The potent effects of side bolsters
During the black powder era, pressure on guns was not high as black powder was slow burning and took the whole length of the barrel to combust.
When nitro powders came along in the 1890s, combustion completely changed as the new powders were far faster burning and more powerful. Consequently the majority of double rifle makers had to beef up the actions to cope with the higher pressures.
Extra metal was retained on the sides of the action at the breech in the form of side bolsters. Side bolsters were carefully sculpted and finely chiselled and this not only added to the elegance of the double rifle, it also seemed to give the rifle added potency.
Purdey was one of the first makers to develop side bolsters, their use dating from the 1890s. In its records side bolsters are recorded as “strengthened on angle”. Purdey side bolsters are quite unique, gracefully curving round to finish just in front of the action face. These side bolsters immediately identify a Purdey double rifle and once again added to the Purdey style.
Holland & Holland also introduced side bolsters on its double rifles and it is interesting to note they are quite different in style, but every bit as graceful and quite particular to Holland & Holland. Side bolsters on a Purdey double rifle.