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 Courtesy Joe Grine

I’ve been shooting for around 36 years, but I had never a seen a break-open three-barreled rifle and shotgun combo.  So when Chris Dumm and I stopped by the Merkel booth at SHOT Show, I thought I had stumbled upon something, um… “new.” Calling Chris over, I said: “Check this out.” He comes over and says: “Oh, cool, a drilling.” “A what?!”, I responded with a confused look on my face. Chris says “It’s a drilling: a three barreled rifle shotgun combination.” Surprised that Chris would know anything about high-end European rifles, I asked: “How did you know that?” He responded “There was an article on TTAG a while back, for one thing. They have been making these things for over one hundred years in Europe.”  Hmmm. Ok, I’m feeling kinda stupid at this point . . .

Merkel manufactures four different type of drilling rifles. The basic 96K model is a double barreled shotty (12 or 20 gauge) with a rifle barrel attached below (.223 Rem., 243. Win., 7x57R, 7x65R, .308 Win., .30R Blaser, .30-06, 8x57IRS, 9,3x74R.

The second model, the Doppelbock Drilling 961L, features two rifle barrels in the same caliber, and a shotty below. It comes standard with a with a driven hunt trigger. The front trigger serves as a single trigger for the two upper rifle barrels. This enables a rapid second shot without the need to change grip. The rear trigger is reserved for the lower shotgun barrel.

The third model, the Bergstutzen drilling, features two rifle barrels of different caliber and one shotgun barrel.  One of the barrels will be a large caliber  (.30-06, .30R Blaser, 8x57IRS, 9,3x74R) and the other is a small caliber (5,6 x 52R, .222 Rem).

Finally, the fourth model, the Rifle Drilling/Shotgun Drilling, features three barrels of the same type.

Here are two photos (below) of the business end of a Merkel Drilling.  Of these two, the double rifle variants are going to more difficult to manufacture, since it requires the craftsman to get two rifle barrels to shoot to the exact same point of impact.   The Merkel 961L Doppelbock Drilling is a double rifle chambered in 9.3 x 74R wth a 20 gauge slung along the bottom:

Merkel Drilling Pic 5

The Merkel 96K Drilling features side-by-side 12 gauge shotgun barrels, with a .30-06 thrown in for good measure:

Courtesy Joe Grine

 Here’s the side profile of the Doppelbock 961Lmodel:

Courtesy Joe Grine

The following photo shows the breech of the Merkel 96K 12 gauge / .30-06 combo, showing case colors and engraving. “Simple arabesque” engraving is standard on these guns:

This image highlights the breech of the Doppelbock 961L 9.3 x 74R/20 gauge combo, with more elaborate engraving.  Merkel has 12 engravers and master engravers on staff, most of which come from the academy in Suhl.

Courtesy Joe Grine

Barrel marking are found on the right side of the Drilling:

Courtesy Joe Grine

This particular sample featured the option SSM (Suhl pivot mount) system, which is a return-to-zero scope mount which has proven effective on breech action rifles:

Courtesy Joe Grine

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  1. I own one of these that my Grandfather brought from Germany after WWII.

    Double 16 over something 7mm and rimmed. It needs work (I get the feeling it got played with/dry fired a LOT by my Dad over the years), but it is beautiful.

  2. I’ve wanted a drilling for years, but it’s almost impossible to get them in the States and even then they cost thousands of dollars. For that price range I’d go for a fun-gun in .50 cal or nice Sako. If they could come out with a model for $2,000 or less I’d be all over it.

    • The Chiappa Triple threat is close to what you’re talking about, but is shotgun-only. Three barrels, all 12 gauge only (if memory serves), and not nearly as sexy as these.

      If I could afford a Maybach or a Bentley, this would be a perfect trunk gun. Alas, I’m a relatively honest government employee, so that won’t happen.

      • Yea and they even make barrel inserts for them which is neat, but they are fairly short.

        I wonder how much it would knock off the price if you could go with out that engraving. I just want a field gun that I wouldn’t feel the least bit bad about running through some brush with.

        • That engraving is probably the least expensive part of the gun. Trying to regulate 3 barrels, especially if two of them are rifles, is the fancy bit. There’s some cool “How It’s Made” and “How do they Do it” episodes about hand-made shotguns.

    • One day i’m going to get a nice new Merkel, but if you want one now take a look on Gunbroker, i found the two that i have on there (1 from 1925, 1 pre 1912) they are beautiful firearms but be prepared to reload for them yourself. both of mine are 16ga 2 1/2″ shells. have brass shells that i reload, no crimping needed

  3. “They have been making these things for over a 100 years in Europe.”

    For future reference, reading that out loud would be “They have been making these things for a one-hundred years…”

    It’s fine to use the numerical “100”. Or “a hundred”. But never “a 100”. It’s an absurd construction, and no newspaper, magazine or book editor would let that stand.

    “100” is always properly read, “one hundred”, not A hundred. If you want to write “a hundred”, write “a hundred”.

    “1000s of uses!”, you’ll see in ads. It’s read “one thousands of uses”. AWKWARD!

    • they are surprisingly light. i have 2 Drillings, one is from 1925 (16g SXS with 8×57 under) and one that is pre 1912 (16ga SXS with 9.3m under, and black powder only) I find them to be lighter than the majority of WWII rifles i have

  4. That’s awesome. I bet the wood they use is exquisite, too. I’m sure they’re worth every penny, but when we start talking about five, ten, fifteen thousand dollars for just one gun, largely a keepsake one, at that, that starts crowding out too many other firearm priorities. Would be nice, though.

    Put one up in a TTAG essay contest, though……and I just might be moved to suspend my self-imposed, non-compete clause on submissions.

  5. I’ve lusted after a drilling since I first came across a description of one in a Shooter’s Bible when I was just a lad. Just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. [SIGH]

  6. We sell a used Merkel 96 at work (gander mtn). Two 12 gauge barrels and a 30.06 underbarrel. $5160 or something like that. Used to be $6K but nobody wants it. Too expensive but not the most expensive thing we have.

    • Drillings were made for a European style of hunting. Mixed bags of game, shooting from a stand with beaters, that style of hunting. Plus they were never the common man’s gun. That’s the shotgun. Drillings were made for a higher end client that could afford that quality of workmanship.

  7. I own a sporterized vz.24, originally commissioned by my grandfather, an Air Force officer flying the Berlin Airlift at that time. It was crafted by H&H Zehner of Frankfurt, Germany in about 19 and 49 or 50, in .270 Winchester, which was then and now one of the most popular rifle chamberings in the world. It is an exquisite piece of work, with engraving over all of the receiver, a deer scene on the magazine floorplate, a double set trigger that lets off at the slightest touch, and a very nice walnut stock that’s minimally yet tastefully engraved. The whole package balances beautifully and weighs approximately 6.5# or so. No scope, just simple iron sights. All the rest of my guns are of modern make and construction, and while functionally excellent, simply do not have that intangible character so inherent in fine craftmanship. It’s a shame, too. I for one would certainly be willing to pay and wait for that if I had the means.


  8. Well gents…I was at the show and saw this 961L, it was love at first sight. Sure there were other rifles there that had a bit better wood or different engraving and certainly more costly. That said, a double rifle over a shotgun is not the stereotypical configuration for a drilling and that’s what really got me. In the end, after returning to look at this gun and seeing that it of all the pieces in the rack this one spent the most time in the hands of the many admirers, I bought it. It is a “tack driving” SOB. at 150 yds. and does a great job on the clays.

  9. Drillings were designed for driven game. The shooter was in a hide and the beaters drove everything toward them. With a drilling the shooter was prepared for whatever came out. I have a 20/20 over 22 hornet Merkel drilling but it is only shot at squirrels using an adapter in the 22 hornet barrel to convert it to a 22 LR.

    Double rifles and drillings are accurate but more expensive than a good bolt action rifle and/or a good double shotgun. They also have a limited resale market so look for a used gun if you want one.

  10. I picked up one of these Drillings from a vets daughter i didn’t know what i had
    thought is was just a nice shot gun until a friend said it has three barrels.

  11. i have 1 from prussia with the original case,i believe it is 12 gauge charles daily and cabelas said maybe it is a 308 under,they made 3 models with more or less scroll writing on the barrel,i have the middle one,cabelas said it was the best shape they ever saw at their store in their library


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