In the golden age of the British ivory trade, the ubiquitous big bore double rifle was king. These massive weapons were the Great White Hunter's "heavy artillery" during the black powder era (1850-1890) for all thick-skinned pachyderms and dangerous game. Double rifles came to prominence primarily in India and Africa during the height of the British Empire. The double rifle was preferred over the more nimble single shot and repeating firearms of the day in its ability to allow the shooter to make a split-second follow-up shot on a charging beast without having to reload. This can mean a matter of life or death when an enraged wounded animal charges in close quarters and thick cover. Without exception, the black powder big bore "stopping rifle" was the weapon-of-choice for professional hunters of the period.
Notable period hunters that relied on the rifles included Sir Samuel White Baker and Frederick Courtney Selous, who used it consistently in his career as an ivory hunter until the advent of the lighter, more accurate, and less cumbersome Nitro Express calibers and cordite propellant. In the mid 1870s, Selous favored a 4-Bore black powder muzzleloader for killing elephant and slew exactly seventy-eight elephants with that gun before recoil and safety issues compelled him to finally give it up as the incessant pounding was "upsetting my nerve." He gladly made the conversion to cordite's superior ballistic performance and the penetrating capability of smaller, faster, metallic projectiles in the 1880s and was even more deadly in his quest.
Of these awesomely powerful, often debilitating, black powder rifles, the one inch diameter 4-Bore was the most daunting. The 4-Bore, using a massive 1/4 pound slug propelled at up to 1,500 ft/s by a full one ounce charge of black powder in a 4 inch case, would generate a bone smashing 3.5 tons of energy at the muzzle and produce a choking dense cloud of white sulphurous smoke upon detonation. Despite their enormous power, the stubby low velocity slugs still suffered the penetration issues which plagued guns of this era, particularly for the toughest shot of all--defeating the thick skull plate for a frontal brain shot on an elephant.
Intricate detailing gives the rifle a look of understated elegance which belies its outrageous nature.
The 4-Bore rifles are in a league all their own. It takes a confident and powerful man just to shoulder and sight one, let alone unleash its fury. These big double rifles are exceedingly rare with as few as 100 known to exist and are monumental in every way, weighing from 20 to 24 pounds. They have a stout and robust appearance as the barrels are usually short, between 20 and 26 inches. The massive barrels, combined with the thick (often nearly 4-inch) diameter receivers, make these 4-Bores look like a juiced power lifter or sumo wrestler. They are heavy for a reason; they are powerful! The metal must contain the tremendous strain of the explosive powder charge and incredible breech thrust, and they must have enough mass to keep from completely destroying the shooter. As it is, they generate well over 200 foot-pounds of recoil energy, something special when you realize that it's about 10 times the felt recoil of a .30-06!
One such superb big bore double rifle was offered at Julia's October 5-6, 2010 Firearms Auction as Lot 1284; MASSIVE, EXCEPTIONALLY FINE R. B. RODDA 4 BORE HAMMER DOUBLE RIFLE WITH CASE AND ACCESSORIES, SN 33896 (Est. 75,000-125,000), which sold for $109,250 to an enthusiastic European big bore collector. It has been written that R.B. Rodda, at one time in their early years, made their own guns in Birmingham, but in reality are better known as a "luxury" retailers of the Victorian era with shops London, Calcutta and in several Indian cities which catered to the colonial British and Indian society. Depending on the client's wishes and specifications, Rodda would have another primary contract Birmingham maker build a gun or rifle and mark it on the barrels with their trade moniker, R.B. Rodda & Co. Makers. by Appointment to H.E. The Viceroy. & H.R.H. .
The Duke of Edinburgh, London & Calcutta, or something similar in fancy gold script.
Without doubt, there will never again be such a primal and devastating implement of destruction brought to bear against quarry in the quest for the ultimate trophy. In the era of the black powder big bore rifle and beyond, the "Original Quarter Pounder" was unquestionably the ultimate expression of "Man vs. Beast."
The 4-Bore's muzzle diameter of .955 swallows up a quarter
and spits out a hot 4 oz lead projectile, hence the name
This Wicked Cool Wm Powell Single 4-Bore was not as
popular as the double, but none-the-less formidable. Sold
March 2014 $46,000 (Est $16.5-26.5k).