Issue 28 October 2021

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Three Names in One

A Grant side-lever designed by Holland & Robertson

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Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

Built in 1885, this Stephen Grant sidelock non-ejector ties together the names of three significant figures from the London gun trade of the period; Stephen Grant, Henry Holland and John Robertson.

The gun carries Grant's name but the design is attributed to a patent taken out by Holland & Robertson in 1883, numbered 23 of that year.

The gun is a 20-bore with 30" damascus barrels, weighing 5lbs 15 oz. Its rounded top strap and action blend into atypical srpentine fences, rather than the fluted Grant trademark type, but the side-lever and graceful lines are classic Grant. The rib reveals it was sold from Grant's premises at 67A St James's Street, London. The case label reiterates the fact, as well as boasting of Royal Appointments to HM the King, the Czar of Russia and the King of Spain.

The Holland named in the patent  is Henry William Holland, who joined his uncle Harris Holland in 1876 to form Holland & Holland. The Robertson, who was co-patentee, is John Robertson, gunmaker to the London trade for many years and, later, proprietor of Boss (which Stephen Grant managed before setting up his own business). It would not be unreasonable to surmise that the gun was probably built for Grant by John Robertson in his London factory.

The gun has been quite extensively restored, the barrels nicely re-browned and the woodwork is in good condition but the case colours visible in the photographs have been 'torched' on, in a rather amateur bodge. This minor crime is more commonly seen in the United States than here in the UK. Several pins slots are enlarged and disfigured.

However, a 20-bore Grant sidelever with Damascus barels is a rare thing, so it deserves a closer look. The apparent kickers on the bar flats will raise questions from the observant. They look a little like those prodtruding in a similar manner from the flats of a (Beesley patent) Purdey spring-cocker. However, this action is cocked by the barrels.

The visible projections, which are, in fact, cocking levers, pivot on the hinge pin. The right lick cocks on opening, the left on closing. The mechanics necessary to prevent the barrels from jamming shut are complex and the system appears to be one of those which, while brilliant, was never going to be a main-stream standard.

It did, however, form the basis for an early version of the  Holland & Holland 'Royal', so it was an important staging post.

An inspection of the lock plates shows the unusual positioning of the main pins. The cocking levers appear to exert some pressure on the barrel flats, providing some inertia-breaking movement when the lever is pressed, making it not a true assisted-opener, as I have been tempted to categorise it in the past, but the gun does open initially under mild spring pressure.

The quality of action filing is first class and the fitting of metal parts equal to that. Despite its current condition, it is easy to see that this was a very beatiful gun the day it left 67A St James's Street.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

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