There was a time when the side by side shotgun was the pinnacle of high-tech shotgun design. It was a different time when even mass produced guns were built by hand in factories with dozens of workers rather than thousands. Most of the best gun builders in those days built guns for the working man as well as the tycoons and all would be considered handmade works of the gun-maker’s art in our times.
There is a segment of the shooting fraternity who revere these guns and around the country, they gather from time to time for competition. While the rules and attitudes of these events center around sportsmanship and the appreciation of the guns, the competition can be quite stiff. In addition to the competitive part, the events have developed into a kind of combination of reunion and swap meet with most offering tents with vendors and dealers displaying a dizzying collection of the gun-maker’s art. Sponsored by RST Cartridge, the foremost supplier of shotgun shells for these guns, the Northeast Side by Side Championship is my favorite of all the classic shotgun events.
Held in the Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, the Northeast is shot at Hausman’s Hidden Hollow, a sporting clays range in Friendsville, Pennsylvania. The course, located in and around an ancient slate mining area, is both scenic and challenging. With 13 stations, there are a variety of targets, Long and close, some simple, some really tough and deceptive, on a course that rambles up the side of a hill and back down into the hollow with the final stations over a tranquil pond.
Rules require only that the gun is a side by side and that chokes, once selected, cannot be changed on the course. Shooters use everything from guns dedicated to breaking targets to $200,000 Best guns from the finest makers in the world. In addition to the main 80 shot event, there are classes for every gauge in both hammer and hammerless configurations.
In the tents, hundreds of some of the finest doubles in the world are on display. Collector organizations have booths, and there are also opportunities to buy fine sporting art, clothing, and equipment. Many of the competitors and exhibitors wear period clothing giving the event a nostalgic flair.
This year, the competition was tough and the weather and course were tougher. The main event on Sunday was graced by a steady misting rain yet there were lots of guns on the course worth the price of a nice SUV. Even with the tough weather, there were 260 entries over the weekend.
The winner of the main event was Mike Campbell and his custom stocked 32” barreled Fox Sterlingworth, which carries the name of Anna Nicole. Mike shot a 69 to win the High Over All award, a gold engraved clay target and a case of RST cartridges. Winning Lady was Cherie Jones, winning her third championship in five tries. Cherie used a 20 gauge Parker Trojan for her win with a score of 48.
If you have an interest in classic shotguns, you might want to look around and find one of these events. Better yet, mark your calendar and plan to be in Friendsville, Pennsylvania next year on the first weekend in June. There’s no better way to return yourself to a simpler, more elegant time in our shooting legacy.
Photos: Dick Jones