Posted By Mac66 on November 20, 2013
If you lived in a place where poisonous snakes were a problem you could, A-walk around them, B-hit them with a stick, or C-treat them with a dose of lead from a firearm of your choice. A popular concept in the southern swamps and south west deserts was to carry a small shotgun for traveling in the bush. Small shotguns were also carried on fishing boats for water snakes and out on the oceans for finishing off unruly catches. Often these shotguns were inexpensive single shots cut down to minimum legal barrel and overall length. Just as often they were in the minimum caliber one could find, that being .410, (.410 is a caliber, not a gauge.) And yes, one could use various shot cartridges in pistols but single shot shotguns, particularly in .410 bore, were both light weight, cheap and ubiquitous in rural areas. Such shotguns became known as “snake charmers”.
Sometime in the late 1970s or early 80’s a Texan named Homer Koon marketed a small .410 shotgun under the name “Snake Charmer”. What was unique about it was that it was all stainless steel, light weight (about 3 lbs) and had a short stock with storage for four shells, that made it more suitable for one handed operation than shooting from the shoulder.
At some point the design was sold or the company was reorganized. The design was modified with the addition of a manual safety switch which blocked the hammer when engaged. The improved shotgun was re-named the “Snake Charmer II” and manufactured by Sporting Arms Manufacturing Inc, in Littlefield, Texas.. Later the design was sold and/or obtained by V.B. E. Inc with manufacturing moved to Clay Center, Kansas. V.B.E Inc is a subsidiary of the french arms company Verny-Carron. Current versions are reportedly made in Turkey for Verny-Carron and imported into the U.S. by Kebco LLC in Hanover, PA. NOTE: Buds Gun Shop has the SCII listed as being manufactured by YBE Inc and notes that it is called the Verny-Carron Snake Charmer II. Neither Kebco LLC which imports Verny-Carron firearms or VC themselves list the Snake Charmer II in their catalogs. I can find no company called YBE Inc listed that has anything to do with guns.
Koon’s original Snake Charmer is marked, H.Koon, Inc, Dallas Texas. The Snake Charmer IIs may be marked Sporting Arms Mfg, Littlefield, Texas. or perhaps V.B.E Inc Clay Center KS. Imported ones would have the importer (Kebco LLC) marked on them. My Snake Charmer II has the Littlefield TX marks with a serial number in the low 14,000 range.
I don’t live in the south and in fact my state has only one small, rarely seen poisonous snake so my need for a “snake charmer” is about zero. On the other hand a small .410 shotgun has some use for other critters, and so I bought one back in the 1980s. It was cheap and kind of unique looking so what the heck? I carried it in my truck and occasionally on my ATV when out in the boonies. Never had an occasion to actually shoot snakes with it or anything other than paper for that matter. It has been stashed away at my hunting property for the last 10 years or so and I recently uncovered it. Mine is modified by adding a belt slide cartridge holder slipped over the fore stock. It is held in place by the fore arm stock screw. This allows 6 additional shells to be carried in addition to 4 shells stored in the buttstock, it gives me a total of 10 shots at my finger tips.
Mine was stored with a combination of 2.5″ shells containing #6 birdshot and Russian Silver Bear 3″ shells with slugs. Those slugs are 97 grains with a muzzle velocity of 1600 feet per second. That’s enough power to take white tail deer with. Not that you should with a small hand shotgun with no sights..
On the other hand it is kind of fun to shoot. Even the 3″ slugs don’t recoil much and one handed trap shooting is fun and challenging. A single shot is not ideal for self defense but it certainly is powerful enough with slugs and/or some of the newer self defense loads to be used as such. Any gun is better than no gun and the mere presence of a firearm usually ends any contentious behavior. Just be aware that at ranges where you don’t need sights, (normal sized room in a house) you only have one shot before an assailant would be on you.
At only 3 lbs, the Snake Charmer II is pretty light weight compared to some other similar shotguns. Rossi, Harrington and Richardson/NEF make or made small survival type single shots. Some of them were/are even named “Snake Charmer” or “Snake Tamer” with similar looking stocks. Those shotguns tend to be shortened versions of their regular shotguns. In comparison the Snake Charmer II is scaled smaller in all dimensions.
Good and Bad
The good thing about the Snake Charmer II is that it is compact, light weight, and weather resistant. It carries extra shells in the stock. It is fun to shoot, is unique looking and functional for what it was intended. The bad is that it is limited in use, doesn’t have swappable barrels or stocks. It doesn’t have sights and the manual safety is quirky. Unlike the H&R the Snake Charmer II has a shell extractor that does not throw the shells clear when opened.
Current Specifications and features:
Verney-Carron Snake Charmer II break-top action shotgun
.410 Bore, 3″ chamber
2 red dot safety mechanism
Molded ABS plastic stock
Stainless steel receiver & barrel
Short pistol grip
29″ overall length
Price: Around $170