Here’s the next video in the five-part series about Bill Blacker. As I mentioned last time, Blacker is one of the world’s top barrel makers. With a background that started at Holland & Holland’s and includes James Purdey & Sons and most of the UK’s leading gunmakers,
This short video is part 2 of 5. I posted the first one last week, and I’ll be sharing the rest over the next few weeks. Check out each for the chance to learn more about best-quality guns from one of the top craftsmen working in the trade today.
Passion is insanity. I’m passionate about hunting dogs, double barrel shotguns, and bird hunting. Sometimes, this passion drives me to do crazy things.
Boss & Co., James Purdey & Sons, and Holland & Holland are known as the three top gunmakers in London. For 150+ years, they’ve made some of the finest doubles in the world. But while Purdeys and Hollands are fantastic side-by-sides, I think Boss shotguns are as good as they get. They’re the best of the Best.
Unfortunately, they’re usually way out of my league. New Bosses are $100,000+. Decent side-by-sides go for $25-$60,000 on the used market. Last spring, this 20g hammered down for $51,750.
So you can imagine how crazy I went when I found one for $10,000. And not just any one. This was a 1928 Boss 20 gauge. Of course, it had a few issues. Here’s the original listing from Gunbroker.com.
The issues? Forend gone, the gun needed a total restock and the locks needed several new pins (screws). Most of the blueing and case coloring on the metal work was gone. The gorgeous Sumner engraving was filled with rust.
The barrel were their original 28”. Good. But without detailed measurements, I couldn’t tell if they were shootable or scrap. The seller didn’t know a bore mic from a sand wedge. After eyeballing the barrels a few times, he told me over the phone that the wall thicknesses looked good to him. Yikes.
Then there was the condition of the sale: AS IS. So one of two things would happen: either I would receive the gun and eat any problems I discovered, or I was booking a flight real soon (the gun was in Florida). Inspecting it in person was the only way I could trust the deal.
Even with all my problems, my crazy mind was racing: I could fix the gun up over a few years (or more likely, decades). I could call this buddy in London for the stock work, use his friends from Boss for the forend iron and ejector work, have him bring it over to so and so for a proper refinish, and on and on.
It might take me twenty years to do it right, but shit, this was a friggin’ 20g Boss from 1928 – the best period for these guns. Fixed up right, this could be one of the finest British 20 gauges around.
On and on my scheming went. Sitting at work, walking through the grocery store, talking to my girlfriend, I ran the numbers, trying to make things work. Out went emails, text messages, phone calls. The replies: $20,000 – $25,000 grand to fix it, minimum. Probably more. That was on top of the $10,000 to buy it.
I would sell some stuff to buy the gun. Then I could sit on it for a few years, save up, and repair it bit by bit. Or I could pull the plug on an IRA and do it all at once. It would be done in a couple years. Of course, I doubt it would ever appreciate like stocks. But what fun were they? What kind of returns had I seen over the last decade?
I came up with a plan. I would wait for the auction to end. I was sure the gun wouldn’t sell. Who was going to pay $10,000 for a busted up Boss on Gunbroker? Then I would negotiate a lower price, buy the gun and take things from there. Foolproof. All I had to do was wait….
Then the gun was gone. Someone stepped up and bought it, paying the seller’s Buy it Now price. I was shocked. Disconcerted. Pissed. WTF! Elation turned to deflation.
I was depressed. Even worse, I felt regret. I should have acted earlier. I should have made the deal first and thought about it later. The rewards go to the risk taker.
In the end, it’s for the best. I guess, or that’s what I tell myself. With everything this gun needed, paying anything more than $2500 for what was left of it was insanity. All fixed up, it may have been worth $35,000 – $40,000. But I probably would have spent that much money getting it there.