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Return of the 4-bore Part One - John Millar

I chose a Jones style under lever, back action, hammer double to base my rifle on. This is the most elegant of all the big doubles and the only style that lends itself to the 8 and 4-Bore’s mass, while still allowing the receiver and pistol grip area to be humanly graspable, and does away with that painful top lever and the certainty of a shattered collar bone from the recoil if your hammerless model ever doubled! I have seen it happen twice personally with lesser calibres. Besides, as it was written years ago, “A gun without hammers looks as plain as a hunting dog with no ears”, I would take this one step further. I decided now as I had made up so much tooling to machine the rifled blanks and hold and join them together, a second set of smooth barrels would be made up as well as a set of locks. All this would be cased along with a set of ivory handled cleaning and loading tools.

After 20 years working in the gold mining areas of the Canadian sub-arctic regions, where Mastadons are occasionally unearthed from the permanent frost yielding some beautiful workable pieces of ivory, which I had been saving up for just such a special day. Now with four years and over 1000 hours and four trips to the Las Vegas gunshows behind me, I had finally shown my little pile of photos to the right person, who opened his gun room doors to me and just at the right time, as all the pieces were ready for final contouring. I think that the first time anyone fires one of these big rifles, that moment is embedded permanently in one’s memory cells. I know that I still can recall that day I carried all these assembled, painstakingly made pieces outside, and held it up to my shoulder and made the hammer fall on 400 grains of Goex FG and a 1850 grain hard lead round nose bullet. It was October 1989 and it worked. I went back two and half steps, turned half-way around and the barrels pointed towards the sky. As I waited for the cloud of smoke to drift over to reveal the target, I remember thinking “That was great”. I fired several careful shots that day in October to get a grouping. The bullets crossed at 50 yards so a little unsoldering and wedging was the order of the day - but beginner’s luck stayed with me, and only this one regulating adjustment was needed to put them in the black.

4-bore tight group on paper target at 25 metres off hand: And Lou said, 'What will that thing do at 100 metres!'
And Lou said, “What will that thing do at 100 metres!”

Now it was January ’96, and another turning point in the 4-Bore saga. At the SCI show in Reno, I met Campbell Smith, South African PH with North Western Safaris. He had already heard the stories of this guy on North that’s building a 4-Bore from a mutual friend, D’Arcy Echols, a respected U.S. gun-maker. Campbell has such a way with words when he said, “Why don’t you bring that thing to Africa and go after elephant with me?” And I said “Wouldn’t I love to - but I can give you 20 000 reasons why it won’t happen and they all have little US$ signs in front”. Campbell said “Sit down, have I got a deal for you? Would you like to hunt elephant with that big rifle you built? Do you care about ivory?” I answered, yes, to question one and no to question two (at that time I had several hundred pounds of ivory in my garage - prehistoric type). But I sure wanted some elephant hunting memories. He explained that he had a tuskless permit for Zimbabwe and an opening for a hunt, September 1998. It was a done deal and I didn’t have to sell my first born to finance it. She would come along and be the film crew and cheering section. That was the good part about having a Dad that takes ten years to build a gun - you can be a little kid when he tests the barrels in the yard, and an adult when it’s Safari time. As I left Campbell’s booth, I remember him saying “Make sure you do a proper job of putting that gun together and we’ll have some fun”. These words haunted me over the next year and half. Now it was a rifle to hunt dangerous game in Africa with, not a plaything to show friends and shoot at the range once a year. There was a deadline now, and a lot of finishing work to do on the gun itself, and shooting and sights to check.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.4 August 1999
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