I’ve always had an affinity for collecting and hunting with the most unique—some might say bizarre—guns I can get my hands on. These may not be the most accurate, durable, or reliable rifles ever made, but they never fail to turn heads and fill me with a sense of adventure and nostalgia for hunting in bygone eras. Check out the following rifles that top the list of strangest and coolest I’ve taken into the field.
German cape gun
Half 16 gauge shotgun, half 9.3x72R rifle, all business. From the bottom barrel comes a 193-grain bullet booking along at 1,950 FPS; from the top, a 2 1/2″-long, 16-gauge shotshell. This makes for a very handy combination when you’re walking back from your deer stand and happen to kick up a ruffed grouse—assuming you can remember which trigger operates which barrel.
This is one elegant and well-balanced gun. It’s ornate, but not ostentatious. Substantive, but well balanced. Given its absence of makers marks, I don’t know who the craftsman was who built this fine piece, but they clearly knew their stuff.
“Tellbüchse” German stalking rifle
Although originally a trademarked name for rifles sold by J. P. Sauer und Sohn, Tellbüchse eventually became a generic term for light, break-action single-shots like this one. Toting this 8.15x46R stalking rifle on a hunt feels a bit like carrying a (deadly) magic wand. Short and laughably lightweight for a gun made at the beginning of the last century, this rifle was designed to be easy to carry for extended periods, a key feature for still hunters. Its set trigger (pulling that rear trigger first makes the main trigger break at a much lighter weight) is intended to improve accuracy.
Finding cartridges for this old rifle is a challenge. The cartridge cases can be made from resized .30-30 Winchester brass, but the 150-grain, .316-diameter bullets need to be cast. Those rounds reach velocities of approximately 1,675 FPS—no slouch for a gun that’s light and short enough to be a child’s plaything.
.45-50 Peabody double rifle
Chambered in the .45-50 Peabody (aka .45-50 Martini Sporting, introduced in 1873) this beauty—with its exposed hammers, fine checkering, and color case-hardened receiver—evokes images of grand, old-world safaris. The cartridge, though adequate for large game, is hardly substantive enough to take on Africa’s Big Five, but this rifle would work beautifully on thin-skinned game like deer or antelope.
Another obscure chambering, if you wanted to take this on your next whitetail hunt, you’d have to form the brass using .348 Winchester Centerfire cartridges. The bullet is a fairly common .454 diameter, 200-grain chunk of solid lead that trundles along at a modest 1,350 FPS.
Commercial Schilling/Suhl Mauser 8mm
This ain’t your military surplus Mauser Kar98k. A pre-WWI commercial 8x57mm Mauser, this rifle is an absolute tack-driver. Cosmetically, it’s a jaw-dropping showpiece, with quilted walnut furniture, fine hand checkering, a case-hardened and delicately engraved receiver, and a butter-knife bolt handle. The five-shot internal clip (shown above) makes this Mauser especially quick to load. Once the last shot is fired, the empty clip is pushed through the floor plate by a new, full one. An important note on this rifle: The bullet diameter used for these old Mausers is .318, which is smaller than the .323 diameter of bullets fired through WWII-era 8mm Mausers. It’d be catastrophic if the wrong ammo were used.
Chambered in the gentle-recoiling 6.5x54mm M-S, this full-stock Mannlicher–Schönauer features an internal rotary magazine known for smooth, reliable feeding. Even a cursory glance at this rifle conveys its extraordinary fit and finish. The slender, full-length stock; elegant checkering; and butter knife bolt handle combine to make for a gorgeous example of firearm craftsmanship.
This rifle, in this specific chambering, was used extensively by elephant hunter Karamojo Bell and was reported to be a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, too. Its excellent ballistic coefficient and sectional density make up for the round’s comparatively anemic potency—by dangerous game standards, anyway. The caliber proved to be extremely accurate and it penetrated well.
High production costs led to the discontinuation of these rifles in 1972, so if you find one in good, unaltered condition today, it will likely fetch a princely sum.