“Why …?” is a question I ask a lot when looking at guns. Why did Parker use a doll’s head? Why did Greener think a side safety was a great idea?
Another “Why?” I’ve asked many times is “Why did MacNaughton build a 28g Round Action shotguns?”
These guns pop up every now and then, and every time I see one, I scratch my head and wonder what the thinking was behind them. The one’s I’ve seen were made in the 1890s, had 24″-24 1/2″ barrels, and weighed around 5lbs. They also had adult-size stocks dimensions (which kills the whole “made for kids” idea).
People have told me these guns were made for walked-up woodcock shooting in the UK. I’ve also heard these SxS were made for naturalists gathering birds for avian collections. Both sounded like plausible explanations to me.
To learn more about MacNaughtons and their mysterious 28-gauge side-by-sides, check out this post from the John Dickson & Son site:
James MacNaughton was a gunmaker in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he opened a shop in the city’s center in 1864. In 1879, he patented his ‘Edinburgh Patent Hammerless Ejector’ design, on which this double rifle is based.
With the lockwork mounted on the triggerplate and behind the standing breech, the actions on MacNaughton’s guns were very strong. Because of their strength, they could be adapted to the “Skeleton” design you see here and also used in double rifles, which generate far higher pressures and strain than shotguns.
MacNaughton’s hammerless design evolved over time, and I think this rifle is built on one of the earlier, or the earliest, variation. It uses the opening-motion of its extra long toplever to cock the locks. Later ones had regular sized toplevers and cocked on the drop of the barrels (here’s one in 12 gauge).
EARLY AND RARE MACNAUGHTON “SKELETON” ROUND ACTION DOUBLE RIFLE: SN 1156. (ca 1885 ?) Cal. .450 BPE. 28″ Dovetailed steel bbls are fitted with full length matted rib with one standing, one folding leaf rear sight. Leaves are unmarked and unnotched. Standing leaf has inset “certifiable antique ivory” sighting triangle. Central portion of rib is swamped and rises at muzzle to ramp holding steel bead.
Tops of bbls are engraved “James Mac Naughton” and “26 Hanover Street. Edinburgh.” Bbl flats are stamped with London black powder proofs, and bottoms of bbls with SNs. A sling eye is screwed into bottom rib. Bbls are fitted with early bail type extractor system, often used by Purdeys on early breech loaders. Round bodied, trigger plate action has wood which extends over bar in a style favored by MacNaughton, in which they referred to as their “Skeleton” action. This trigger plate action was the first (1879) of the famous “round” actions of Edinburgh. This basic design was used by John Dickson beginning in 1880 with resultant lawsuit over the concept. The action on this rifle is patent use no. “66”, and incorporates early long top lever which also cocks hammers. Central area is milled away to access action pin and view hammers through glass window as cocking indicators. Action also features MacNaughton’s toggling safety, pivoting third fastener, and dbl triggers. Large trigger plate has tail which extends to grip cap. Trigger guard is attached to trigger plate at front and back. Metal parts are engraved with near full coverage well cut scroll with Celtic knotwork borders. Top of action is engraved “MACNAUGHTON EDINBURGH”. Finely fiddle figured and lightly streaked, dense, European walnut horn capped pistol grip buttstock measures 14-1/2″ over checkered horn buttplate, and features slim shadow line right hand cheekpiece, and flat top point pattern checkering with mullered borders. A gold oval on toe line is engraved with wild boar in sling held by cleft in oak tree all over motto “Lock Sicker” (Keep Securely) This is the Douglas family crest – either Kinglassie or Sir Arthur Percy Baronet of Carr. This crest plate is behind sling eye engraved with star. Matching splinter forend has forward pivoting lever release. Drop at heel: approx 2-5/8″, drop at comb: approx 1-7/8″. Weight: 7 lbs. 14 oz. LOP: 14-1/2″.
PROVENANCE: Email stating that Dickson records indicate that a rifle with this SN was sold Aug 1895 to Sir A. M. MacKenzie (3rd Baronet), and “A relatively small amount of MacNaughton round actions were made about 400 in total. Of these, a mere handful were dbl rifles around 4 or 5.” (This rifle is most likely from an earlier period, and different SN series. Published records began with SN 110 in 1894. Info on Sir Arthur Percy Douglas and Banglapedia info on Sir Alexander MacKenzie (Not Alexander Muir MacKenzie).
CONDITION: Excellent, original, as found. Bbls retain 80 – 90% orig blue thinning overall, silvering on sides of rear portion from normal hand wear, with some attendant minor scratches and marks. Action retains 70 – 80% orig light case hardening color. Top lever retain most of its orig fire blue, as does cocking window housing. Stocks retain nearly all of what appears to be their orig hand rubbed oil finish, with some fairly deep scratches on the right side of butt, and some minor marks and scratches scattered overall, checkering lightly worn. Bores are very fine, shiny with sharp rifling throughout. There is some pitting toward breech end of right bbl, and a few other scattered light pits. Action has a hint of looseness with forend removed, feels tight with forend installed. Bbls are slightly off face. A wonderful Scottish deer stalking rifle. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Of all the iconic British designs for hammerless double barrel shotguns, the Dickson Round Action is certainly the most unique.
And according to a lot of people, it’s also the most beautiful. Take a look at this one which just came up at Lyon & Turnbull auctioneers in Edinburgh, Scotland to see if you agree.
James MacNaughton filed a patent for a the world’s first trigger plate, round action hammerless breech loading SxS shotgun in July, 1879. Six months later (January of 1880), John Dickson filed a patent for what would become his company’s legendary Dickson Round Action.
Both designs were innovative and brilliant. By moving the lockwork onto the triggerplate and behind the breechface, MacNaughton and Dickson freed themselves to build trim, sleek actions which were still extremely strong.
On this Dickson, the full-coverage scroll engraving and the Acanthus-leave carvings on the fences are very unique, and part of what makes this side-by-side so beautiful.
About twenty-five years ago, the beginning of the double-gun renaissance began. The Double Gun Journal was a big part of this resurgence. So were Donald Dallas’s books on the famous London gunmakers.
Dallas published his first book — Boss & Co, Builders of Best Guns Only — in 1995. Books about James Purdey & Sons and Holland & Holland followed. While information about all these makers had already been published many times, Dallas’s books were these firms’s definitive histories. His original research corrected many errors and resulted in page after page of new information.
Dallas’s latest book — JOHN DICKSON & SON, THE ROUND ACTION GUNMAKER — does the same. With 352 pages and 447 photographs, this hefty, coffee-table size book tells two amazing stories: One is of John Dickson & Son; the other is of how much love the author has for this firm.
Dallas spent years researching and writing this book, and to get it into print he used his own funds. It is based on hundred of hours of original research, as well as on Dallas’s exclusive access to the maker’s archive and records. Along with the history of the company, readers will also find:
-Full color pictures of some of the finest Dickson firearms to ever be built.
-The ledgers of John Dickson & Son, with information on the 7,000 or so firearms the company built from 1840 – 2010.
-Production figures for Dicksons guns, rifles, and pistols.
-The patents of John Dickson & Son.
-The trade labels used by the company.
-A reprint of two John Dickson & Son catalogs, 1935 & 1962.
– The story of Charles Gordon, The mad Scottish gun Collector and Dickson patron.
Established in 1838 at 60 Princes Street, Edinburgh, the firm quickly gained a reputation for building very high quality guns and rifles, their two-groove percussion rifles achieving international acclaim. John Dickson (3) made the greatest contribution to the firm by patenting the round action gun in 1880 that instantly achived critical acclaim as a best gun utilising a trigger plate action. The beautiful and elegant three-barrelled gun followed in 1882 and by the time the ejector had been patented in 1887 the Dickson round action had been perfected. In 1923 John Dickson (3) retired and the business was sold. In 1928 the firm moved to 32 Hanover Street and in 1937 to 21 Frederick Street, the present day location of the firm.
This book goes into great detail on all the types of Dickson guns and rifles built and was written with the full permission of John Dickson & Son. 352 pages, 447 photographs.
FINE ALEXANDER HENRY BAR ACTION HAMMER DOUBLE RIFLE MADE FOR J. LISTER: SN 6687. (1893) Cal. .450 BPE. 28″ Fine Damascus bbls with full length file cut rib are engraved “Alexr Henry Edinburgh and London.” and “Maker to Their Royal Highness’ The Prince of Wales and Duke of Edinburgh” on uncut portion of rib in front of one standing, three folding leaf express rear sight. Bbl flats are stamped with London black powder proofs, SN, and “AH”. Case hardened Jones under lever action is fitted with unusual bar locks (most Henry rifles are fitted with back action locks). Locks have front sliding stalking safeties and round bodied serpentine hammers with dolphins heads and tall spurs. Action is engraved with well cut small intricate scroll. “Alexr Henry” is on each lockplate. Water table stamped with SN and “AH” has lightening cuts. Scroll engraved steel trigger guard has SN at grip.
Intricately marbled and lightly figured European walnut steel trap capped pistol grip buttstock measures 13-3/4″ over checkered wood butt with engraved steel heel and toe plates. A thin shadow line beaded cheekpiece is on left side, and point pattern checkering with mullered borders is at grip. Matching splinter forend has forward pivoting release. Drop at heel: approx 2-7/8″, drop at comb: approx 2″. Weight: 8 lbs 9 oz. LOP: 13-3/4″. PROVENANCE: Copies of factory ledger pages. Biographical info on Joseph Lister, founder of antiseptic surgery, for whom it appears this rifle was made. Richard Schreiber Collection. CONDITION: Excellent. Bbls retain approx 95% orig brown with excellent definition to pattern. Action and lockplates retain 80 – 90% orig case hardening color, silvered on tangs and slightly on beads and fences. Stocks retain most of their orig rubbed oil finish with a number of light marks, dents, and scratches, a bit dry on butt. Henry rifle bores are excellent, bright, sharp, and shiny throughout, with just a hint of frosting near breech end of left bbl. Action is tight. Locks are crisp. A beautiful Scottish rifle. Estimate: $5,000-$8,000
VERY FINE, SCARCE, ORIGINAL CONDITION LEFEVER EE: SN 48880. Cal. 12 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 32″ Bbls with slightly raised, flat, matted rib mounted with two white beads, are engraved “KRUPP” and “FLUID STEEL” on tops. Krupp markings are also on bottoms of bbls. SN is on bottom left bbl. Typical late action with sideplates covering sears, features Lefever’s automatic safety (S engraved), cocking indicators, adjustable trigger pull, nickel-plated double triggers, and usual Lefever ejector system, ball and socket hinge, and cocking hook. Action and lockplates are engraved in typical “E” style with 30% coverage well cut scroll with geometric borders surrounding oval vignettes of nicely engraved dogs on lockplates; a pointer on left and setter on right. “Lefever” “Arms Co” is engraved on each lockplate. A duck is flushing from marsh on trigger guard bow. SN is at grip. Interesting, well marbled, stump grain European walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-1/16″ over old, most likely original, Silver pad, with edges and face cleaned up. Standard point pattern checkering with line borders is at grip. A vacant silver oval is on toe line. Matching splinter forend has usual steel tip, steel escutcheon at
center, and usual friction release. Bore diameter: left -.731, right -.730. Bore restrictions: left -.038 (full), right -.040 (full). Minimum wall thickness: left -.032, right -.032. Drop at heel: 2-1/4″, drop at comb: 1-11/16″. Weight: 7 lbs 9 oz. LOP: 14-1/16″. CONDITION: Excellent. Bbls retain approx 60 – 70% orig blue, with some flecking and silvering on sharp edges. Bottom rib has an old striation/ scratch running from muzzle to 1″ in front of loop. Action retains approx 70% orig case hardening color, silvered from normal hand wear on fences, beads, and around bottom. Lockplates retain 80 – 90% orig case hardening color, right plate a bit less. There is about 20% color on trigger guard bow. Stocks retain most of their orig finish with butt slightly lightened after pad has been cleaned up. Checkering is lightly worn. Bores are very fine, lightly frosted. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are slightly out of time. There are a number of short stable cracks behind lockplates. A neat old gun with great dimensions. Estimate: $6,500-$9,500
FINE, AS FOUND, WILLIAM EVANS SIDELOCK EJECTOR GAME GUN WITH CASE: SN 10120. (Ca 1911)Cal. 12 ga. 2-1/2″ Chambers. 30″ Dovetailed steel bbls are engraved “William Evans (From Purdey’s) 63 Pall Mall. St. James’s, London.” on low, concave game rib. Bbl flats are damascened and stamped with London nitro proofs for 1-1/8 oz of shot. Bottoms of bbls are stamped with SN. Case hardened sidelock action is stocked to the fences and features automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold), double triggers, bushed strikers, and screw grip dolls head third fastener. Action and lockplates are engraved with bold, large, open, shaded scroll with acanthus highlights, and an attractive floral and scroll device on lockplates. Action beads are well filed and fences engraved with large shaded scroll somewhat deeper in relief than that on action. Scroll engraved steel trigger guard has relief SN on short tang. Well figured and lightly streaked, dark European walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-3/8″ over checkered wood butt, and features drop points, diamond hand, classic point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a vacant silver oval on toe line.
Matching splinter ejector forend has Anson release. Bore diameter: left-.731, right -.730. Bore restrictions: left -.019 (Mod), right -.011 (IC). Wall thickness: left -.033, right -.032. Drop at heel: 2-1/8″, drop at comb: 1-7/16″. Weight: 6 lbs. 12 oz. LOP: 14-3/8″. Maker’s leather case with brass corners is embossed “L. C. C.” and “JUNR” on lid, which also has remnants of numerous shipping labels. Interior is lined in scarlet cloth having gold embossed black Evans label on lid. CONDITION: Excellent, as found, retaining an exceptional amount of what appears to be its orig finish on wood and metal under more than a half century’s accumulation of wiped on oil and dust. Bbl blue appears to be smooth, with only a few rubs through. Case colors appear to be vivid, with silvering only on action beads and fences. Oil finish of stock shows slightly raised grain and a number of minor nicks and dents. Checkering is slightly worn and dirty. Bores are bright and shiny with a hint of frosting. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are slightly out of time. Case leather is dark, crazed, and with considerable amount of top grain lifted. Handle, straps, and retainers are missing. Interior cloth shows considerable insect damage, some mildew. Partitions are tight. Label is excellent. A solid, good handling gun in need of a judicious cleaning. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000
EXCEPTIONAL, NEAR NEW, MANY OPTION L. C. SMITH FIELD GRADE WITH HANG TAG AND BOX. SN FWS38768. Cal. 16 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 28″ Bbls with raised, matted, single sighting plane rib, are marked “L.C. SMITH – 16 GA. – Field – FULTON, N.Y. U.S.A.” on top of right bbl. Bbl flats are stamped with Hunter proofs, SN, and “FIELD 2 3/4 IN CHAMBER”. Typical case hardened featherweight action features automatic safety and Hunter single selective trigger. “L.C. SMITH” is on each lockplate. Trigger blade, selector, and trigger guard are blued. Relatively plain American walnut capped pistol grip stock measures 14″ over ribbed composition buttplate. Flat top point pattern checkering with line borders is at grip. Matching schnabeled beavertail ejector forend has reinforcing bolt and secondary knurled release button in blued oval escutcheon. Drop at heel: 2-11/16″, drop at comb: 1-1/2″. Weight: 7 lbs 8 oz. LOP: 14″. Gun is accompanied by its orig yellow hang tag with
correct information penciled in. Brown corrugated cardboard shipping box printed “L.C. SMITH GUNS” on both sides, has blue and white Smith shipping label with destination penciled in, along with railway express label with cost of gun and shipping penciled in. Inner packing box with orig waxed wrappings inside is marked “16 Ga Field” on end. CONDITION: Truly exceptional, essentially as new, appears unfired, with a few very light scratches across rib at rear, and a few light marks in buttstock. Finish on grip cap lifted. There are also a few light marks on trigger guard bow. Bores are excellent. Trigger works. Left ejector is “live” and undoubtedly just a bit gummy from disuse. Hang tag is good, considerably creased and soiled, information legible. Box is fine, some tape lifting, labels lightly foxed and soiled. An unusual, investment quality L. C. Smith. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000
James MacNaughton Skeleton Round Triggerplate “The Edinburgh”, circa 1907: A very scarce skeleton (bar-in-wood) triggerplate round action from this famed Scottish maker having only approximately 100 ever being made, 12 bore, 2 1/2″ chambers, replacement 28″ fluid steel nitro proved at 3 Tons barrels by the makers in 1972 and choked .006 Skt. and .009 IC, smooth concave game rib engraved “James MacNaughton & Sons, Hanover Street, Edinburgh”, 14 3/4″ LOP over a leather pad, 1 1/2″ DAC, 2 1/4″ DAH, 3/16″ cast off, 6 lbs. 12 oz., ejectors, double triggers, straight grip, splinter forend, automatic MacNaughton “lever” safety, later barrel cocking design with normal top lever length, typical top tang inspection plate and inspection plate screw with cutout, fine typical MacNaughton skeleton grape vine engraving pattern with “MacNaughton & Sons” engraved on both sides of action, triggerplate engraved to match action, originally no. 1 of a pair with “1” in gold inlay on top lever and barrel rib, highly figured European walnut stock, A&D push button forend release, stock gold oval engraved with a rather mystical animal head. Excellent condition gun that is tight and sound and without any cracks, a few spots of thin barrel blue, exceptional bores and walls on the newer barrels and ready for it’s next 100+ years of service. These are very rare guns with MacNaughton making the most at about 100 and Dickson having made only about 12-15 skeleton round actions. Price:$24,950
Winchester Model 21 Skeet Grade Field gun in 16 gauge: With 28″ matted rib barrels and choked M&IM ( Chokes measure .012 & .020 ) Beautiful pistol grip stock with 14 1/4″ LOP over checkered butt . Hard grip cap. Beavertail forend . Single selective trigger, Auto ejectors. An outstanding model 21. Price:$7,995
W & C. Scott and Son 12g Premier grade double – barreled SxS shotgun: With patented crystal indicator windows. 12 gauge with two sets of original Damascus barrels remaining in near fine original condition . The first set of barrels measure 30” in length with 2 ½” chambers choked .20 for modified left and 0 for cylinder right. The second set measure 30” and are choked modified and modified and show almost no use with 95% to 98% bright original tobacco brown finish and serial numbered to match with near fine bores. The stock measures 14 ½” to the end of a English type pad and nearly 14 inches to the end of the wood. There is a 3 ¼ inch drop at the heel with a 2 inch drop at the comb. The wall thickness measures .26 left barrel and .33 right barrel. The barrels retain 90% to 95% of their original light brown finish with some minor scratches and just beginning slight aging. Approximately 95% of the Damascus pattern shows well and there is some very vivid tobacco colored brown finish remaining. The frame shows 85% to 90% case hardening that is just drifting and toning slightly. The action is profusely engraved with bank note scrolls and profuse game bird scenes. The gun locks tight and the bores are still bright. Price:$5,900.
ITHACA NID, GRADE FOUR 12 GAUGE, HEAVY FRAME 3″ MAGNUM, 26 ” BARRELS: EXCELLENT BLUE, MIRROR BORES, TWIN IVORY SIGHTS, BRILEY STEEL SHOT CHOKE TUBES, FORCING CONES LENGTHENED. AUTOMATIC EJECTORS, SINGLE SELECTIVE TRIGGER, TYPICAL ENGRAVING PATTERN, PHEASANT ON RIGHT, MALLARD ON LEFT, PLUS SCROLLWORK AND FINE BORDERS. STRAIGHT GRIP STOCK, BEAVERTAIL FOREARM, FINE FLEUR DI LIS CHECKERING, GORGEOUS HIGHLY FIGURED WOOD, GOLD INLAY IN BUTTSTOCK. GREAT DIMENSIONS 1 1/2″ X 2″ X 13 3/4″, ORIGINAL ITHACA SUNBURST PAD. ITHACA PRODUCED A TOTAL OF 87 12 GAUGE HEAVY MAGNUMS, ONLY 14 GRADE FOURS WERE MADE. ALL ARE SERIAL NUMBERED OVER 500,000. 8 POUNDS 6 OUNCES. THE PERFECT WATERFOWL DOUBLE SHOTGUN. AN EXTREMELY RARE GUN. Price:$4,850
Charles Hellis & Sons Ltd. 121 & 123 Edgeware Road. Hyde Park. London W. 2″ game gun built in 1939: 26″ Cyl/IC extractor barrels with makers name and adress and “FOR 2 INCH CASE ONLY” inlayed in platinum on the rib. Gun is totally in proof with original 2″ chambers. Bores measure .732 right and left. Choked .002 on the right and .008 on the left. Minimum wall thickness is .026 Reciever retains 60% original case colors with border engraving only. Barrels retain 96% blue with 60% blue on bottom of reciever and trigger guard. Stock and forend completely solid with some fairly nice figure in the buttstock. 14 1/2″ LOP to checkered butt. DAC 1 1/2″ DAH-2 3/8″ Checkering has been recut and a light refinish on buttstock and forend. This gun remains in excellent mechanical condition. It is tight and on face. Barrels ring like a chime. Weighs in at 5lb 9oz These 2″ game guns are few and far between with many not in proof or in poor condition. This is a real gem for the avid woodcock or quail hunter. Price:$4695
James MacNaughton opened his gunmaking business in 1864 and in 1879 he introduced his Edinburgh Patent Hammerless Ejector – the world’s first “round-action” shotgun. The first MacNaughton round actions were lever cockers, and the locks cocked when you operated the gun’s top lever to open the breech. Later models, like the on you see here, switched over to a barrel-cocking design.
BTW: if you would like to have a new one, Dickson/MacNaughton will be happy to build one for you. Prices start at £38,775.
12 gauge J. MacNaughton & Sons, Edinburgh, #3558, Double Barrel Shotgun: This is the “Edinburgh Gun”. A Superb Conditioned and Very Elegant Hammerless Round Action Triggerplate Bar-In-Wood (Skeleton-Action) Double 12 Bore Nitro Made about 1933; This very gun, #3558, is the last recorded gun of the original MacNaughton business and their records, The record of this gun is undated and it is believed to have been delivered either during or shortly after WWII, The current owners have confirmed this fact, It has 28″ Ejector dovetail lump barrels with hidden third bite at .733″ .007 & .027″ (Open Imp.Cyl. & Imp.Mod.), 2 3/4″ chambers, Wall thickness on the right and left at .0275″; Original London Nitro Proved at 1 1/8 ounce and then London proved to 3 1/4 tons when the chambers were lengthened to 2 3/4″ from 2 1/2″ & marked with the proper reproof, The safety is a turning top lever on the top strap, Double triggers, The receiver top tang with the MacNaughton trap door, Splinter forend with an Anson release, Straight hand stock at 14 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 1 7/8″ over a 5/8″ removable leather pad with plugs, It will go 15 3/16″ with a 1″ pad, Cast-off for the right hand, Great game gun weight at 6 lbs. 11 oz., Very nice wood with excellent black/brown contrast, Good bite remains, 95% coverage of classic scroll engraving, 40% original case colors, 98% case colors remain inside the forend, 60% original case colors on the breech face, A professional reblack on the barrels and now remain at 97%, The stock & forend are at 95%, The checkering is at 98%, The bores are 100% bright and shiny and remain like new.
This is special stuff from one of the most famous Edinburgh Gunmakers of the 19th century. It is estimated that about 100 bar-in-wood MacNaughton actions were made and roughly about 200 solid bar actions. James MacNaughton was the patentee of the first round action similar to Dickson’s own later design. His round action triggerplate lockwork was patent #2848 of 1879 which included a falling block as well as this SxS. This patent is certainly the forerunner of all the round actions that are still made to this day. This classic MacNaughton system also carried a U. S. patent #264,723 of 1882. The firm became James MacNaughton & Sons at 36 Hanover in 1905 and remained there until 1940. In 1999 the owners of James MacNaughton bought John Dickson & Son Ltd and formed the company trading under the name of Dickson & MacNaughton to this day. Price: $27,750.00
I often think of Birmingham and London as the centers of the UK’s double-barrel shotgun trade. Of course, both cities did make significant contributions to the history of gunmaking, but Edinburgh also played a important role.
MacNAUGHTON 303 NITRO ROUND ACTION TRIGGERPLATE DOUBLE RIFLE: DISTINCTIVE, ELEGANT & RARE, #2430, James MacNaughton & Sons, 36 Hanover Street, Edinburgh: A Distinctive, Elegant & Rare Hammerless Round Action Trigger Plate Double Rifle in .303 British Nitro Made in 1905 with 26″ Ejector barrels, The safety is a turning lever on the top strap, 1/4 rib with 1 standing & 1 folding rear sights, The 1/4 rib and front ramp in the pure MacNaughton round action style with split barrels from the rib to the front sight, Nitro Proved, Double triggers, No cheekpiece, Ideal for the right or left hand, No sling eyes, 14 5/8″ LOP over the original checkered butt, The proper and correct 303 weight of 8 lbs. 1 oz., 90% coverage of very nice period scroll and border engraving, Nice wood that remains stout with a lifetime of use left in both the butt and forend.
I feel this gun is totally original with the barrel blue still at 95%, it still has 40% original case colors and it remains super solid in every respect. Then to top all that off, the bores are excellent plus and look like new, if they were a 10 when it was new they now remain at a 9. A very solid double rifle that has a bunch of its mechanical life left in it. It has a spare set of 20 Bore 28″ ejector barrels that were fit to this gun by B.S.A. without any alteration to the original gun. They appear to have been fitted after 1925 based on the proof marks. The whole is cased in the original canvas trunk after the 20 Bore barrels were added and fits the two barrels. It has a very neat original MacNaughton trade label with the 36 Hanover address and not the former 26 Hanover address. It was possibly made for Mr. K. R. McAdams from Fredericton, New Brunswick as the trade label is marked accordingly.
This is special stuff from one of the most famous Edinburgh Gunmakers of the 19th century. James MacNaughton was the patentee of the first round action similar to Dickson’s own later design. His round action trigger plate lockwork was patent #2848 of 1879 which included a falling block as well as this SxS. This patent is certainly the forerunner of all the round actions that are still made to this day. The MacNaughton ejector system is patent 37759 of 1890. This classic MacNaughton system also carried a U. S. patent #264,723 of 1882. The firm became James MacNaughton & Sons at 36 Hanover in 1905, the address of this gun and remained there until 1940. Price:$31,000.00
After John Dickson & Son, Alexander Henry may be Edinburgh’s most famous gunmaker. Mr Henry opened his business in 1853, and within a decade he was know throughout Scotland and the UK for his competition rifles, sporting rifles, and a major for the Henry rifling used in the famous Martini-Henry rifle. In 1870, he also invented snap caps.
Even though Mr Henry died in 1894, his is business lived up until about World War 1. The petite little double rifle / shotgun you see here was made at that time. The 300 Sherwood cartridge it uses was introduced by Westley Richards in 1901. Made for small game hunting, the cartridge pushes a 140 grain projectile at 1,400 feet per second and generates 610 foot pounds of energy — comparable to a .357 Magnum.
Alexander Henry & Co., Edinburgh, .300 Sherwood & .410 Sidelock Double Rifle/Shotgun: Scroll Engraved. AE, 2 Barrel Set: 19 3/4″ .300 Sherwood nitro proof. 1 standing & 4 leaf folding sights & 28″ inch Mod. & Full 3″ nitro proof. Pistol grip, Auto Safety, 14″ LOP to checkered butt. Highly figured Walnut Stock. 85% case color, 5 pound 1 ounce, & 5 pound 3 ounce. Original Oak and Leather Case with tools plus 50 rounds of Kynoch .300 Sherwood Ammunition. Price: $29,500.00
Bespoke. In the shotgun world, it describes a custom made. A side-by-side or over under for you. Gauge, wood quality, engraving, grip style, barrel length, chokes, weight, triggers, and stock dimensions are a few of the features we imagine “bespeaking”.
The Beesley action is ingenious. But compared to other sidelock designs, it’s complex and a pain to build. That’s why so few makers copied it.
Atkin used the Beesley on their Spring Openers, and Francotte used it on a few of his Best-quality sidelocks. But that’s about it. If other makers used the Beesley action, I haven’t seen these shotguns.
So why did Dickson do it? They created the Round Action, one of the most elegant side-by-sides of all time. Why would they build a shotgun on another company’s design? I suspect it’s simple: that’s what the customer wanted.
Lot 150: JOHN DICKSON & SON. A RARE 16-BORE BEESLEY 1880 PATENT SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 6553: 28in. nitro reproved chopperlump barrels (in 2013, require bluing), rib gold-inlaid ‘2’ and engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. 63 PRINCES STREET. EDINBURGH’, 2 3/4in. chambers, bored approx. 1/4 and 1/2 choke, wall thicknesses below recommended minimum, incorporating Beesley patent self-opening system, patent no. 31 of 3rd January 1880, toplever gold-inlaid ‘2’, automatic safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, bold acanthus scroll engraving with decorative borders, the underside with a cartouche engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. EDINBURGH’, (some wear), 14 1/2in. replacement stock, weight 6lb.
Provenance: The makers have kindly informed us that this shotgun was completed as No.2 of a pair of ‘best sidelock hammerless ejectors (Purdey actions)’ with 28in. barrels in September 1913 for A.M. Spence.
My latest piece for Sporting Shot came out last week. Sporting Shot is the online brother of Shooting Sportsman magazine; my piece is about a spectacular collection of shotguns and rifles that I discovered last year.
The 12 gauge Daniel Fraser & Co. shotguns you see here are from that collection. As you can see, they’re fantastic side by sides. Check out the entire piece at Sporting Shot to find out more about them.
It was Saturday, a few minutes before noon. An hour earlier I had stepped off of a plane after a 1,200-mile flight, and my host had picked me up at the airport, driven me to his home in a suburban neighborhood of neat houses and nicely trimmed lawns. Now we were in his dining room,with the shades drawn against the midday sun. Ten leather shotgun cases were stacked on the table in front of us: Abercrombie & Fitches, nut-brown Bradys, and British oak & leathers with bright brass corners.
“How about right here?” I said, pulling aside an armchair and tapping one of the Bradys. I had a hunch about the case. It was tiny and had to hold a .410.
“Give it a go,” my host said, grinning like he knew I was about to be impressed. I sprung the case’s brass lock, lifted the lid and stopped.
After several moments of staring, all I could say was “Holy crap.” There, snug in the case’s red baize lining, was one of the rarest over/under shotguns on the planet: a Boss .410. And it looked brand-new.
“I told you,” my host said, grinning even wider. “And that’s just the start. We have nine more to go.”