some point in their career, all serious big bore shooters and/or
hard-core safari hunters will make a pilgrimage to the high deserts
of California, looking for the shop of Butch Searcy, and looking for
arguably the best deal on a custom double rifle on the planet.
B. Searcy Company is headquartered in the small
desert community of Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of
Los Angeles. Located in an old WWII Quonset building, just across
the road from Edward’s Air Force
Base, Searcy is ready to kit-up and custom fit a double enthusiast
with a custom double barreled rifle in any caliber they are willing
to pay for.
Butch offers six grades of double rifles: four
boxlock designs and two sidelock designs. The Field Grade is the
entry-level boxlock, which as of January 1, 2010, will have a base
price of $11,500.
The next step up is the Classic boxlock at
$18,000, then the Deluxe boxlock at $21,500, and the Sidelock at
$22,000. Finally, there are the ultimate stoppers; a .577 Nitro
Express double that you can have as a Boxlock or a Sidelock for
$22,000 and $35,000 respectively (larger calibers available).
All these rifles have multiple options and
feature choices, the details of which can be best viewed at Searcy’s
Standard calibers offered are the .375 H&H
Flanged Magnum, the .450-400-3” (.411”), the .450 3¼” Nitro Express,
the .450 Nitro Express, the .470 Nitro Express, the .500 Nitro
Express (3” and 3 ¼”), the .577 Nitro Express, the .600 Nitro
Express, the .700 Nitro Express, and the incredible 4-Bore. The
4-Bore double rifle starts at $85,000. Other calibers are available
on request for an additional charge.
Only the Searcy double rifle can be described
as an ‘All American’. Although other available doubles may be
assembled in the United States, they are built on German or Italian
actions. The Searcy rifles are machined right here in the States
and have Anson and Deeley style receivers, with double Purdey
bolting and top extension, and are CNC machined out of 4130 chromoly
and 416 stainless steel bar stock into boxlock or sidelock
Searcy’s doubles come fitted with monobloc
PAC-NOR barrels, and
are topped with iron sights from
England Custom Guns. A second set of double rifle barrels in
a different caliber will set you back a cool $10,000, while a set of
12 gauge shotgun barrels can be fitted for a mere $4500. Final
barrel options include the choice of installing ejectors ($1000) or
extractors (including rimless).
All Searcy rifles come standard with a
quarter-rib, which includes one fixed rear sight and a caterpillar
front sight. However, rear sights with folding leafs are available
options at the rate of: one fixed + one folding leaf $400, one fixed
sight + two folding leafs $500, and one fixed sight + three folding
leafs $600. The final iron sight option is a front ‘night sight’
not usually recommended for the larger ‘stopping’ caliber rifles,
scope mounts are a popular option for the large medium bore caliber
rifles, where a good quality riflescope can be very useful for long
distance shots at plains game. Two styles of mounts are available;
Talley rings and
bases for $595 or the European style claw mounts for $2900.
To most traditionalists, red dot sights on
double rifles are inconceivable. However, to a growing number of
riflemen, they are a welcome addition to their sighting options. If
you have vision issues that make the use of regular iron sights
difficult, a lightweight red dot style sight is just the ticket for
close shots where quick handling and accurate bullet placement is
more important than traditional good looks.
level of engraving and fancy metal work can be had on request. The
depth of a shooter’s pocketbook is the only limit to the amount of
decoration and embellishment available. To give the engravers
additional working area, $1000 false side plates are offered for the
All of these doubles come with custom-fitted
stocks in various grades of English walnut from
Jim Preslick or the
Luxus Walnut Company. Besides
fitting (length, bend or drop, and cast-on or cast-off), other
options on stocks include; long tangs ($1500), long trigger guard
($800), trap grip cap ($550), stock medallion ($400), teardrop
medallion ($500), and leather covered recoil pad ($400. And
finally, for $1500, all rifles can be had in an oak & leather
When you consider the entry-level
Holland & Holland .470 double
rifle at almost $80,000 and a
Richards sidelock at just over $96,000, a Searcy sidelock at
$22,000 certainly does look like one of the best deals on this
planet for a custom double. However, there will soon be a new
higher dollar rifle rolling out from Searcy’s shop. Built on the
expensive to manufacture, but robust action that John Rigby and
Thomas Bissell patented in 1879; the Sidelock Bissell Rising Third
Bite action’s initial price will be $40,000.
A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune
to make my own pilgrimage to Butch’s legendary Quonset hut on 20
Mule Team Road in the company of .470 reloading guru, Leo Grizzaffi.
As an old friend and customer of the B. Searcy Company, Leo had been
asked by Butch to help him wring out a (then) new project, which
consisted of fitting an extra set of 375 Flanged barrels to his well
worn and well broken-in .470 Nitro Express.
barrel combination has proven popular for many safari hunters who
already own a double rifle in one of the heavy ‘stopping calibers’,
i.e., a .45 caliber or larger. However, there are always other
factors to consider when deciding on the caliber of your add-on
barrel set. At that time, .375 Flanged brass was easier to find
than .450/400 brass, but with Hornady’s recently introduced 3-inch
and 3½-inch .450/400 brass now in production, getting .450/400 brass
may no longer be a problem.
When I questioned Butch and Leo on the
desirability of a .375 Flanged barrels vs. a set of barrels in
.450/400, we got into the other issues which had led them into
choosing the .375 Flanged. The deciding factors were; there is a
large variety (and ample supply) of .375 caliber bullets available
for handloading, and with its longer range and somewhat flatter
trajectory, the .375 Flanged is more versatile in the field than the
However, the final reason for going with the
.375 Flanged was that the .450/400 simply was not a big enough step
DOWN in power. With its significant reduction in recoil, the
average person will find the .375 Flanged not only more pleasant to
shoot, but more manageable than the .450/400. Even for someone like
Leo, who has put over 5000 rounds through his .470, and over 2000
rounds through the .375 Flanged barrels, tailoring the amount of
recoil down to more manageable levels was a major point. On a
practical level, if the rifle is pleasant to shoot, more practice is
done on a regular basis. That way, the shooter develops familiarity
with the weapon, muscle memory is enhanced, and when it comes time
for serious use, fear of recoil becomes a non-issue, with handling
and reloading the rifle become second nature.
the other end of the spectrum are the extreme big bore double rifles
that Searcy makes, which start with the .577 Nitro Express and
include the .600 Nitro Express, the .700 Nitro Express, and the
massive 4-Bore. If you are not completely insensitive to recoil,
the best thing you can do is stay on the porch, because recoil is
where these big dogs run.
As a bonus for traditionalists, Butch also
offers the dynamic duo of stopping calibers: the .450 Nitro Express
and the .450 3¼” Nitro Express. These cartridges give the handloader
the ability to use relatively cheap, and easily available .458
bullets to make premium ‘full-house’ hunting rounds, as well as use
cast lead .458 bullets for ‘reduced load’ practice rounds.
It is not a problem if you own a modern rifle
like a Searcy, but if you are going to handload full-house loads for
any of the old original .450 Nitro Expresses, you should have a good
gunsmith check the rifles out thoroughly, and remember to keep the
pressures low. Inexpensive bullets and low recoil practice are an
attractive combination of features in favor of choosing these
The 450 Nitro Express calibers were the first
of their kind, and when it came out, it was viewed by many experts
as the best in its class for hunting the most dangerous game. Guess
what? It still is.
a custom double rifle maker like Searcy working right here in our
back yard is a boon to the American customers who are in the market
for a brand new double, and want something better than an ‘out of
the box’ factory rifle.
Not only are his prices competitive with the
factory doubles from Germany and France, but you are dealing with an
honest US gun maker who is not only easily available, but willing to
back up his product, and in most cases offer quicker delivery times.
If price is no option, and sending your rifle
back to England for repairs is not inconvenient, then it is hard to
argue with anyone who wants to buy a Holland and Holland or Westley
Richard. However, in my opinion there is a lot of value for the
first time double rifle owner to get into the game at roughly 25% of
the big name English rifle makers entry level prices for doubles.
But at the end of the day, it is up to the
individual buyer to weigh their own needs and opinions against what
is available on the market today, and to decide for themselves what
rifle brand best fits their budget, investment strategy, and
Bunn is a hunting publication
veteran with a of Bachelor Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He hunts
Africa regularly and is an avid hunter with rifle,
pistol, shotgun, and bow.
We are lucky to have the choice of a wide range
of styles in double rifle design and cosmetics available in the in
the 21st Century marketplace.
wasn’t that long age when all the firearms pundits were convinced
the double rifle had seen its last safari, but in a relatively short
period of time, and despite the recent downturn in the US economy,
double rifle sales have rebounded from their ‘death’ in the 1960’s,
and looking at their sales in the long term, we are in the strongest
market for double rifles since World War II.