Sacrebleu! Shades of the pepperbox revolver-say Howdy to the Howdah pistol!
We've all seen 'em, the Tarzan movie fans among us-those late-night, colorized flicks with some nerdy Brit riding high atop an elephant, hunting lions and tigers and such in triple-canopy jungle.
Hunting from the back of an elephant isn't my thing, but I get the point. Those of us who have hunted deer in south Texas know that elevation is everything. If you don't get up off the ground, you'll never see a white-tailed deer in that country. Same must be true of hunting big cats in India's jungles.
I guess the Brits figured an elevated perch from the backside of a 10- or 11-foot-tall Indian elephant, seated atop a large saddle-a howdah-was the best way to hunt dangerous lions and tigers.
If anyone was going to get mauled by the cat-it would be the elephant or the brush beaters.
But how to aim a long-barreled magnum rifle, up close and personal, at an attacking feline?
Sure as shooting, you didn't want to kill the beast upon whose back you were sitting, and a long gun was no doubt best for cats farther removed from your gray, 8-ton steed. Precisely why a short-barreled big-bore gun was last resort for taking out pesky kitty cats ready to spring from the tall grass.
The British multi-barreled revolver, the Howdah, a.k.a., the Lancaster pistol, was the gun of choice for Colonial British big-game hunters in India and Africa during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Depending on the version, Howdah pistols had two or four barrels chambered in .455 Webley or .476 Enfield pistol, just what the doctor ordered for taking out pesky carnivores at close range. Early Howdah guns were simply sawed-off rifles chambered for the .577 Snider or .577/450 Martini-Henry.
The Lancaster came in centerfire .380 and .450, .455 and .577.
Whether a sawed off rifle or custom pistol, the Howdah was one hell of a big-bore gun, used by British officers for dangerous big game or dangerous two-legged aboriginal combatants in the colonies.
When discharged, the operator of this weapon was wise to lean into the shot-or hold onto the howdah elephant saddle horn lest he find himself dislodged and on the jungle floor-big cat bait.
Howdah pistols had lots of recoil-and one hell of a punch on their business end.
But who's complaining about the kick with a charging lion, tiger or Zulu warrior in one's sights?
Whether used for gentlemanly sport or combat, Howdah and Lancaster pistols were popular with British officers until they were replaced with the more conventional Webley revolver. And whether a charging cat or an enemy combatant was the object of the Howdah's destructive blast, the end was nearly always the same, a vanquished adversary shredded by this howitzer's great firepower.
Coming soon to a south Texas deer blind near you-the Howdah .577-Bambi, watch out!