I’ve been on a big-bore kick for a little while now, and seeing a couple 4 gauge and 8 gauge double-barrel shotguns at the Southern has fed this obsession of mine. While I’m not sure what I would do with one, I’m beginning to think that I can’t live without an 8 gauge side by side, or maybe even a double 4.
If I win the lottery any time soon, it looks like I can place an order for a new, hammerless sidelock 4 gauge double barrel. Watson Bros. in London is making them. Take a look at this video to see more about these massive guns.
Most Belgian double barrel shotguns get a bad rap in this country. Unless they’re by one of the big names, like Francotte or Lebeau Courally, nobody wants them. That’s too bad, really. There a lot of barely know Belgian makers out there, and many of them made fantastic guns. In fact, some of these guns are on par with best-grade shotguns from the big English makers.
The good part of this is that these guns are fantastic values. While you can easily spend 2x-3x more for a bigger English name, or something trendy from Italy, you won’t be buying that much more gun.
Here are a few examples on the market right now:
An Ernest Wilmart 12 gauge sidelock ejector: Of the three gunmakers listed here, Ernest Wilmart is the only one I could find some information on. The firm was founded in 1879. This gun is a very fine sidelock ejector, finished and engraved and a very “Belgian” style. While its aesthetics may not be to your liking, it’s quality is pretty apparent. If this gun had a good decent British name on it, it would be priced in the $15,000 range. Right now, I think it’s still $3000-$4000 over priced. How many guys do you know who are lusting for a Wilmart?
A DeFourney 16 gauge sidelock ejector side by side: This is a name I’ve heard. There were several DeFourney (or Defournys) in the Liege from about 1870 and on. I’m not sure which one made this gun. But whoever did knew what they were doing. If you put this gun side by side with a Holland & Holland Royal, I think you would have a hard time telling me what makes the Holland worth $20,000 more. This little 16 gauge is THAT nice. These days, the engraving alone would cost more than the $7,000 asking price.
This 8-gauge L.C. Smith side-by-side, double barrel shotgun is on Gunbroker right now. The seller says it has 32″ barrels. From the pics, it looks like it might be a No. 1 grade.
L.C. Smith made very few 8 gauges – estimates vary from 30-35. From what I’ve been able to find out, they made them from about 1895-1898 and every one was hammerless. This guy here has several 8-gauge L.C. Smiths, at least two in No. 2 grades.
Of all the major American makers, Parker made the most 8 gauges – hammerless and hammerguns- and Lefever made the fewest. Baker made a few, and Colt made at least one. A.H. Fox never made any.
Eight gauges used to be very popular for wildfowl. They pushed a ton of lead and this made them ideal for swatting flocks of birds at a time – just what a market hunter on the Chesapeake Bay wanted to do. Eight-gauge shotguns were outlawed for use on waterfowl in the US in the early 20th century.
BTW: if you have an 8 gauge double, or you know of any out there, please let me know. I’m interested in purchasing one and will pay a finder’s fee for a nice one.