“When you pull the trigger, it’s like presiding over your own personal earthquake,” remarked Giles Whittome.

This bespoke 2-bore blackpowder rifle – a piece of gunmaking history – was commissioned by the Royal Armouries for its own collection as an exhibition piece.

A small group of nervous shooters headed out to the range, including gun auctioneer Nick Holt, feature film armourer Scott McIntyre, who has a professional eye for unusual firearms, and several inquisitive West London Shooting School instructors.

“It is impossible to exaggerate the stance you have to adopt,” said Giles, as he handed the 2-bore to Nick. “You really have to lean in and keep the rifle solidly in your shoulder, otherwise you will be on your back.”

Nick aimed, and pulled the trigger.

What you’ll notice most is the smoke. With a 12-dram load there was a mighty noise, impressive amounts of smoke and a huge kick as the sand down range exploded with a whooomph. The grin was expansive.

“Well, you can feel it,” said Nick, “and I’m fairly sure my teeth are still in.”

It was time for Scott to take a shot. He upped the ante and chose a 16-dram load – a real man. The explosion was bigger, huge clouds of smoke wafted but his reaction was entirely nonchalant.

“Yes, that’ll be most effective,” he commented drily.

Not to be outdone, ST’s photographer Paul Quagliana opted to firea 16-dram load and came away laughing.