Friday, January 3, 2014

Single Shot Rifles

I'm not sure where my love for Single Shot Rifles came from. When I first got into the gun hobby, my interests were focused on tactical rifles and pistols (I was in College getting my degree in Administration of Justice at the time). At some point my interest in "old west" style guns was appeared (perhaps after seeing the motion picture Tombstone some time in the early '90s?).
The interest in old west, late 19th century guns I'm sure led me to single shot rifles.

Most of the single shot rifles were made with simple yet stout actions, this made them a favorite of "wildcatters" who loved to experiment with new cartridges or new loads for existing ones. Their accuracy and simplicity made them popular with long distance shooters. Their simple actions made them easy to customize and decorate which made them popular with gunsmiths. Hunters also like them because they were shorter, lighter, quick handling and the need for discipline led to less missed shots.

Of all the single shot rifles made, my favorite is the Winchester model 1885 High Wall. Graceful, strong, accurate, beautiful....this gun has it all. It is also surrounded in history. The Winchester 1885 was the 1st gun design that John Moses Browning patented. Famous gun writer Ned Roberts described the rifle as: "...the most reliable, strongest, and altogether best single shot rifle ever produced." Even though I have not nor do I currently, own one, I would have to agree with ol' Ned. 

I would like one with a color case hardened receiver, straight grip buttstock, using the steep crescent butt plate (also color case hardened) Schnabel or Mannilicher style fore end made from English Walnut and an octagon barrel. (click on the pics for larger versions)




Winchester also made a "Low Wall" version in the less powerful cartridges, obviously the term "low & high wall" refer to the side wall of the receiver, the more stronger High Wall had taller side walls to strengthen the receiver.

 My second choice would have to be the Remington Rolling Block. While not as graceful and beautiful, the Rolling Block has its own beauty.
This gun was issued to many Armies around the world. At one time the gun was easy to find, as Turkish, Egyptian or Argentine surplus, now good ones are getting hard to find (at least at a reasonable price).

 The Rolling Block came in a variety of calibers and several frame sizes (there was even a pistol version). Several makers are reproducing them now:

Remington Re-introduced the No.1 model in sporter and silhouette versions
Another great looking and shooting single shot is the British Martini-Henry:
 There are quite a few gunsmiths making custom shooters out of these old rifles.

Another great design was the Scottish Farquharson Rifle. 
Invented by John Farquharson in 1872, it has been copied by many British & American Gun Makers.


 Ruger has produced their No1 Rifle since 1966, they also offered another version with an 1885 style lever called the No. 3.
Dakota Arms is also making a hand made version of the Farquharson Rifle
In the mid to late 19th Century Frank Wesson was producing these fine single shot rifles
Another gun steeped in history is the Sharps rifle. Patented in 1848 it saw duty in the Civil War and is now being reproduced by several manufacturers


I cannot discuss single shot rifles and fail to make mention of the Springfield Trapdoor Rifle, this gun served the U.S. Army from 1873 to 1892 when it was replaced by the Krag-Jorgensen Bolt Action Rifle. The Trapdoor bridged the gap between muzzle loaders and modern bolt action rifles. It should be noted that these guns do not share the "strength in design" with most single shot rifles, in fact care must be taken in shooting these guns as cartridges loaded to modern pressures can damage or destroy the originals.




There have been other custom rifle makers that have made single shot rifles, most of them out of Europe, here is a Merkel
And a Holland & Holland

You don't necessarily have to spend a lot to get a single shot rifle, Thompson-Center arms makes a rifle version of their famous Contender pistol:
Harrington & Richardson (which started as Wesson & Harrington) continues to make their single shot Handi-Rifle.


 In 1995 H&R introduced a retro version of their Handi-Rifle called the 1871 Buffalo Classic. They offered it in the now revived 45-70 and the being revived 38-55 Winchester. There were two versions made, the special Wesson & Harrington (seen below) which included a high polish bluing and factory engraving and a standard Harrington & Richardson model.
The guns feature classic styling with modern metal, positive ejectors (trust me on this one) and design that is plenty strong enough (they use the same action on 12 gauge shotguns)


A copy of the H&R is the Rossi, they have made their "Wizard" Single shot for awhile and have ramped up the model by adding new calibers and guns that come with multiple barrels chambered in your favorite calibers.
Be sure to see my other posts as I update them frequently.