The lost art of the side by side

For what seemed like a century the side by side double barrel shotgun ruled the roost.  It was cheap, simple to use, and its application nearly instantly understandable to anyone who laid eyes on it.  Two back to back shots of 12 gauge.  But today is seems to have fallen out of favor.  What did the pour thing in?  I’d say this topic is worth investigating.

The world of double barrels certainly has changed in the last century and a half.  Once upon a time in the early 1930’s, double barreled shotguns could be had for very little.  With some gun catalogs pricing them at $12 or less.  With an inflation adjustment that would come out to about $186.  Not a bad price at all for a highly versatile, easy to use firearm.  Now a days finding a quality gun at that price would be nearly impossible.  Now much of what you’d find at the double barrel section at a gun store would be high-end trap shooting over/under shotguns.

These gun from $500 all the way up to $2000 with a median price of about $1200.   These shotguns are quite a bit more mechanically complex and fragile than the side by sides of today and  yesteryear.  While fantastic choices for skeet and bird hunting, they’re generally poorly suited for combat or home defense with their long barrels and hefty price tag.  Only a few companies come to mind with a “combat over/under” in their line up.  The Stoeger Condor Outback is the only one i can think of.

As much handy and simple to use they are quite obsolete.  Since 1987, the year Winchester debuted the Model 1897, double barreled shotguns started to lose market share to their repeating counterparts.  While two shots of 12 gauge may seem powerful, it pales in comparison to 5 repeating shots of 12 gauge.

Pump-guns like the Remington 870 don’t break the bank and have been around since 1950.  That means gunsmiths and accessory manufacturers know the ins and outs of these quite well.   They stay strong and make for great guns to be passed down from one generation to the next.  Not to mention that their pump action makes them well suited for all kinds of ammo from low power bird shot to 3 inch magnum slugs.

Finally we have to mention one of the bigger side by side killers.  The automatic shotgun.  The first successful semi-auto shotgun to come out to the market was the browning Auto 5.

Once it hit the scene it was a instant hit with sport shooters and outlaws alike.  The auto 5 offered something that nothing else had before 5 shots as fast as you could pull the trigger.  Not to mention its reliability.  With its tagline of “come hell or high water” its easy to understand its popularity.  Nothing at the time offered as much as the Auto-5 could, reliability and great endurance.  The borrowed time the side by side was going off of finally ran out in the late 60’s.

It isn’t completely over for them tho.  Groups such as cowboy action shooting keep the spirit alive with their meet ups where people compete to see who’s the fastest and the most accurate.  Side by sides also keep them selves alive with pop culture.  They’re usually shown as close range annihilators in wild west shows, or video games.  It’s to let the audience know that no one who gets hit with one of these is walking out.  Not to mention they still are popular in places where firearm ownership is unfortunately highly restricted.

So if you’re thinking about getting a new shotgun maybe consider purchasing a side by side.  Whether they’re used or brand new, you’ll get years and years or enjoyment out of the side by side.  A true American classic!

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