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The Mystique from the Double Rifle

Gary Costello

For those who know anything about firearms, the double rifle has always elicited awe and respect. It reminds with the early days of hunting dangerous game in India and Africa; when men pitted their hunting prowess from the most dangerous game on the "dark continent. It elicits respect due to fine workmanship bestowed on double rifles along with the technology involved to make the rifle into a highly efficient firearm.


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Before the invention of smokeless powder, semi-automatic rifles and even bolt action rifles, it turned out the hunter armed with a single shot rifle and cartridges packed with black powder. What was needed was a large and thus powerful cartridge in order to bring down an elephant or charging lion with the one shot with the hunter´s disposal. If this shot failed, then there would be one less hunter in the world!! Enter the double rifle. If still fired a large diameter projectile with black powder, however it had two barrels when 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 towards the target. Some of the these double rifles specified for into what is called a paradox double rifle. Part one of the barrel was smooth bore and toward the end of the barrel it turned out rifled to give the projectile a spin thereby give stabilization through its flight.

Because the gun smithing art progressed, calibers including the 577, 577/450, 450, 470 and eventually the 600 nitro express were added to the market with the double rifles chambered of those cartridges. At first many of the these cartridges use black powder because propellant but later the cartridges were full of smokeless powder and were dubbed nitro express rounds. The smokeless cartridges had several positive aspects: first when the cartridge was fired there wasn't any large cloud of smoke to give up the hunters position and secondly they had a much higher chamber pressure and therefore more foot pounds of deliverable energy when a creature was hit. I might add that collects inside the bore of a rifle fired with black powder can certainly produce a caustic mix that will pit the barrels. Remember, black powder has a key ingredient, sulfur which can form sulfuric acid when when combined water.

Witch these large powerful cartridges, there was a great deal of recoil and which was transmitted to the hunter´s shoulder. These double rifles were made heavy to decrease this heavy recoil generated with the powerful cartridge and can weight in the 15 to 25 pound range. This rifle would have been a heavy load for a hunter of mid-life or order to complete 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 the shot. After the shot was fired, the rifle was handed back to the bearer.

Normally the double rifle cartridges stood a tapered case with a rim on the base to facilitate extraction. Today some double rifles were manufactured with rimless cartridges, but the extraction of these rimless cases can fail using the inherent problems associated with a cartridge case stuck in the chamber.

Double rifles are produced with both box locks (the most affordable) and side locks (the costliest). The side locks cab be hand detachable and so can be removed in the field if a spring breaks, as an illustration. Of course, an extra ser of side locks would have to be carried from the field and this raised the price tag on the rifle with hand detachable side locks.

Apart from the inherent labor necessary to produce a fine double rifle, almost all of the well to do hunters in the era had the stocks and metal embellished with engraving, carving, inlays, and checkering. This may drive the price skyward, with respect to the owners taste for that very best that money could buy.

Regulating a dual rifle, to have both barrels hit within a specified area at 100 or 150 meters, was a gun maker´s nightmare. Following your barrels were made and fitted as well that could be done, the rifle was taken to the range and fired together with the specified load for which the new rifle would have been to be regulated. After firing, the barrels would have to be readjusted and re-soldered and fire again, and again.... and again. the task was only stopped once the proper regulation of the barrels was achieved. Firing expensive, high intensity cartridges was a tedious and expensive part of the final manufacturing process.

The double rifle is really a rifle of all-around moderate range and is not for varmint shooting at ranges of less than six hundred meters. When the range is extended past the distance in which the rifle was regulated, the stage that impact for the two projectiles will deviate greatly. Not just are we talking about the conventional bullet drop since the range increases but the lateral dispersion in the projectiles.

The point of impact for your two projectiles can also be altered depending on the powder charge used, the kind of powder used, the load of the projectiles, the type of jacket material used on the projectiles, etc. Whenever 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 me a box of ammo of this caliber"! Stick to the regulated load for that double rifle.

To fire a double rifle, fire the correct barrel first therefore the left barrel. For the best results fire left barrel within five seconds in the right barrel. Or else the heat generated in the right barrel might cause the barrel to advance with a resultant decrease in accuracy. Do not contain the barrel with you free hand! Lightly keep the fore end, without undue pressure and after that fire the rifle. Don't let the barrel rest with a fence rail, branches or perhaps the side of a tree trunk.

Why wants a double rifle reading the few points outlined within the paragraphs above. Well to start with, a double rifle is not for everyone. In fact it is just for the chosen few. You need to follow the rules carefully if you are intending to have any luck firing the rifle accurately. If you're able to find factory loads which work in your rifle you'll be able to stick to these loads. Or else, you may want to reload. Reloading is a requisite if you have a rifle in the absolute caliber or it the factory ammunition is very expensive. Cartridges for your fairly new (in double rifle years). 7000 Nitro Express could cost in the neighborhood of $ 70 per ROUND! Needless to say, anyone who awns a. 700 Nitro Express doesn´t worry about the cost of ammunition while he loads his double rifle into his Most highly regarded.

What do double rifles cost? The textbook solution to this questions is ... whatever your desire to pay for them. The double rifles of continental Europe would be the least expensive. The British double rifles are the most expensive as they are virtually hand-crafted and hand fitted with all the finest finish, engraving and stock wood. As being a ball park figure, the very best British double rifle will definitely cost some $ 60,000 on the low end. Used European doubles can be purchased for $ 5,000 on up. I will say, for clarification, that the right buys can be has in the uk for used double rifles that are not of the Royal grade.

In case you are interested in a double rifle, check the many firearms auctions which are held around the country. Obtain a copy of the Double Gun Journal at Barnes and Noble and acquire some books on double rifles. One which comes to mind is Shooting the British Double Rifle by Graeme Wright.

I'm hoping I have piqued your interest about the world of double rifles. From the second part of this discussion I will go over a German double rifle that we have had for many years and is still my favorite rifle.