Hunting with Pedersoli’s Howdah Double-Barreled Pistol

Davide Pedersoli Howdah Hunter with sight-in target, hog teeth, percussion caps and expanded Buffalo Bullet Ball-Et from the hog.

 Davide Pedersoil named their gun the Howdah Hunter. The double-barreled pistol was 18 1/2-inches long, had two .50-caliber rifled side-by-side barrels and weighed about 5-pounds. As I write about hunting with black-powder pistols and this gun was called a “hunter,” I took it on as sort of duty to go out and hunt with it.

  There were some problems. We don’t have many, if any, howdahs in Georgia.  These wooden, leather and fabric structures sit on elephants’ backs and in India were used as mobile hunting platforms. Tigers would sometimes claw their way up the elephant’s trunk or flanks in an attempt to attack the hunter/s. The howdah pistol was a large calibered double-barreled pistol designed to be used as a last-ditch means of  self-defence.

 Cartridge versions were chambered for large capacity black-powder cartridges like the .577 Snider,  and I suspect that the 12-bore was the most common muzzleloading caliber. Pedersoli, the Italian gunmaker, decided to use some of the components of  their  muzzleloading shotguns and rifles and produce a double-barreled pistol on the style of these very uncommon,  historic arms.

 The pistol that I requested from Dixie Gun Works had two 50-caliber rifled barrels. The gun is also available from Dixie Gun Works, Cabela’s and others with .58-caliber rifled barrels, 20-gauge smoothbore barrels or with one  rifled and one smoothbore barrel. It is always a challenge to get double-barreled guns of any sort to shoot both barrels to  the same point of aim.  Some makers have attempted to solve this problem by putting adjustable sights on top of each of the two barrels or by providing set screws to apply pressure on the end of one barrel so that it could be adjusted.  

  The Howdah Hunter had only a front bead sight. If I was to do anything to get the barrels to shoot together, I would have to do it by developing different loads for each barrel. In the meantime, I had arranged a hunt in Texas where I would shoot from tower stands at hogs coming into bait. This was the closest that I could come to shooting from a Howdah. (Although, I can see some real potential for hunting on elephants for hogs in Florida and on the Gulf Coast where the thick, tall vegetation and flooded swamp makes hunting very difficult  to do on foot.  Hunters do the next best thing by putting high seats on airboats and swamp vehicles.)

  After much experimentation with  powder charges and bullets, I found that I could achieve 2-inch groups at 20 yards. To get the maximum power from the gun’s 11 1/4-inch barrels, I changed the number 11 nipples to the larger musket cap size and elected to use Hodgdon’s FFg  granulation Triple Seven black-powder substitute powder. To keep variables to a minimum, I decided on a charge of 60 grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder in both barrels.  I used a 370 grain Thompson/Center Arms MaxiBall in the right barrel which gave 1022 fps. and 853 ft./lbs. of muzzle energy. The bullet that shot closest to the bull from the left barrel was a Buffalo Bullet’s 270 grain Ball-Et which had a velocity of 1088 fps. and 710 ft./lbs. of muzzle energy. Recoil was noticeable, but controllable.  The delivered energy,which would still be above the 500 ft./lbs. often considered as the minimum for deer-sized game, gave me confidence that these loads would be effective on hogs, provided that I put the bullets in the right place.

 Additional complications were that the trigger pulls were long and hard in addition to the not inconsiderable problem of no rear sight.  Since this gun was a  “loaner,” I could not smooth up the triggers as I usually would. Although it would not appear so, shooting guns with only a front sight, or even no sights, requires more skill that shooting a similar gun with a full set of sights. The guns must be held exactly the same way from shot to shot, the eye must elevate the front bead to precisely the same point while attempting to fight through the trigger pull. It was very helpful that I would be able to shoot from a solid rest by bracing the gun on the stand’s safety rail.

Texas hog taken with the Howdah Hunter.

The hogs were extremely cautious coming into the corn. They had obviously been shot from this stand many times before. It took minutes for me to ease the pistol into shooting position, silent cock the right hammer and wait for the largest log to be in a position. I wanted it to face directly away from the stand so the bullet would have the maximum opportunity to strike the spine even if there was a several-inch error in elevation. This ideal shot did not materialize. When the hog had moved a little away from the others, I aimed at the top of the front shoulder.

  I started the long trigger pull. A breath and a half later the trigger broke, and the shot fired. The hogs scattered, except for the one that I shot. The heavy bullet had passed close enough to the bottom of the spine to immobilized the hog, but it was still alive.  I cocked the other hammer. This time I sighted at the back of the animal’s head and, although fighting another tough trigger pull, managed to put the shot where I aimed. The hog died within seconds. The Ball-Et passed through the spine, the shoulder and was found in well-mushroomed condition under the skin on the far side.

  My quest with the Howdah Hunter had ended.  Both bullets were delivered to where they needed to go. I was very happy to put the Hunter back into its box and return it to Dixie. That hunt provided material for the 2010 edition of  Gun Digest. I had enjoyed the experience of working with an interesting and historic gun of a type that I would have likely never had a chance to handle, much less take on a hunt.

 A more detailed account of this hunt is in my new book X-Treme Muzzleloading which is to be published this fall.  For information on it and my other books go to

14 thoughts on “Hunting with Pedersoli’s Howdah Double-Barreled Pistol

  1. Very Interesting and a well written article.

    I also purchased a Howdah Pistol in 58 Caliber. I must test it at the range and latter take it hunting.


    • Dear Kaido,

      The Cabela’s Howdahs come with a steel ramrod. If yours has the regular wood rod, I suggest that you replace it with an all-metal rod before you even start out with the gun. The barrels on my gun could have also benefited from lapping to smooth the bore. You might also want to stone any burrs off the action parts to smooth up the triggers.

      Hornady also makes a saboted bullet for .58-caliber muskets. This does leave some plastic in the bore, but it washes out. When I worked with this bullet in a flintlock pistol, I had to brush, wipe with an alcohol-soaked patch, dry the gun (fire another cap in your Howdah) and then reload. The advantage of the sabot was higher velocity, less recoil and increased penetration. I had to put a wrap of lubricated typing paper around the jacketed bullet so that it would be retained in the gun’s barrel as I walked around. You may or may not have a similar problem depending on your barrel’s dimentions.


      • Hello Hovey,

        Yes My Cabela’s Howdah did come with a Steel Ramrod.Thank You for the info. I will be testing various projectiles, including the Hornady Sabot, Round Ball, LEE REAL Bullets, LEE Mini, Buffalo BallEts.
        You are doing an excellent job by giving exposure to Black Powder Handguns for hunting. I greatly support this and say, keep up the good Work. I look forward to your further works to come.


  2. I found with large calibers shot from pistol-length barrels that a point was reached where recoil grew to the point where I could no longer control the gun. The result of having to reduce charges was lower velocities with round balls in the range of 650-700 fps. The pure lead balls no longer expand on flesh and and cut through game like arrows. An extreme example was with 12-gauge round balls shot from a 20-inch barrel from an Encore pistol. Until I figured out what was going on, I lost game with this load because the animal had no indication of being hit and there was very little blood.

    This was the reason that I experimented with the Hornady .58 Sabot which shoots a .45-caliber, 250 gr. XTP bullet (bullet no. 6739). In my flintlock pistol, I could get reasonable expansion and penetration with managable recoil. This is one of the hunts that is in my forthcoming book, “X-Treme Muzzleloading.” This experience is what prompted me to get the .50-caliber Howdah, rather than the larger .58 or 20-gauge version – plus, I already had lots of .50-caliber components on hand.

    The Howdah is an interesting gun, but difficult to work with. I will be very interested to learn what you find out about it. Pedersoli now offers a detachable stock for it. Although they do not do it, this may open the additional option of mounting a rear sight on the stock. This would help, but still does not solve the problem of the barrels shooting to different points of aim as no attempt is apparently made to regulate them, outside of making the gun to standard pre-set tolerances.

    • The barrels are regulated for 10 feet. That was typical of all such pistols built from scratch rather than converted from rifles. The howdah is designed to shoot tigers from the back of elephants hence it name

  3. Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve be mindful your stuff prior to and you are just extremely magnificent. I actually like what you have got right here, really like what you are stating and the best way wherein you say it. You are making it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.

  4. Hovey, Any recommendation as to powder charges for .58 Howdah. Ped. says 25-35 (ffg or fffg??) but that seems a bit light.

    • Dear Tom,

      That is a light charge in that pistol. The Italians cannot imagine that anyone would actually hunt with handguns of any sort, much less replica muzzleloaders. With its two barrels shooting to two points of aim, I had to develop two different loads to have the gun shoot to within 2-inches at 20 yards. One of the best bullets was a Hornady 50-caliber bullet with a .58-caliber sabot. The problem with this load was that I had to wrap the bull with a paper patch to make sure it remained in the bore while I hunted. I also put musket nipples on the gun. You can read the details in my book X-Treme Muzzleloading or the new E-book on hunting with muzzleloading pistols. You can find these all on

      • Thanks, Hovey. I just ordered your book. Did you use any special sort of musket nipples? Thanks for your help.

    • Yes, the nipples are available from Dixie and they use the same metric thread that Pedersoli uses. I forget the pitch, but I think that the catalogue specifies those for metric guns. If the nipple does not screw in easily with the fingers it has the wrong pitch.


      • Sorry to bother you with this, but what size of nipple. There seem to be 6 and 8 and 1 metric and 1.25 metric at Dixie. If this is covered in your book, just let me know.

      • Go ahead and order by phone from Dixie. Tell them what your gun is to make sure you get the right ones. If they do not fit, just return and exchange for another set. This is no problem with Dixie so long as the parts are not buggered or used.

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