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Howdah Equals Hardcore Hunting

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Hunters pursuing dangerous game in India during the 19th and early 20th centuries commonly used a howdah, or elevated platform mounted on the back of an elephant. One problem with this style of hunting was that oftentimes a tiger would take exception and climb up the back of the elephant in an attempt to reach the tantalizingly close human prey. The final recourse of a hunter watching a tiger claw its way up a maddened pachyderm was to employ the howdah pistol, a two- or four-shot heavy caliber handgun, to end the tiger’s ambition.

This elaborately gold-embellished Alexander Henry .577-caliber howdah pistol is believed to be the finest ever made by this gunmaker. Cased with ivory-handled loading accoutrements and two bullet molds to produce either express bullets or buckshot, this two-barreled pistol is fitted with barrel sights calibrated for 100 and 150 yards. Part of the Robert E. Petersen Gallery, this is but one of many British arms treasures on exhibit.

Six hundred years of firearm history are revealed daily in the galleries of the National Firearms Museum. Come visit the museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., where admission is always free (donations welcomed). For more information, call (703) 267-1600, check out the website at or e-mail