Howdah Pistol Cartridge


I need some help, please, with finding out just what cartridge was used in a Thomas Bland Howdah pistol. The chamber has a slight taper from 0.625 inch at the breech down to 0.58 inch about 2.7 inches into the chamber where the rifling begins. Numbers are approximate, but close. I assume it must be a type of .577 Snider based on age and bore. Is there a specific pistol cartridge for these, or did they just shoot a standard .577 Snider and hope for the best? Thanks.


Without measurements, it is hard to tell, but Steve, your round looks like the .577 Revolver round going by the picture. I can’t say, however, that they were never used in Howdah pistols. Don’t know if they would chamber or not, but suspect it would. Like a .22 short in a .22 Long Rifle chamber, that cartridge might fire in Mel’s Howdaw Pistol. However, I believe Mel’s gun, or the gun he is describing, is probably chambered for the .577 Snider cartridge. We had two such Howdaw pistols go thru our store while I worked there. One of our guys, now a well-known gun-magazine writer and IAA Member, took the first one we had down into our basement “range” with the intention of firing two fairly modern Kynoch Rounds (green box, as I recall), brass-cased, in it. One shot shook the whole damned store. There was no second shot forth-coming, as he came upstairs with a badly cut finger, cut on the front of the trigger guard in recoil. He said it was the experience of his life (up to that time!). The gun was fine - no damage - and the rounds chambered perfectly.

Personally, I woouldn’t fire one in return for the best cartridge on earth!

John Moss


there we go 577 Howdah on far left, 577 ELEY Rev middle, 45ACP
the headstamp on the Howdah is KYNOCH & Co. BIRMINGHAM
sorry for my goof to many pics to sort through


Steve - o.k., that looks more like it. I did not mention it, because my memory is not that good, but that longer 577 you now show looks a bit like a couple of short-case 577 Snider types I saw in relation to a Howdaw gun once, but that Howdah gun, too, was chambered deep enough for the full-length Snider. Different loads made sense, just like they do in .22. Likely you could successfully fire all three lengths, Howdah, Revolver and Full snider in these pistols, depending on circumstances. One use of the Howdaw was to shoot Bengal tigers off of the backs of elephants (with people riding the elephants). The bigger the better for that use. Tigers are magniciently large, fast and powerful (shambe to ever have to shoot one).

Thanks for posting the new picture. I looked at the first one a long time and then looked up the round, as I wasn’t sure if I really remember an intermediate length or if my memory was playing tricks on me, and it was the Revolver rounds I remember. I had a couple of tho Revolver rounds once. Wish I had kept one, but really, for what purpose, I don’t know? You know how it goes, at one time or another you wish you had kept every cool thing you ever owned!

John Moss


Steve and John,

Thanks for the info. Where can I get one of these?


The one like I have pictured is the only one that I have seen but I don’t make a point of looking for that round (and some collectors may say it is not what I say it is too).
I’m a general collector so I have my one example, I don’t even remember where I got that one maybe at one of the Calif. shows. I’ve been doing this 25 years which is half my life now.
That one is a raised HS I almost wish it was the original unaltered round it would be sweeter to me.
If it was a AUTO PISTOL round John might have one in his pocket (maybe two) but I have not heard that Desert Eagle will be offering it as a chambering so that I think kinda rules John out maybe.


Mel, sorry, but I have never had a Howday round of my own in all my years of collection. Have had various 577 Sniders go through my hands, but don’t have a one now. I had two rounds of the 577 Revolver once, along with one 15 mm Pinfire Revolver, but traded them all off.

Very impressive cartridges though.

Nothing quite like them in auto pistol, except for maybe the .58 Silencer cartridge, and I am not sure any pistol was ever made for that, although it was intended to be made.

John Moss


It shows how much I know! I didn’t know there was such a round. Does anyone have any ballistics on it?

To me a true Howdah pistol is little more than a sawn off shotgun, usually in a shotgun calibre but loaded with solid ball. something like this … owdah.html



Your description of a “true Howdah Pistol” is good, I think, for the muzzle-loaders; not good for the breech loaders. I have only seen, I think, three in my life (One of those might be from a picture, I don’t recall). All of them were .577 Center Fire. The one we had was definitely chambered for the full-length .577 Snider. My colleague and friend Mike Carrick fired one round from it - at reast, as I recall, it was Mike. I don’t know the chamber length of the others.

From only three pistols, please don’t think I am saying that .577 was the ONLY caliber. I don’t know that, but three for three would make me believe it was the predominant caliber, anyway.

John Moss


The calibre you refer to is called .577 Short Boxer I believe but I frankly doubt it would stop a particularly disgruntled tiger. If you go into Google images you will find thousands of pictures of howdah pistols and most are side by side shotgun actions and calibres up to 10g.

Incidentally, and pertinent to this thread I foumd a reference to a 28ga Howdah pistol by Thos Bland which I wonder if its the one referred to at the start of the thread. There would have been a snobbery barrier to overcome for a London gunmaker to offer a pistol in a humble military calibre.

The term Howdah pistol appears to have a double meaning. On the one hand there is the “true” howdah pistol actually made to be used in the howdah. Later the name seems to have spread in popular usage to cover a wider range of large calibre pistols that may have been used as a hunters backup but some, like the four shot .455s were clearly intended for two legged quarry.


Vince - thank you for the added information. I’ll try to find the time to look at them. I agree that anything short of the 577 Snider in a pistol would not be a Tiger gun to me. I would guess that those that are Snider-chambered, evidently not the majority that I thought were, utilized the shorter cartridge, and maybe even the .577 Revolver round, to make the gun more useful overall than just for defense against large animals of the Tiger class.

It will be interest to me to see the ones pictured, and how many of the ones in shotgun gauges are muzzle loaders and how many are for normal shotgun shells.

I am not sure I understand the distinction that most are shotgun-type actions. The three I have seen were all simply stockless, short, double-barrel pistols of what I would call “shotgun-type actions.” Are there other Howdahs of any caliber that are NOT shotgun actions?

Also, were the shotgun-caliber Howdows with rifled barrels? I cannot speak of two of the guns I have seen, but the one we had at the store, as I recall, was with full-rifled barrels, not even the partially-rifled Paradox type. I hope I am not wrong on that. I remember the gun well because it was the first one I had ever seen, but it has been a lot of years.

Thanks for the added information. For one thing, I didn’t realize that Howdah pistols were made in much quantity, the few I have ever seen, but then they are only of academic interest to me so maybe at big gun shows, I have walked past others. I hope I can find the time to really peruse the subject on the internet, and see the different types.

John Moss

John Moss


The doublr rifle action and the shotgun action are basically the same, the only difference would be the amount of metal present internally to withstand the pressure.

There are some very odd looking martini based pistols describe as Howdah pistols but I would describe them as oddities.

As to the rifling, well I guess thats down to the choice of the person commisioning the pistol. A lot were.

The sort of people who hunted tigers from the top of elephants were immensely rich Maharajas for whom money was not an issue. Their business kept the London Gun trade going for many years but only a few top names.

As you say their pistols are as rare as hens teeth now and are highly sought after by well heeled collectors.

The name Howdah pistol however became more a generic name for the pistols of the second level used by British big game hunters for much the same purpose but not from a howdah. The white hunters like Jim Corbett preferred to hunt tigers on foot or from a tree.

It depends really on how picky you want to be about the name.


in our sale 1- lot 584, and in sale 8- lot 887, we offered a .577 Howdah 1.95" coiled case.
And when George Hoyem was the ICCA editor he had a pistol pictured on the back cover of one issue. It was said to take these rounds.


The Howdah pistol is not one thing. It is a family of pistols which range from muzzel loaders through the early drawn and to the more modern drawn case type cartridges. The majority of early ones were chambered in .577 in a variety of lengths. In Hoyem’s English cartridges volume he shows a 1 1/2 inch 577 which may well be a Howdah shell. My specimen in the .577 collection is 1 5/8 inches and was made by Eley with their blunt nosed express bullet. The cased set is shown below.

British big game hunters prefered the double rifle to bolt actions because 2 shots could be fired much faster than with a bolt. The same idea carried over to the HOWDAH which is a cut down or purpose made short double rifle with a hand grip.

What is the smallest caliber HOWDAH pistol has yet to be determined. Hulti-barreled pistols of several calibers have been called this.

Why Eley used the 577/500 case rather than the drawn .577 case is a question for some of you British sport cartridge collectors. Rim thickness?

What does Mel have to trade ?

Some HOWDAH pistol cartridges. .577 early coiled and later drawn case type.
I have seen no evidence that a coiled .577 was purpose built for Howdah cartridges. It is more likely that the coiled type Howdah shells were made by cutting off the standard coiled .577 rifle cases.

This cased HOWDAH .577 was made for some important person who I do not remember. My shell came from this . You can see the empty brass shells in the case.

Dozens of types of shells were used in the HOWDAHs including pinfires. Not many were clearly stated as this one which is marked for the BOXER .577 cartridge.

Another .577

Pinfire HOWDAH possibly for the 15mm Pinfire

Although the Tiger hunting orign of the HOWDAH pistol is widely scoffered at in the West the event of Tigers attacking the HOWDAH is widely depicted in Indian art.

Lead Bullet ID

Info added