THE THREE BARREL GUN
The three-barrel gun as now constructed has two shotgun barrels lying side by side as usual with a rifle barrel beneath. But two locks are used to fire the three barrels, the shift being made from one of the shot barrels to the rifle by means of a lever. These weapons are still being built in this country, also numbers of them are imported.
Formerly they were manufactured in different styles, some with the rifle barrel on top in place of the top rib, and the late D. Kirkwood, of Boston, has made them with four barrels two shot and two rifle. He was an old time expert gunsmith of a kind now becoming rare.
The three-barrel gun is an attractive arm for certain purposes. For the mixed shooting such as can be found in Florida or Texas, principally quail and wildfowl but occasionally deer or turkey, it is a combination not to be excelled in a single weapon. It is, of course, a good double shotgun with the added advantage of an accurate rifle always at the sportsman's command. In a country like Texas, Mexico, or Central America where the game may be turkey, deer, bobcats, wildfowl, or quail, I do not know of a more useful weapon than the three barrel.
These arms are now being chambered for modern high power cartridges such as the .25-35, .3030, .32-40, and .38-55, as well as for lighter ammunition, including the .25-20-86. Probably the .30-30 is the most favored cartridge, with 16 or 20 gauge shot barrels, the entire arm to weigh not exceeding 7% pounds.
Even the man who shoots in a well settled country can get quite a bit of sport out of his three barrel that he would otherwise miss. With it crows, hawks, foxes, and woodchucks can be killed, while it is a more sportsmanlike weapon for shooting rabbits and squirrels than any shotgun. Cracking the head of a squirrel in the top of a hundred foot hickory is a worthy feat, but shooting him with shot is mere pot hunting.
The use of a three-barreled arm is pretty well confined to America, North and South. In Europe a different weapon replaces it, the muzzle rifled shotgun.
As its name implies, this is a shotgun with its muzzle having a shallow rifling, calculated to spin a cylindrical, pointed bullet of moderate length. Usually the ball is hollow at point or base, sometimes both, so as to permit the greatest length of missile without undue weight.
The most popular sizes of "ball-and-shotguns " are the 20 and 28 gauges. The 28 drives a rifle bullet of 290 grains, the 20, one of 380. The velocities are from fourteen to sixteen hundred feet, and the striking force from seventeen hundred to twenty-four hundred foot pounds. The accuracy is said to be nearly equal to a double rifle at ranges up to two hundred yards. The arm weighs in these lighter gauges from 5% to 7 pounds. With a shot charge the weapon is about as effective as any other cylinder bored gun.
Arms of this description would no doubt be very convenient where the sportsman was obliged to travel light, as in long canoe voyages, where the limit of weight was one gun, and the game of a mixed character. As a rifle the power would be sufficient for anything up to moose.
The rifled shotgun is also made in heavier bores, 16, 12, 10, and 8, with charges running as high as ten drams of powder and a thousand grain ball. While such weapons are used in India for cover shooting there is little about them to attract an American sportsman.
Askins, Charles. Rifles and Rifle Shooting. New York: Outing, 1912. Print.
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