Double rifle
A double-barreled rifle or double rifle is a type of sporting rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

 with two barrels instead of one, available in either
side-by-side or over-and-under barrel configurations. Double rifles are one of the family of combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...

s. In general, double rifles are much more expensive than the more common magazine-repeater rifles, and, owing to the large-calibre cartridges commonly used, have to withstand very high levels of recoil
Recoil is the backward momentum of a gun when it is discharged. In technical terms, the recoil caused by the gun exactly balances the forward momentum of the projectile and exhaust gasses, according to Newton's third law...

. Because of their ability to fire two quick shots, double rifles are often used for the hunting of dangerous game in Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. While today double rifles are typically associated with African big game hunting, they saw their most extensive use during the colonial period in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...



The earliest double rifles employed two external hammers to "cock" the weapon, to ready it for firing, but later development brought about hammerless designs to the double rifle. Holland & Holland
Holland & Holland
Holland & Holland is a British gun-maker based in London, England. They offer hand-made sporting rifles and shotguns. H&H holds two Royal Warrants.-History:Holland & Holland was founded by Harris Holland in the year 1835....

 (of London) most notably perfected the hammerless design in the 1880s. Most double rifles also employ two separate triggers, one to fire each barrel, however, some modern double rifles have been built with one single trigger, which enables the shooter to fire each barrel in rapid succession by pulling twice on the single trigger. For hunters of dangerous game, however, the use of two separate triggers is preferred, being thought to provide an added measure of redundancy, thereby increasing safety for the hunter, in the event of a mechanical failure.

Although rifles with twin barrels were made as early as the seventeenth century, the double rifle, as it is understood today, first appeared early in the 19th century, due to sportsmen's need for a rifle capable of firing more than one shot
Repeating rifle
A repeating rifle is a single barreled rifle containing multiple rounds of ammunition. These rounds are loaded from a magazine by means of a manual or automatic mechanism, and the action that reloads the rifle also typically recocks the firing action...

, and doing so in very quick succession. This was during the period of the muzzleloader
A muzzleloader is any firearm into which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun . This is distinct from the more popular modern designs of breech-loading firearms...

, when reloading each barrel was a slow, tedious process. The breech-loader form of firearm did not evolve until the 1860s, and was gradually perfected over time.

Double rifles intended for use on dangerous game came to prominence primarily in India and Africa during the height of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, and the principal quarry was elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

, tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

, rhino
Rhinoceros , also known as rhino, is a group of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia....

, Cape buffalo, lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

 and leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

. The double rifle excels over other repeating firearms in its ability to allow the shooter to make a split-second, secondary, follow-up shot on large, dangerous game without having to "work" the firearm's action. This can mean a matter of life or death for the shooter when a large, dangerous animal chooses to charge the hunter, especially in close quarters, and often in thick cover. That is why the double rifle has been a favorite "weapon-of-choice" of many professional hunters of large, dangerous game animals, especially in Africa, both now, and in the past.

The earliest breech-loading doubles firing black powder cartridges handled very large cartridges, producing large amounts of smoke on discharge. Some were very large indeed, up to and including, the 4-bore
Gauge (bore diameter)
The gauge of a firearm is a unit of measurement used to express the diameter of the barrel. Gauge is determined from the weight of a solid sphere of lead that will fit the bore of the firearm, and is expressed as the multiplicative inverse of the sphere's weight as a fraction of a pound . Thus...

 (1.052 inches) calibre. These rifles were so powerful that their recoil could sometimes injure the shooter if fired too many times in succession, although the need to engage in such rapid fire seldom arose. To help counter the effect of the heavy recoil, and to also increase the inherent strength of the individual rifle when chambered for such powerful cartridges, these firearms were necessarily quite heavy, often weighing 15 lbs or more. Though generating tremendous power, the penetrative ability on heavy bone and muscle tissue of these earliest black-powder cartridges was relatively low; this, due to the large (and heavy) size of the projectile itself, coupled with its relatively low velocity. One of the most distinguished and prolific makers of these rifles was W. W. Greener
W. W. Greener
W.W. Greener is a sporting shotgun and rifle manufacturer from England. The company produced its first firearm in 1829 and is still in business, with a fifth generation Greener serving on its board of directors.-History:The history of W.W...

 in England.

At the turn of the 20th century black powder was replaced by cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

, and then by smokeless powders based on nitro-cellulose. These propellants enabled smaller-bore, higher-velocity cartridges to be produced, and rifles to be designed for them and their much higher chamber pressures. The smokeless powder cartridges were favored over the cordite, and earlier black-powder loadings, because the smokeless powder cartridges produced less corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 and fouling inside the rifle bores, and with little to no smoke produced upon firing, it was much easier for the shooter to maintain visual contact with his quarry.

Most double rifles, particularly older ones, are chambered for "rimmed" cartridges. These are cartridges that have a prominent rim at the base of the cartridge case that is of larger diameter than the body of the cartridge case itself. The use of a prominent rim on these cartridges made for easier extraction (via built-in "extractors" within the rifle) whether the rifle had been fired or not. In later development of the double rifle, built-in "ejectors" were included as well. With these, when the firearm was opened, extractors would partially extract the cartridges from the two chambers, and ejectors would "kick" the cartridges free, completely out of the firearm. The latest technological development of the double rifle has seen improvement in the extraction/ejection mechanisms, allowing for the use of "rimless" cartridges whereby the rim at the bottom of the cartridge case is either the same diameter as the body of the cartridge case, or, in some instances, perhaps even "rebated." Further, some newer double rifles even have what might be termed as "smart ejectors." With these, the shooter can fire one barrel, open the firearm to reload the spent cartridge (which will then be ejected free of its respective chamber), yet the unfired round in the other chamber will only be partially extracted throughout the reloading procedure.


Most double rifles employ a "break-open" action whereby a lever, located either atop the tang or below the trigger guard, is moved to open the two barrels for loading or unloading the firearm. Double rifles are available with the two barrels in either side-by-side or over-under configuration. This contrasts with the bolt-action repeating rifle which may be equipped with a detachable box magazine; thus allowing the firearm to be loaded with more than just the customary two rounds of ammunition.

The double-barreled express rifle
Express rifle
The term express was first applied to hunting rifles and ammunition beginning in the middle 19th century, to indicate a rifle or ammunition capable of higher than typical velocities. The early express cartridges used a heavy charge of black powder to propel a lightweight, often hollow point...

 is a particularly difficult firearm to make and "regulate." Regulation of the two barrels is the trial-and-error, time-consuming, painstaking adjustment of the two barrels (and powder charges) prior to permanently fitting the "rib" between the barrels. During regulation of the barrels, the two barrels are mated to the rifle's frame and butt-stock, but the permanent "rib" that goes between the two barrels is not yet installed. Instead, the rifle builder will braze a "temporary" metal wedge between the two muzzles, fire each barrel at a target at a specified distance, then note the point of impact of each projectile on the target, comparing where the projectile fired from the first barrel strikes in relationship to the projectile fired from the second barrel. If the points of impact for the two projectiles on the target are outside the rifle builder's specific parameters, further regulation is called for, with adjustments made to the powder charge and/or the rifle barrels themselves. If the barrels themselves require adjustment, the solder holding the metal wedge in place is heated—freeing up the metal wedge—then the metal wedge is carefully moved incrementally forward, backward, or replaced entirely with a different-sized metal wedge. Each time moving or replacing the metal wedge is called for, the rifle builder must heat the soft solder, move or replace the metal wedge, then solder and test-shoot all over again.

The additional trial-and-error shooting and barrel/powder-charge adjustments go on until the projectiles of both barrels finally strike the target within the builder's specified parameters. Once the builder deems the double rifle is properly "regulated," the metal "rib" is added between the barrels, permanently mating the barrels together. The builder will then specify the exact projectile weight and powder charge used to keep the barrels "in regulation," and this information will be stamped into the metal flats on the top of the frame, underneath the barrels. If, at some later point in time, the shooter of a double rifle chooses to use a bullet weight and/or powder charge that is different than what the firearm was originally regulated for, the firearm will most likely require re-regulation. During the barrel-regulation process, some double rifles will easily "fall into regulation," while others will require considerable time and effort to obtain proper regulation—which adds to the labor cost and overall expense of the firearm.

By their very design, the two barrels of the double rifle must be aligned very precisely (but this does not mean in parallel) in order for the projectiles to strike at the same point of impact, or nearly so, at a given distance - usually not more than 300 metres (984.3 ft), and often much less. The alignment of the barrels is done so that the two projectiles will actually converge at a specified distance, whatever is deemed best for the given caliber and expected range of the quarry. Regarding sights, many modern double rifles will accept mounts to fit a telescopic sight, but most double rifles, particularly those used for dangerous game, are fitted with open sights.

Current Use

As double rifle chamberings evolved, this culminated in the production of the famed .600 Nitro Express
.600 Nitro Express
The .600 Nitro Express is a round in the Nitro Express series which was introduced in 1903. It is the second largest calibre in the Nitro Express line, exceeded only by Holland & Holland's .700 Nitro Express round.-Overview:...

 rifle, developed by the famous company of W. J. Jeffery in 1902. This cartridge was designed and developed to be able to stop a charging 6-ton bull elephant in its tracks, provided a vital organ or major bone was struck. It was not until the 1980s that an even larger-calibre, modern cartridge was produced for the double rifle: the .700 Nitro Express
.700 Nitro Express
The .700 Nitro Express is a big game rifle cartridge made by Holland & Holland, London, England. It was developed in 1988 by Jim Bell and William Feldstein and built by H&H. Feldstein had tried unsuccessfully to get H&H to build a .600 Nitro Express for him, but they had already ceased production...

, developed by Holland and Holland of London. The .700 Nitro Express fires a 1000 gr projectile with a muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity is the speed a projectile has at the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately to in black powder muskets , to more than in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to for tank guns...

 of 2000 feet per second (609.6 m/s). This equates to 8,900 ft·lbf (12 kJ) of muzzle energy
Muzzle energy
Muzzle energy is the kinetic energy of a bullet as it is expelled from the muzzle of a firearm. It is often used as a rough indication of the destructive potential of a given firearm or load...

. However, a few custom-built double rifles have been chambered for cartridges as small as the .22 Long Rifle
.22 Long Rifle
The .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge is a long established variety of ammunition, and in terms of units sold is still by far the most common in the world today. The cartridge is often referred to simply as .22 LR and various rifles, pistols, revolvers, and even some smoothbore shotguns have...


Most of the world's high-quality riflemakers have produced double rifles for their customers, and the most highly-regarded makers include Holland and Holland, James Purdey, John Rigby & Company
John Rigby & Company
John Rigby & Company, gun and rifle makers, is a firm specialising in the building of high-quality sporting rifles and shotguns.-History:The company was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1775, and is known to have traded as W. & J. Rigby during the period 1820 - 1865 during the flintlock and percussion...

, Westley Richards
Westley Richards
Westley Richards is one of the oldest surviving traditional English gunmakers. It was founded in 1812 by William Westley Richards. Their inventions included the Anson & Deeley boxlock action and the Droplock, which equals in status James Purdey's self opening and Holland & Holland's removable...

, George Gibbs
George Gibbs
George Gibbs may refer to:*George Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall , British member of parliament and peer*George Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxall , British peer and kidnapping victim...

, W. J. Jeffery, and Woodward
A Woodward is a warden of a wood and, deriving from that, an occupational surname. It may refer to:-People:* Alan Woodward , former British soccer player* Alfred Woodward , American jurist, and father of Bob Woodward...

. Outside the "best gun," by British definition, London trade, excellent double rifles of equal and better quality have been made by riflemakers in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Scotland, Sweden and the USA, including makers such as Krieghoff, Merkel
-Surnames:*Angela Merkel , the current Chancellor of Germany*Alexander Merkel , German footballer*Charles Emanuel Merkel, , American inventor, manufacturer*Crawford Merkel, American bobsledder...

 and Beretta
Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta is an Italian firearms manufacturer. Their firearms are used worldwide for a variety of civilian, law enforcement, and military purposes. It is also known for manufacturing shooting clothes and accessories. Beretta is the oldest active firearms manufacturer in the...

; however, the "classic" British double rifle remains, to Britons, a distinctively British style of sporting firearm.

The UK trade over the years also featured many serviceable double rifles made under many names, not all featuring the famous Webley action. This was a box lock action made by Webley of Birmingham, England and sold on a wholesale basis to many makers, including some of the most famous names, who finished the rifles and put their names on them. An interesting thing about British doubles is that the named 'gun-maker' need not produce anything except a name; many British doubles were only sold as a name, with all the work being done by other skilled, but never-named firms, either in Great Britain, Ireland, or on the Continent, usually in Belgium.

Many large-calibre double rifles are still in everyday use in Africa, especially among professional hunters. However these firearms are now primarily collectors' items or, in the case of older specimens, antiques. Second-hand and auction prices for especially fine and rare double rifles can reach phenomenal figures, up to US$400,000, at least five very dependable modern double rifles are available for less than US$15,000. In the United States, one builder of modern, well-regarded double rifles in a variety of calibers is B. Searcy & Company of Boron, California
Boron, California
Boron is a census-designated place in Kern County, California, United States. Boron is located east-southeast of Castle Butte, at an elevation of 2467 feet . The population was 2,253 at the 2010 census, up from 2,025 at the 2000 census...

. Other US-Based builders include John Rigby & Company
John Rigby & Company
John Rigby & Company, gun and rifle makers, is a firm specialising in the building of high-quality sporting rifles and shotguns.-History:The company was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1775, and is known to have traded as W. & J. Rigby during the period 1820 - 1865 during the flintlock and percussion...

 of Paso Robles, California. Searcy rifles are popular: the price of a new Searcy double rifle starts at US$10,500.00, and goes up considerably, depending on specific model chosen, caliber, and adornment. Merkel, an ancient German Builder who retains absolute reliability in function with rifle accuracy, is the 'best deal' today in the US for simple, unadorned doubles, such as those usually used by professional hunters. A large caliber (.470 or .500 nitro express) is less than $12,000 in the US and considerably less in various European Countries. One can take a trip to Europe "on the cheap," as the British saying goes, and return to the States legally importing one new Merkel .500 Nitro Express for less than buying one in the US. Suhl, Germany, where Merkels are made was in the 'East Bloc' and wages are not yet up to western European standards. Large bore Merkels, including those bought in America, are investments that are seldom-equalled today, appreciating at an average of 10-12% plus per year over the past 9 years. And a few African plains-game hunt 'dings,' which are relatively inexpensive these days, increase sales appeal, if not yet price.

Since double rifles are hand-fitted, custom-built firearms that require much hand-fitting, as do all doubles, plus the additional, time-consuming regulation required for barrels to shoot to one point of aim, these firearms must sell for high prices and are equally fine investments. Interest in large calibers, and dollars spent for large caliber double rifles has never been so great in the world, especially the United States. Even in the heyday of Great Britain's Empire, double rifle owners were among the moneyed few. In the famous words of Robert C. Ruark, who popularized African hunting in the US: "Use enough gun." This is always good advice regardless of the game, and that is what the doubles were designed for, to deliver two aimed shots with unequalled rapidity and absolute reliability, because each barrel's firing mechanism is independent in a double-trigger double. The British and Irish gun makers produced the pinnacle of game rifles for dangerous game at close range.

Smaller-calibre double rifles are commonly used in Europe for smaller game such as wild boar and roe deer. As interest in small-bore double rifles has increased over the last 15 years, there has also been an upsurge in interest for use in Africa on plains game. In the used market these rifles are typically less expensive than their large-calibre counter parts, allowing a collector to get "more for their money." That said, "factory" ammunition for these rifles is less readily available and in many cases these rifles are "project guns." This is especially true of rifles featuring older British small bore chamberings. The exception here would be the .303 British, which is a common double-rifle chambering.

The same is not true of modern small-bore double rifles made by continental makers such as Kreighoff, Merkel and Chapuis. These represent a good value and are chambered for commonly available European cartridges and some American chamberings including the .30-06.

Manufacturers of double rifles

  • Westley Richards
    Westley Richards
    Westley Richards is one of the oldest surviving traditional English gunmakers. It was founded in 1812 by William Westley Richards. Their inventions included the Anson & Deeley boxlock action and the Droplock, which equals in status James Purdey's self opening and Holland & Holland's removable...

  • Merkel
    -Surnames:*Angela Merkel , the current Chancellor of Germany*Alexander Merkel , German footballer*Charles Emanuel Merkel, , American inventor, manufacturer*Crawford Merkel, American bobsledder...

  • Verney-Carron, French, imported by Verney-Carron US
  • Aya, Spanish
  • James Purdey and Sons
    James Purdey and Sons
    James Purdey & Sons - or simply "Purdey" - is a famous British gunmaker of London, and the name is synonymous with the very finest sporting shotguns and rifles. Purdeys hold or have held numerous warrants of appointment as gun and rifle makers to the British and other European royal...

  • Holland and Holland
  • John Rigby and Company
    John Rigby & Company
    John Rigby & Company, gun and rifle makers, is a firm specialising in the building of high-quality sporting rifles and shotguns.-History:The company was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1775, and is known to have traded as W. & J. Rigby during the period 1820 - 1865 during the flintlock and percussion...

  • Steinkamp, Germany
    Steinkamp SW1
    The Steinkamp SW1 is an over/under double rifle of german origin. The weapon uses a lever action handguard to cock the weapon and a lower trigger to eject the spent brass.-See also:* Multiple Barrel Firearm* Double-barreled shotgun...

  • Heym A.G.
    Heym is the surname of:* Georg Heym , German author* Stefan Heym , German author-See also:* Chayyim, the basis for this name* Haim * Heim...

  • Blaser
    Blaser Jagdwaffen GmbH is a firearms manufacturer mostly of hunting rifles in Germany.It was founded in 1957 by Horst Blaser, developing the Drilling Blaser Diplomat....

  • Searcy, USA

See also

  • Double-barreled shotgun
    Double-barreled shotgun
    A double-barreled shotgun is a shotgun or combination gun with two parallel barrels, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession.-Construction:...

  • Multiple Barrel Firearm
    Multiple Barrel Firearm
    A Multiple barrel firearm is a firearm of any type with more than one barrel, usually to increase the rate of fire/hitting probability and to reduce barrel erosion/overheating.-Definition:...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.