Hunters give it both barrels.
Heat waves shimmered across the desert. The lion seemed to float above the ground.
Clunk. Clunk. Bob Pearson dropped two Twinkie-sized cartridges into the tubes of his double rifle. It's a sound that should strike fear into the heart of a big cat and a sound that would spark trepidation into the heart of most shooters.
No fear for this artist-rendered lion. He charged. Pearson locked the big rifle to his shoulder, found the bead and squeezed. When the lion was visible through the smoke, he stood his ground and let it have the second barrel.
Pearson, of Atlanta, was one of the competitors at the recent Eastern Oregon Double Rifle Invitational outside Baker City. He might have gone back to Dixie with a sore shoulder, but no animals except those made of clay and cardboard were maimed or killed during the course of the afternoon.
The biennial event was conceived by Central Oregon-based gunsmith Keith Kearcher and Baker City sportsman Buck Buckner to help hunters prepare for safari. A ladies-only .22 shoot at steel chickens kicked things off, followed by a combination match that challenged shooters to take three shots at a big game target and break 10 clay pigeons.
Almost every shooter on the line had faced dangerous game, but this event was less about people and more about the double guns and big-bore bolt rifles they carried.
I shot a kudu, a running lion and a cardboard Cape buffalo in the Big Bore Bolt Rifle match with a Weatherby .375 H&H Magnum. A two-shot group to the heart of the running lion at 75 yards put me in good standing, but a hit outside the five-ring on the buffalo dropped me back into a tie for second place.
Steve Holder, of Hillsboro, carried a Cogswell Harrison chambered for 475 Nitro Express. Keith Fahl, from Battle Ground, Wash., shot a Westley Richards 450 NE. Bradford O'Connor employed the .375 H&H his dad, the late Jack O'Connor, gave him.
There were Nitro Express calibers, Rigby rifles and guns of all sizes and vintage, employing everything from black powder to Cordite to smokeless propellant. Thumb-size chunks of lead were the order of the day.
Bend resident Chub Eastman shot a Krieghoff double in 9.3mm x 74R, a popular European caliber. And he shot it well enough to take first place in the Medium Bore Plains Game and the running and charging lion events.
Pearson's double rifle, though made for elephants in India, would have been equally at home in Africa. Built in the late-1870s for Maharaja Shree Warhatsincji Loonawara, this gun was state-of-the-art when it was delivered to His Highness. The E.M. Reilly eight-bore weighs in at 191/2pounds and has four tip-up rear sights, gold leaf-labeled for 50, 100, 150 and 200 meters.
Eight-bores are relatively common, but this one is finished in the Damascene manner, scratch-engraved with an on-lay of gold on the trigger guard, lever, hammers, action and muzzle.
Today, a gun like this is most likely glimpsed behind museum glass. To buy one, you might have to take out a mortgage. Most owners would leave it in the vault.
A double-barreled rifle is the choice of many African hunters when they find themselves facing dangerous game. Two shots are quickly delivered without mechanical manipulation of a bolt or the unsettling undependability of a semi-auto.
The challenge with a double rifle is to get both barrels to regulate, to see the trajectory of the left barrel and the trajectory of the right barrel intersect at close to 50 yards. With a little experimentation, Pearson hit on a load. It took a 915-grain, 85-caliber cast-alloy ball motivated by 328 grains of Goex FF black powder to produce a two-shot, single-hole group at 50 yards.
The final match was for big-bore doubles. The elephant appeared at the waterhole, stood for three seconds, then disappeared behind the hill.
One shot to the brain, a three-inch by five-inch target, was necessary to score. Then the shooter had 12 seconds to reload and run up to 25 yards before the elephant was up again for two final shots in three seconds.
Oregonian Elliott Tukua took first place, but most shooter's bullets struck high or went through the ears, which would have earned a few fatal moments of mayhem for the hunter and gun-bearer had this been India or Africa and not Oregon.
In the days when the Maharaja hunted mega-mammals, it wasn't enough to have one firearm. The Sahib had a gun-bearer carry a backup rifle.
He could reach for a fully loaded double and fire two more rounds.
If instead, the gun-bearer decided to leg it for the nearest low-hanging limb, then the beast turned the boss into fertilizer.
Gary Lewis is a Bend freelance writer. Contact him at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.
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|Title Annotation:||Outdoors Columnist; Eastern Oregon Double Rifle tournament gives competitors a chance to show skill without risk|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 9, 2007|
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