Blasts From the Past: A 4-Bore Rifle

A look at a handmade big-game stopper

Ken Owen 4-bore rifle
The Ken Owen Rewa 4 bore.From rockislandauction.com

Last week we had a .410 from Rock Island Auction's upcoming Premier Auction on December 1–3, which comprises guns both tiny, like that .410, and gigantic, like today's gun, a 4-bore double. That's not a misprint, it's a 4 bore. "Four bore," as a reminder, means four lead balls of that diameter weigh 1 pound, and the diameter of a 4-ounce ball of lead is just over an inch, making this gun a 1.05 caliber.

Ken Owen 4-bore rifle receiver, action
The gun was inspired by a Holland & Holland made for an Indian prince.From rockislandauction.com

This rifle, one of a number of big game–stopping rifles to be sold at the December auction, was made in the 1990s by custom gunsmith Ken Owen of Memphis. It took him a thousand hours to build the gun. His inspiration for this gun, and five more like it, was the Holland & Holland 4-bore made for the Maharaja of Rewa, India, in the ’20s. Evidently it was good to be the maharaja back then, and I suspect he had someone on payroll to carry it for him. The gun weighs 26 pounds and shoots a 2,000-grain (4.57 ounce) bullet out of a 4-inch case.

You can get an idea of how massive the 4 bore is when you realize the barrels that look short and stubby are actually 26 inches long. You can also see what a beast is if you take time to watch this video of stopping rifles vs. pumpkins: