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June 18, 2008

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Make Mine a Double

In my semi-long and dismal life I've owned just about every gun that anyone with taste could possibly want--except a double rifle. There is no earthly reason for anyone to own a double rifle, just as there is no earthly reason to own a ZO6 Corvette, but if you gave me either I would not turn it away.

I came very close to owning a double rifle in the early 1980s. Safari Outfitters, which was then in Ridgefield, CT, got hold of a Westley- Richards Droplock, with barrels in .300 H&H, .375 H&H, and .458. It had a American-style stock FOR A LEFT-HANDER, and had been made in the 1960s for a majarajah who had never used it. The rifle cost $30,000 and I seriously considered taking out a second mortgage to buy it, but I didn't.

Not only have I never owned one, but I've never hunted with a PH who used a double, or owned one. Mostly, they cost too much, and they are useful only on dangerous game. There is a myth that double rifles handle like shotguns, but that is a crock. A side-by-side shotgun weighs maybe 7 pounds while a double rifle in a serious caliber weighs anywhere from 12 to 15, and most of that is in the barrels. You tell me how something like that is going to handle like a shotgun.

But a double will give you two very quick shots, and because it's more compact than a bolt gun, it can be very quick to maneuver in thick brush where much of the fun takes place.

If you're in the market for a double, here's some advice: Don't get one in .375 H&H or smaller. A true double is .45 and bigger. Probably the most popular cartridge is the .470 Nitro Express, and if you can take the recoil, the .500 Nitro Express is even better. Get a boxlock rather than a sidelock; the latter cost a fortune if they're any good.

Right now, I think the two best using doubles on the market are the ones built by Butch Searcy and Blaser. Searcy's rifles start at $15,000, and the Blasers begin at around $10,000. Both are first-rate working guns. The Blaser in particular has the best iron sights for a dangerous game rifle that I've ever seen, and you can carry it loaded but completely safe, which may prevent you blowing someone's head off besides that of the buffalo.


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As soon as I hit the mega millions, not for the rifle, but for the corrective surgery on my shoulder/spine.


I'm curious about aiming a double rifle: with dual sight plains, do you actually aim it like a single barrel rifle, or is it a point-and-shoot proposition like a side-by-side shotgun?


I'm curious about aiming a double rifle: with dual sight plains, do you actually aim it like a single barrel rifle, or is it a point-and-shoot proposition like a side-by-side shotgun?


Double post about a double gun. Get it?


Glad you dispel the myths, Dave, I never had thought about the weight, just the style and balance. Wish I could have handled one though, just to find out for myself. I'm not in buffland or rolling in bucks, except the whitetails I hold dear...But dreams are always the next step away...Bet you've got an elephant gun, though! Then your dreams are one step closer than mine...


The Realities are in the recoil! Just don't touch 'em off at the same time, like my old double side by side did, when after it got a little wet inside, and sticky, the double bark would make you think you had a .458, instead of a 12 ga....

Dennis L. Crabtrey II

About doubles let me say this. I lusted and shopped for one for 3 years. I got permission to buy one from the wife and went with the intent on buying one to Anchorage, AK. I handled 3. A Sasquesta $7500 and 2 merkels $10500. The second I picked up the Merkel, I fell out of love with it and bought a Ruger 458 Lott instead. Doubles are just too hard and expensive to load for. Remember, they are regulated for only ONE load. They are HEAVY. And they may just not like you. A store isn't going to let you shoot a new one for testing either. Terry Wieland's book "Dangerous Game Rifles" is full of info on doubles, although VERY repetitive in nature. Also, your $$$$ figures are a little off, Blasers are going for about $8500. I do think the Blasers are the best buy in the market right now, along w/ the Merkels.

Dennis L. Crabtrey II

That 458 Lott is a handful to shoot too, let me tell you. It's gonna be used to shoot an elephant in the face if this little nuisance called Iraq ever subsides and I can take a vacation. I was supposed to hunt Kudu this year on my birthday, but once again, this annoying war got in the way. Oh Well, I'll get a hunt eventually.

Sd Bob

I've taken great joy in giving Mr Petzal a hard time for his taste in high priced shooters but when it comes to double rifles I just say yes! I want to go to Africa in the worst way and doubles seem to be part of the aura that drives me to want to go. Of course the cash says no so I'll make a bunch of whitetails and pronghorns pay the price instead.

Peter H.

I don't see any reason id ever own a double either. Maybe a shotgun..but i don't think a rifle.

Dr. Ralph

I was under the impression that most double rifles were over unders, as are the Beretta's... I have lusted for these for many a year and perhaps when the last three of my five children are out of college and no longer financially dependant upon dear old dad a fine double rifle and trip to the Dark Continent will be a possibility.

I saw a side by side Ithaca shotgun today in an 80 year old woman's house who said it was over 100 years old and appeared to be a 28 gauge. Definitely smaller than a twenty and not a .410. Tried in vain to buy it on the spot but no, her great grandson was the one to receive this prize when he turned 18. It looked like my link but there were no markings on the barrel to indicate caliber and all it said was Ithaca on the tang. 100% everything, the bore was spotless and even the wood was immaculate... any idea of its worth?

Bernie Kuntz

I have never been smitten by the desire to own a double rifle. My biggest centerfire is a custom-built pre-war Model 70 in .375 H &H. It is a gorgeous firearm to behold. If I were to buy another big rifle it would be chambered for .416 Rigby, but with my limitations of income and gimpy knees, I can't see why I would need it except to look at and shoot at the range.


So Dave, if a Searcy or a Blaser seems like so much of a bargin, why isn't there one in your gun safe right now?

Peter H.

On the other hand I wouldn't turn one down either.....a Zo6 on the other hand is

Peter H.

something that i actually might get

Ralph the Rifleman

I have shot a Rigby double, in .416, and found it "manageable" considering I only shot 2 rounds out it it. Now, to say I would carry this weapon over hill and sage to shoot something dead is another story, but if I could afford it I would buy one!
Personally, I think the double rifle is just another expensive toy for us gun nuts to play with!

Dave in St Pete

Somebody ought to make one in a sane caliber (45-70, 454 casull, 30-06, etc.). It would be fun to hunt with for pig and such in the brush.

Peter H.

I like the Browning Cynergy...or one of the ruger red labels as far as double shotguns go.

Peter H.

Actually they do make one for
the 06...I think its made by remington....its apart of the line of guns that they import from Russia.not sure of the model # ..

Jim in Mo.

Dave in St Pete,
They make them in all the calibers you mentioned and many more. Just don't think they'll be cheaper, because they won't.
As far as weight goes, what happened to the good ole gunbearer? The old timers used really heavy guns and after the miles they walked they couldn't afford to be arm weary when the moment of truth came. Dave, I wish you'd write a story about the guns they used. I remember reading about 2gauge, 4gauge and they weren't shotguns.

Peter H.

Remington SPR22 side by side rifle .30-06 look it up...it really doesn't cost a whole lot..partly cause its a no frills simple gun...and its made in russia. so....but they do make it.

Blue Ox

So if you go to fire a 500 nitro and it doubles on you, about how much recoil are we talkin' here?
Just curious.

Dennis L. Crabtrey II

Doubles are pretty, and very wonderful tools, but practically useless for anything but elephant and buff in thick cover.

I think of them as a wrecking ball. It sure would be fun to play with one, but not much use for it when a small hammer can get the job done.

The $1000 Remingtons in 30-06 would be cool for pigs and such at short range, but i've heard they've stopped production (rumor).

Jim in Mo.

Blue Ox,
Ruark wrote that the borrowed .470 double he shot had a bad sear and would 'double' on occasion. At a kneeling position it would roll him backwards head over heals when that happened.

Clay Cooper

It would be really neat to have a double, 12 ga 3 inch lower and interchangeable rifle barrels top side!

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