Petzal: Don't Make Mine a Double

Since I first went to Africa in 1978, I've hunted with something like 20 PHs, and not one of them used a double rifle. Every one of them carried a bolt gun of .375 H&H on up. Part of it, of course, is the scrotum-shriveling expense of a decent double rifle, and the other part I got a look at last Saturday, when the club I belong to staged its annual African shoot. There are three events: running lion, rising buffalo, and standing elephant. The first is as many shots as you can manage, the second six, and the third five, and you have only a few seconds to get off each round.

Quite a number of shooters used double rifles. Most were .375s, but I saw at least one .470, and one particularly brave soul used an 8-bore black-powder hammer gun. The rifles were British, Belgian, and Austrian. All in all, it was a pretty wretched exhibition. There were failures to fire, failures to eject, and failures to extract. What stood out most of all, however, was just how difficult it is to operate one of these things even when it's working.

Unless you've practiced a lot, and I mean a lot, you have to take your eyes off the target, somehow grab two big shells, somehow stuff them into the barrels, close the damned rifle, and start to acquire the target which, in real life, would already have reduced you to a greasy spot in the long grass.

African literature is filled with double-rifle users reloading in the twinkling of an eye, getting off as many aimed rounds as someone with a bolt rifle.

Maybe. But I haven't seen it.