The Mystique of the Double Rifle – Part Two
In the early 1980’s I started looking for an affordable double rifle in a caliber that would be suitable for big game. Besides being able to deliver the correct amount of energy on target, it had to be such a caliber that loaded cartridges, cartridge cases, and projectiles would be readily available. To purchase a rifle in 40 caliber, for instance, would exacerbate the problem of obtaining ammunition and loading components.
I would have liked to have a rifle my favorite caliber, 30/06, but rifles chambered in this caliber are fairly scarce. Furthermore, extraction problems can be encountered in rimless calibers. It wasn´t long before I encountered a side-by-side double rifle in 9.3 x 74R caliber. I knew about this cartridge and it made my decision to purchase the rifle that much easier. It plenty of muzzle energy for big game and the components area readily available.
First of all, let me discuss the 9.3 x 74R caliber. In Europe they usually denote a caliber by the diameter of the projectile, the length of the cartridge case and then a suffix which denotes whether the case is rimmed or rimless. Thus this cartridge has a 9.3 mm (.366) diameter projectile and cartridge case is 74 mm (3 inches) long. The “”R”” means that the case has a rim on the cartridge case for in extraction. The case also has a slight taper which also aids extraction. Extraction is always a concern in a double rifle as the cartridge case is not turned by a bolt for primary extraction. The case is pulled straight back and out”” This cartridge is widely used in Europe and today one hears more and more about it in the United States. In fact, some U.S. companies now make the projectiles for reloading and others carry the ammunition and cartridge cases.
The rifle was manufactured by the company Richard Fischer Jr. in Suhl Germany Suhl (Thuringia State) ins the ancient arms marking center of Germany and still produces fine firearms for those with a taste for quality and beauty. The rifle was proofed February 1931 and thus it was manufactured some time before that date.
When purchasing a double rifle, one must check the information available on the “”flats”” Remove the barrels and turn them over and look at the marks located on the flats directly under the chambers. The caliber will be stamped at this location, mine is stamped 9.3 mm/74.5 It is stamped with an N for nitro proofed or quite simply nitro cellulose, smokeless powder. The projectile weight used in regulating the barrets weighed 18 grams which is in the range of 285 grams. A box 9.3 x 74R cartridges that were manufactured by DWM in Germany shows a 19 gram projectile with3.85 grams of smokeless powder.
A U with a crown above it means that the firearm has had the final proof. The proof mark was used on German firearms prior to 1939 when new proof law was instituted. A stamp, st m G shows that the barrets were proofed for rifled barrels with a steel jacketed projectile. A G with a crown above it means that it was proofed for a firearm with rifled barrels. An E with a crown above is also stamped on the flats which shows that the rifle was proofed for express rifle barrels. Finatty a stylized eagle with spreading wings shows that a proof was carried out on the unfinished barrels. Evidently they did not wand to go thought the final finishing and regulating only out that the barrel(s) had a structural flaw in them.
To be able to ascertain what all of the different proofs mean for the different countries involved in the rifles manufacture, you must have a book on proof marks which is available and is listed at the end of this article.
The reasons that I appreciate this rifle, when I go hunting, are many and varied. First of all, if I am back packing into the mountains the rifle can be broken down into there separate components. The rifle is also light when compared with many of the bolt action rifles chambered for big magnum. U.S. calibers. When the rifle is assembled for use it is well balanced and easy to carry in rough terrain. Due to the fact that there is no long action, as found on bolt action rifles, the rifle can have a 26-inch barrel and still be shorter than a comparable bolt action rifle. I also have two barrels at my disposal that fire powerful cartridges. The first barrel should accomplish the task at hand, but if not, then the second barrel is readily available by merely putting your finger on the second trigger. You do not have to move a bolt or work the slide as on widely used American hunting rifles. Of course one can argue that semi-auto hunting rifles are available where you can send a number of rounds down range by merely squeezing the trigger. That is true, but I am not a proponent of “”spray and pray”” marksmanship. This is especially true when one considers the number of hunters who traverse hill and dale during the hunting season. People can get wounded or killed by senseless shot after a fleeing game animal. I feel that if you haven´t bagged the animal in one or two shots, it is time to quit firing and look for another opportunity to bag your deer or elk!
This particular double rifle does not have automatic ejectors as is the cases most doubles. Automatic ejectors will increase the price of the rifle for one thing. The other is that with dangerous game it is felt that the ping of cartridge cases catapulting out of the rifle will attract the attention of a wounded, dangerous animal. If you are reloading the ammunition, it also allows you to put fired cartridge cases in your pocket rather than digging through the snow looking for them.
When this double is turned over, there is a trap door at the toe of the butt stock which houses four cartridges. This you always have spare ammunition with you if need be I am not one that goes into the forest with a box or two or ammunition as I am hunting and going on seek and destroy mission. If you can´t bag your animal with a half dozen rounds or less, it is time to spend more time on the range or gbe more selective when choosing your shots.
As I got older, I added a 23/4X scope to the rail built in between the barrels. This aids me in sighting in the rifle as well as scanning the brush or trees to see if an animal is legal… before pulling the trigger(s). There is no reason to have a 3 x 9 variable scope installed on the rifle as a double rifle a 100 to 150 yard rifle. Furthermore I am hunting and stalking the animal to get within a decent range which is part of the hunting.
Experience if I just wanted to put meat on the table, I wound use a heavy caliber sniper rifle and shoot at targets at 500 to 1000 yards. That is not my idea of hunting and I will stick to the 100 to 150 yard shots. Remember the thrill of hunting is summed up in the first four letters of the word hunting… HUNT!!
Finally we come to regulation of the rifle. It had been regulated at the firearms factory, but with modern components, that make up newly manufactured cartridges, it is required that you find which lot of ammunition or manufacturer gives you the best results in your particular rifle. I have fired factory loads, reloads with the cast bullets first. It is safe to say that my experience with cast bullets left groups at 50 looked like the path of a swarm of killer bees. In short my experience with these has been dismal at the best. Accuracy such as this was not seen since the Napoleonic Wars!!
Jacketed bullets have brought excellent to mediocre results. One needs to vary the powder charge, the powder type and of course the projectile weight and type. The number of permutations and combinations can be extreme to say the least. After many rounds fired, I came onto a winning combination. I use 286 grain loadings of RWS and Norma ammunition with an RWS loading in one barrel and a Norma factory loading in the other. This gives fine results; so easy yet so long to find this perfect combination.
When it comes to reloading I have found that you do not repeatedly reload the cases as many times as you would with a bolt action rifle. I use my case 3 times and then move on to new cases. Repeated use can result in head separations which is not advisable.
When I hunt with reloaded ammunition, I use virgin brass so that I do not have a problem in the field. I might add that when a head separation results, I do not need any toll other than a cleaning rod wit a brass bristle brush of 38 caliber. The tapered case, which aids extraction, also lends itself to removing a headless case!!
If you have not tried a double rifle for hunting, I recommend that you look it. This is not a rifle for the average “”meat hunter”” who goes into the forest to put meat on the table. It is comparable to fly fishing which is also for certain type of fisherman. If you want fish, just grab a cheap casting rod and reel and a can of worms. However there are some of us who appreciate the finest in fly rods and rifles to create the finest experience in field and stream. In the case of hunting, a double rifle can be a love affair of wood and metal for the hunter and gun enthusiasts.
For information on proof marks, consult the following publication.
Wirnsberger, Gerhard. The Standard Directory of Proof Marks. Published by Jolex, Inc.