Fantastic Gun Alert: 20g Boss O/U at Julia’s, 3/15…

I see a lot of nice  guns. I see some good guns. I see very few fantastic guns. This 20 gauge Boss Over-and-Under shotgun is a fantastic gun. It’s coming up March 15 at James D. Julia Auctioneers.

20 gauge Boss Over and Under Shotg

Wes Dillon was kind enough to give me a private viewing of it a few weeks ago. I came away very impressed and very envious.

This double barrel is the kind of English shotgun I love to see: all original, with a French walnut stock and the maker’s case, it’s tastefully done all around. It’s oozes elegance from muzzle to butt. The barrels are in proof and in excellent shape all around, with bores at .614  and great wall thicknesses (top .038, bottom .040). It was proofed for heavy loads and it has 2 3/4″ chambers (heavy proofing is standard for 20 gauge Boss Over and Unders).

20 gauge Boss Over and Under Shotgun

Back in 1909 when Boss introduced these guns, over-and-under shotguns were nothing new. The idea of stacking barrels had been around for hundreds of years. European makers had been turning out breechloading O/Us for decades. However, they locked up with lumps mounted under the bottom barrel. This made the actions deep, heavy,  and clunky — nothing like their side-by-side counterparts.

Boss’s innovation, or more precisely, Boss actioner Bob Henderson’s innovation, came from how the barrels mounted on the action. Instead of using lumps like his European competitors, Henderson borrowed an old idea created a brilliant new shotgun design. The idea was the trunnion: the projections that mount a cannon barrel in its carriage. Cannons had been built with trunnions for hundreds of years. There were even some poorly made shotgun designs around that used them. But when Henderson adapted trunnions and created the Boss Over and Under shotguns, he created a beautifully made stacked-barrel gun with a slim, sleek action and all the liveliness of a top-quality side by side.

Trunnions on a Boss O/U double barrel shotgun

Take a look at the picture of the barrels to see the trunnions. They are the little buds on either side of the water table, ahead of the 2 3/4″ proof mark. When you put the gun together, these trunnions slide into corresponding slots in the gun’s action. Speaking of putting the gun together, Boss O/Us assemble in a unique way. On a side by side, you drop the barrels down to where they’re perpendicular with the action, catch the hook on the pin, and lift the barrels up and into position. With a Boss O/U, you hold the barrels right above the action and in the same horizontal plan. You then drop them right down and into place, like you’re locking the action and barrels together. Pretty neat.

Like most Boss shotguns, Boss O/Us went through different aesthetic periods. Guns from different times have different looks and designs. I have no idea why. I’ve asked people about this, but no one has ever given me a good reason why. This Boss was made in 1954 and it has the typical look of post-WW2 Over and Unders. To see what I mean, take a close look at the pictures below. Compare the 1954 Boss O/U to the one from 1928. You’ll see the differences.

BTW: the 28 gauge Boss O/U was at Lewis Drake. I handled it at a show.  Perfect.

You can read more about Boss Over and Under shotguns in this excerpt from Michael McIntosh’s book Best Guns.

20 gauge Boss Over Under, 1954
28 gauge Boss O/U, 1926

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4 thoughts on “Fantastic Gun Alert: 20g Boss O/U at Julia’s, 3/15…

  1. It certainly is rare with the full-length top rib as opposed to the usual quarter rib. The action shape strays from the usual Boss lines by just a bit, which would typically be a bad thing but in this case it seems to add a sense of individuality. Moreover, I usually do not like the guns Boss built in the 50´s but I have to say this one is a real treat.

  2. Drake’s immortal 28ga O/U is my favorite gun in the entire world. The has been much conjecture that the stock is not original—its just too nice and figured for a 20’s Era gun. However, I have an original Boss catalog from the 40’s with a B& W photo of the gun with all that wonderful figure. Lewis keeps teasing us bringing that gun to all the shows, if it only had 28″ barrels, I’d sell my soul to own it

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