Did John Dickson & Son build Purdey shotguns? Yes…

16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553
16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553

Bespoke. In the shotgun world, it describes a custom made. A side-by-side or over under for you. Gauge, wood quality, engraving, grip style, barrel length, chokes, weight, triggers, and stock dimensions are a few of the features we imagine “bespeaking”.

But in the Golden Age of gunmaking, bespoke went beyond this. In the case of this side-by-side by John Dickson & Son – Scotland’s most famous maker built a shotgun on London’s famous Beesley action.

The Beesley action is ingenious. But compared to other sidelock designs, it’s complex and a pain to build. That’s why so few makers copied it.

Atkin used the Beesley on their Spring Openers, and Francotte used it on a few of his Best-quality sidelocks. But that’s about it. If other makers used the Beesley action, I haven’t seen these shotguns.

16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553
16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553

So why did Dickson do it? They created the Round Action, one of the most elegant side-by-sides of all time. Why would they build a shotgun on another company’s design? I suspect it’s simple: that’s what the customer wanted.

Lot 150: JOHN DICKSON & SON. A RARE 16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553: 28in. nitro reproved chopperlump barrels (in 2013, require bluing), rib gold-inlaid ‘2’ and engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. 63 PRINCES STREET. EDINBURGH’, 2 3/4in. chambers, bored approx. 1/4 and 1/2 choke, wall thicknesses below recommended minimum, incorporating Beesley patent self-opening system, patent no. 31 of 3rd January 1880, toplever gold-inlaid ‘2’, automatic safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, bold acanthus scroll engraving with decorative borders, the underside with a cartouche engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. EDINBURGH’, (some wear), 14 1/2in. replacement stock, weight 6lb.

16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553
16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553

Provenance: The makers have kindly informed us that this shotgun was completed as No.2 of a pair of ‘best sidelock hammerless ejectors (Purdey actions)’ with 28in. barrels in September 1913 for A.M. Spence.

Estimate £1,500-2,500

Victorian England in your hands: A William Powell & Son bar-in-wood double……

12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun

I like the old and impractical: bamboo fly rods…wooden decoys…books…and, of course, double-barrel shotguns — especially hammer guns with damascus barrels.

From about 1866-1875, centerfire hammer guns were the latest-and-greatest thing in the shooting world. Once they were introduced, hunters from the moors of Scotland to the Susquehanna flats tossed aside their slow-to-load percussion guns for the newest thing in double barrels.
William Powell & Son  was one of the first British gunmakers to produce breachloading centerfire shotguns. Their side-by-sides were built on Powell’s “No. 1 patent” of 1864 and featured a snap-action, lift-up toplever design. The shotgun you see here is one of those doubles.
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
According to Steve Helsey at PowellsPatent.com, this one was ordered in 1869 by a Captain Cave.  At that time, Powell had five hammer gun grades – Superior, Very Best, Best, Plain and Second. This shotgun is a “best”, or middle-grade gun.

12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun
12g William Powell & Son, Double Barrel, Bar-in-Wood, Double Barrel Shotgun

A Westley Richards droplock: here’s what makes them different…

In 1875, Westley Richards started building side-by-side shotguns on their famous Anson & Deeley boxlock action. Twenty-one year later, the company updated the A & D design with the famous Detachable Lock Action. Check out the pics below to see some of what sets these designs apart.

This first pic shows a regular Westley Richards Anson & Deeley boxlock action. Note the three pins  on the side of the action. Those pins fasten the lockwork in place.

A standard boxlock Westley Richards
A standard boxlock Westley Richards

The next pic shows a Westley Richards droplock. See how the the three pins on those three pins are missing on this gun? That’s because the detachable lockwork on this Westley is fastened on plates housed inside the action.

A droplock Westley Richards
A droplock Westley Richards, pic from Hallowellco.com

Here’s another pic of a standard Westley boxlock. Even though this shotgun is equipped with a hinged floor plate, it’s a fixed-lock gun.

Locks & action on a standard boxlock Westley Richards
Locks & action on a standard boxlock Westley Richards

This is a droplock with the floorplate removed and the left-had lock lifted from the action. See the plate to the back of the lock? That’s what the lockwork is mounted on.

Locks on a Westley Richards Droplock
Locks on a Westley Richards Droplock, pic from Hallowellco.com

In this final pic you can see the set of the locks dropped all the way out of the gun. You can also the plate that entire lock mechanism is mounted on.

Westley Richards Boxlock with Detachable Locks (Droplocks)
Westley Richards Boxlock with Detachable Locks (Droplocks)

The Kings of Condition…

When it comes to collecting vintage shotgun, there are three things I focus on: condition, condition, & condition. Take a look at the hammer prices in an auction catalog and you’ll see why: original condition holds its value and sells, and I want to buy side-by-side shotguns that are going to be worth more in the future, not less.

Stephen Grant 12g Double Barrel Shotgun
Stephen Grant 12g Double Barrel Shotgun

With this in mind, here are a couple guns that really caught my eye last weekend at the Southern Side by Side. Both of these double barrel shotguns– a Charles Lancaster and a Stephen Grant–are awfully original (the buttstock on the Lancaster had been cut and the bbls on the Grant were rebrowned). But considering that both gun were made in the 1870s and the amount of original color, blueing, and wood finish they had, I still wanted both guns.

The Charles Lancaster is a very odd gun: a 16g with a sidelever. Charles Lancaster was actually Charles William Lancaster. His father had the same name and both of them were barrel men and gunmakers of the first order. Charles Lancaster, Sr., founded this firm of gun makers in 1826. He was located at 151 New Bond Street, London. His eldest son, Charles William Lancaster, joined him in about 1845. Both of them were well known for turning out fantastic guns and they were famous throughout England as barrel makers of the first order.

If there was one gun at the Southern that just stunk of class, the Stephen Grant was it. It is a quintessential British hammergun. This gun was made in 1877 and it has all the classic Grant features: including a sidelever and the Grant & Hodge’s Patent action. The gun also had toe and heel plates. It was fantastic.

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