An Unusual Self-Defense Gun

An Unusual Self-Defense Gun
Terry’s “Little Thug,” which started life as a .577 Snider double rifle but is now a 20 gauge, is remarkably comfortable to shoot, with negligible muzzle jump. It puts forth a hard-hitting charge and a choking cloud of smoke that can be very handy in a defensive situation. Handloaded Spirepoint, pumpkin ball, and shot loads perform effectively at 15 yards.

It’s an uncontestable fact that the best-laid schemes of mice and men “gang aft agley,” as Robert Burns would have it—or “often go awry,” as it’s generally translated into English. Either way, for those concerned with self-defense, this means that no matter how thoroughly you try to prepare for those unforeseeable emergencies, chances are that when the unthinkable happens you will not have your ideal gun in your hand.

When that happens, you’d best be prepared to go with what you can grab.

Behind the door of what passes for my office-cum-gunroom stands a modest firearm I affectionately refer to as the “Little Thug.” It’s a hammer gun, made about 140 years ago by the London firm of E.M. Reilly, and what it is now barely resembles how it started life. As to its history during those 140 years, I would dearly love to know!

The “Little Thug”


The Little Thug is now a 20-gauge shotgun with 24-inch barrels, devoid of choke, with back-action locks, and—an extreme rarity—a full-snap Jones underlever. It began life, however, as a .577 Snider double rifle. About the only thing that’s changed is the removal of the sights, installation of an amber bead, and, of course, boring it out and rechambering. This was probably done because of corrosion, but who knows? It was a fine professional job.


I bought the gun off the “rust and dust” shelf at Puglisi Gun Emporium in Duluth, Minnesota, a few years ago. It was dirty and damaged. It needed a new fore-end tip, the horrible hot-blue job removed from its frame, the metal restored, and the wood refinished. Puglisi’s bought it from a local bartender, who had acquired it in a trade with the mate off a Great Lakes freighter. Who knows how he came by it—or where it’d been for 140 years. Guarding pack trains in the Khyber Pass? Repelling boarders in the China Sea? On a riverboat up the Congo? These are all genuine possibilities.


LittleThugAmmo-(1)
Ammo loads for the "Little Thug"

One thing I know for certain is that it was originally built for war, not for hunting. E.M. Reilly was a maker of fine guns of every type, but catered mainly to officers and civil servants off to guard the Empire—the kind of men found on the Northwest Frontier, shooting it out with Pathans.

With its 2½-inch chambers, I was a little limited. My friend Bob Hayley (Hayley’s Custom Ammunition, 940-888-3352) conjured up some 20-gauge brass cases as well as some old 20-gauge paper we could cut to length. For the brass, we had both 20-gauge round balls and 20-gauge Spirepoint slugs, while the paper hulls were stuffed with shot. All are powered by blackpowder, although it’s not really necessary because the Little Thug’s barrel walls are thick and heavy for a shotgun. The gun weighs 7 pounds, 3 ounces, most of it in the barrels. For my purposes, though, blackpowder serves a purpose.

Ballistically, the Little Thug will outmuscle a .45 ACP at close range. Those 350-grain pumpkin balls leave the muzzle at around 800 fps, and with one from each barrel, the gun plants them about 2 inches apart at 15 yards. The shot charge prints a pattern right over top. That will most assuredly stop anyone barging through the office door.


The blackpowder adds further injury in the form of a choking cloud of smoke and wad fragments. Since I would be expecting this gas attack, and an invader wouldn’t, it gives me a few precious seconds to get to my secondary armament: an AUG, a couple of P38s, and…well, you get the idea.

Such a scenario opens the field to “what if…” and “yes, but….” Certainly, those are all things that might happen—the aforementioned unexpected and unthinkable—and you cannot prepare for every eventuality. No one can. You just try to keep things from “gang agley.” For that, the Little Thug is in its element.

 
 

Recommended for You

The 6mm Creedmoor is a new member of a wonderful family of 6mm-caliber (.243) cartridges; it's easy to handload and should make its mark in the hunting fields, just as it has in competitive shooting. Reloading

6mm Creedmoor Load Data

Layne Simpson - August 19, 2019

The 6mm Creedmoor is a new member of a wonderful family of 6mm-caliber (.243) cartridges; it's...

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

You don't have to spend a fortune to make Rifles

Accurize It

Greg Rodriguez - March 11, 2011

You don't have to spend a fortune to make "Ole Betsy" shoot better.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable, ergonomic, accurate, and priced right. Handguns

Stoeger STR-9 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 17, 2019

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable,...

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances. How-To

Accuracy: It's All Relative

Terry Wieland - May 09, 2019

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances.

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts. Accessories

Shooting Times Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day...

See More Stories

More Shotguns

The Benelli Ethos Sport is a must-have multi-discipline shotgun. Shotguns

Review: Benelli Ethos Sport Shotgun

Steve Gash - March 05, 2019

The Benelli Ethos Sport is a must-have multi-discipline shotgun.

The new Super X4 Upland Field is designed to pair the performance advantages of a modern-day autoloader with the style and handling of the shotguns of legend. Shotguns

Winchester Repeating Arms Introduces the Super X4 Upland Field

Shooting Times Online Staff - November 12, 2018

The new Super X4 Upland Field is designed to pair the performance advantages of a modern-day...

Savage Arms reveals the Model 212 and 220 bolt-action turkey shotguns, designed to give turkey hunters maximum performance and adjustability. Shotguns

Savage Arms Reveals Model 212 and 220 Shotguns

Shooting Times Digital Staff - March 14, 2019

Savage Arms reveals the Model 212 and 220 bolt-action turkey shotguns, designed to give turkey...

See More Shotguns

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×