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Double Gunning with Ian Coley MBE

Home » Double Gunning with Ian Coley MBE

It’s amazing what the youtube algorithm will gift you after searching for some shooting content. In this case its a fantastic rundown of the benefits of double gunning and how its done. The loader in question here is Jim French who is a fantastic coach and legend in the south west. The last time we met he said he’s loading as many as 90 days a season. Ian is a legend in his own right being the previous coach for Team GB. In this role, he aided Peter Wilson and Richard Folds to Olympic gold. You may recognise his name from the fantastic Ian Coley shooting school nestled just outside of Cheltenham.

What is double gunning

Shotguns haven’t always been quick to reload, go all the way back to black power and each shot would require some significant reloading time. Consequently, a loader would be on hand to make sure the gun always had a loaded weapon in hand. As we moved to shotgun cartridges this practice still continued allowing guns to shoot more birds. This became important as shooting transitioned into the now common driven shooting format.

If you’ve ever been looking at a shooting auction and wondered what a trio of quad of guns was for then this is exactly it. In the era of one thousand plus bird days, two guns might not have been enough. Add another gun and another loader and you take the wear off everyone. In particular with side by sides, the barrels can get uncomfortably hot to shoot over and over again. In today’s world you’re unlikely to come across more than a pair on a driven days shooting.

Modern double gunning loader

How double gunning is done

The process of double gunning is as you see in the video. The gun makes the shot or shots and passes the gun back to their loader. The loader then reloads the empty barrels and waits to exchange the empty gun for the now loaded one. In the video, Ian and Jim make this process look very simple but misses the tempo of a driven grouse day.

Double gunning is most popular when grouse shooting. The quick flurry of birds means people like to shoot early and out in front. If loaded quick enough the gun will have a second bite of the apple at the same flurry. While this all sounds excellent, it takes considerable skill and timing to sync the timing between the gun and the loader. When done well the rhythm is almost seamless and when done badly can be frustrating and slow.

Victorian double gunning

Staying safe when double gunning

Ian makes an excellent point of promoting safety throughout his video. While when shooting alone you may not be putting the safety on between reloads its key here. Passing a potentially loaded gun to someone stood behind you has its inherent risks. In a rush, their finger may slip to the trigger when taking the gun or passing it back. With the gun stood in front and people stood to each side this could be a fatal mistake. This risk can be negated with an automatic setting safety but this isn’t present on all guns.

Ian’s point about staying relatively still is also key. Reaching forward and back passing a live shotgun has its inherent risks. You need to have a firm grip as both the loader and the gun to avoid the gun dropping. Not only could this damage the wood of the gun but can also trigger loose trigger sears within the mechanism. Otherwise, the process is fairly similar to handling any gun. Assume they’re loaded at all times and only ever point in a safe direction.


What Ian and Jim demonstrate is that double gunning isn’t as easy as you might first envisage. The loaders only focus can only be on the gun in their hand and the one in the guns hand. As the intensity creeps up the loaders have to still keep tabs on shots fired while doing their job safely. Safety is more important than speed and it’s worth missing a couple of birds if it ensures you’re safe. Double gunning isn’t something you see often and you won’t likely see it outside of a grouse moor. What started off as a necessity to support black powder shooting has evolved to support modern driven grouse shooting.

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