The 4-bore (approximately 1″/25mm bore diameter) is the largest shoulder-fired rifle actually used for hunting. Developed in the days of black powder muzzleloaders, it was intended to be the ultimate rifle of last resort, to stop a charging elephant, rhinoceros, or other angry behemoth by sheer size of projectile. The cartridge continued to be used through the development of centerfire metallic ammunition and smokeless gunpowder, although it would be made obsolete by the greater penetration available from smaller smokeless-power cartridges in the 1890s and later.
While they were used by professional guides and hunters as well as sportsmen, the 4-bore was often a presentation and display gun, as it was simply too much for many people to want to carry and shoot. The most notable high-end bespoke gunmakers like Holland & Holland offered 4-bore rifles of exquisite quality and engraving, and in this video I’ll take a look at several of those (including guns from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad).
In addition, I will fire a couple rounds through a single-barrel 4-bore rifle rebuilt by J.J. Perodeux of Enid, Oklahoma. This rifle is truly a shooter’s gun, without the decorative embellishments of the guns from aristocratic collections. Whatever your taste in elephant rifles, I have something here for you!