A .577 Manton rifle, chambered for the 3-inch case and regulated for a 590-grain bullet and 6 drams of powder. This rifle was retailed in India to a military captain.
Men who shoot double rifles must belong to one of the smallest fraternities in the shooting world. In the last dozen or more years, interest in double rifles has increased to where many collectors have stated there are more new doubles being manufactured today than in the past. This resurgence has led to groups of enthusiasts interested in double rifles to gather occasionally to share and shoot their treasures. It is happening in several areas of the Lower 48 and also in the great state of Alaska. Compared to other groups of collectors, double-rifle men are definitely in the minority.
Dr. Ron shooting the Lang .577 Snider howdah pistol during the 2018 Double Rifle Shoot at the Matanuska Valley Shooting Rangnear Palmer, Alaska. The load used was a 500-grain .585 bullet and 70 grains of FFg GOEX.
I believe Alaska, on a per capita basis, has more gun collections than anywhere else. There are Colts, Smith and Wessons, Marlins, Sharps, single shots, Class 3 firearms, and of course, the ever-present Winchesters. Oil money, above-average incomes, and minimal gun laws all contribute to this. And so it is with double rifles. Many fine collections are present in the state but very few, if any at all, make their way to the local gun shows. The Alaska gun shows have turned into “tag sales” over the past few decades – all in the interest of table sales. The folks that collect and treasure fine antique arms do not want their tables next to others selling videos, ninja swords, or velvet Elvis rugs. There are chiropractors, auto salesmen, and dentists, too! I hope it is not this way in the Lower 48.
Three fine howdah pistols at the 2018 Double Rifle Shoot.
Approximately eight years ago I asked a few gents to come to my home to shoot their double rifles. Living in rural Willow, Alaska, I have a shooting range in my front yard for rifles as well as an area to shoot clays with shotguns. A few fellas would show up, shoot for a couple of hours and then we would grill some steaks or burgers. Soon the number of guests outgrew my range and we graduated to the local shooting ranges. Also, spring shooting was a bit difficult. The winter of 2011-2012 saw 22 feet of snowfall at my home and the May shoot that spring was conducted in rubber boots due to six inches of slush and snow melt!
A stunning cased 8-bore double rifle by Walter Locke, one of the five major retailers of sporting goods in India.
The public range north of my house was really too far for those traveling from Anchorage, so for several years we shot at Birchwood (20 miles east of Anchorage) once or twice each summer. Birchwood cancelled on us this year, so we moved to the town of Palmer and the Matanuska Valley Shooting Range. The indoor facility allowed us to eat and set up a “For Sale” table, plus a 100-yard range with covered benches – the facility was a godsend. However, many of the display tables for our firearms were outside of the covered range due to space limitations. Also, the covered range was fine for shooters, but those waiting their turn were outside of the covered range area. Thankfully, it was a sunny day. Rain or snow would have been difficult to deal with.
A Robert Hughes 4-bore, brass case is 4 inches in length, shooting 440 grains (16 drams) of FFg. It was made for 390 grains (14 drams) and a conical bullet of 4¼ ounces or 1,882 grains. The rifle weighs 22 pounds and is 23 pounds when loaded!
Our shoot is a casual affair with no competitions for accuracy or speed shooting/reloading. All firearms are placed on benches and all participants are invited to shoot whatever rifles they wish. There is no charge for ammunition. This year, however, $10 was collected from each visitor to cover the range rental fee. The shoot is held on the first Saturday in May, so there is no confusion on dates. This date coincides with the Alaska Aviation event and many people attend both. Over the years, the weather has been good. We’ve experienced cloudless days and 70 degrees, and one year it snowed. In May, the mosquitoes are not out yet and tourist season hasn’t started (May 15th), so hotel and car rental rates are reasonable.
A 10-bore, 14-pound Manton is shown rifled for a 700-grain ball shooting 10 drams of powder.
For our 2018 shoot we had 60 gents show up; a few came with their wives, including two who were from England and eight from the Lower 48. About half of the 60 people were guests that came by to see the excitement. Here is a brief run-down of the day’s event: A few regulars and locals showed up at 8 a.m. to set up. Most of the shooters rolled in between half-past 9:30 a.m. and 10 o’clock. We shot for two hours and broke at noon to eat. This year one of our Alaska double-rifle men shot a musk ox, so our resident double-rifle chefs, Joyce and Jim Wojo, cooked up a fine musk ox stew for all to partake.
Shooting a full load from the Robert Hughes 4-bore double rifle.
The locals brought a selection of water, soft drinks, chips and snacks. After lunch, shooting continued for a couple more hours and folks filtered out as their shoulders got tired and sore. As to the shooting, this was an informal gathering. As mentioned, there were no competitions for skill or speed; we just shot and showed off our treasures, and everyone was welcome to shoot any double rifle there. Rob S., one of the shooters, brought some fine and historical doubles and also likes Class 3 firearms, so he brought his original, full-auto Thompson for all to shoot. (Rob reloads on a single-stage press, one cartridge at a time, and the rumor is he spends all year reloading .45 ACP ammo to shoot it off during our shoot at 600 to 800 rounds per minute.)
Below is a partial list of doubles and other firearms at the 2018 Double Rifle Shoot in Alaska.
Black powder cartridge rifles are in bold.
Cal firing a 4-bore single shotgun during one of the shoots held at his home.
Cal Pappas brought the following rifles: .500 BPE Mortimer; .577 BPE Manton; .577 Snider Howdah pistol by Lang; 12-bore Baker; 10-bore Manton; 8-bore Locke; 4-bore Hughes
; .350 No. 2 Rigby; .450-400 Harrison & Hussey; .450 No. 2 Lang; .500 Nitro Watson Brothers; .600 Nitro Wilkes.
Dr. Ron shared this rifles: .577 Nitro by Army & Navy; .577 2 3/4” by Thomas Bland; .450 No. 2 by Webley & Scott; .450-400 Jeffery; .375 Flanged by Army & Navy; .375 Holland by J. Winkler (Ferlach); .303 BSA Lee Speed; .303 Hotchkiss light machine gun.
Rob S. brought these firearms: .45 ACP Thompson sub-machine gun by Bridgeport; 8-bore Bland; 4-bore Bland; 10-bore Tolley; .45-70 Enfield Conversion; .577 Wilkinson howdah pistol; .318 Tolley; .25-20 Fausti; .303 Enfield No.1 Carbine; Daisy BB double gun(!); Sten MKIIS; .510 Whisper Desert Tech.
Hank brought three rifles: .500-450 Holland; .500-450 Holland; .475 Snider howdah pistol by E.M. Reilly.
Rob’s 10-bore Tolley double rifle regulated for a ball and 5 drams of powder.
In addition, many first-timers brought their rifles to shoot. Modern doubles from Heym and Merkel, many black powder express rifles, and a dozen miscellaneous rifles were also there. A Luger pistol with shoulder stock, some big-bore bolt rifles along with a few lever actions rounded out the lot.
Remember, the shoot is the first Saturday in May and all are welcome. Attention Black Powder Cartridge News readers: if you want to join us in 2019, email me and we will (as they say in Zimbabwe) make a plan. Many come to the shoot and then vacation for a few days prior to, or after the event. You don’t have to own a double rifle or bring a firearm, just show up and shoot what is here! You can contact Cal Pappas at pappas@mta online.net.