If you were asked what comes to mind when you hear “dangerous game rifle,” or DGR, surely only one of two images would be conjured up: either a bolt action with a Mauser-type controlled-round feed, a sturdy set of iron sights, a barrel band front swivel and perhaps a dropped box to increase magazine capacity by one; or a double rifle with side-by-side (SxS) barrel orientation and double triggers. There’s no question that the latter is the more romantic of the two, the kind of gun a professional hunter in Africa has for protecting clients. But this romanticism is based more on habit—people have always carried them—than on the rifle’s actual features.
What about the over/under (O/U)? Among those who hunt dressed in tweeds and ascots, it would be sacrilege to show up for a driven pheasant hunt with anything but a SxS. Yet the vast majority of the world’s hunters and competitive shooters, who favor twin-barrel shotguns to self-loading pump “contraptions,” overwhelmingly prefer the O/U. It’s the same with rifles. Throughout Europe, O/Us vastly outnumber SxSs. In fact, those in Europe looking to acquire a SxS chambered in any of the more popular game calibers (6.5x55mm, 7x57mm, 7x64mm, 8x57mm, .30-06, 9.3x62mm or 74R) have few options—not so with O/Us.
O/U Vs. SxS
What brought all this to mind was an incident that happened at Safari Club International’s February 2012 annual convention. Among the endless aisles I spied some interesting guns on display at the Antonio Zoli exhibit. Next to Beretta, Zoli is one of the largest and most diverse Italian gunmakers. The company makes bolt-action rifles, O/U shotguns, O/U rifles, O/U combination guns and drillings, but they don’t make a single SxS anything. I thought this interesting since building O/Us required the same skills as those for SxSs.