Whether one looks at comic books, fiction or film, firearms play a huge part in geek culture. In fact, there’s an entire web site dedicated to document who carried what.
This feature takes a look at some of these weapons – focusing on their real-world performance rather than in-universe function. If there’s something you want to know more about, be sure to mention it in the comments.
Today we’ll look at a fairly common firearm put in a very unique setting: Ash’s double-barreled Boomstick from Army of Darkness.
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Army of Darkness is a marvelous romp, filled with endlessly quotable lines uttered by Bruce Campbell when he was unquestionably at the height of his masculine absurdity.
One of its many great moments is when the film actually pauses so that Campbell can provide the audience with a full introduction of his weapon of choice. I could quote it, but you all know it by heart. (If you don’t, watch the following clip).
What’s particularly amusing about that bit is that it’s apparently not a Remington at, but rather a Stoeger Coach Gun. What would we do without internet obsessives fact-checking firearm dialogue?
Throughout the film, Ash is able to deliver devastating volleys at his enemies and then reload (one handed!) with super-human speed. Antonio Banderas pulled off a similar trick with a double-barreled shotgun in the opening scene of Desperado. Everyone likes the destructive potential of “giving them both barrels” but who has time for the messy business of reloading? Thanks to Hollywood film editing, we can simply play audio of the action opening and presto! We’re ready for another volley.
An Enduring Classic
Double-barreled shotguns go back centuries to the age of the muzzle-loader. The notion was pretty simple: given the slow reloading speed of the time, the best way to assure a quick follow-up shot was to have a second gun fused to the first. This reached its logical conclusion with the development of “pepperbox” revolvers, but making a rifle or shotgun version of that size was simply impractical (though there were ‘volley guns’ mounted on carriages).
The break-action shotgun came into its own in the late 1800s, along with what is now a rarity: the break-action rifle. By that point magazine weapons (like the Henry and later Winchester rifles) were becoming feasible, but the problem was the delay created by cycling the action.
Double-barreled weapons could be fired in rapid succession, which was particularly important when hunting. Some weapons used a single resetting trigger, but others had two, allowing the firer to drag backwards. This is very useful when targeting fast-moving game.
Big game hunters if the era were particularly drawn to double-barreled rifles as it offered an immediate second shot – which could mean the difference between life and death if hunting on a safari. In the Ghost and the Darkness, Michael Douglas’ character uses one of these chambered for a suitably massive cartridge for exactly that reason.
In theory, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns have removed the need for a twin-barrel configuration, but they still endure, partly because shotguns can have the barrels set to different shot patterns, which is useful when hunting birds. One can also load different types of ammunition (say buckshot in one barrel, slug in the other) which gives the shooter more options at the moment when it’s needed.
Wimps Need Not Apply
There are two universal features common to all double-barreled weapons, rifle or shotgun, over-under or side by side: they are heavy and have fierce recoil.
The weight is the function of having two full-length barrels instead of just one and is particularly pronounced in rifles, which necessarily have to be built to withstand higher pressures than shotguns.
The heft of the weapons does have an upside insofar as it dampens the considerable recoil. Like revolvers, the energy used to propel the projectile out of the barrel has nowhere to go but into the firer. Many weapons have some sort of shock absorber in the butt to mitigate this, but there’s no way to avoid that fact that firing 3-inch magnum 12-guage shells through one of these is going to leave a (black and blue) mark.
If you are interested in obtaining one of these, it’s doubtful you can get one for about $109.95, but unlike many firearms, they are still obtainable at a reasonable price. Note that the over-under variety are generally more expensive than side-by-side models.