This story concerns a 12g Hammer gun by Henry James Robinson of 103 Lancaster Street Birmingham (1879 – 1881).
It is another piece of social history saved by accident. We have all heard it – I’m clearing out my cabinet, I need to get rid of some old guns, do you want one?
The gun was offered to several local shooters, but created no interest. The end of the road for another Vintage gun had come, and at that point the gun was destined for the scrap pile.The owner of the Robinson Hammer Gun for the past 58 years asked for help to dispose of the gun. David Neale who offered to help dispose of the gun, became the guns’ latest custodian. Taking time to ask about the guns’ past. The story that unfolded highlighted, the gun was of important local social history, and had links with the start of Clay Pigeon shooting competitions on the Isle of Wight – This Vintage Robinson Hammer Gun had won the “County Championship Shield” on the Isle of Wight in the 1960’s.
This interesting old 12 bore hammer gun was with its last owner 1957 - 2015 (58 years) – Mr Norman Gashes was born and bred in Thameside Essex. The majority of all his shooting with the Robinson Hammer gun was in the form of wildfowling in and around the Essex coastal marshes. Mr Gashes described the gun as being used, dawn and dusk, on wild moonlit nights, on the foreshores of East Tilbury, and Mucking to St Peters, also off the Blackwater break wall. The winter of 1963 included a visit to Barnstaple in North Devon, with the gun in the car, and an early morning with a full moon resulted in shooting white front geese from the shoreline.
The majority of the local countryside where Mr Gashes used the gun was owned by the Whitmore Estate, any opportunities of rough shooting were difficult to secure, however where there is a will there is a way. As mentioned, the gun was being used regularly in the late 1950’s over the Essex countryside before relocating to the Isle of Wight. The relocation took place during the early 1960’s, where the gun was being used all over the Isle of Wight on game, vermin and clay pigeon target shooting several times a week.
The 1960’s were early days for clay pigeon shooting on the Isle of Wight, however by 1964 there were a number of regular small clay shoots on and around the Island. Mr Gashes used the Robinson Hammer gun at several clay pigeon shooting layouts, including “Downend chalk pit at Arreton”, “Atherfeild holiday camp” on the Military Road (South Wight) – The Holiday Camp also had a “High Tower” (1963/64) to simulate high driven game, other locations where clay target shooting took place, was at Clamerkin Farm at Portchfeild near Newport, Mallards Farm at Bathingbourne, and something a little smaller at Newchurch.
Mr Gashes made regular trips, using the Robinson hammer gun at the Isle of Wight Gun Club at Sainham, Godshill. Mr Gashes described the Isle of Wight Gun Club during the late 1960’s as a “Far smaller affair, than today. The club catering mainly rough shooters, game shooters and farmers practicing on targets that simulated and replicated live targets being met in the field”. Things were changing, and the regular clay shooting events created natural competition between local shooters.
The Isle of Wight County Championship Shield (open competition) was held at Downend Chalk pit initially, where Mr Gashes and the Robinson Hammer gun won the competition for the first time in 1966. The event moved to the Isle of Wight Gun Club at Sainham, Godshill in 1967 where Mr Norman Gashes and the Robinson shotgun won the County Championship shield for the second time, and again for the third time in 1968. The Robinson Hammer Gun establishing its ability for Competition through winning the County Championship Shield over three consecutive years.
The Robinson Hammer gun at the time of its winning successes was over ninety years old and still performing very well. The coming years saw the gun regularly used at different clay clubs and shooting grounds for field practice, and preparation for the game season. The Robinson Hammer Gun and owner continued, and remained very competitive during the 1970’s, shooting where ever clay shooting took place.
The Robinson was used on a number of interesting shoots and venues. These included, the Duxmore syndicate game shoot, Bob Cooper’s clay shoot at Hulverstone, the owner reflecting; this shooting ground replicating many targets seen by game shooters in likewise surroundings. The Robinson was also used several times at Gerry Shorts “Shepherds Chine” shooting ground at Atherfield, the owner stating this clay shooting layout produces good game and competition targets, and many unexpected angles of flight.
Where did the Robinson Hammer Gun come from ?
The owner relayed an interesting story about buying the gun in 1957 for the princely sum of £20 from Holland and Holland. Mr Gashes, worked at the War Office at the time, and regularly walked past Holland and Holland to and from work, on seeing the gun in the window over a period of weeks, made the decision to have a closer look before buy the gun. Mr Gashes, asking about the choking of the gun, was informed by the seller, the gun was between ¾ and full. The chokes being measured with a plug gauge at the time, and not a barrel micrometre. This practice is a lesson we later learn for us all, and a reminder to get the seller to measure the gun barrels and chokes with a bore gauge, especially when buying a fixed choke gun and requiring particular choke dimensions.
After sometime of owning and using the gun’s choke measurements were rechecked, as the new owner noticed proof marks that showed the bores measured .700 in line with its most recent proof just before being sold, these proof marks and measurement were are not what was expected, as the proof marks of nominal English 12g / bore is usually .729, and obviously in this case the purveyor also presumed this. The using of a barrel bore micrometre, quickly showed up the discrepancies. The gun was in actual fact True Cylinder in both barrels. The measurements due to the fact the barrels started life, and remaining 14 bore, but being chambered for 12 bore cartridges.
The gun performed for the next half century with no break downs, and having some memorable shooting from salt marsh wildfowling in Essex, a trip to North Devon in the 1960’s for more wildfowl, all forms of game and vermin, and the previously mentioned big impact during the early days of Clay Pigeon shooting on the Isle of Wight. Although the gun had no choke, the tight bores and open chokes killed a very high percentage of all targets when and where ever the gun was used.
The gun had to be re-ribbed six months after purchase, this was carried out by Jeffery’s of London, unfortunately this resulted in the original named top rib being removed and the new top rib not being engraved, this has resulted in the gun no longer carrying the H. J. Robinson name. The gun has been fitted with a stock extension in walnut giving a length of pull of 14 ¾ inches including a vulcanite pad, the stock is lightly cast for the right hand shooter. The gun surprisingly handles, moves and mounts smoothly, and is well balanced.
From Scrap pile to Shooting Ground Celebrity, the gun is returning to the Isle of Wight Clay Pigeon circuit for 2021.
Story and photographs by David Neale.
Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on