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A very early Anson & Deeley

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Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

1870s Anson & Deeley guns are interesting because they shine a light on the iterations of this classic design that were being made early in its life.

The gun in these photographs is stamped 'Anson & Deeley's Patent' with the number '80', which is the use number. So, it is the eightieth gun made to this patent. It dates from 1876, just one year after patent 1756 of 1875 was lodged but it looks very like the finished article.

The order book shows it was made for a Col. Powell and the order was taken on January 15th 1876. It is a 16-bore and the serial number is 13032.

The gun has all the expected features of a Westley Richards of the period, with doll's head rib extension, top-lever and sliding bolt, Deeley & Edge forend release catch and fine damascus barrels. It was clearly made as a best gun, with very nicely figured wood and full coverage scroll engraving. The rib has the maker's name and address inlaid in gold gothic script.

Cocking dogs on modern boxlocks are small and slim by comparison with many early examples. Some were of rounded section but these are of pyramidal form and very substantial. The bottom plate is slightly convex and is proud of the end of the bar, with what appears to be a finger tab to aid removal once the retaining pin has been removed.

Proof is for black powder only and the gun is in unrestored but well-used condition, with thin barrels and a deal of oil ingress blacking the woodwork. For a relic, it looks as it should; a historic survivor from the dawn of the Anson & Deeley, looking as it does after over a hundred and fifty years of use and no restoration or renwal of anything. It looks right.

I confess, I tried to buy this at auction recently and thought my bid of £550 was sufficiently generous for a gun that is unlikely to fire again and should be placed in a display. It wasn't: a bid £50 higher secured it for someone else. I hope they leave it as it is rather than attempt to restore it.

A non-ejector, the gun demonstrates the beautiful simplicity of the early Anson & Deeley concept. With no Purdey bolt or spindle, the locking system is just the Westley Richards doll's head and its sliding bolt, operated by the top-lever. Jointed on the circle, this proved quite sufficient to lock the gun shut.

The success of this gun in the 1870s sparked a wave of development - modifying the original design slightly to make it increasingly adaptable to different needs. Further bolts were added for strength, the outer shapes were rounded and given fancy filed backs to improve the aesthetic and sideplates were sometimes added to imitate sidelocks.

However, this first successful run of Anson & Deeley guns from Westley Richards settled the success of the design and cemented its future as the most popular and widespread shotgun of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

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