Howdah pistol / carbine ?

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

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
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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  • Rich Rich on Oct 24, 2010

    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 Thumper on Feb 07, 2011

    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.