Howdah pistol / carbine ?

This nifty gun was on display at IWA. I initially thought it was a muzzeloader coach gun but some readers correctly pointed out that it looks like a modern replica of a Howdah pistol. This makes much more sense. The Howdah pistols were used by Tiger hunters in India as a last-ditch defense against charging or leaping Tigers.

I have never seen one with a detachable stock before. Does anyone know who makes this weapon?

UPDATE: Linoge commented that Davide Pedersoli & Co. make a replica that looks just like the one pictured. Cabela’s sells it for $500-$600 and the stock for $200. The barrel is 11.25″ and is available in 20 gauge or .58 cal.

With twin barrels packing a one-two wallop, this big-bore pistol was popular with Europeans exploring the vast jungles of India and Burma in the mid-1800s. On a typical excursion, explorers and soldiers were part of an elephant caravan. Riding on a howdah (the basket perched atop an elephant) may look safe in today’s world, but a century ago danger was imminent. Tigers could scale the side of a slow-moving elephant in the blink of an eye. To combat surprise attacks, the Howdah-style side-by-side pistol was created. Two cavernous 20-gauge smoothbore barrels or .58-caliber rifled barrels can be loaded with buckshot, a single slug, or the devastating “buck and ball”-load common in big-bore muzzleloaders used on dangerous game. Squeeze one of the triggers, and you’ll appreciate the hand-conforming checkered walnut grip and the recoil-soaking end-cap counterweight. Its case-hardened lockplates are engraved with detailed wild animal scenes.

[ Many thanks to Gregor for emailing me the photo. ]





Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Royi

    I actually think its a Howdah, a heavycaliber doublebarreled pistol the big-five hunters used. If a tiger jumps up their elephant, they could shoot it before it reached the comfortable hunters’ seat. Altough they might break an arm due to the recoil.

    Pedersoli has a Howdah replica in production (without the detachable stock though).

  • Tim

    Hmm, never saw one like that, but it reminds me of a Howdah pistol with a stock on it.

  • This a Pedersoli Howdah replica, it is on the market since years, the shoulder stock is the new thing.

    The Howdah pistols was used in India against attacking tigers by British.

  • Aurelien

    Looks like a Howdah double-barreled pistol with a stock added.

    • Gentlemen, well spotted, that makes more sense. I have updated the blog post.

  • Davide Pedersoli seems to make them, and Cabela’s sells them and their stock.

    • Linoge, well spotted! I have updated the post.

      This is why I love blogging 🙂 The sum of the knowledge of all of us is so great!

  • Aurelien

    I didnt know the Howdah pistols myself before watching the movie “Sherlock Holmes” where one of the bad guys shoots one.

    They are pretty much the first PDWs.

  • TCD

    Yikes!!

    Slow Down Guys!

    Think “Short barreled rifle” with this setup!

    The ATF would like to talk to you…

    Tom

  • @ Aurelien:
    Yeah, Sherlock Holmes was the first I saw a Howdah, too. I thought it was a sawed-off shotgun and then I noticed the pistol grip…I was thoroughly confused.
    Thank God for IMFDB! http://www.imfdb.org/index.php/Sherlock_Holmes

  • Mu

    I presume if it’s black powder the usual SBR/short barreled shotgun rules don’t apply?

  • Ed

    Am I missing why these wouldn’t be a short barreled shotgun with the stock on? Is it the black power?

  • Tim

    Correct. Black powder muzzle loaders are exempt. SBR and SBS shotgun rules don’t apply.

  • Pistol? Carbine?

    Nah. It is what it is, because as far as ATF is concerned it’s not a firearm, and since it’s not, why apply the ATF’s labels?

  • Aurelien

    Well the company building those dont really care about the ATF, as its made in europe. Here there is no short/long barrel considerations, there is usually more a caliber consideration.

    Here in France, as long as you have the military caliber autorisations, you can buy whatever AR-15 you want. Even a kittykat if you feel like it.

    The Howdah pistols usually work with ball ammo instead of buckshot.

  • 54Bravo

    Looks cool-it’s like the “steampunk” version of MadMax’s sawed off shotgun!

  • subase

    Now that’s what I’m talking about. Too bad they are a pain to get these days, but you can’t argue with the knockdown power of 20 or 12 gauge.
    Cops in those shot first and asked questions later. (probably)

  • Aurelien

    Howdah pistols don’t fire shotgun ammunition. They were usually chambered for heavy caliber ball ammo, like .577 Martini-Henry caliber. Later they were chambered in .455 Webley, but they mostly used full-power big game rifle ammo.

  • Witt Sullivan

    In the mid-1800’s, percussion Howdahs were made in larger calibers up to .72 caliber with one and two barrels, even a few extremely rare three barrel models that used common musket balls. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the double rifle makers started offering Howdah pistols in common large caliber metallic cartridge calibers. I doubt they loaded them with shot, just solid balls.

    The Pedersoli “replica” is available in 20 gauge (or .62 caliber) as listed, or .50 caliber, not .58. You can get a combo model with one barrel in 20 gauge smoothbore and one in .50 caliber rifled. There were rumors about a .58 caliber model, but they haven’t materialized in the black powder community. There have been a few that were sold as 20X.50″, but they had a larger than .50″ barrel, close to .54.

    A lady in Alabama took a deer with one this season, loaded with a .60 round ball, so it can be capable.

  • Good post. I love these blasts from the past.

  • Lar45

    The reason it is a Non-Firearm is because it is a muzzle loader with an outside hammer and exposed nipple for the cap.
    This falls into the Antique or Replica Antique category and is not considered a firearm by the GCA and NFA.

    Inline muzzle loaders that have a closed bolt and use Shotgun primers are considered a Firearm.

    Noone is going to break an arm shooting a Howdah.
    I have a 70 cal Pinfire that weighs less than 3 lbs. I load 1 oz slugs with Black Powder in custom cases and it is rather pleasant to shoot.
    I don’t know if this will let me insert pics, but I’ll try.
    [img]http://www.lsstuff.com/howdah/pics/howda/70cal-01.jpg[/img]

  • Rich

    Middlesex Village Trading Company has a similar 20 gauge double-barrel percussion pistol (they also have an earlier-styled flintlock with 6-3/4″ barrels that also comes in .58 caliber/24 gauge smoothbore, and some other neat historic replicas as well). These pistols are made in India, and are about half the price of the Pedersoli. From what I have read, they need a bit of gunsmithing (heavy trigger pulls, need better fitting on flintlock frizzen-to-pan, etc.) before they are decent shooters, but supposedly the barrels are good enough to make German proof standards (which are very stringent) – they won’t blow up unless you do something wrong in the loading procedure (like leave a gap between the powder and ball, or use too fine a powder granulation which ups the pressure – ffffg priming powder instead of ffg, in other words).
    I have actually considered the percussion version as a “woods gun” (maybe even a pair of them, at that price!), ever since a local hunter got treed by an angry sow bear and her three yearling cubs while he was bowhunting deer. After all, the original purpose was backup against big, dangerous animals. Paper cartridges would help speed reloading, too (bite off the end, pour the powder down the barrel, then stuff the paper and ball in all at once).

  • thumper

    This is a Pedersoli Howdah with a detachable stock. Cabbellas has them in 20ga. and 58cal. i own a .58 with the stock and it shoots fine with or without the stock. You can load it from 20gr to 90gr FF or FFF and have no prob shooting it. It is very accurate out to better than 40yds. The 20 cost abt $600 and the .58 abt $500, the stock is $195.I bought the .58 as back-up in muzzel loader season because you cant use a BP pistol under .50 cal here in PA and mine are all .44s, my next one will be the 20ga or the 20/.58 so I can use it in turkey season. ATF doesnt regulate Black Powder firearms anyone can buy them, including pistols, as long as you are over 18yrs. Pedersoli is the only maker that has a detatch stock. they also have detatches for the 1860 44cal pistol and two other pistols that i cant think of right now. If you check out the Cabellas or Dixiegunworks website and go to Black powder you can see the other pistols that have detatchable stocks. I cant wait for them to design one for the 1858 New Army. I have a Cattlemans Carbine that is a long gun version of the 1858 but its just not the same. One more thing ,if you buy a cattlemans Carbine the cylnder WILL NOT interchange with the 1858 New Army. The carbine is made by Uberti and is abt 1/16″ shorter than the Pedersoli 1858, you will need a GOOD gunsmith to resolve this problem because the cyl pin needs replaced and he will have to ream out a few holes to get the proper fit. Good Luck, Stay Safe.