Notes On Shooting The Paradox Gun

Paradox Guns and Ammo

Paradox guns are wonderful instruments. Not only can they be used to shoot bird shot with aplomb but they also serve aptly as large bore double rifles. Paradox owners are quick to grasp the utility of their guns but often only discover the full potential of a Paradox gun through trial and error. Collected here are a few bits of information that may assist owners of Paradox guns in their pursuit of the quintessential Paradox - a shotgun that is a rifle that is a shotgun.
The renowned Sir Samuel Baker White put it well when he wrote, "The No. 12 Paradox weighs 8.4 lbs. and carries a bullet of 1 3/4 ounce with 4 1/2 drams of powder. Although the powder charge is not sufficient to produce a high express velocity, the penetration and shock are most formidable, as the bullet is of hardened metal, and it retains its figure even after striking a tough hide and bones. The advantage of such a gun is obvious, as it enables a charge of buck-shot to be carried in the left barrel, while the right is loaded with a heavy bullet that is an admirable bone-smasher; it also supersedes the necessity of an extra gun for small game, as it shoots No. 6 shot with equal pattern to the best cylinder-bored gun."
There were many developments in Paradox guns and cartridges over many years. A good explanation of the various "standard" 12-bore Nitro Paradox loads can be found in Chapter 15 of David Baker and Roger Lake's excellent book, 'Paradox - The Story of Col. G.V. Fosbery, Holland & Holland, and the Paradox'. Suffice to say that not all Paradox guns were made to shoot and regulate the same load. This leaves Paradox owners two choices. They can either load their own cartridges, tailored to their specific gun, or they can try and shoot the current "standard" Nitro Paradox load, adjusting sights or, if required, have the gun re-regulated.
For those who enjoy "rolling their own" cartridges, no better reference can be found than the final chapter of Graeme Wright's 'Shooting the British Double Rifle'. The author goes to great lengths to explain the process of casting and loading Nitro Paradox cartridges using various materials and methods. He also explains how shooters can adjust the loads to get them to regulate, or shoot to the point of aim, in a specific Nitro Paradox gun. Regulating a gun by altering the load can be a tedious process but, once accomplished, can breath new life into an old gun. We strongly recommend Graeme Wright's book to anyone interested in loading for and shooting the Paradox gun.
Factory ammunition is the other option. Owners of new Paradox guns will be pleased to know that their guns were regulated for the new Nitro Paradox ammunition at the Holland & Holland factory. Before shooting second hand guns, it is recommended that owners contact Holland & Holland, London to learn more about their gun and it's suitability for the modern Nitro Paradox loads.

Current Holland & Holland Nitro Paradox ammunition


Most owners of older Nitro Paradox guns will find that the factory ammunition groups well in their guns and that little or no change to the gun is required to get their gun shooting to point of aim. The most common adjustment needed is installation of a taller front sight bead. There will however be a few guns in which the new ammunition will not shoot acceptably. Owners of these guns should either have them re-regulated for the new factory ammunition or, as explained above, work up some custom loads. There are a few companies advertising that if you send them a gun they will work up special custom loads and keep the data on hand to so as to make more as required. It is worth noting, however, that we have heard reports of varied success in that regard.


It is a general rule that the higher the velocity of a shotgun cartridge the greater the dispersion of the shot, i.e. a bigger and more uneven pattern. So it should come as no surprise that low velocity shotgun loads tend to pattern better than high velocity loads in Paradox guns. In fact, the difference in patterning between low and high velocity loads seems even more apparent in the Paradox gun, perhaps being related to the rifled chokes of Paradox barrels. Nevertheless, lower velocity shotgun loads seem to be one option for getting better patterns from these guns. 

Some shooters may feel that the suggestion of low velocity loads for their Paradox gun presents them with a dilemma. Should they shoot a low velocity load that patterns well but is limited in range or should they shoot a very fast load for better downrange energy regardless of how it patterns? Luckily, there are factors other than muzzle velocity that influence downrange energy of a load. Probably the most important is the shape and hardness of the shot. Rounder and smoother pellets create less drag in flight than shot that is dimpled and/or misshapen. Pellets with less drag retain velocity better and, therefore, more energy is delivery to the target.

The single biggest cause of dimpled and misshapen shot is the pellet to pellet beating that occurs in the chamber, barrel, and choke once the load is fired. Shot with higher antimony content is harder and pellet deformation is reduced. But because antimony is more costly than lead, the best pellets are only found in "premium" game and target loads. Of course, since firing pellets does not improve roundness it is also very important to start off with pellets that are of properly rounded form to begin with which. And again, the best formed shot is found in premium loads. A benefit of using premium grade hard, round pellets is that they also result in better, more consistent patterns. So, another option for getting better patterns with a Paradox gun is to shoot moderately fast "premium" loads made with hard, properly formed shot. The hard shot deforms less passing though the gun and the rounder pellets that exit the muzzle will retain their velocity better and perform better on targets at greater ranges.

Shotgun cartridges loaded with felt or fiber wads also tend to do better in Paradox guns. It has been speculated that a plastic shot cup unduly disrupts the shot column as it passes through the rifled choke of the Paradox gun. A felt or fiber wad travels behind the shot and does not interfere with the shot column as it passes through the Paradox choke. An added benefit to shooting with fiber wads is that they tend to swab out the barrels as they move behind the shot. That result is a stark contrast to the residue that plastic wad cups can leave behind in the bores.

What shotgun cartridges do less well in Paradox guns? The answer is threefold. Firstly, cartridges that contain heavy loads of soft shot, especially when the load is pushed to high velocity. Secondly, very high velocity or magnum loads - even if they contain hard shot. Perhaps this is because the benefit of hard shot is offset by the general tendency of very fast loads to pattern less evenly. Thirdly, cartridges that use plastic, cup type wads tend not to pattern very well in Paradox guns.

In support of those principles, we have found that our 15/16 ounce Light Load (light load of soft shot at standard velocity) and our 1 ounce 'Royal' Game load (standard load of hard shot at moderate velocity) give excellent performance in all the Paradox guns we have tried them in.  Both are 'premium' loads and both are loaded with fiber wads.

Classic Shooting Company test patterned two different loads. We used a Holland & Holland Paradox gun manufactured in 2010.  All shots were taken at a measured 40 yards (a long way).   A 30" circle was made over the densest part of the pattern.   We did not use a chart to determine the number of pellets in the cartridges. Instead, we cut them open and counted - a tedious process!

For a complete and in depth study of Paradox guns we recommend the book PARADOX - The Story of Col. G. V. Fosbery, Holland & Holland, and the ParadoxFor a complete and in depth study of Paradox guns we recommend the book PARADOX - The Story of Col. G. V. Fosbery, Holland & Holland, and the Paradox

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