Sunday, May 9, 2010

Double vs. Single Shot

Dear Cal:
Why were double rifles so popular in the old days when single shot and early bolt rifles were so much less expensive?
Ed Graves, USA

You are thinking on this one, Ed. I believe the reason is four-fold. First, is the instant second shot that could save one’s life. The hunters of old did not take their first shot at 300 yards. They waited until the critter was close, too close maybe, by today’s standards. The second shot would be taken when the enraged animal was at one’s feet. A quick, 100% reliable, second shot was needed and there usually was no time for a third.

Second, with two separate locks the double rifle is actually two single shot rifles joined together. If one failed to operate through wear or accident the other was ready to go. Single barrels rifles (and single trigger doubles) don’t have this advantage.

Third, is the balance and quick pointing nature of a fine double rifle. They shoulder and point quicker than any single barreled weapon. Try it sometime with a double that fits you. Close your eyes and shoulder the rifle. When you open your eyes you will be on sight and ready to shoot. When you need a quick snap shot, there is nothing like a double--then or now.

Last of all, it was double rifles (and some singles, too) that were made for big game cartridges. The early repeaters and many single shots were mostly made for smaller, military-style cartridges. Many single shots were also target rifles. And, these too, shot cartridges that were not elephant stoppers. The largest of the Winchester repeating lever actions were the 50 express calibers. At best they were 1/2 to 2/3 of the .500x3 inch black powder express in energy, lead, and gun powder. If you wanted to hunt big game--you bought a double. And so it should be!

Good shooting,