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Around the time of the first world war, these types of weapons began to fall into disfavor, among the general shooting public. The new pump, and semi auto guns offered lighter weight, and more firepower, in a slightly longer package. A well made repeater could also be made to cost less than a well made double. Though doubles were still being made, they tended to be of rather low quality, in an attempt to stay cost competitive with the repeaters. This was particularly true of the side by side shotguns. Though some excellent double guns continued to be made, the cost of the better quality models put them out of the reach of most shooters. Double barrel enthusiasts who were not rich, had to settle for some less than ideal guns. This is a consequence of the difficulty in aligning the twin barrels to the same point of aim, and of the general expense of creating, essentially, two guns set in one stock. Though repeaters have a more intricate mechanism, they lend themselves much more readily to modern production methods, than the venerable double gun.
There had always been a small following, for these types of guns, among certain sports shooters. In addition to the rugged simplicity of the piece, these weapons are easier to clean, and not at all fussy about ammunition. A double gun cannot jam. A double is also capable of delivering the fastest follow up shot of any type of firearm, since there is no action to cycle. The largest following is among skeet, or trap shooters, for which the rapid second shot, is a big factor. The weight of the twin barrels is actually an advantage in this type of shooting. The classic coach gun, however, is unsuited to this type of shooting, and most of those competing use the over/under style of double. This gives a clear sight plane, centered over both barrels. These guns also, generally, have a single, selective trigger, and are hammerless.
The coach gun has increased in popularity over the last several years, because of an increase of interest in cowboy style shooting. This is pretty similar to the resurgence of popularity that the old Colt SAA experienced decades ago. These matches require authentic weapons, true to the times. This includes single action pistols, lever action rifles, and double barrel shotguns. The only other shotgun permitted at these events is the old Winchester 97, the pump gun that cleaned the trenches during the first world war. Though it is allowed, the old 97 is not greeted enthusiastically by many purists. The cowboy shooting leagues have competitions all of the country, and championships out west every year. Participants use authentic weapons, and accessories, and even wear authentic clothing. It is a grown up version of the cowboy games that it used to be politically correct for children to play.
Loading, and firing the coach gun, is done by pushing a tang mounted lever to the right, and breaking the action open. Two shells are inserted, and the action is closed. The hammers must then be cocked, making the weapon ready to fire. The front trigger, fires the right barrel, and the rear trigger, fires the left barrel. After firing, breaking the action open will partially eject the empties, which can then be removed by hand. Simple, though slow. There is no disassembly required to clean the weapon, simply break the action, and run a cleaning rod through each barrel, and go over the surface of the breech.
Though not lending itself to high tech gadgets, the double does offer the user the option of using barrel inserts. barrel inserts are, essentially, chambered barrels, in a variety of calibers, which fit down the barrel of the shotgun. Autoloaders do not lend themselves to this type of use, but the double can be made, in this fashion, to fire a number of different calibers, or gauges.