The new Pedersoli Ithaca double pistol is an historic design with a lineage well beyond Ithaca itself that dates back to late 19th century Europe and the development of the Howdah-style pistol. On the American frontier of the 1870s, the handful of Howdah-style pistols that found their way West were quickly copied by gunsmiths as well as those with little more than a hacksaw and an idea. A Howdah pistol, however, was a far more elegant sidearm.
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The technical description of a Howdah pistol, as outlined by arms historian Robert J. Maze in his 2002 book Howdah to High Power is that of a “large-caliber (typically rifle caliber) handgun. Multi-barreled designs were initially favored for Howdah pistols because they offered faster reloading than was possible with contemporary revolvers.” They also offered the advantage of significantly larger calibers than a revolver could provide.
For hunters in Africa and India, the Howdah was regarded as the last line of defense against large game at close range. Although originally intended for use in only the “gravest extremes” during the late 1880s, Her Majesty’s Royal Army officers adopted the Howdah pistol as a defensive weapon carried in the many far-flung outposts of the British Empire. Staring down the twin barrels of a large-bore Howdah was a foreboding sight. This was the same idea Ithaca had with its circa-1922 smoothbore side-by-side, only for use with shotshells rather than rifle-caliber cartridges.
The Pedersoli Ithaca is based on the 10-inch-barreled Flues Model break-action shotgun introduced in 1922 and manufactured through 1925. The grip shape is nearly identical, including the integrated spur to stabilize the gun in the hand during recoil (a design seen on many Howdah pistols), the sliding thumb-operated safety and break-open lever, but with a slightly longer wrist than the original design, thus increasing the length of reach to the trigger. It was decided to use a single, non-selective trigger for the Pedersoli Ithaca, firing the right and left barrels in sequence, unlike the original design’s dual triggers. However, dual triggers can be special ordered for the Pedersoli Ithaca. Another change is the addition of a folding rear leaf sight to allow for better targeting.
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The Pedersoli Ithaca is chambered for .45 Colt cartridges. The vast majority of original smoothbore Ithaca models were chambered in 20 gauge, although other gauges were produced, including approximately 20 in .410 gauge, which Pedersoli intends to add later in the year with rifled barrels chambered in .45/.410.
In total, Ithaca produced about 4,500 of the double-barrel smoothbores under the “Auto & Burglar” series in two models: the elegantly styled Model A and the New Improved Double (NID), or Model B, which featured a revised pistol-grip design and longer 12.2-inch barrels chambered for 2¾-inch shells (the earlier guns were only chambered for 2½-inch rounds). Around 1,500 of the NID versions were sold through 1934, when the National Firearms Act (NFA) was implemented, making ownership illegal without registration and a $200 transfer tax. The retail price for the guns back in the early 1930s was $40, thus an additional $200 tax and a stack of paperwork brought an end to Ithaca’s Auto & Burglar production.
The Pedersoli Ithaca hammerless double is a rifled-barreled pistol and not a smoothbore shotgun, thus it is not subject to NFA restrictions, and it’s more akin to the late 19th century Howdah pistols made famous by Holland & Holland and James Purdey & Sons, among others.
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The integrated boxlock action used in the Pedersoli Ithaca is based on the Anson & Deeley design developed in 1875 for the Westley-Richards Company. The silver welded barrels use a monobloc with two lugs, and a horizontal wedge inserted on the frame that fits inside the lugs when the action is closed. The Pedersoli has a handsomely hand-checkered splinter forend, a hand-checkered pistol grip with a spur and a color-casehardened receiver and tang. The blued barrels, triggerguard, trigger, lever and checkered sliding manual safety are highly polished. The 10.25-inch barrels have a broad center rib for the folding rear leaf sight and ramped silver-dot front sight. The gun has “Pedersoli Ithaca” marked on the center rib. The .45 Colt double guns will be available in the fall and imported by the Italian Firearms Group (IFG). The retail price has not yet been announced.
Old West Double
From an Old West point of view, a hammerless double was late to the game but certainly a player in the last two decades of the 19th century. But this is exactly what Ithaca was building in the early 20th century, a time when the American West was still very much alive and kicking along the border states with Mexico and in the Oklahoma oilfields. Automobiles might have replaced horses, but wild was still a big part of the West, and the Pedersoli Ithaca rekindles a spark from that long-lost era. For more information, visit italianfirearmsgroup.com or call 800-450-1852.
Pedersoli Ithaca Specifications
- Caliber: .45 Colt
- Barrels: 10¼ inches
- OA Length: 17 inches
- Weight: 4.1 pounds (empty)
- Grip: Walnut
- Sights: Front bead, leaf rear
- Action: Break
- Finish: Blued, casehardened
- Capacity: 1+1
- MSRP: N/A
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This article originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.