Ever wish you had both a rifle and a shotgun on a hunt? Centuries ago hunters did also, and the drilling was born.
The old familiar complaint of hunters for centuries is, “I brought the wrong gun.”
If I bring a big game rifle, all I see is small game that would get damaged too bad for consumption with the big rifle cartridge. If I bring a shotgun, well, then I see big game. It is a normal cycle all season long.
What if I had a long gun that was both a shotgun and a rifle? I could use either ammunition! I would always have the right gun with me!
The historical answer
Enter the drilling combination shotgun and rifle. Traditionally, it is a double barrel shotgun with a rifle barrel centered underneath the other barrels. There are variations to this, but that is the usual set up.
Historically this arm was used many times while hunting stag deer and also wild boar. When using it to hunt large game, buckshot or rifled slugs were used in the shotgun barrels, and the rifle barrel was loaded for the full caliber.
Inserts were available for the barrels to reduce the caliber for smaller game shooting, and of course the shotgun barrels could be loaded with bird shot shells too. On some models, tip off scope mounts were used so that the scope could be removed quickly for shooting the shotgun barrels. Replacing the scope was quick and the sighting in zero was not lost due to the high quality and tolerances achieved.
It is a remarkably utilitarian gun. In World War II, expensive drilling guns were sent with the pilots of the German Luftwaffe as survival tools in case they were shot down in a wild area. Some of the European drillings found their way home with servicemen after the end of the war.
Adding to the cost
The European drillings ares many times heavily decorated with gold etching and beautiful scenes of hunting trips and game etched into the steel and wood. These are truly works of art and, as with all works of art, pricey.
The Luftwaffe vintage drillings auction at $30,000 or more. Gun auction sites do have hunting-grade vintage pieces that can be bought for around the $3,000 range. Many are in more European calibers, such as the 8mm and 9mm rifle cartridges and the 16 gauge shotgun, of which the shotgun barrel might be chambered for the 16 gauge, 2.5 inch shell instead of the American 2.75 inch shell. If you buy one, have it checked out by a competent gunsmith.
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Closer to home
There have been American combination guns and imports that are priced quite a bit lower. Savage arms made the model 24 in many calibers and gauges, though not to the standard of the European drillings. They truly are in a league of their own compared to all others.
While it may not be the most modern whiz bang wild cat cartridge in a kevlar stock, or do well in a duck blind, the European drilling is an amazing gun that can do a lot in the modern woods. If you see one at a decent price, you just might want to buy a classic that can be a fun gun and a family heirloom for generations too.