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Turning an over-under .410 shotgun into a double rifle

DO WHAT??? That’s right, I have turned a .410 over/under into a darn nice double rifle.

I was watching one of those neat African hunting shows where the hunter shot a buffalo using his double rifle, and I thought, “How neat would it be to have a double rifle when I am beating the brush for wild boar?”

Boars are sort of like buffalo in one way – they will charge you. More than once I have been charged, either by a boar or a sow with piglets. I did not need a .500 Nitro or some other big caliber like that, but it would have been neat to have a caliber with plenty of knock-down power out to 30 yards – as this is about the maximum distance I shoot when in the thick brush or swamp.

So far, I have used a Marlin .444, a 12-gauge pump shotgun, several large caliber handguns, a Winchester Model 100 in .308 and my favorite, a Remington 870, 20-gauge rifled-barreled pump slug shotgun.

But, after watching this hunter use the double rifle, I was pretty sure I wanted one.

So, I did what I normally do when researching guns – I went to the Internet and typed in “double rifles.” Several familiar sites came up, and I picked the first one – which was an auction site – and clicked to be directed to their site with several pages of double rifles for sale with pictures, prices and descriptions.

I slowly scrolled down, looking at the small pictures and the ridiculous prices. I actually clicked on several to view a larger picture and better description and found several double rifles that I liked – as well as one that I really liked.

There was just one little teeny problem with the one that I really liked – the price! I had to figure out a way to convince my wife to allow me to spend $48,000 for a rifle I really did not need.

Can you begin to see the problem I was facing? I have a pile of rifles, shotguns and handguns, and here I was looking at a double rifle that cost more than my first house!

Simply put, this $48,000 rifle was not going to happen, so I was not even going to ask.

I did find one ol’ beat-up muzzleloader that was a double rifle, but it looked like the barrel was about a mile long and probably weighed 15 lbs. The asking price for this piece of junk was over $1,000!

I found another double rifle in .45-70, but it was also over $1,000.

A .410 over/under was looking pretty good, as I thought I would be able to pick up a decent used one for around $200, and I knew I could get a new one for around $350 – which is a lot better than $48,000!

After a few months of searching, I found a nice used one with a single trigger and a ventilated rib that only cost me $230. Out came the bank card, and I was soon the proud owner of a .410 shotgun.

The gun is a Baikal .410 gauge, over/under shotgun, chambered for 2-3/4-inch or 3-inch shells. It has a ventilated rib, real nice wood with some checkering, a single gold trigger and a thumb safety.

The top barrel is choked full, and the bottom is modified with no way to insert choke tubes. The metal is a nice deep blue with no rust or scratches, and when you break open the gun, it ejects the spent shells. Overall, I think I did good in getting this gun for the price I paid.

Now, this is a shotgun with a smooth bore (not a rifled barrel). But, I figured out to 30 yards, I would be able to find a slug that shot 1- to 2-inch groups, which was all I needed for short distances.

I was pretty sure I wanted some sort of sight – other than the gold bead on the end of the rib – but I could not buy anything until the double rifle showed up, as I needed to measure the width and height of the ventilated rib. I was hoping I would be able to find something that would mount to the rib so I would not have to drill holes in the gun.

Once the gun arrived, I measured the width and height and started looking. This was way too easy, as my first search landed me at a site that displayed three pages of after-market shotgun sights, including: glue-on, magnetic, press/snap in place and bolt on.

I was pretty sure I was going to need a front and rear sight that bolted to the shotgun and one that allowed me a big bunch of elevation and windage adjustment, because I had no idea what these slugs were going to do out of this shotgun (oops, I mean “double rifle”).

The company had two that allowed for this type of adjustment, so I purchased the Williams Fire Sight, which attaches with small screws and a clamping wedge on both the front and rear of the rib. The front sight has a high visibility orange light tube, and the rear is a high visibility bright green tube.

After this was installed, I shouldered the gun several times to find the sight acquisition was much easier than trying to find one lonely small gold bead. If I could find a slug that would shoot accurately, I would be in business!

Installation of the sights was a chore for someone like me, who has hands and fingers larger than a small child, but with the aid of a strong magnet (to hold the parts in place) I was able to install the sights while saying only one curse word. Luckily, the big piece of plastic tarp I placed under my work area allowed me to find all of the little screws that fell on the floor during this process.

Now, I had to find the right slug for this gun. Because one barrel is modified choked and the other is fully choked, I was pretty sure there would not be one slug that shot equally as accurately from both barrels.

Lucky for me, the .410 slug industry is not under the same shortages as most other ammo. I was able to find all of the different brands of slugs I wanted - piles of them. I do not own any equipment that allows me to handload slugs, so I was at the mercy of factory ammo.

After I installed and bore-sighted the sight, I was ready to burn up some powder testing the accuracy of the sack full of slugs I had acquired.

My first two shots proved my guess about not being able to shoot the same slug from both barrels with the same amount of inaccuracy was correct. I was not able to test both barrels at the same time because of the different choking, so I decided to find a slug that the top barrel liked before moving on to the bottom barrel.

After running several flavors of slugs through the top barrel – which, by the way, was a pleasure to shoot – I found four that the top barrel would group in 1.5 to 2 inches and several that did not hit anywhere near the bullseye.

When I tried the most accurate slugs from the top barrel in the bottom barrel, it was just as I thought – not even close to the results of the top barrel. Of the slugs that shot accurately in the top barrel, only one was within 4 inches of the target in the bottom barrel.

But, I was able to find two that the top barrel did not like, but would shot 1- to 2-inch groups from the bottom barrel at the same 50-yard distance. Despite the fact that each manufacturer and load has different colored hulls, of course, the ones that shot best in the top barrel were the same color as the ones that shot best in the bottom barrel. To fix this problem, I took a black marker and painted the slugs for the bottom barrel black so they would not get mixed up. I tried swapping them around and shooting the most accurate top barrel slugs in the bottom barrel and vice versa.

What a mistake it would be to get them mixed up! When I tried this, the two-shot group at 50 yards from a Lead Sled was 9 inches – as opposed to a group of 2 inches when I shot the correct top and bottom barrel slugs!

But, now that I have the appropriate slugs for each barrel, this gun is going to work out just fine. I now have a .40 caliber double rifle. During my research I read that I can use .444 Marlin brass to handload .410 shotgun shells. If I am able to find a load using a .41 caliber bullet, I might be able to turn this little rifle into a sub-MOA shooter at 50 yards. I guess I need to try to find a deal on .44 brass and an assortment of .41 caliber bullets.

Now this has got me wondering if I can have these barrels rifled! I know I am kind of getting carried away and need to stop right now before I end up with a big bunch of money in this “Fun Shooting” project!

The bottom line is, I have taken an over/under .410 shotgun and turned it into a pretty neat and fairly accurate short range rifle for less than $400 – and I have not damaged the original shotgun. Therefore, if I want to take the sights off of it, or leave them on, I still have a nice little .410 shotgun and a big pile of .410 slugs.

This little “double rifle” experiment turned out okay and only cost me $47,680 less than if I had purchased the double rifle I saw (and really liked) on the auction site.

My next adventure will be to try to handload .410 shells out of .444 marlin brass. I have done this with shot, but never with a solid projectile.

Now that deer season is over until next year, I might have to head to Tiger Island Outfitters in Cedar Key and try my “Double Rifle” on some of their pigs!

If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings. Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe!

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”