Why has the double barrel been so successful throughout the history of the shotgun? Thousands of hunters and shooters across the world prefer double barrel shotguns. Here are some of the reasons why!
Considering the enormous advancements that have been made in firearms over the years, the continued success of the double barrel shotgun is quite an amazing feat. The double barrel design has outlasted and endured throughout most of the shotgun’s history.
Double barrel shotguns have been around for a very long time, and the advantages they offer will keep them in the hands of thousands of shooters for many years to come. If you don’t already have one in your gun safe, these key advantages will make you want one soon!
One clear advantage of the double barrel shotgun is its shot selection versatility. Although not all double barrels have two triggers, those that do allow the shooter to select from two different chokes when firing. This can be a key benefit when taking shots at variable ranges. The shooter can use a wider choke in one barrel for closer shots, and a tighter choke in the other barrel for long shots.
Double barrel, double trigger shotguns also allow you to keep firing past a defective round or a broken lock. These barrel selection advantages obviously don’t exist in single trigger, double barrels with pre-set firing orders.
Double barrels simply have less moving parts than many other types of shotguns. As with most machines, the less moving parts, the lower the chance of one breaking. With no actions that jamb and no feeding failures, the double barrel’s simple design has proven to be reliable over many years.
That being said, the trigger mechanism on double barrels should be cleaned and serviced on a regular basis. Compared to single barrel guns with only one firing pin, double barrel shotguns do have two pins that can break on you.
Speed and Comfort
Double barrel shotguns are typically about 4” shorter overall than other types of shotguns, but they maintain the same barrel length. This makes them swing faster in the field. The faster lock time provided by doubles is also an advantage, and you don’t have to deal with all the clacking and grinding noises of operating an action after each shot. There is just nothing that can compete with the handling of a fine double barrel.
Double barrels also allow you to get a faster follow up shot than a pump shotgun can provide. Although many doubles create more recoil when fired, you don’t need to drop the sights to operate the action before the next shot. This advantage negates the impact of higher recoil for many shooters.
For many, safety is the most important advantage of the double barrel shotgun. The break-action design is widely considered the safest shotgun design. It allows the shooter to simply open the action when carrying or standing with the gun to make it harmless. A broken open action signals to the entire group that the gun is in a safe position.
The simple design and break-open action also make it a good choice for novice shooters, who may not understand how to operate a pump or semi-auto safely.
Unlike pump and semi-auto shotguns that throw empty shells all over the place while shooting, most break action doubles hold the empties in the barrel after firing. This makes it much easier to keep the shooting area clean of empty shells. The shooter can just put the empties into a bag or pocket each time he reloads.
In general, double barrel shotguns are also easier to clean and transport than other shotguns. They can be very quickly broken down before traveling and cleaning.
Choosing Your Double Barrel
Once you decide to go get a double barrel shotgun, you should take some time to shoot both side-by-side and over-under configurations. The difference between the two can be very significant, so you want to make sure you choose the one that feels right to you.
Naturally, the side-by-sides offer a better elevation index, while the over-unders provide a more accurate lateral index. Some cheaper side-by-side shotguns can also feel more bulky than over-unders, especially with 10 and 12 gauge models.
Another key point to consider is how important choke and barrel selection are to you. If you really need the ability to choose between chokes on the fly, then you need a double barrel with either a double trigger or barrel selector. The good news is that most modern doubles come with one of these options.
Your budget will obviously also play a major role in your selection of a double barrel shotgun. Quality doubles can be very expensive, but it is usually worth the money. Double barrel shotguns are designed and manufactured so that both barrels will hit the same target area at a given distance (usually 40 yards). However, this is much more difficult than most would think, and the cheaper models are often highly inconsistent.
There are many other factors to consider when choosing the right double barrel shotgun for you, but if you understand the basics and test fire several different models correctly, you will be well on your way to a good purchase.
The double barrel shotgun offers many advantages over other styles, but for many, it just comes down to personal preference at the end of the day. You should always choose the shotgun that fits your style and makes you feel comfortable!
Image four courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.