Trusty Rusty

My favourite gun

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Guns & Gunmakers|November 2021

An American recently commented; “I guess you can shoot pretty much anything you want, why do you shoot that?”

The Thompson during the first season I used it after completing restoration but before re-browning the barrels.

I am, indeed, fortunate that I have a well-stocked gun room full of the wares of famous makers. I have owned most things by all the big names and what I haven’t owned, I have used.

Cau you spot the change of colour on the hammer? I dropped it on the curb and snapped it off a decade ago. The welding, fitting and 'making good' show just what clever gunmakers we have!

It does, therefore, surprise people that my favourite gun is by a ‘nobody’ and there is nothing apparently special about it. I paid £50 for it, in 2002, on a whim.

Repair and re-fitting of the bodged on forend.

‘J. Thompson’ graces the locks but no name on the rib. It is a hammer gun with rebounding locks, 30” Damascus barrels, a straight-hand stock and Jones under-lever. It was filthy, pitted, off-the-face, black with coal dust and grime; it didn’t even have the original forend! Proof marks were 1868 black powder.

For some reason, it ‘spoke to me’. So, I had the barrels lapped, chambers re-cut to 70mm and re-proofed for nitro. Dave Mitchell re-jointed it, welded-up the hole in the bar, where the old forend fittings once went, and fixed the bodged-on forend. He re-shaped the wood, had the metalwork engraved to match the action, re-chequered the hand, cleaned-off the crud and papered-up the stock.

It came back form the proof house with sharpie makings still on the barrels but with nice new proof stamps. I couldn’t resist taking it out the next day.

I folded a pigeon with the first shot. On report, another broke left. I picked-up on the movement; dropping it at 35 yards. This was obviously the start of a beautiful relationship!

Woodwork had seen better days.

I got the barrels browned, oil-finished the woodwork myself and, since then, have shot tens of thousands of cartridges through the old girl. You name it; from snipe in Pembrokeshire to spur-wing geese in South Africa, we have shot it.

She has even been to the Okavango Delta to bag guinea fowl during an elephant hunting safari; one of five trips to Africa endured without missing a beat.

‘Trusty Rusty’, as one friend refers to the Thompson, is one gun I will never sell. I have never had her fitted and the stock is shorter than recommended but muscle memory makes up for any shortcomings and affection trumps mechanical complexity!

An early pheasant shoot, once the main repairs had been completed.

Trusty Rusty has 30" damascus barrels, rebounding bar-locks, a Jones under-lever action, weighs 7lbs and has three points of choke in the right and seven points in the left.

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Guns & Gunmakers|November 2021

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