Gun Deal

“Nowadays the shooter who has passed his physical zenith has a double
inducement for handing in his 30″ barrelled, full- weight, old thoroughbred, and going in for something lighter and faster- handling but in no significant degree inferior, ballistically. These old thoroughbreds are now fetching high prices– much more, in many cases, than they cost… True, the new gun may not be a best English side- lock, with all the refinements of the old, but it can be a thoroughly sound English box- lock…Meanwhile, the old thoroughbred could find a new, and perhaps younger, owner, and one better qualified to derive full pleasure from it”.

(From Gough Thomas, his Gun Book, back in 1969)

My 1879 Stephen Grant was definitely the best (Best) gun I have or likely will ever own, but its seven pound plus weight had made it nearly impossible to carry in our rough terrain.

Last year I had more jokingly than not discussed trading one of my other guns for Andrew’s unique 20 bore when he visited with his dogs.

Though it was a theoretically “lesser” gun with plain surfaces and an obscure provincial name, it was obviously of good quality and had many bespoke traits– striking wood with a lot of cast off but no toe out like a ladies gun (good for my broad face), unusual chokes (IC and bigger- than- bore “bell” for you tecchies), and five pound weight with no metal missing– I believe it last passed proof in 2002. Its most remarkable trait was its 30″ barrels; despite its light weight it swung smoothly. Though the highest quality Spanish makers are now making similar guns, it is the only vintage* smallbore I have seen with STEEL 30- inchers, though I have seen a few Damascus examples.

Andrew offered back that he would consider the Grant and we both laughed, but when my Parkinson’s diagnosis suggested a very light gun I wrote to him– he really had the only strong candidate, and by pure luck I didn’t really have a lot of money in the Grant. In the end we put together a “proposal” with ammo, a case, tools, and more including some surprises from him and a Hungarian Mongol bow and more ammo from me, and made the deal. It is the perfect example of the quote above. Andrew’s gunsmith has revealed that my intuitions are right– the Grant is in nearly incredible condition, safe for modern ammo (knew that– have shot it for years), and never had the barrels honed out or thinned. While with the slip- on leather pad he provided the “Sidley” fits me perfectly (I’ll have a leather covered recoil pad installed after the season). I should add that all my shots are at close range.

He also sent me a CD of interior photos of the Grant including its Brazier locks— a possible paying article there! So Andrew gets a London gun at an age I never could– and I? Well, Johnny UK wrote me after I mailed its specs that it was doubtless made for an opinionated older man past his greatest strength but still enthusiastic, with good taste and a limited budget. I rest my case.

*Apparently– thanks to gun scholar Doug Tate– it is a W & C Scott (good) action, possibly made in the thirties but left “in the white” and finished in the fifties.

8 thoughts on “Gun Deal”

  1. Hi Steve

    So glad you made the "right deal"!- may you have a long and happy life shooting together.
    You did not mention the chokes , but "trumpet" and improved cylinder will not disappoint! – my 20G has skeet and 1/8 [patterned for 24 grams of 6 or 7 shot), and CONSISTENTLY kills pheasant to 45 yards,whether driven or walked up-"More choke means more missed birds",in my book, as after only 40 yrs experience in the field !( see Gough Thomas on choke!!), – and they pattern beautifully with bismuth No 5 shot for Mallard!!

    Go for it- and enjoy!

    I am so pleased that you have exchanged a gun for which you now have no use , for one which you can use!.
    I will be interested to hear how it shoots – but please don't shoot heavy ( i.e 26 grams and over ) in such a light ,handy gun- you will miss birds due to recoil

    JohnnyUK

  2. Agree with every word– and I DID mention choke, and read GT on it in the same book— though I had come to the same conclusion. Remember you are only 3–?– years older than I am! (;-)

    All my 500+ shells are light English loads. Bismuth will be more of a problem– 2 1/2" bismuth loads here are $75 for a box of 25.

    I am glad you understand– some, all richer than we are, have emailed, appalled that I traded a London gun for a provincial one. I am going to ask if they would have bought the Grant for what I would have asked!

  3. Hi Steve

    Still up "Over Here" , after a trip to the pub with Petra!

    Sorry if I missed the choke details – I was more interested in the unique 20G attributes of this very special shotgun- after all chokes can always be taken out…….( No 1 rule with shotguns is minimum choke consistent with good patterns.

    Rule of thumb – IC!!, unless specialist goose shooting , or similar clay discipline .

    Quote ;- "I am glad you understand– some, all richer than we are, have emailed, appalled that I traded a London gun for a provincial one." – especially as we ( all ) get older!

    – a heavy gun you cannot use, traded for a light, rare English, long barreled 20G seems a fair deal to me – for you ( and obviously for the vendor, otherwise he would not have sold! ) – so WHY WORRY? – ignore the whiners, you are both happy with the deal – NUFF SAID!!! The proof will be in the pudding ( Shooting ) !!…….

    Personalised Value & utility , not maximised price, is maybe what we ought to seek in our purchases – after all , "Life's too short to shoot bad shotguns" ( which do not suit )

    JohnnyUK

  4. Hi Steve

    Quote :

    Johnny UK wrote me after I mailed its specs that it was doubtless made for an opinionated older man past his greatest strength but still enthusiastic, with good taste and a limited budget. I rest my case.

    – so who might we know who could possibly comply with this testing, personal, sporting specification ? – discuss?

    JohnnyUK

  5. When I heard of this trade from Andrew, I was a bit green with envy… the Grant sidelever is really and elegant gun.

    But so is the little BLE that you received. Carry and shoot it well – it's a fitting quail gun for the Southwest.

  6. Ateve – a fine little gun. Reminds me of a 5-1/2 lb. Harkom 16 that I shot for some years. Doug Tate exclaimed "I know the man that made these barrels!" Turns out that the gun was re-barreld by Fred Buller in the late 50s.

    Aside from the their quality and suitability of purpose, these old guns have palpable history.

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