Darwinism and double barrel shotguns…

Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun
Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun

Just like humans, double barrel shotguns have evolved tremendously through the years. The new side-by-sides and over/unders that we see today have benefited from decades of this refinements, and for every design that has made it into the 21st century, many more have have disappeared.

Frederick Beesley’s “Shotover” is one of the forefathers that went extinct. Very few of these over & under shotguns were made, so it’s nice to see this one at Lewis Drake & Associates.

Frederick Beesley, London. Beautiful light weight “Shotover” 12ga. O/U Game gun, ca. 1923. Weight: 6 ¾ Lbs. Stock Dimensions: 14 ¾”x 1 3/8”x 2 5/8”x ¼” cast-off. 29 ¾” steel barrels with 3” chambers and fine bores (.732”/.732”), choked .019”/.019”, and minimum wall thickness of .025”/.026”.  Price: $34,500.00.

Here’s  bit about Beesley’s Shotover that I pinched from the web. I think this is from Diggory Hadoke’s informative and well researched book Vintage Guns for the Modern Shot:

The Beesley ‘Shotover’ Over & Under

Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun
Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun

Frederick Beesley, ‘Inventor to the London Trade’ and famed for his Purdey sidelock action was in business on his own account at the time that London makers were turning their attention to over & under shotguns. Typically, Beesley approached the task with ingenuity and originality. His o/u of 1912-13 was called the ‘Shotover’ and is unlike any other in that in order to obtain the best possible angle of strike for the ‘under’ barrel, he turned the lock which fired it upside down (sometimes this was the right lock, sometimes it was the left). This allowed the angle of strike to be horizontal on both barrels rather than having the sharply angled lower barrel striker of other designs. The mainspring is compressed when the gun is closed and the locks incorporate intercepting sears to prevent inadvertent discharge. Unusually, the assisted opening mechanism of the gun works only when the gun has been fired, which is actually when it is most required.

The forend cannot easily be removed as it is fixed to the barrels by a screw at the joint pin. Like the Boss, the ‘Shotover’ uses the bifurcated lump arrangement, which generally produces a shallower action. However, there are additional grips on the underside and a simplified Rigby-Bissel style top extension and vertical bolt. The overall effect is of a solid, large framed gun. However, in 12-bore it typically weighed a modest 6lb 10oz. Beesley also made the gun in 16-bore and, if a lightweight gun was required, as a 5lb 10oz 20-bore. It was fitted with V-spring, adapted Southgate-type, ejectors in the forend. Numerous, slight, variations are found in the ejector systems used from gun to gun, suggesting Beesley continued to refine the gun for some time after it went into production.

Though certainly well engineered (possibly over-engineered) and made in fine quality, the Beesley did not achieve the sales volumes of the Boss or Woodward designs and a side-by-side comparison shows why; it does not quite have their grace of line and proportion and, like the Purdey sextuple-grip gun, built a redundant degree of locking strength into the action, which must have made it very expensive to make. Few examples of ‘The Shotover’ survive and it was certainly only made in small numbers. Beesley died in 1928 and the ‘Shotover’ did not continue in production after World War 2.”

Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun
Frederick Beesley, London. “Shotover” 12ga. Over/Under shotgun

All pics courtesy Lewis Drake & Associates.

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3 thoughts on “Darwinism and double barrel shotguns…

  1. Gregg,

    Just yesterday I was on Steve Barnett’s site and was looking at another Beesley, Shotover 12, engraved by H. Kell. Personally, I have always liked a full sidelock, DT, over/under gun. The double trigger’s on an over/under mirrors my side by side guns so I never have to remember what trigger configuration I have in my hands. Both of these are beautiful examples of the best of English gun making.

    Michael Tabor

  2. Michael-

    Thanks for the comment. These Beesleys are fantastic guns, and I all the color and finish on this one. It’s amazing that it is as light as it is. It looks like it would be a big, heavy gun.


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