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Cal on doubles.


No doubt about it, double rifles ARE Africa. Yes, they are used the world over but the image that first comes to mind is of the plains or bush of the Dark Continent with the hunter, double in hand, in pursuit of dangerous game. E-mail your double rifle questions or comments to Cal at He will answer your e-mail and use this correspondence to generate the column in the African Hunter.

Hello Cal:

Please tell me what is the chamber pressure for the old 10-bore rifle?

The black powder 10-bore had a conical slug that was anywhere between 900-1100 grains. The velocity was low, I am guessing between 1200-1500fps. The muzzle energy was 4,000ft/lbs. A 10-bore slug at 766 grains has a muzzle energy of 2800ft/lbs,and a velocity of 1280fps.

I am trying to guess what chamber pressure it caused? Do you have an idea of what your 8-bore black power rifle's chamber pressure is? Maybe that would give some idea of what a 10-bore could be? Could you give me a rough idea? I won't hold you to it, I just want a guess. The reason is that I see 10-bore slugs that are 766 grain at about 2800ft/lbs of energy. The old 10-bore was 4000ft/lbs of energy. I would like to find someone who would make me up a 900 grain slug and so this why I was curious.

Thank you

David H. USA

Hi David:

A 10-bore round ball is 700 grains. Conicals were heavier, of course. NE1 hand tools can make you the bullet you want but they are expensive and their customer service has fallen away of late. Old rifles had many variations, but conical and ball projectiles shot at 1300-1500fps on average. If you are building a new rifle, it can be made to shoot whatever you wish. If you have a vintage rifle, keep the velocity and projectile to the original for the safety of yourself and the rifle.

Was your rifle made for ball or conical?

I do not have the equipment for pressure testing. However, Sherman Bell wrote a dozen or more articles in the Double Gun Journal where he pressure tested old bore rifles and shotguns. For my own shooting, I keep the pressure at a safe level by doing the following: keeping the projectile weight as the original (ball or conical), keeping the original powder charge in black powder or the equivalent in Blue Dot smokeless, and thereby keeping the velocity to original levels. In doing this, 25 years of shooting black powder bore and express rifles has been 100% safe and usually very accurate.

I don't have pressure data for 10s or 8s or 4s. However the following may get you to the right area (approximately): 12-bores are 3-3 1/4 tons, black powder express rifles are 10-11 tons, nitro express rifles are 14-16 tons. The 10 should be a bit more than a 10 bore shotgun as the projectile is heavier.

I trust this will help some. Good shooting, Cal

Hello Cal:

I'm Geir S. from Norway. I have just come home from Zimbabwe where I hunted elephant, hippo and leopard with Gary Hopkins. You have hunted with him, too, I understand, with your .600NE. That was my plan to hunt with my double custom ordered .600NE but I got it in my hands two days before I was to depart, so I brought my Ruger in .500 Jeffrey with me instead. A few questions:

All of my loads in .600 are hang fires. I think it is a primer problem. I use Winchester large rifle magnum primers--are they are not good enough? Which primers do you use?

I use 159 grains of Norma MRP which is the same as RL 22. Also 140gr of Vitavoury 550. All bullets have been 900-grain Woodleigh softs and solids. Speed varies from 1700fps to 2063fps.

The rifle's weight is 13 pounds. The recoil is over my head--far too much. What is your weight on your .600? What is the minimum weight a .600NE should be?

I'd like to try machined solid banded bullets (like Barnes) in about 700 to 750 grains to tame the recoil. What do you think about that. Cal? I will also test the penetration to compare the lighter bullet with the 900-grain Woodleigh.

I bought my hunt from Safari Max and Erling Skogheim. You know him, too, I understand.

Best regards from Norway. Geir S


Good to hear from you. To answer your questions:

I've hunted with Gary a few times. He's a good man.

Hot magnum primers should not hang fire in a .600. It could be your powder--is it old powder?

Any large rifle magnum primer is fine, I use Federal 215.

I use 160 grains of IMR 4831 and a consistent 1900fps. Again, check your powder or change it. That much variation is not your primer

13 pounds is too light for a .600. Weight should be no less than 15, and 16 pounds is better Try mercury recoil reducers but place them so your rifle balances well.

My rifle weighs just under 16 pounds. Again 15-16 pounds is just right.

Lighter bullets may change accuracy. Try the 75% rule and a light bullet may be fine.

I know of Erling and was with him in Zimbabwe in 2008 with Gary. Cheers and good shooting, Cal

HI Cal:

If you don't mind, I have some questions about your 4-bore double rifle and 4-bores in general

1. What load is your rifle regulated for?

2. Was the ball more common then the conical for these large guns?

3. Have you found any lighter loads to regulate properly?

4. Have you used your 4-bore on any game in the field? (details?)

Thank you. Matt


In the old days, Curtis and Harvey No6 was an excellent powder and much more efficient than today's black. Back then the makers made the best powder they could but today, with black a secondary powder and not that important, it is made to lesser standards. My 4-bore is stamped on the barrel flats G390P which equates to Grains 390 Powder:

Today 390 grains of GOEXFFg gives lesser velocity than it should and FFFg is too hot. If GOEX made 2 1/2 Fg that would equal the old standard. I've written to GOEX but no reply.

The 4-bore case of my rifle is 4 inches long and will hold nearly 550 grains or 20 drams but that is far over what the rifle was made to shoot.

440 grains (or one ounce of FFg) is about right for the conical bullet but recoil can't be put in words. I've shot it once and never tried again. I do shoot 440 grains and a ball. Recoil is very heavy but accuracy is not good as the rifle shoots wide via cross fire. To get acceptable accuracy--3" at 50 yards, 100 grains of Blue Dot and a ball or 14 drams (390 grains) of FFg will also print good targets. A bit less powder and the conical is very accurate. The rifle has a twist of 1:50 so it as made for a conical but shoots a ball with equal accuracy (the larger the bore the for forgiving as to accuracy). My 8 has a twist of 1:100 and was made for a ball but also shoots a conical well. In all of the 8s and 4s I've owned over the years, they all will do this, but I've never seen one that will shoot a Paradox bullet well at all.


Tell me, is your .505 Gibbs an original? Do you have any old vintage English or Scottish doubles?

See you on the 18th and good shooting, Cal

Hello Cal,

I find you know a lot about double rifles and am curious if you can help me with reloading for my new Heym 500N.E.

I'm new to double rifles but have been reloading for sometime now for bolt guns and have a basic knowledge of reloading. What I would like to know is, is there a specific load I should start with for the Heym? I understand every gun is different but you may have much knowledge so I can save time. If you could offer some information I would greatly appreciate it. My gun details are as follows;

Heym 500 N.E.

Brand new gun with six Homady bullets fired so far.

26 inch barrels.

What velocity should I be looking for?

Powder type to start with?

I like Swift A frame bullets? should I try other brands?

I have Homady brass or should I get other brands?

I read about a filler but I don't understand what can be used? Do they sell a filler at Midway USA?

I greatly appreciate any help.

Sincerely, Miko

Hi Miko:

To answer your questions:

1. Velocity--2150 +/- a bit for accuracy.

2.1 like IMR 4831 powder but others will work.

3. I prefer Woodleigh bullets but others are fine if the correct weight.

4. Homady brass is fine.

5. No filler required with a slow burning powder such as 4831. I have a 1904.500 by Watson Brothers. I use 112 grains of IMR 4831for accuracy and the correct velocity and regulation. Next week I will take it on a summer grizzly hunt in central Alaska. I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more if I can be of service.

Good shooting to you,

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Title Annotation:Tools of the Hunt: The hunters and their equipment
Author:Pappas, Cal
Publication:African Hunter Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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