Auction alert: Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun …

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

I’ve seen lots of hammer guns. LOTS. But this Tolley is totally new to me. It’s on Gunbroker.com now and it’s being sold at No Reserve. The listing ends tomorrow, 12/16/2018, @ 11:00 PM EST.

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

J & W Tolley, Gunmakers, was established around 1859 in Birmingham, England. They opened a shop in London in 1883, and in 1955, the final guns carrying the J & W Tolley name were made.

The double you see here was made early in the company’s history — around 1870 — and it has a couple unique features: the shape of its action and the way the barrels lock onto that action. Take a closer look at the pics to see what I mean.

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

BTW: Something else worth mentioning is how great this auction listing is. Not only are there a lot of pics, but the seller gives you a lot of info about the gun, including an outline of the gun’s flaws. A listing like this make me feel a lot better about bidding on this gun. I wish more sellers would follow this example.

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun: 1870s era, game-scene & scroll engraved Hammer gun. Established ca. 1859, Tolley gained their excellent reputation building top-shelf big bore shotguns and rifles. 8 lbs. dead-on and built like a tank with heavy duty top lever, back action locks, stout hammers & oversized “Mushroom-cap” firing pins. Has a unique, hidden fastener system that has to be one of the earliest examples of a hidden bite as Purdey’s, (known for 3rd bites) didn’t offer theirs until the late 1880s. Another unique feature is the cut-away “I-Beam” frame which was likely an attempt to shave off weight or to stiffen it up. Never the less, it gives the gun a distinctive look. To top it off, there’s an odd protrusion at the underside of the muzzles – most likely to prevent damage. The Ivory bead is also unusual on a gun from this period. This is a real piece of British gun innovation – we’ve never seen anything like it from any maker. The Game-scene & scroll engraving is top-rate and also unusual for a heavy-duty gun from this era. With sculpted percussion fences, detailed hammer filing, fine Damascus steel barrels, this gun is as distinctive as it is classy.

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

EXTERNAL CONDITION: Looks like the gun was stored on a wall as one side is clean and shows quite a bit of original finish whereas the exposed side has what appears to be a light coat of cabin soot. NOTE: An expert cleaning of the duller side would likely reveal some very nice condition. The barrels have nearly all of their original Chocolate brown and fine Damascus pattern – Barrel lettering and proof marks are clear and sharp. The action and balance of metal show no evidence of polishing or buffing – everything is crisp and sharp and mechanically excellent! Barrels are an UN-CUT 28 3/16” (see pic of muzzles). Bores are very shiny with just a few light blemishes scattered throughout and we’d rate them a solid 9.5 / 10. Chambers are 2 ¾” with bores measuring R: .0736 & L:.731 min walls @ .733 / Choked: R: .011 / R: .007. The Horn capped ½ grip stock with “Gentleman’s” dimensions measures 14 ¼” x 2 ¼ x 3 ¼” drop at heel. Don’t snicker at these dimensions – the gun shoulders quite well and the boys back in the day were well known for their high percentages using these measurements. 8 lbs. dead on.

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

FLAWS: There’s a small nick on the top outside of the L bbl. a few inches from the muzzles at the 12:00 position that’s barely visible from the inside. There’s also a 1/8” long sliver of wood missing alongside the top-tang (easy fix) and somebody made a small & careful attempt to remove some of the soot from the right side of the stock, but only a small patch – but that’s it. Take a close look at the wood-metal & metal-metal fit and the nearly spotless breech-face showing very little evidence of firing – this gun is tight and crisp! Lock-up is solid, gun is on the face and barrels ring true – no loose ribs! All-in-all, here’s a unique example that’s built like a tank from a well respected Birmingham maker in excellent condition. Sure, it’s had the screws turned a few times, and the bores touched-up, but the overall excellent, lightly used condition and unique design make this an unusual and rare find!

NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun
NO RESERVE, Excellent and Unique 12 gauge J&W Tolley English Hammergun

Good gun alert: a 12 gauge J.W. Tolley hammergun…

J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun
J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun

I bought my first hammergun 10+ years ago, and I’ve been a nut for them ever since. Breechloading hammerguns were a major step in the transition from percussion firearms to modern hammerless double barrels. Unfortunately, the  breechloading hammergun period peak quickly and then fell off just as fast.

J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun
J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun

Breechloading hammerguns came on the scene in the 186os, first as pinfires, then as centerfires. But by the late 1870s, these shotguns were falling out of fashion. That’s because new side-by-sides like Anson & Deeley’s boxlock and W. & C. Scott’s  sidelock were coming onto the market.

These “hammerless” designs caught shooters’ attention, and then a bigger and bigger chunk of the new-gun market. Even though most makers offered hammerguns into the 20th century, the numbers of them ordered would never  surpassed their progeny again.

J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun
J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun

That bring us to this very nice vintage 12 gauge J.W. Tolley hammergun. Made in the early 20th century, it’s what I would call an late-era hammergun, and it was delivered towards the end of the gunmaker’s career.

James William Tolley was born in 1832 he started his business in Birmingham around 1858. His company was successful and by 1879 they had a reputation for large bore double barrelled guns and rifles. In about 1883 the firm opened a shop in London and around 1894 they even had a shop in New York City. Around 1919, J & W Tolley seems to have merged with Holloway & Naughton and by 1955 guns were no longer being made under the J & W Tolley name.

The 12 gauge you see here has a “New Bond St. London” address on it, so it was made around 1905 or so. It looks to me like it’s a medium-grade hammergun in very nice original condition. I especially like the color on the action and the original blueing on the Sir Joseph Whitworth’s Fluid Compressed Steel bbls. Overall, it’s a heck of a nice double, and a great way to start your own obsession with hammerguns.

J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun
J.W. Tolley 12 gauge hammer sidelock double shotgun

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