Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

The art of the combination gun

An extraordinarily striking example of a four-barreled "vierling" combination gun.
An extraordinarily striking example of a four-barreled “vierling” combination gun.

I must admit I’ve been a fan of combination guns since a friend of mine showed me a pre-World War II J.P. Sauer drilling brought home from Germany by an American Army officer as a war trophy.

A drilling, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to a three-barreled firearm. Some have two rifle barrels and a single shotgun barrel; others have two shotgun barrels and a single rifle barrel. My friend’s Sauer has two 16-gauge shotgun barrels and a 7 x 57 rifle barrel.

I thought about my friend’s gun this morning when I ran across the accompanying photo. It is of a vierling, a four-barreled combination gun. Not only is the firearm an example of exceptional craftsmanship, it is exquisitely engraved and beautifully photographed. It has two 8 x 57R rifle barrels (roughly equivalent to the venerable .30-o6 Springfield cartridge), one .22 Hornet rifle barrel and a single 20-gauge shotgun barrel. I was struck by the sheer artistry of it, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you here.

Combination guns were (and I suppose, still are) popular among European and Middle Eastern aristocrats who took part in European-style hunts. The idea of such a firearm was to be prepared for any kind of game the beaters pushed your direction, from big game to small game to upland birds. Combo guns are almost exclusively used for hunting.

Such guns are not for the light of wallet. As a lowly newspaper employee, I can but admire them from afar. Sigh…