The late 19th century was a golden age for sporting guns in the UK. Hundred of makers had shops throughout the country, thousands of people were employed by the trade, and because shooting was THE ACTIVITY for the Royals and other well-to-dos, there were plenty of customers.
The country’s most prestigious makers were in London, close to Buckingham Palace. Makers like Purdey, Boss, Holland & Holland, and Stephen Grant had shops in the West End. They fought for patronage from high-end customers and were always on the lookout for ways to set themselves apart from the competition.
On January 1, 1891, John Robertson took control of Boss & Co. Robertson had grown up in gunmaking. He joined the London trade in 1864 at Purdeys and went out on his own in 1873. Once he was in charge of things at Boss, his first task was to update the company’s shotguns and remake Boss as the city’s premier gunmaker.
Pre-Robertson, Boss had been known for making back-action sidelocks and hammerguns with Jones-style underlevers. Robertson ditched these old designs for modern, bar-action locks and a look all his own. He came up with a new, streamlined design for Boss’s guns and created the company’s classic look – snakey, handsome, and sleek.
A few years later, Robertson pushed this streamlining further and came up with something daring: Boss’s famous Round Body Action. The Round Body pushes sleek as far as it will go, and it looks more Space Age than Victorian Age. The lockplates and action are filed up for a round appearance. There are no beads, hips, or edges to be seen. The fences retain their bulbous “Boss” shape, but the stock gets the “round” treatment around the locks and through the hand. There are no drop points. The result is very unique and very modern. If George Jetson found his way back to London in 1900, he would want this shotgun.
Round-Body Bosses were never popular, and of the 10,000 or so double barrels Boss has built to date, fewer than 300 were the Round-Bodies. Most of these RBs were 12 gauges, very few were 20s. So the 20 gauge Boss Round Body you see here is a rare side by side. It was made in the early ‘3os and it looks like it’s in decent shape.