Once upon a time in the West there was no Highway Patrol, but there was a Double Barrel pistol.
Once truckers left the city limits for the open road, the only police were country sheriffs thinly distributed. The only deterrent to highway robbery was self defense, and one of the more useful self-defense tools was Ithaca’s Auto & Burglar double barreled pistol, an American shotgun version of a Howdah.
The original Howdah guns were 19th century handguns designed as a last line of defense for Indian tiger hunters using clumsy flintlock firearms in the howdah baskets atop elephants. Should their flintlocks fail to terminate Mr. Tiger and he leaped up for revenge, the double barrel pistols would be brought to bear.
Ithaca’s 20th century Howdah featured barrels 10 or 12.5 inches long. The “butt stock” was just a pistol grip. But the A&B was not a sawed off shotgun. It was classified under the National Firearms Act of 1934 as a smoothbore pistol. The gun was beloved by police, bank guards, truckers and anyone tasked with transporting valuables through dangerous territory. Unfortunately, the 1934 law that classified the gun also spelled its demise thanks to a mandated registration and a $200 tax, which effectively priced the guns right out of existence. Ithaca stopped making them after just 4,000 were built. Survivors are selling in the $5,000 neighborhood.
But now they’re back. Sort of. And affordable.
Pedersoli of Italy is making a Howdah double barrel pistol, a near replica of the Ithaca except it’s chambered for the .45 Colt and fitted with side-by-side rifled barrels. That allows it to be imported by the Italian Firearms Group of Texas and sold as a pistol — one that can also fire .410 shotshells. If you visit IFG’s website, don’t be confused by the Howdah Hunter pistol with the external hammers. As the time of this writing, the new model wasn’t even on their site yet.
Last spring I had the chance to work with a prototype of this gun in the Texas panhandle, and was pleasantly surprised. The little pistol was easy to shoot, fun to operate and more accurate than I first imagined with .45 Colt loads, .410 self-defense loads and .410 bird shot. My target tests suggest this will be a viable small game gun for squirrels and bunnies out to 15 yards. Meat hunters could shoot “fool’s hens” off limbs with this handy “camp gun,” too. (Depending on location, fool’s hens could be blue & dusky grouse, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse or ptarmigan. The more isolated these species, the more “foolish” their behavior. Hey, if all your life you’ve evaded terrestrial predators merely by hopping into a tree, what’s so foolish about looking down on a two-legged critter you’ve never seen before? It’s not like there’s a bird gene for recognizing firearms.)
Most of Ithaca’s Auto & Burglar guns were chambered in 20 gauge, but they made at least a few in .410, 28 gauge and 16 gauge. The .410 was reamed for 2.5” shells only. The new IFG double barrel pistol will handle standard .45 Colt cartridges and 3-inch .410 shells.
The prototype gun I tested, as you’ll see in the video, had a single trigger, but production guns will reportedly have double triggers. I’m not certain what final barrel length will be. Regardless, the IFG Pedersoli .45 Colt/.410 Howdah will be one fun little camp gun, home protection gun, small game gun and conversation piece. You can bet not everyone in deer camp will have one.
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