My first rifle was a no-nonsense bolt action .30/06 straight "off the rack" when I was 18 years old. Over time, my gun collection has grown, along with my sophistication, to the point now that I own several custom or semi-custom firearms in addition to a number of high-quality production rifles. Recently my tastes have reached a level of discernment whereby I have decided that a big bore double rifle is in my future, as soon as my wallet catches up to my tastes, that is.
|Unlike other guns, double barreled rifles were developed specifically for hunting. Photo courtesy of PC Yodice
Unlike other types of firearms, double barreled rifles were developed specifically for hunting. They became famous for hunting the largest and most dangerous game, particular in Africa and India, as big game hunters demanded a rifle that offered the security and absolute confidence of two independently firing barrels when facing game that can stomp and kill the hunter if given half a chance.
Although more expensive than most bolt-actions, double rifles have increased in popularity in recent years, partly due to nostalgia and the fact that safari grade bolt actions aren't cheap either, but mainly because more and more hunters are realizing that double rifles are just plain good at the job they're intended to do. Here's why:
- Double guns are essentially two guns in one, with two firing mechanisms, firing pins, triggers, barrels, etc. If one should fail, be damaged or break, or should a barrel become obstructed, the "second" rifle will likely still function. Some doubles have only a single selective trigger, thereby making those models slightly less "double."
- Whether side-by-side or over-under, doubles provide two quick shots without having to work an action.
- They tend to handle very well, being short, well-balanced and quick to get on target. Their compactness also makes them very handy for use in heavy cover, blinds or tree stands.
- They are simply very "pointable," with a well-fitting double rifle often seeming to point more like a fine shotgun rather than having to be aimed like a rifle, which can mean the difference between life and death in a sticky situation.
- Their break-open design allows doubles to be reloaded quickly.
- The lack of a magazine or action to cycle allows them to be chambered for long, powerful cartridges that would simply be too long for a bolt action.
- As they are often used at very short range, doubles are all about speed and handling rather than longer range accuracy. However, double rifles can be equipped with a low-power scope, as many models come with quick-release integral scope bases.
- Break-action guns are of an inherently safe design, as the action is easy to open for inspection, thereby also rendering it completely safe to handle.
- Doubles are easy to break down and clean.
- Once broken down, doubles are also very convenient to store and transport.
Double rifles are popular in Europe for hunting wild boar, stag and moose. On this side of the Atlantic, North American hunters are finding that large caliber double rifles are well suited to pursuing big bears, with some Alaskan guides using them to back-up their clients in thick cover. Smaller calibers are suitable for just about everything else that roams our woods and fields. Fans of these great firearms have even banded together to create the Double Rifle Shooters Society, which is a great source of information on all things double rifle, including hunting with them.