A pyramidal three-barrelled “mammoth” handles better than you might expect, says Lewis Potter
I have always been enthusiastic about unusual firearms, some of which, in their day, proved to be less than practical or were simply overtaken by rapid technical development. The firearms I find most fascinating are those with more than two barrels. I have been fortunate enough to use a four-barrelled Lancaster and, though the “at three” or side-by-side-by-side has eluded me, I am familiar with the three-barrelled guns produced in the early 20th century by Edwinson Green of Cheltenham.
These were built in the pyramidal form, with the third barrel on top, and I think this design has a visual attraction that cannot be bettered with a triple. It was therefore with keen interest that I unpacked the Akkar Triple Crown or Mammut (mammoth) for this review.
My first impression is that it is appropriately named: it appears big, bulky and a handful. It is the kind of shotgun that would stand out on the retailer’s rack, rather like finding a wild boar in the back garden. If an inanimate object can everbe said to have presence, this Akkar has it aplenty, from its sturdy stock and beavertail fore-end through the chunky action body to the imposing muzzles. In fact, in the US there is a version for self- or home defence with 18in barrels, which would probably have a similarly discouraging effect on a baddie to looking down the wrong end of a blunderbuss.
That apart, in the UK we have the sporting gun version, which, when loaded with 3in cartridges, just about nudges 8¾lb on my scales, so it is never going to be an especially fast-handling gun. As expected, it is biased with the weight forwards, balancing about 1½in in front of the crosspin when loaded — better than what you might expect. Realistically, the handling characteristics are not a lot different from some long-barrelled over-and-unders — a little deliberate, perhaps, but very smooth to swing with that inbuilt characteristic to follow through.
If this 28in 12-bore is thought to be a little on the heavy side, the importers will be bringing in lighter 20- and 28- bore versions and possibly a camouflage wildfowling model on special order if and when available. For me, though, the oil finish and neat chequering on this gun’s stock and fore-end and the pleasing quality of the walnut would be sufficient.
Starting with the barrels — because those are what make the Akkar obviously different — they are laid with the two bottom ones a little further apart than on most side-by-sides. This means that the top barrel can be fixed lower than on an overand- under, resulting in a slightly slimmer vertical profile. The other advantage is that it reduces the height of the standing breech, which, with a break-open gun, makes for greater strength. The two side ribs and the bottom rib are solid, while the top rib is ventilated and suitably narrow for a game gun. There is no short keel rib between the fore-end loop and barrel flats, a not unusual arrangement on some Turkish-made guns.
At the breech, the non-ejecting one-piece extractors are lifted by a traditional cam fixed at the front of the action bar knuckle. As for the impressive muzzle end, the barrels are screwed for interchangeable chokes, the usual set of five being provided, ranging from cylinder to full.
While the barrels hinge on the familiar hook (though surprisingly wide in this case), which aids lateral support, they are locked by only a single bite at the rear lump. Even more unusual is the fact that the top-lever returns to the central position when the gun is open and it is the engagement of the rear lump that pivots it across to enable the gun to be shut.
One might expect the lock work of a triple barrelled gun to be rather complicated, the sort of arrangement to give a gunsmith bad dreams. On this Triple Crown it is nothing of the sort — it’s a model of simplicity — though the Turkish designers appear to have the ability to make the potentially complicated quite straightforward.
This lock work is a variant on the common modified trigger-plate arrangement with, in this case, three hammers in line rather than two. The sears hang from the top strap and the lifter/inertia block engages the hammers to produce the sequence right barrel, left barrel, top barrel. The changeover is mechanical and therefore independent of recoil, while the safety is of the nonautomatic type. A single cocking arm or rod cocks all three locks, and the triggerpulls proved to be suitably short and crisp.
Akkar Triple Crown on test
A hand- filling gun this Akkar may be, but it is a comfortable handful. The curve of the pistol grip, with its slight palm swell, suited my fairly big hands, and the beavertail fore-end is nicely shaped. At a 14½in length of pull, the stock, with its two-piece butt-pad, could have been a little longer for me but, with plenty of room on the foreend, I opted for the old trick of moving my left hand slightly further forward.
Cartridges on test included Nobel Sport Prima, Eley VIP and Alphamax, Hull High Pheasant, Lyalvale Express Supreme Game and Super Game. With 30g loads such as the Nobel Sport Prima and Hull High Pheasant, the Triple Crown’s weight absorbed the recoil, making it comfortable to shoot. Using the Eley Alphamax Magnum, with its 46g shot load in the top barrel with full-choke, I noticed the recoil but it was not unpleasant. When using it for real with the concentration on a bird, you would feel it even less.
The visual bulk of the pyramidal barrel layout took a little bit of getting used to unless I concentrated properly on the “bird”, but it could be red as quickly as the finger could be made to squeeze the trigger. As for the weight, the days when I used to carry a 13lb big-bore all day with little discomfort for blowing out squirrel dreys are long gone, so my view now is that the 8lb-plus Triple Crown is a younger man’s gun. However, I bet the 20- and 28-bore versions, when available, will be very handy guns whatever your age or fitness.
The Triple Crown is really fun, and to a great extent, that is what shooting is about