Friday, December 13, 2013

The Rebirth of the 4-Bore "Unicorn"

He continued looking through the section on guns [in the Guinness Book of World Records] and shooting when he came upon another interesting item:  
Highest Caliber. The largest guns made were 2-bores. Less than a dozen of these were made by two English wildfowl gunmakers about 1885. Normally the largest guns made are double-barreled 4-bore rifles weighing up to 26 lbs., which can be handled only by men of exceptional physique. 
Henry read the words over and over. He knew that wildfowl meant birds, and that the 2-bores described were shotguns. But a 26-pound rifle! ...can be handled only by men of exceptional physique. The words gave a powerful jolt to his imagination.
— "Henry Bowman"
by John Ross
To me, the 4-Bores are the firearm equivalent of a unicorn. Ever since reading John Ross Unintended Consequences Back in the Back When, I've had a thing for the massive blaster. I was finally able to handle Ross' massive R. B. Rodda 4-Bore 6 or 7 years years ago at John's house, but he was having some trouble with the hand-turned brass cartridges and we couldn't shoot the beast.

“…the 4-bore guns kicked most frightfully and, in my case, the punishment received has effected my nerves to such an extent as to have materially influenced my shooting ever since, and I am heartily sorry I ever had anything to do with them.”
— Frederick Courteney Selous

When I finally got to shoot a 4-Bore a few years ago at one of the Vintager World Cups it was everything I hoped (or imagined) it would be. The double-barreled 4-Bore didn't so much recoil as alter the entire space-time instant I was standing in one place; the next instance, a different place. The entire universe shifted a couple of being in an episode of Dr. Who.

Four-gauge rifles stood and still stand in a league all their own. It takes a powerful man just to shoulder and sight one, let alone manage it. The 4 bores are very rare - surely less than 100 exist. Most are doubles weighing from 20 to 24 pounds. Singles are incredibly rare, perhaps less than 10 on earth. They are, in their own way, delightful because they are lighter and more manageable than the huge doubles, weighing in around 18 pounds. These, the greatest of all rifles, are monumental in every way. They have a chunky appearance because the barrels are usually short, between 20 and 26 inches. The short barrels, combined with the thick (often nearly 4-inch) receivers, make the 4s look a lot like a Sumo wrestler. 
They are heavy for a reason; they are powerful! The metal must contain the tremendous strain of the charge and breech thrust, and they must have enough mass to keep the recoil from crushing the shooter. As it is, they generate well over 200 foot-pounds, something special when you realize that a .458 Winchester only backs up with a gentle 56-pound shove 
While we are on the subject of recoil, the unknowing will tell you that the big rifle’s recoil is “only a big push.” Those soothsayers have not fired a heavy. Note that the 4 bore has at least 10 times the recoil of a .30-06 moving at twice the velocity! Perhaps they push, but they push a lot like a freight train. 
— Gary Kramer
RIFLE Magazine

So all in all I was pretty excited the see the guys at Westley Richards in Birmingham, U.K., busily "manufacturing" new 4-Bores, both shotguns and at least 1 double rifle. If you look third picture down, the pix with the 4-Bore cartridge in it, you'll see a "dummy" receiver, specifically made so that when people come in and ask about a 4-Bore they get handed the dummy receiver so they can get a tactile sense of just how big and heavy the final gun will be (check out the first pictures of a set of 4-Bore barrels against standard 12 gauge barrels.

The fourth picture down is of a 4-Bore action compared to a .500 NE receiver. Everything at WR is made Old Skol, by hand.

I'm really lucky to be on the "short list" of people who've actually been able to fire a 4-Bore...would I ever love to fire one! Love to launch those 1-inch diameter lead balls...perfect for ground squirrels!!!


Unknown said...

It's official, you've lost your mind.
Holy wha . That thing is huge !!

kmitch200 said...

the 4-Bores are the firearm equivalent of a unicorn
the 4-bore guns kicked most frightfully and I am heartily sorry I ever had anything to do with them

Like going quail hunting with a punt gun, some things are good ideas and others not.

Thornton Austen said...

Kinda makes Viggo's 8-gauge in Appaloosa look a little wimpy doesn't it? I might try one if I ever got the urge to go on disability.

RVN11B said...

I am already on disability, and there is no way in hell I would ever think about shooting that monster!

Man! I hurt just thinking about it!

Unknown said...

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