One of the most successful stagecoach robbers in American history never shot anyone, didn’t rob passengers, and even said please to his victims.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Charles Boles committed over 29 stagecoach robberies – more than anyone else.
One of his first robberies occurred near Copperopolis, CA.
He stopped a stagecoach and told the rest of his gang to keep their shotguns pointed at the stagecoach.
The gang was hiding in nearby bushes and all you could see was the barrels of their shotguns sticking out.
After Boles ran away from the stagecoach the victims realized the gang was still in the bushes.
As they moved closer, the guards realized those gun barrels were sticks tied to branches.
It turns out Boles liked to work alone and didn’t have a gang.
Because he didn’t drink, gamble or womanize, Boles was not your typical outlaw.
And although he had served in the civil war, he was terrified of horses and committed his robberies on foot.
One thing that set Boles apart from other stagecoach robbers was that he targeted unarmed coaches.
He went after smaller amounts of money to avoid shotgun riders.
During this period, stagecoaches carrying gold or large sums of money had armed guards that carried coach guns.
These guns were usually double-barreled shotguns that were 18″ to 24″ in length.
They were typically break-action shotguns, also called break-open shotguns.
Even though it may have an outdated design, these types of shotguns still offer several advantages today.
For example, the break-top design is a very dependable, simple, action.
The break opens via a button near the hammer.
The design has few moving parts and there are no magazines to jam.
It’s very safe to shoot since you chamber the round directly.
And due to not having magazines or a bolt mechanism, the break-open shotgun is lightweight and versatile.
It can use many types of ammo as long as it is the right gauge.
And it’s considerably less expensive compared to other quality shotguns.
But the break-open shotgun is not perfect for everything.
The biggest drawback is obviously the lack of ammo capacity.
You only get one or two shots before needing to reload, which means it isn’t the best design for home defense.
And since the design isn’t the most popular there is also a lack of accessories available.
So, you won’t find many of these shotguns with optics or flashlights.
And finally, if you’ve ever shot one of these shotguns you know that they kick.
These shotguns are lighter compared to other designs so you feel the recoil more.
The good news is, break-open shotguns are still made today because they fill a niche.
They are a good option when hunting and are reliable.
And they’re a great gun for new shooters because they are relatively safe to operate.
When it comes to shotguns the break-open style is a solid bang for your buck.
Here are some top break-open shotguns you may wish to check out…
Henry Single Shot Shotgun.
The Henry single shot is a quality all-purpose shotgun.
It uses a single hinge pin and an opening lever on the upper frame.
The rebounding hammer functions as the safety, and can’t touch the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled to the rear.
The shotgun has a single brass-bead front sight.
The steel receiver and barrel have a matte-blue finish.
And the buttstock and forend are made of oil-finished walnut.
The Henry Single Shot Shotgun disassembles into 2 pieces by removing the hinge pin.
It includes a 1 screw-in choke tube.
The Henry Single Shot Shotgun sells for about $350 new.
Savage Arms Stevens 301.
The Stevens 301 is a single shot break-open shotgun.
It has a crisp break and synthetic stock.
The Stevens also has a carbon steel barrel and comes in either 20 gauge or 12 gauge.
And it comes in either a standard or compact configuration.
The compact version has a 22-inch barrel and reduced length of pull. The standard features a 26-inch barrel.
The Stevens 301 is a great option for younger or new shooters.
Just make sure not to use a heavy load that kicks too much.
The 301 sells for $150 new.
CZ Sharp Tail Coach.
The Coach is a double-barreled, side by side, break-action shotgun.
It weighs just over six and a half pounds.
The barrel is only 20 inches to make it more maneuverable.
It is an extractor only firearm, though it requires little effort to remove spent shells.
You can simply tip the barrels up and have the shells fall out.
The Coach comes in either 20 gauge or 12 gauge.
The CZ Sharp Tail Coach is a modern coach gun with a black hard chrome barrel and a walnut stock.
It sells for around $900 new and is about as close as you will get to a classic cowboy gun.
Break-open shotguns are an American staple.
Before repeating rifles, the break-open shotgun was one of the most popular weapons.
And they remain in use thanks to their reliability and simplicity.