July dawned and in doing so heralded the end of a project that has taken around two-years to complete: a new self-opening sidelock ejector, cased and ready to head for the United States.
The name on the locks is that of the gentleman who ordered the gun but it was built by Vintage Guns Ltd, entirely in England, by traditional gunmaking processes. The team who built it was assembled from top tradesmen who have worked for Purdey, Holland & Holland, Westley Richards, Atkin, Grant & Lang and William & Son, among others.
Once the order was taken and the stock dimensions and specifications agreed, work began on the barrels, which are best chopper-lumps and 28" long, fitted with Teague invisible multi-chokes. The gun was actioned and proof tested for 70mm nitro, conforming to CIP rules.
The gun is mechanically identical to a Holland & Holland 'Royal' sidelock ejector, based on the 1922 Holland patent. The self-opener under the forend is powered by a coil-spring, working independently of the lock work. It is a tried and tested system; probebly the most reliable and appreciated sidelock in the world.
The customer had some design motifs he wanted incorporated into the engraving, which he supplied to inspire engraver Sam Faraway. Sam fitted these into his bold floral scroll work beautifully.
Sam is one of teh very best engravers I have yet seen working. His work is incredibly neat and his layout faultless. His scrolls have a three dimensional quality that sparkles in a way unique to his style. I believe he will, one day, be acknowledged as a true master and one of the finest engravers of his generation. Sam is not yet a household name to gun collectors but he should be.
He soon will be.
Beautiful it is but the gun has been commissioned to fill the role of a classic English game gun, ideal for all kinds of general shooting, be it walked-up or driven. It is entirely conventional in mechanics and appearance. In this case, following convention is not a criticism. It took a century to develop the best pattern for a best game gun and the British got it right a century ago.
There is a reason so many British guns, though made as bespoke builds, look very alike.
We think the balance between beauty and practicality has been met entirely. The gun handles like a thoroughbred, it can digest standard steel or normal lead loads in cases up to 70mm (2 3/4") long. With multi-chokes, it can adapt to longer-range quartering duck or close-up quail flushes.
The bold engraving will wear hard and look beautiful for ever more. With its bright finish, it has no case colours to fade and wear away. The traditional oil finish on twalnut stock will burnish and become a satin glow as time affects it, softening and living in the wood, in a way synthetic finishes never will.
The stock is a carefully chosen super-deluxe piece of Turkish walnut which was actualy a rifle blank but the figure demanded we give it some attention and make the investment. It was expensive, but the best wood is these days.
The final job was fitting the gun into a case of a commensurate quality. Rather than approach the usual suspects and have a standard case fitted out, we had Casecraft build us this rather smart, dark brown case, with best brass fittings from the finest hides available. It was a colour chosen by the customer, with a scarlet lining to complement it.
The specially-commissioned, desert ironwood and brass snap-caps, with the customer's name were hand-made by Mike Swan.
The cost? We won't talk specifics as that is always between us and the customer but if you took the price of a London equivalent and cut it in half, you would not be far off.
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