What Is Paradox Rifling? What You Need to Know about Paradox Rifling

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The type of projectile you can shoot from a shotgun, rifle, or hybrid of both is determined by barrel rifling. These are the machined helical grooves within the gun’s barrel internal surface or bore. But what is paradox rifling, and which type of firearm and ammunition would be compatible with such a barrel?

Paradox rifling can be seen in a barrel, spreader, or choke tube that features rifling only at the end of the tube near the muzzle. This term emerged from 19th-century customization of a double-barreled shotgun when one fired shells and the other bullets. In 1885, a British colonel invented a ‘paradox gun,’ where the barrel, primarily smoothbore, would have the last few inches rifled in ratchet design.

It could be like the huntsmen of old: You’re tired of toting a shotgun for fowl together with a rifle for opportunist game or protection against predators like bears. Paradox barrels or chokes can provide lighter baggage as you won’t rely on two firearms. Learn more about this curious adaptation and its application today for hunters and shooters.

Does Paradox Rifling Make a Shotgun That Shoots Slugs Practical?

You’ve heard of gun bearers, expert firearm handlers that stood beside gentry hunters during their safari expeditions. Before Lt. Colonel George Vincent Fosbery came up with the paradox barrel, a shooter’s itinerary would include several rifles of various calibers, managed by several assistants. The entourage harvested small game like rabbits and fowl using a shotgun but would switch to rifles for larger or further away targets.

In 1886, Holland and Holland, English firearm manufacturers, started offering the double-barreled paradox gun after purchasing the patent rights. ‘Paradox’ in itself means a statement that stands in self-contradiction. Since smoothbore was the norm back then, this shotgun with a rifled barrel was contradictory to the status quo.

From hence, hunters to India and Africa could carry one firearm that uses two different projectiles. The shooter loaded the correct cartridge depending on the target and proceeded to shoot with conservative accuracy for both shells and slugs. By 1930, Holland and Holland had built over 1500 guns in various gauges or bore sizes. These included eight, ten, twelve, sixteen, and twenty-gauge.

The paradox gun also raised a legal question since any firearm with an over .50-inch rifled barrel regarded as a destructive weapon. A ruling by the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau of that time, or BATFE, was obtained to state that since the gun fired shot-shells with a modification to shoot slugs, it was still a shotgun.

How Effective Is Paradox Rifling in Barrels or Choke Tubes for Hunters?

You can find paradox rifling already installed in single-shot break-open and bolt action shotguns. These firearms are remarkably accurate. For bullets, saboted slugs specially designed for a rifled barrel can shoot at par with a typical rifle.

Despite owning the patent and paradox gun trademark, other manufacturers also pitched into Holland and Holland’s dual-use, ball and shot firearm. Such replications of the original went by these makers’ brand names, including G and S Holloway and Westley Richard. By 1905, guns under trademark names like ‘Fauneta,’ a 20 to 28 gauge model, and ‘Explora,’ a larger 12-gauge firearm, were on the market in London.

With a paradox gun, a hunter can harvest small game and use paradox cartridges when deer opportunities present themselves. Paradox rifling can be part of the barrel or a small choke added to your smoothbore shotgun’s muzzle. With such a set-up, you’ll have an advantage over a shell or slug-only barrel regarding employing both for pests and big game.

In areas where fowl and deer seasons overlap, you can load up your firearm with shot, solid or hollow point rounds with varied results. Currently, Holland and Holland have a cartridge loaded with solid lead 740 grain.

How Are Barrels Rifled?

Various countries have developed forms of rifling, many originating from the time of muzzleloaders. Breechloaders also brought across multiple grooving patterns, and much of what we see today are copies of these designs. The 5R rifling is a famous example originating from the ’80s from the barrel maker Boots Obermeyer shop floor in Bristol, Wisconsin.

Instead of parallel sides, there are sloped and angular grooves that go top to bottom. The idea was sourced from the Russians with the A