes of the barrel was smooth bore and toward get rid of the barrel it was rifled to give the projectile a spin and thus give stabilization through its flight.

As the gun smithing art progressed, calibers for example the 577, 577/450, 450, 470 and eventually the 600 nitro express were placed on the market with the double rifles chambered of these cartridges. At first a number of the these cartridges use black powder because propellant but later the cartridges were packed with smokeless powder and were dubbed nitro express rounds. The smokeless cartridges had several advantages: first when the cartridge was fired there was no large cloud of smoke to give away the hunters position and second they had a much higher chamber pressure thereby more foot pounds of deliverable energy when a dog was hit. I would add that collects in the bore of a rifle fired with black powder can produce a caustic mix that could pit the barrels. Remember, black powder has a key ingredient, sulfur that may form sulfuric acid when mixed with water.

Witch these large powerful cartridges, there is a great deal of recoil and which was transmitted to the hunter´s shoulder. These double rifles were created heavy to decrease this heavy recoil generated from the powerful cartridge and may weight in the 15 to 25 pound range. This rifle will be a heavy load for the hunter of mid-life or order to bring the tropical heat of Africa or India so gun bears were chosen to carry these heavy rifles. When game was spotted, the loaded rifle was presented to the hunter for your shot. After the shot was fired, the rifle was presented back to the bearer.

Usually double rifle cartridges were built with a tapered case with a rim with the base to facilitate extraction. In our contemporary world some double rifles were manufactured with rimless cartridges, nevertheless the extraction of these rimless cases can fail together with the inherent problems of a cartridge case stuck in the chamber.

Double rifles are created with both box locks (the least expensive) and side locks (the costliest). The side locks cab be hand detachable and thus can be removed in the field in case a spring breaks, for instance. Of course, an extra ser of side locks must be carried in the field and this raised the buying price of the rifle with hand detachable side locks.

Besides the inherent labor forced to produce a fine double rifle, a lot of the well to do hunters in the era had the stocks and metal embellished with engraving, carving, inlays, and checkering. This can drive the price skyward, depending on the owners taste for that very best that money could buy.

Regulating a double rifle, to have both barrels hit in a specified area at 100 or 150 meters, was a gun maker´s nightmare. After the barrels were made and fitted the best that could be done, the rifle was come to the range and fired using the specified load which is why the new rifle would have been to be regulated. After firing, the barrels must be readjusted and re-soldered and fire again, and again.... and again. the task was only stopped in the event the proper regulation of the barrels was achieved. Firing expensive, high intensity cartridges was a tedious and dear part of the final manufacturing process.

The double rifle is a rifle of near to moderate range and is not for varmint shooting at ranges of less than six hundred meters. As soon as the range is extended after dark distance in which the rifle was regulated, the point of impact for the two projectiles will deviate greatly. Not merely are we talking about the traditional bullet drop because the range increases though the lateral dispersion with the projectiles.

The point of impact for the two projectiles can also be altered based on the powder charge used, the powder used, the extra weight of the projectiles, the type of jacket material used on the projectiles, etc. When a double rifle is regulated, this act of using a typical load in the rifle prevents one from visiting the gun shop and saying, "Give us a box of ammo with this caliber"! Stick to the regulated load for the double rifle.

To fireplace a double rifle, fire the correct barrel first and therefore the left barrel. For the most powerful results fire left barrel within five seconds with the right barrel. Or even the heat generated in the right barrel might cause the barrel to move with a resultant loss in accuracy. Do not hold the barrel with you free hand! Lightly keep the fore end, with no undue pressure and after that fire the rifle. Never let the barrel rest on a fence rail, branches or even the side of a tree trunk.

Why will want a double rifle after reading the few points outlined inside the paragraphs above. Well first of all, a double rifle is not for everyone. In fact it is just for the chosen few. You should follow the rules carefully if you are intending to have any luck firing the rifle accurately. If you possibly could find factory loads which work in your rifle then you can definitely stick to these loads. Or even, you may want to reload. Reloading is a requisite if you have a rifle in an absolute caliber or it the factory ammunition is quite expensive. Cartridges for your fairly new (in double rifle years). 7000 Nitro Express may cost in the neighborhood of $ 70 per ROUND! Naturally, anyone who awns a. 700 Nitro Express doesn´t need to bother about the cost of ammunition because he loads his double rifle into his Rolls Royce.

What do double rifles cost? The textbook answer to this questions is ... whatever your want to pay for them. The double rifles of continental Europe are the least expensive. The British double rifles will be the most expensive as they are virtually hand made and hand fitted with all the finest finish, engraving and stock wood. Being a ball park figure, the most effective British double rifle will cost some $ 60,000 on the low end. Used European doubles can be purchased for $ 5,000 on up. I might say, for clarification, that good quality buys can be has in great britan for used double rifles which are not of the Royal grade.

Should you be interested in a double rifle, look into the many firearms auctions which can be held around the country. Have a copy of the Double Gun Journal at Barnes and Noble and get some books on double rifles. The one which comes to mind is Shooting the British Double Rifle by Graeme Wright.

I am hoping I have piqued your interest around the world of double rifles. In the second part of this discussion I'll go over a German double rifle that I have had for many years and is also still my favorite rifle.