Aficionados of side by sides often lament the current lack of interest in classic doubles. Some even tell how their double is often the only one at the range, how younger shooters treat it like a curiosity, and return to their autos and pumps.
I am a life long user of break open shotguns, double and single, OU and SXS, yet empathise with the new shooters and their preference for modern semi autos.
Any new shotgunner doing an Internet search sees that good new doubles cost a fortune and used decent ones can cost multiples of a semi auto. That the double must be fitted (at a price), it needs to go to a competent gunsmith for annual servicing (also at a price). Should the gun need major repairs or replacement parts, then the cost can reach thousands of dollars.
Searching a bit further the new shooter might bump into posts from hunters who have participated in the most intensive bird shooting in the world: doves in Argentina. They report how many of these guys leave their treasured doubles at home and hunt with rented estate guns, usually Italian semi autos.
A Benelli Montefeltro bolt dismantled at the range with no tools, a feat inconceivable for any double.
These rental semi autos often shoot one thousand rounds per day. They are cleaned in a way that can only be described as rough. Here is an account from a poster who saw the process:
“Incidentally, I did observe the guns being cleaned on several occasions; the Montefeltros. Guns were disassembled and all parts mixed together and soaked in Kerosine, not gasoline. Then they were dried and reassembled. All parts seemed to be interchangeable as none of us had any malfunctions the next day with our mixed parts guns. It was amazing.”
Auto trigger group can be removed by punching out one pin allowing inspection and cleaning of a vital assembly in seconds.
The same poster said that after about ONE MILLION rounds these Benellis are sold used on the local Argentinian market, destined for more shooting in the hands of local hunters. It is likely that their ribs did not come loose, their stocks did not crack and probably had no measurable barrel wear.
Delving a little deeper the new shooter will learn that the modern auto is supplied with stock shims that adjust the stock to his dimensions. In other words it can be fitted at no cost. The interchangeable chokes regulate it to his type of shooting, also at no cost. Ironically then, the modern auto loader turns out to be just as “bespoke”, in the areas that count, as the vintage double.
A luxury grade Breda semi auto Apollo from the 1950s was an indicator of things to come. It uses a recoi system and is now regarded as a classic. It does not have any screws and can be taken down with no tools.
Servicing can be done at home with factory drop-in parts. Even in the event of a barrel burst, a new barrel can be bought and fitted with no tools. Contrast that with the cost of sleeving or rebarreling a double! Parts fit with no tools or very simple tools. No hand fitting necessary. The semi auto usually comes cased, accompanied by full sets of stock shims and five chokes plus choke wrench, oil and usually a gun lock.
No wonder then that the average new shotgun buyer veers towards the self loader!