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Original Gun Prices

 

Comparing the Prices of Sidelock, Hammer & Boxlock Models

It is interesting to compare the data being used today to evaluate aspects of desirability in any gun for sale, with the place in the market that gun may have occupied when new. The conventional wisdom in vintage gun buying circles would make the assumption that a sidelock will cost more than a boxlock of similar age and configuration. Hammer guns can make a strong sale price in view of the rarity of particular models and features. The maker’s name can also affect the attitude of the buyer today, as assumptions are erroneously made regarding name and quality.

I have compared some available data from catalogues dating back to the mid 19th century, to see what place each model and type of gun took in the pricing and quality structures of some major manufacturers and retailers of sporting guns.

Maker (date) Lowest Price Boxlock Highest Price Boxlock Lowest Price Sidelock Highest Price Sidelock Lowest price Hammer Gun Highest Price Hammer Gun
W.W Greener (1879) £27* £42* £20* £35* £10* £40*
J.V Needham (1891) £8.10s £48 £8 £8 £3 £42
William Evans (1893) £21 £47.5s £21 £47.5s £7.10s £42
Robert Hughes (1894)^ £19 £46 £14.14s £28 £4.10s £34
Webley & Scott (1914)^ £13.5s £50 £12 12s £112 £5. 5s £76
Charles Osborne (1900)^ £13 £70 £11.10s £60 £11 £17
WW Greener (1903) £13.13s £73.10s £73.10s £73.10s £9.9s £42
Bentley & Playfair (1911)^ £11 £53 £13 £72 £5 15s £33.6s
William Powell (1912) £25 £70 £80 £100 x x

The tables indicate prices for 12-bore guns. Where marked * the price is in guineas.

Firms marked^ are trade suppliers; therefore wholesale prices are indicated.

It can be seen here that the commonly held belief that sidelocks are automatically better guns than boxlocks, and therefore more expensive, is erroneous. Several makers produced cheap back-action sidelocks below the price of a basic boxlock. This was especially the case before 1880. For example, William Evans offered boxlock or bar-action sidelock models, with Webley screw grips. They had identical pricing. Today, you will typically see the Evans sidelock models offered at higher prices than the boxlocks.

Charles Osborne’s most expensive gun was a boxlock. He had this in common with Westley Richards and WW Greener. In fact, Greener’s 1879 range explains how the A&D action was considered, by Greener, to be superior to the available sidelocks, which he only offered in low grades. By 1903, Greener only offered sidelocks in best quality, noting in his advertisement that “Best ejector guns are preferred by some amateurs on the sidelock system…” , which shows how clearly Greener believed the sidelock was an inferior design to both the Anson & Deeley and the Facile Princeps.

The anomaly in the market today is that the original cost of many of these higher quality boxlocks is not reflected in the prices they are now achieving in the sale rooms. By seeking out quality boxlocks and buying wisely, guns of really excellent quality and integrity can be had at much reduced prices. Why pay more today for an inferior sidelock, which cost less than a boxlock when it was new?

The same imbalance used to be observable when hammer guns were considered by most people to be either old fashioned, dangerous or unworthy of consideration in a modern shooting context. They now often make a premium. It is time the market looked anew at the place the higher quality boxlocks really occupied in the gunmakers’ price range to appreciate how highly they were regarded at the time of manufacture. This is still reflected in the build-quality and value for money they represent.

As veteran London gunmaker, Paul Roberts, once commented “A well made boxlock will last indefinitely, the only limiting factor is the life in the barrels. The actions last forever.” So, next time you are out looking for guns, consider the inherent practicality and value in better quality boxlocks and get used to looking for that quality so that you can recognise it. The market is waking up but it is not too late to get hold of some fabulous guns at far less than they should really be making. As always, small bores are way ahead of 12-bores in terms of their appreciation. Holt’s achieved £10,000 for a 25 guinea grade Greener Facile Princeps 28-bore this year. At the other end of the weight spectrum, heavy live pigeon guns and high quality wildfowling guns are also moving up strongly.