THIS is a gun.
No, it’s not a shotgun, even though its calibre is gauged in “bore” like a shotgun. But while shotguns peak out at 10-gauge for hard-core waterfowlers and 12-gauge for general sporting and self-defense use, this puppy is an 8-gauge (to be persnickety, 8-bore) rifle.
What on earth would you hunt with an 8-bore? Elephants? Why, yes. Also cape buffalo, rhino, hippo, man-eating lions and tigers, and other dangerous African and Asian game. In its day, this W.J. Jeffery double rifle was the serious hunter’s field tool. It has sight leaves for 100 and 200 yards, and fired a massive, thousand-grain .875-inch bullet from lathe-turned brass casings, propelled by black powder. It manages recoil the traditional way — by weighing 17-plus pounds. (So the next time you think some 19th-Century Great White Hunter was a pansy for having a gun bearer, pick up three M16s and walk around with ’em in your arms all day).
Several English smiths made eight and even four bore rifles, and each maker designed his own cartridges — there’s no such animal as a standard 8-bore casing or load that could be interchanged among disparate weapons.
Large-bore black powder elephant guns are one of the many side currents in John Ross’s legendary novel of the gun culture, Unintended Consequences, which is unfortunately long out of print.
This particular 8-bore is up on GunBroker, offered by a highly reputable seller fairly local to us, but, alas, priced beyond our reach. An excerpt from the write up (there’s more, and more photos, at the link) follows.
This Jeffery double rifle in 8 Bore was made in 1893 and is, as they say, the real thing. With 24” barrels having somewhere between a 1:68” and 1:72” twist in the 11 groove rifling it’s clear that bullets between 950 and 1200 grains will be stabilized nicely at 1500 or so feet per second delivering in the neighborhood of 6800 foot pounds of energy to whatever happens to be very unlucky that day – twice.
With the Empire’s numerous (while far flung) pockets of dangerous game, the London gun makers responded to officer’s and gentleman’s requests for something of a “stopper”. So the 8 Bore was refined. Only a few makers rose to the top and Jeffery was a pioneer there.
This example features a round body Jones type under lever action which was chosen for its extreme reliability, durability and strength. The 5/8” wide rib is matted from the doll’s head to the express sight and again from the muzzle to 4-1/2” behind it. The front sight is a tapered bead of platinum while both the 50 and 200 sights have a thin platinum centerline inlay. The locks are appropriately large back action with rebounding hammers. There is tight floral engraving on the doll’s head and screw heads while the locks, guards, tangs, grip cap, forend iron and frame have a tastefully simple line bordering with subtle flourishes here and there. The stocks are beautifully figured walnut with single border checkering and the wood has that great depth that only age brings. Sling hook eyes are present on the lower barrel rib and the butt toe line. It appears that the original horn or hard rubber butt plate has been faced off to a thickness of 5/16” (5/8” at the point of the heel tang) on to which a ¾” custom pad has been glued (LOP is 13-3/8” & 14-3/8”). It weighs in at 17 pounds, one ounce. This rifle was made to put ivory on the bearer’s back and it certainly did.
By all means, Read The Whole Thing™.
We’re not even hunters, really, and are generally much more interested in combat weaponry than in hunting tackle. But this thing stirs every impulse of want in our imperfect human souls, and like the most interesting military weapons, it draws an involuntary exclamation out of us:
“The stories this gun could tell if it could talk!”
If you can afford the staggering, but probably fair, price, perhaps it will come home and talk to you.