Forgotten Weapons Captures the Unholy Recoil of a 4-Bore Rifle in Slow Motion

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When faced with large, dangerous game set on ending your life before you end theirs, there really is no substitute for raw power. That’s a fact that African big game hunters throughout history have recognized, and reflective of this are the huge, cannonesque rifles they took with them into the brush. Some of theΒ most massive and impressive of these were the weapons in various incarnations of the 4 bore caliber, named for being roughly the diameter of bore slugged by a round lead ball weighing one quarter of a pound. Later centerfire nitro 4-bore cartridges fired bullets as heavy as 2,000 grains (0.286 lbs) as fast as 1,500 ft/s. Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons puts his shoulder on the line shooting a single-shot blackpowder centerfire 4-bore rifle under the watchful lens of a high speed camera, capturing the rifle’s tsunami-like recoil in slow motion detail:

Ultimately, the 4-bore rifles didn’t lack for power, but were cumbersome to carry, and due to their large bores actually possessed inferior penetration against thick-skinned dangerous game when compared to their smaller nitro magnum counterparts, such as the .505 Gibbs and .500 Nitro Express. As a result, the huge 4 bore rifles remained for the most part curiosities only, although their existence is a testament to their owners quest for maximum power.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Wolfgar

    I have read where some of the actual users of the 4-bore rifle while hunting elephants would some times acquire the bad habit of flinching even when shooting smaller caliber rifles. I can see why, great video and a little guts.

  • TVOrZ6dw

    +1 for having the guts to pull that trigger!

    • Ian McCollum

      Twice! πŸ™‚

      • iksnilol

        Yeah, but that second round was a mild practice load. I mean, anbybody could have done that second shot.

        ;=)

      • Giolli Joker

        Am I wrong or you’re left handed and you took the first shot from the right to preserve your main arm?

        • Ian McCollum

          Yeah, I did – just in case it actually injured me. πŸ™‚

  • iksnilol

    Sabots.

    Put a 50 caliber saboted bullet in it.

    • Cal S.

      I think that could shoot to the moon.

      • iksnilol

        THEN WE SHALL SHOOT FOR THE MOON!

    • Giolli Joker

      Cool, but it would need smokeless powder.

      • iksnilol

        Of course, also a really long barrel… dem gainz.

  • Paul White

    Damn man. I know a good shoulder surgeon or two…

  • Nicks87

    I think we need an AR15 chambered in 4 bore… ya know, for hogs and such.

    • iksnilol

      I dunno, civvy legal M79 would be a better choice for 4 bore.

    • wetcorps

      4 bore SBR for home defense.

      • mosinman

        don’t forget the suppressor

        • iksnilol

          Funny enough, this thing could work well with a suppressor. Sure, a lot of gas would escape behind the gigantic bullet but still, you could easily load it subsonic. I mean, you could make a 2500-3000 grain bullet and lob it at 300 m/s if the original loads are 2000 grains at 450 m/s. Should also recoil less.

      • SP mclaughlin

        Screw your TV, just blow up the guy running off with it.

    • Cal S.

      Use THIS against those poor, defenseless hogs?!

      If you tried this on a hog ranch, it would tip their elevated blinds over. No thanks!

    • smartacus

      i like that idea πŸ™‚

  • Oregon213

    Next TFB run and gun?

    • Kevin Harron

      Wow, you don’t like Alex C very much… πŸ˜›

    • Cal S.

      That skinny little guy (no offense, Alex) would get eaten alive by this beast!

    • Alex will need an ambulance standing by for that one. That would separate your shoulder.

      • iksnilol

        Nah, there’s this legit technique of shooting backwards to lodge the shoulder back in place. Just turn your back to the target and use some voodoo magic to hold it correctly.

        πŸ˜‰

  • I don’t shoot high recoil guns like this since I had a couple of friends with detached retinas. Having worn glasses since 2nd grade I’m extremely paranoid about my sight.

    • Paul White

      Broke my shoulder in 2014…wonder if it’d hold up to this?

      • smartacus

        aw yeah, i see no problem here πŸ™‚

    • Giolli Joker

      This scares me much more than a sore shoulder… I had never thought about this risk…
      How did it happen to your friends?

      • Heavy recoiling guns, one a 50 cal, not sure which on on the other. They were lucky in that one was only partially detached the other they reattached.

      • Dan

        Been stories going around the .50 cal shooting circles of retinal detachment. Haven’t seen anything to prove it, and so far mine are still attached. From the little bit I’ve read it sounds plausible. I now have vision insurance just in case.

        • iksnilol

          Smart.

          From what I understand it happens if you shoot it a lot.

          For the sake of safety I will just get a 20mm on a tripod, that way I don’t have to shoot much πŸ˜‰

  • PeterK

    NOPE! Nopenopenopenopenope. Ow.

  • Bill

    Bring on the Punt Guns.

    • Tassiebush

      I finally ordered the outlaw gunner. Am looking forward to the read.

  • Evan

    How does it compare to .577 T-rex?

  • Jonathan Ferguson

    This is why we still haven’t fired our 2 bore rifle..

  • Cal S.

    Yay! It’s a mini-car wreck simulator! πŸ˜‰

  • Giolli Joker

    I love the tags…
    Although now topping them in a future article about a 2 bore from Stolzer & Son’s would be pretty hard…

  • American Spartan

    Henry Bowman has one..

    • Renegade

      Damn. I was going to comment “Henry Bowman approves.”

    • Edeco

      The passage from that book where Henry thinks about, well, I’m not even going to type it, came to mind when I saw the article. I wish the author had left out the 4-bore stuff and a bunch of other tedious, materialistic filler. I like technically hard lit as much as anyone, but it’s like 100 pages of objects-Mr-Ross-likes. Weighs down the book, gives the lie to it as counterculture lit.

      • American Spartan

        You….”Hammer Time”?

        It is a great book non the less..

        • Edeco

          That’s a good way to put it!

          The book is impressive, lots of info, well thought out, and, you know, it’s shockingly uncompromising about the message. Strikes a chord since as a lad I was afraid Janet Reno would get me and my cat. But he drools over some of the characters and some of the objects. It’s saccharine, smarmy, frumpy… reminds me of a senior, retired person with too much free, alone time yakking about their collection of figurines and soap operas. Combine that with the more shocking plot elements… I appreciate Ross’ work, but I can’t myself endorse it.

          • American Spartan

            I hope he writes a squeal, he has planned it for the better part of 20 years.

      • iksnilol

        Reminds me of Herman Melville.

        On the other hand I know all the manners of meeting a ship in the 1800s so I dunno whether to be angry or thankful.

  • A.WChuck

    That will settle your accounts, Sonny Jim!

  • politicsbyothermeans

    But can he handle a Mosin?

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    Daaaaaaamn. It looks like Ian got punched in the throat! I’ve seen lots of gun recoil videos, but this is the first one I’ve seen where it actually looks like someone’s getting hurt.

  • Patrick M.

    In a recent episode of InRange Ian said his shoulder was bothering him. I guess we know why

  • gunsandrockets

    Very practical. If you miss the dangerous game animal, the smoke cloud aids your escape!

  • Lance

    Do a run and gun with this Alex!!!!!!!!!!!

  • smartacus

    holay mother of…!!
    i mean that looked more dangerous than marriage.

  • Giolli Joker

    700 NE?
    I think it’s a 577 T-Rex.

    • iksnilol

      Like, not even Alex C. can afford to fire any substantial amount of 700 NE.

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    Actually, I have.

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    Lllllllllllet’s just say that I never saw this in slow-mo from so close up in HD.

  • Jeff

    Fire an 8 bore once. That was more than enough.

  • jerry young

    I’m up for shooting this! why not you only live once!

  • Phil Elliott

    How does this compare to a 4 ga.? I have a shell, it was given to me by a friend who was a collector of Double Rifles.

  • Limousine Liberal

    Yowza. Dude definitely had bruises.

  • Beomoose

    Somewhere, someone is already trying to figure out how to make a 4-bore AR.

    • William Elliott

      quit reading my mind….
      I was however watching that and thinking how a few modern changes MIGHT make it less punishing to shoot…you know, suppressor/muzzle break, pistol grip, recoil buffer stock…anti aircraft tripod….

  • ParaLarry

    Recoil is why we love to shoot.
    Suck it up! πŸ”«

  • Xeno Da Morph

    WOW recoil energy is 280 ft/lbs or recoil impulse 18 lb/sec. Compared to a 8lb rifle .308 recoil energy 15ft/lbs and recoil impulse of 2lb/sec. Or a 7.5lb M4 556 Recoil energy of 0.83 ft/lb and Recoil Impulse 0.62 lb/sec. DANG!

  • asm826

    There is a substitute to raw power. Good penetration and proper bullet placement is what made these large caliber rifles into historical curiosities.

  • Mehul Kamdar

    Steve Zihn and Colin Stolzer, whom you’ve featured on TFB in the past, build even bigger 2 bore rifles in the US. More than twice the muzzle energy of a 600 Nitroexpress on the 2 Bores, in case the 4 Bore looks like a heavy-recoiler.

    Full disclosure – Steve is my friend, and Colin was his apprentice, and has now started his own armory.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    How many BLM in a row will that penetrate? (expect negative PC reactions. fill in the acronym of your choice)
    Does it come in a Semi Auto? (smirk)
    Where is Burt Gummer?

  • Isaac FluffyWolf Rader

    I actually have! Just not from so close up.

  • Fegelein

    That’s not a cartridge — that’s a dildo! Did somebody say Allahu akbar?