Saturday, October 27, 2012


As I visit gun shops, live and via the internet, I get to see interesting gun that I don't want to own (or can't afford to) but that are so righteous in design and finish that they are in a class of their own in those regards amongst other similar firearms.

I've written about combo guns, double rifles and drillings on numerous occasions before, noting that these types of guns are mostly made by foreign makers and mostly very expensive.

The only deals that I or my good friend Zach have found on a drilling, for example, was in a 16 gauge x 2 (excellent, no problems even with old school black powder low power shells) and some obscure  Euro caliber that upon investigation was scarce, expensive and somewhat underpowered for even use as a hog hunting gun or a deer gun (I'm omitting it's use as a turkey or bird gun with the scatter gun barrels since the 16 gauge or 20 gauge would be my choice anyway in a double).

These ancient drillings are the ones that are often priced within my possible reach. Upon researching, you find that you'll need to know a good custom gunsmith adept at fabricating parts for frequent repairs to these older guns when you buy one of these bargain guns.
Chances are high of lots of repairs if a gun was well refurbished by a prior owner, due to the age of the guns.

Non-collectors grade combination guns are selling very briskly everywhere I visit. Mostly what I see are older guns made by Savage, being sold to gun stores by kids when their parents pass away. They mostly seem to be of the haggard type that was rode hard and put up wet, as they say in Texas horse country. But occasionally, you'll see a gem of a gun.

One of my local dealers has a beautiful Savage 24 with the synthetic stock and in excellent condition. It's on the smaller 20 gauge frame that I prefer in the Model 24 but has the rifle caliber of a 17 HMR. That's a great caliber but I'm not looking to get into the 17, despite it's raging popularity among many that I know.

I'm well represented in the .22 WMR category and what it can't handle, the .223 can in terms of varmints in my neck of the woods, so I have no need or want for a .17 caliber combo gun.

So that's the irony, I suppose, of the situation, as my friend Benny would say. The most excellent specimen of a gun model that I've seen in years, somewhat reasonably priced in it's condition (and if I wanted it I could certainly get the price down probably to $350), is not in any of the myriad of calibers I'd like in a combo gun rifle.

I wouldn't mind a  20 gauge or even a 12 gauge combo gun with the rifle being in .30-30, .308, .223, 7.62 x 39 and especially a .357 Magnum or any other number of calibers. Based on it's outstanding and really like new condition, and the fact I know who sold it to the gun store and that the gun wasn't shot much, it's a shame it's in .17 caliber as far as I'm concerned.

I've passed on several .222 chambered Model 24's in the past few years with wood stocks in decent but very used shape which were, consistent with the market for combo guns, priced at a bit more than they were worth. I just don't need to add another higher priced caliber to the calibers I currently use without a very specific reason.

I don't see myself getting a .50 caliber Barrett, for example, but it could possibly happen in some sort of trade. For instance, in the past few years I've been offered and turned down a .50 caliber Desert Eagle and a Smith and Wesson .500 revolver. Both fine weapons but I have no use for them nor any real desire to shoot a handgun of that power.

I've shot uber-hot hand loads out of a 6 1/2" Model 29 with wood grips and that's good enough for me, thank you. So hot and so stout of hand loads were these particular rounds that although at the time I was shooting lots of full power Magnum rounds out of the Model 29, these had such serious recoil that the front sight nearly parted my scalp. Way too much for me. So there is no curiosity with me about shooting a .500 Smith and Wesson or a .50 Caliber Desert Eagle. I already understand they will have A LOT of recoil and will not be pleasurable to shoot. Pass.

Now, I might have taken an Automag .44 or an Automag II in .22 Magnum or .30 caliber on a trade, and likely all but the .22 Magnum would have moved on by now in other trades. I have a big fascination with the old Automags in .44 automag caliber. 

Although the Automag II .30 caliber version would be very interesting to shoot in combo with an M1. Cheap ammo still abounds in .30 caliber, and it's one I'd consider adding for that reason.

But in the past I've passed on various guns and know that most of them and the opportunity to trade for them will likely occur in a trade somewhere down the road, particularly with using the internet to locate what you're seeking.  And what I see with combo guns are that when they are selling, they're not selling to collectors but to users and are selling at premium prices.

So mostly when I see used combo guns I see the used Savage combo guns chambered in a .22 or .22 magnum rifle and I'm interested in centerfire calibers for the rifle portion.

After that long winded prefatory statement, I again urge (particularly American) gun makers to seriously consider making some decent double rifles, combination guns and even a drilling.

I read in the paper that there are something like 2.5 million feral hogs in the State of Texas. They do millions of dollars of damage to crops and livestock throughout the state. They are not a "sporting animal" under Texas law, and can be hunted at any time, and now, even by helicopter. They can be hunted with suppressed, automatic, semi-automatic weapons as well as with shotguns loaded with slugs or buckshot. There really are not too many restrictions involved when killing feral hogs. No bag or size limits either.

Many of my friends are big time hog hunters, either out of necessity or because they are big time hunters and hogs are always around where they deer hunt in Texas, no matter where you are. It's becoming almost like a cottage industry, and certainly many products are following the "Zombie" product labeling by calling their stuff "Hawg hunter" ammo and the like.

So makers of products have realized there is a big market out there for hog hunters, big enough to brand some of their products to lure that market to their wares.

Most of my friends use .223, .308, .30-30 and increasingly, .45-70 in a Marlin Guide Gun and some other large calibers available in the Marlin lever action rifles.

A reasonably priced drilling with the option of a 20, 16 or a 12 x 2 and a rifle barrel of a .45-70 would go over big with this crowd, the hog hunters marketing sect. Likewise, a side by side double rifle in a large caliber would go over well, if it was a quality made product at a reasonable price.

I can understand that at some time in the past the market for combo guns sort of dried up sales wise and thus Savage stopped making them, but it seems that the high prices their guns command on the used market would tell them that their is interest and that making them again on a limited and higher priced basis would result in plenty of sales to turn a good profit, or so my feeble mind thinks.

I'm interested in doing more hog hunting and have several invitations to do so in the near future. Maybe I watched too many African safari movies that were shown in the 60's when I was a kid where folks sometimes had double rifles along with their bolt action rifles and revolvers. I just think a couple of barrels of buckshot and one rifle barrel in a great caliber would be a terrifically fun gun to shoot at hogs with, and for that matter, to tote on walks in the woods or at one's side when fishing.

The lure of the drilling, for me and many others, is that versatility, along with it's history. Load one shotgun barrel with buckshot and another with birdshot or a slug. For hogs, I'd want the two shotgun barrels loaded up with buckshot, but slugs would have their place for many who are already slug hunters for deer and turkey, and for just general walking in the woods, two shotgun barrels loaded with birdshot would be just the ticket for snakes or other small predators and varmints.

For either combo guns or drillings, it'd be great of different caliber barrels were available as accessories. I could see having one combo gun receiver and maybe a .357/.20 and a .30-30/20 set of barrels for a centerfire/shotgun arrangement. Same with a drilling if you wanted interchangeable barrels with some different calibers that all fit the same receiver.

As an aside, I've never understood why Thompson Contender never made a version of their great gun that was a double barrel, either side by side or over/under. The curse of the Contender was always that it meant carrying another firearm while hunting with it because you get no quick follow-up shot with the Contender, notwithstanding some Contender shooters who practiced the art of speed loading their Contenders nearly 30 years ago at a metal silhouette shooting contest.

Back in the early 80's my father, Billy Ray and I were big into the Contenders, as was my high school friend Mike, who had a safe full of receivers and about 75 different rifle and pistol barrels, many of which were in wildcat calibers and very powerful rounds.

We all discussed back then how we wish there was a double barreled Contender, with the thought that you could (I would hope) even make one in the .45 Colt/.410 combination. That would be worthy of trail carry for me and a hoot to shoot. 

With a variable double barrel setup, a double barreled Contender would be a great backup gun for hunters carrying rifles where chambered in a caliber a  double barreled pistol like the Contender could handle. So like in cowboy days, you just had to carry one ammo for your handgun and your longarm.

As far as drillings go, I'm not aware of any mass produced drilling guns made past or present by an American gun maker, other than possibly some by Sauer affiliated with Colt.

Some would disagree, but I'd like to see a drilling made in America by Ruger or Remington or Winchester or Savage or any other American maker. If Ruger would make one of the build quality I've enjoyed in every Ruger I've ever owned, it'd be a great gun no doubt. Charge $1.5k for them and sell as many as you can make. Sell them for $1k and make them forever.

It would seem a simple matter to R and D something like combo guns and double rifles, given their long history of production already. They know what works and what doesn't. Drillings might be a bit more involved, but again, they wouldn't be reinventing the wheel, they'd just hopefully be modifying the design a bit.

If you're in the business of making guns, how hard would it be, after the design is made of course, to make a mold or design a computer operated mill to make a drilling barrel for two shotgun tubes and a rifle barrel. I know the action and trigger mechanism and such are much more involved with a drilling, but again, it's been done before successfully so they wouldn't be reinventing the wheel here.


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