What do you get the man who has everything? The bases of these side table lights are the remains of the steel billet from which we take the action machining for our guns and rifles. Each lamp is different and may be a small one for a .410 gun or a large one for a .577 rifle. It seemed a shame to just throw these away and they make a interesting talking point as you sit and sip your scotch. If they admire the lamp perhaps you can show them what you had made with the middle part?!
These Unique lamps are hand made to order from £500.00 each.
Little things: Ever wonder why some guns just look racy and keen laying on the bench?
Or, upon picking up certain guns you know they are really right before even getting them
to your shoulder?
Ever watch a real gunmaker pick up a gun for the first time and look directly
at you while checking out things by feel?
A goodly share of all this is a direct result of very subtile things in the makeoff or shaping of
the stock. Most of the makers have a particular style or look. Some of the differences are readily apparent and some require real effort to distinguish between looking and really seeing.
The diamond shaped hand and lines of Holland & Holland are there for all to see. Boss guns generally have ruler straight lines front to back with one often overlooked exception: Put a straightedge on a Boss stock from just behind the trigger bow to the toe of the stock and, likely as not, you will note just a little relief between that straightedge and the trigger guard on straight hand stocks. That little relief is in no small part responsible for the perfect feel of most Boss guns before before you even mount one.
Superb pair of Vintage 12g J. Purdey guns.
Put that same straightedge on a Purdey stock from from the rear of the hand along the side to the centre of the butt and you may discover that midway the stock is just a tiny bit fat.
An interesting thing about this is that it is not not limited to Purdey makeoffs. This same slight midway enlargement can be found on the columns of the Parthenon and on Rolls Royce grills.
Known as “entasis” to early Greeks and modern architects, it is, at least in part, responsible for for the softer, lovely, classic look Purdey guns posess. Some stocker at some time almost certainly knew the secret of the Greek columns and applied it to his trade.
While none of this is of any great importance, it might be interesting for some to look again at various examples of the stockmaker’s craft.
After all, it’s those little things that make best guns what the name implies.
Westley Richards stocker Keith Haynes making off a 4g droplock shotgun.
VESTIGIAL: Something that has lost its original function but still retained.
While normally a biological term – think of your appendix – it can apply to an often overlooked but fascinating part of modern best guns. As with all vestigial’s, fences once had an actual purpose and, as that need or purpose became obsolete, those lovely little artistic sculptures devolved into respectful hints of their antecedents.
Sometimes to understand where we are it is useful to look at where we’ve been and the story of these often elegant examples of file and chisel work is part of the story of the path leading to today’s best gun.
The ‘Fence’ can be seen between the nipple and the hammer body.
Two percussion guns showing the original Fences which provided a spark barrier.
In the days of external ignition, fences did indeed serve a real purpose. The prospect of burning black powder, sparking iron and hot gas being blown back into the shooter’s face was cause enough to develop some sort of protective shield. The solution was to leave a protective barrier between the flash and the flesh and, over time, these barriers or “fences” became beautiful examples of the actioner’s skills. In some instances the carving of the more ornate fence work was the job of the stocker. Something not often considered is the fact that on double guns two fences are required. Two identical but mirror image fences. With a single fence a bit of ‘artistic license’ might be gotten away with, if things got a touch off pattern. No such option when the two are side by side just inviting comparison.
Among the various styles, ball and bead was and is the norm on modern guns for such firms as Westley Richards, Boss, Purdey, Holland and Holland and many others. However, makers such as Woodward, Grant, Greener and Rigby to name only a few, developed signature looks, often with great elegance. Woodward and Greener with their distinctive arcaded or umbrella fences along with Greener’s clam shell effect and Rigby and Grant with their sculpted leaf fences all vied with one another. Fleur de Lys and grape and vine leaf were among special styles. The American Parker gun had an arrangement of ball and bead with the number of beads increasing as the grades ascended from “B” to “A One Special”.
The first strokes of the file at the start of the filing up process.
Today’s CNC machines can and do generate fences but the very best work is still done by men with files and chisels and, by definition, best work is what a best gun is about. When asked about the difference between making guns and making best guns, Tom Wilkes made the observation ‘it all comes down to time and control of the tool, doesn’t it’?
To sum up, while of no particular use today, these interesting examples of gunmaker’s skills are part and parcel of what a best gun stands on to the present day.
The next time you hold a really fine British gun you might take a moment or two to carefully look at these little exercises in iron, consider why they’re there, where they came from and what it took to produce them.
My Thanks to David Brown for this guest post and I hope I have illustrated it correctly!
Stewart ‘Jimmy’ Granger on Safari with his .577 Westley Richards Double.
It has taken me many years to get a Safari jacket made which I like, it is one of the areas which over the years I have wasted a lot of time and a lot of £! Having been helped by various designers and factories over the years and being never been quite satisfied, I am very pleased with this safari jacket and shirt which are the start of a range of products that we will be making some of which were designed for us by Nigel Cabourn a couple of years ago. The Linen fabric is from an Italian Mill and was especially made for the project, it is lightweight and very breathable. I hope you will like them and take them to Africa where they belong!
This is for the most part, is age old advice but seems to me to be commonly dismissed and worth repeating. We hunters like things that are new and exciting, however in this instance they more often than not work against us. It seems that there is an attempt to apply technology to hunting in areas where there is little to gain and much to lose or fail. Surely we should all agree that the pursuit of all game should be conducted in an ethical manner, with animals taken as cleanly as possible. An increasing trend and desire of some to take shots at game at extreme distances is something that I believe is unwise and creates a less than desirable image of hunting. At a minimum it feeds every stereotype that the anti’s want to promote. There are exceptions to every rule however, such as large mountain sheep hunting that may require these specialized tools but will require extra skill and practice to manage. Other than those few specialized instances, the place for long range shooting is on the rifle range.
The primary mistake that we make is attempting to equip for the small percentage of opportunity that “might happen” as opposed to the ninety nine percent of chances that will be encountered. While seemingly illogical, this is common. What can we do to insure our success?
Nothing will benefit you more than practicing in varying positions at close range with a rimfire rifle or airgun. The impact of this practice cannot be overstated. Particularly, the airgun requires tops in fundamental technique to do well and these skills tend to stick to the brain.
Use a caliber appropriate for the largest animal hunted with a bullet of normal heavy weight i.e., .30’s – 180 gr. / 220 gr., .33’s – 250 gr. / 300 gr., .375 – 300gr., .40’s 400 gr. – 410 gr. Again, there are some exceptions for every rule such as focusing only on one large species. These normalheavy for caliber bullets will let you take advantage of less than optimum opportunities within reasonable range with confidence. Reasonable range being a distance at which you can place a bullet in the proper spot, under the current conditions.
Utilize your chosen cartridge in a rifle of appropriate fit & weight for caliber. This rifle so configured will not hurt you and will give you a chance to make the shots required while growing your confidence. This basic approach will unclutter your mind with ballistic details and let you focus on what you set out to do in the beginning, hunt. This universally applies to doubles, bolt actions, and singles as well. Warning: Following this approach may eliminate any possible attempt at making excuses.
The skills of the hunter and trackers at work in the bush.
Putting travel, hunting, rifles, cartridges, bullets, optics, and the most precious commodity, ‘time’ aside, nothing will ever be a substitute for getting as close to the game as is possible. This is the essence of hunting and our obligation as ethical hunters.
Thank you to Garry for his contribution, one which I will enter into the pot to win the copy of our book “In Pursuit of the Best Gun” in the special, hand bound, limited to 50 edition.
Another newspaper cutting from about 1900 which illustrates very well the use of choke in a shotgun. Particularly relevant to me a month ago when I was trying to find a good visual method for the new TEAGUE Precision Chokes website we were doing at the time and found last night when too late!
I even discussed with the English gun author and gun critic for The Field, Mike Yardley, resurrecting these old tests that were done on guns to judge performance.
We have a multitude of old ledgers here at the factory, many of which, even after 30 years I have never taken time to look at. One such book is a matching ledger to the Mauser records both of which I had rebound some years ago. This particular ledger is the daybook for gun sales in our London shop for the years 1892 to 1927. The ledger is divided into sections as indicated above. I point out that these are ‘off the shelf’ or stock guns and do not include ‘guns ordered’.
I picked 1907 for no particular reason just to have a look what the London stock gun sales were in those days. 1914 would have been 100 years ago but also the start of the War so I jumped back a few years to what would have been 100 years before we left the Grange Road premises.
The guns are all listed in columns by serial number and the totals sold were:
Best Hammerless Guns 45
Plain Hammerless Guns 84
Best Hammer Guns 0
Plain Hammer Guns 1
Double Rifles All Kinds 23
Keepers Guns and Cheap Guns 16
Secondhand Guns 41
Single Rifles 2 Best, 56 Bolt Action, 5 Lee Enfield, 35 Rook &Rabbit.
A brief overview is that most of the shotguns were 12g, the double rifles were .303, .318, .450, .476, .500 and .577’s (4). The bolt actions were mainly 318’s with .275, .303 and .375 being the largest with 3 sold. Rook rifles were .22 and .300 and the odd .250. In the revolver section you find Colts, S&W, Mauser, Webley and Bergman.
As with any old journals I cannot be sure how accurate the information is and how well it was kept, but I imagine it is actually totally accurate! Certainly it is also much easier to find than on the modern computer. It is just a shame we cannot write as elegantly as they did 100 years ago and maintain such perfect records for the future.