Some time ago (in 2006) I wrote a post about John Jacob and his unusual rifle. In it I said that Lorenzo Barber, the “Fighting Parson” of the 1st U.S.S.S., used a Jacob rifle because he is mentioned as having a double-barrel rifle with one barrel loaded with buckshot and the other with a bullet. This was just an assumption on my part, and it looks like an erroneous one.
Reader Art Ruitberg contacted me about the reference I used for that statement, and I had to admit that I did not have one for the specific make of gun. Ruitberg suggested that it might have been a “combo” gun made locally in New York state. A combo gun was both rifle and shotgun Some had the rifle barrel directly over the shotgun barrel, some had them side by side. All were muzzle loaders. This made for a versatile gun both for hunting and the battlefield, but one that was rather heavy. Several New York gunmakers built them to order, so it seems more likely that Barber used one of these rather than an imported (and very expensive) Jacob. Barber himself describes it as “my double barrelled rifle, containing a bullet in one barrel and nine buck-shot in the other” but gives no more details.
Period examples of this kind of gun come up for auction now and then. A recent one was this Lewis Hepburn combo gun, which sports a .45 caliber rifle barrel over a 12 gauge shotgun barrel. Operating out of Colton, New York, Hepburn (1858-1908) made his own rifles, then later worked for Remington, where he designed the famed Hepburn target rifle.
So I have revised my opinion about Barber’s gun. It was most likely a New York-made combo gun.
Combo guns remain popular today. The one you most often see is the Savage Model 24, and over and under combination that comes in a variety of calibers. In Central Europe many hunters use a drilling—a three barrel gun with two side by side shotgun barrels over a rifle barrel.
Special thanks to Kramer Auction Service in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, for permission to use the photos.