The first thing most guys look at when they pick up a double barrel is the wood. Some guys will pay attention to the make and the engraving. The guys who collect will inspect the condition. Very few guys ever glance at the shotgun’s fences.
Like toplevers and triggers, a side-by-side’s fences are often overlooked. But when it comes to creating a double’s look and defining a maker’s style, the fences are a big deal.
First, a definition: The fences are the part of the action that meets the breech end of the bbls. When you close a shotgun, the barrels meet up against the fences. The term “fences” comes from the muzzloading era when makers added a curve of metal behind the percussion cap to create a “fence” to protect the shooter’s eye’s from sparks and debris. There are good pics of all this here.
Boss & Co., Holland & Holland, and J. Purdey & Sons all file up their fences in different ways. The differences are slight, but the way they alter the gun’s look is substantial. Check out the pics below to see what I mean. Of the three, I like the fences on a Boss the most. They’re bigger, more bulbous, and more substantial than the fences on most other sidelocks. BTW: these images are from Matched Pairs Limited. If you’re looking for a British double, they’re a good place to check out.