A Double Good Time
Two Southern competitions where the side-by-side shotgun is enjoying a comeback
If your vision of heaven is a place where everyone shoots a double-barreled shotgun, you can find paradise on earth at various events around the South. You can find it in October at the Southern Side by Side Fall Classic in Georgetown, South Carolina, for example. I also found it recently at the Southern Side by Side Spring Classic in Sanford, North Carolina, where two thousand lovers of the classic smoothbore were on hand for three days of immersion in their favorite subject. These “sister” classics are run by Bill Kempffer and Rick Hemmingway (owner of Georgetown’s Back Woods Quail Club), who added the fall event to satisfy the demand “for another opportunity to celebrate the side-by-side shotgun here in the South.”
The popularity of these and similar doubles-only events is nothing short of phenomenal. Only a generation ago double-barreled shotguns were regarded as relics from a bygone era, wistful reminders of a golden age when gunmakers such as Fox, L.C. Smith, and Parker represented American craftsmanship at its finest. Hunters increasingly opted for inexpensive, multi-shot repeaters, and shooting games were dominated by over-and-unders with adjustable ribs and buttstocks and other such gadgetry incompatible—unthinkable, actually—with doubles. And the risk of damaging vintage barrels by firing federally mandated nontoxic shot caused cautious owners to consign their cherished doubles to permanent gun cabinet retirement.
But a few collectors and lovers of doubles reminded us that their balance and fast handling qualities make them almost ideal for the sporting clays game. The art of wingshooting in its purest, most elegant form was rediscovered as gun clubs began holding tournaments for doubles only, and the idea spread like wildfire. That was a dozen or so years ago, and soon legions of similar-minded lovers of doubles began showing up at shoots with guns that hadn’t fired a shotshell for decades.