How About an American Drilling? (What's a Drilling, you ask?)
"One gun to rule them all."
A perennial hook'n'bullet campfire discussion is "If you could only have one gun..." I admit I'm happy to go there. And, like many, there are Swiss Army Knife influences on my gun interests. Versatility is something one can easily pine for. Most hunting is actually quite specialized, however; but the idea of a mixed-bag, of not knowing what you might run into, persists.
So... A drilling is a three-barreled firearm. A vierling has four. There are all sorts of combinations out there, but they're all in Europe at this time. Kreighoff seems to be the main builder. These are expensive, fancy guns, going for $10k-40k.
Typically they're 2 shotgun barrels with a rifle under them, but, well, they can be anything. They're often used in Africa, but also in Europe. The premise is that they're intended for hunting where you might see a wide variety and sizes of game, including birds.
Gosh, that sounds like over here in the USA, too.
But it's not as simple as that: probably most US states have hunting seasons and regulations that tend to really, really segregate the game you can take and how you can take it. Also, common hunting modes tend to discourage mixed-bag approaches.
Still, I wonder about such things. I daydream about a Savage M24 already. That's the only US combination gun I know of. It's a rifle over a shotgun. Well, it was. Not made any more. But highly collected and used still. They're available for $250.
A reasonably priced combi-gun is, however, available in the CZ-BRNO Combo. It's fancy like most O/U shotguns and set up similarly. $2K.
Actually, word is that occasional "plain" models of drillings show up for $3k and sometimes $1500.
[I also pine for a Marbles Gamegetter -- a combi-shotgun-rifle long-barreled pistol! ...That had a folding stock and came in a SWEET holster. Ya know, I sense a comeback for all these things is going to happen any day now. Weird guns are popping up a LOT now. Gender-benders, cross-polinators. Pistols that are rifles. It's happening! So combi's and drillings are NEXT! You read it here first! In a parenthetical rant. But it's gonna happen!]
[NEWS FLASH! I just found out that Marbles DID re-issue the Game-Getter in 2010, apparently. I can't tell if they're all gone. They went for $2k each. Whups, I actually can't tell if they've happened yet. No reviews out there. I see mention of delivery in 2011. Hmm, c'mon! http://www.marblearms.com/thirdGeneration.html.]
In the American vein, WHEN it happens these special guns might come in at $750, say. Yeah!
Anyway, I've often been out hunting and been flustered by seeing the "wrong" kind of game. Also, when I go deer-hunting I tend to see a lot of everything but I want to be quiet. Shooting one thing seems like it would tend to startle other things. I don't know if that's exactly true as folks often shoot a deer next to other deer and the other deer act like nothing happened. Noise reactions can be counterintuitive.
I like to think that an American drilling would be utilitarian and fairly light and easy to carry. I'm thinking, thus: 20-gauge, .243 and .22. All reasonable hunting can be done with such a gun. Skip the bears and elk: I won't see them anyway. It's meant for deer, ducks, grouse, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys, coyotes -- all on the same outing. Do such outings occur? Rarely, but they'd be cool. They'd be more likely if in the woods longer. Are they legal? Not really, it seems, in Michigan.
A nifty thing is that there's a .22 insert barrel by Krieghoff, the "KS," to adapt one of the other barrels to .22. It's easy, quick and very, very accurate -- unlike all other inserts. I vaguely recall $250 cost but can't find anything on it right now. It seems like a full-length barrel-insert so you wouldn't just carry it in your pocket. Shorty-inserts are also availabe, and quite cheap, but are NOT accurate, so why bother.
So what are the realistic scenarios for these guns?
My most common situation is to see a lot of squirrels while I'm in a deer blind. My hunch tells me that the only way to take them while not disturbing deer would be to have a double-gun with an .22 barrel which is *silenced.* Perhaps not very realistic.
In Michigan it also seems like blackpowder deer and late-duck seasons overlap. Hmmm... How about a blackpowder rifle/shotgun combi-gun?
I suppose in my dreams one might be out camping or canoeing for a couple weeks and that it would then be handy to have several-guns-in-one.
I note that the Savage 24 is the gun of choice for the Conovers, wilderness guides based in Maine who take clients into the winter northwoods brush for weeks on end. They seem to do fine with partridges and hares, so a 20-ga/.22 is great for them.
I just can't help wanting to add something like a third barrel with .243 into the mix.
Here are links to further resources. The various shooting forums include discussions of the concept and its relatives such as the "survival" gun.