The title “gunmaker” has always had always had a broad definition, especially here in America. Some of our gunmakers did make shotguns and rifles from scratch (or mostly from scratch). But others bought parts from overseas and then assembled, stocked, and finished off the firearm over here.
Many more American “gunmakers” were retailers who had their firearms built in their name by real gunmakers in the UK and Europe. Charles Daly is the most famous of these gunmaker-retailers, and until around World War II, side-by-sides carrying his name were made in Germany. From the looks of the shotgun you see here, William Donn was following a similar business model.
William Donn was gunsmith/gunmaker who worked in the Peoria to Chicago area from around 1870-1910. For while he has was partners with his brother, John. Later in his career he was on his own. Sometimes during in this second phase he imported this shotgun from the UK.
This side-by-side was made by Thomas Kilby of Thomas Kilby & Son, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham, England, Kilby was a famous British barrel maker, and it looks like he also supplied finished SxS shotguns to retailers in the United States. While most ofhte work looks British, I’m not sure if Kilby also had the stock carved. He may have, or Donn may have had it done over here. Regardless, it’s a beautiful shotgun, and one I would love to call my own.
If you’re into nice shotguns, James D. Julia’s firearms auctions are a big deal. Held in the spring and fall, these sales bring some of the world’s finest shotguns and rifles to market.
This J.P Sauer Deluxe side-by-side is one of those great shotguns. Doubles like this rarely hit the open market. If you’re a gun nut like I am, just seeing something this exceptional is a thrill. Here are all the details on it from the auctioneerL
Lot 2206: AN EXCEPTIONAL DEEP RELIEF CARVED AND GOLD INLAID J. P. SAUER DELUXE GAME GUN: SN 122896. Cal. 12 ga. This wonderful top of the line Sauer gun has 29-3/4″ chopper lump bbls with raised, concave, matted rib, engraved “J. P. Sauer & Son” in milled out portion. Tops of bbls are engraved with Krupp steel information and 3-ring logos. Bbl flats are stamped with German imperial proofs, caveman logos, and are engraved “Prussia”. There are 2-1/2″ triangles of exquisitely detailed and beautifully carved, high relief, large, scrolled, open, shaded acanthus at breech ends; muzzles with more scroll and geometric bands. Scallop-backed boxlock action features non-automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold), side clips, hidden crossbolt third fasteners, and double triggers. It is engraved with the same classic scroll as found on bbls, except acanthus leaves are more pronounced.
This exceptional scroll frames wonderfully detailed vignettes of feathered game; with relief gold inlaid trio of partridge on left; pair of flying geese over marsh on right; and family group of black grouse, one cock, lyre tail spread, standing on rock; with two onlooking hens. Blued top lever has pierced acanthus carved thumbpiece. Trigger guard, with matching scroll, has gold inlaid retriever on bow, and SN at grip. Dark, nicely streaked, and full fiddle figured European walnut steel capped pistol grip buttstock measures 14-1/4″ over matching scroll engraved skeleton steel buttplate. A gold shield is on toe line engraved “G. P.” Side panels are nicely carved with relief scrolled acanthus. Checkering is of standard point pattern. Matching splinter ejector forend has Anson release.
Bore diameter: left-.727, right -.722. Bore restrictions: left -.035 (Full), right -.026 (Mod). Wall thickness: left -.028, right -.036. Drop at heel: 2-1/4″, drop at comb: 1-5/8″. Weight: 7 lbs. 4 oz. LOP: 14-1/4″. Included with gun is Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag giving specifications, with a price of $500.00.
PROVENANCE: Letter from Griffin & Howe with specifications for gun, as taken on consignment in 1953. It was sold in 1953 for $500.00. Hang tag.
CONDITION: Excellent. Bbls retain essentially all of a factory quality re-blue, with minimal polishing and loss to engraving. Action retains a considerable amount of its orig case hardening color, vivid where protected. High edges and tops of engraving have wonderful hand worn brilliant silver patina, to very fine effect. Top lever is silvered at thumbpiece. Stocks retain what appears to be their orig finish with a few minor marks. Checkering is slightly worn. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout with evidence of a dent being removed from left bbl, 9″ back from muzzle. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are perfectly timed. Close inspection of this fine shotgun leaves no doubt as to why these are often referred to as “Masterpiece” guns. Tag is fine.
I don’t follow Italian sidelock shotguns all that much. That being said, something tells me that this nearly-new Piotti that Cabela’s just listed must be a good deal. William Larkin Moore has a price of $36,600 for one of these brand new.
Here’s more on it from Cabela’s site: This beautiful lightweight gun has been very lightly fired, perhaps only once. The bores are bright and smooth. We wiped cosmoline off the muzzle and breechface. The action is fully engraved. The wood is very nice. It shows virtually no wear. The initial plate in the buttstock has been engraved with initials. It comes in a fitted hard case.
Checkered Straight English Style Extra Extra Fancy Walnut
Rock Island Auctions is holding their Spring Premiere Collector’s Firearms Auction
on April 20, 21 & 22. Here’s a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge Westley Richards double barrel shotguns that caught my eye. These both look very original. BTW: if you’re interested in these guns, make sure you have a qualified gunsmith inspect them before you bid.
Description: This Westley Richards shotgun comes with two 20 gauge, 27 inch barrel sets numbered to the gun with each set sharing a checkered forearm and having a single brass bead front sight, 2 3/4 inch chambers, ejectors and a solid rib marked “WESTLEY RICHARD & CO., BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND”. The first set has improved modified/extra full choked barrels with a gold letter “C” on the rib near the breech. The second set has improved modified/modified choked barrels. The scalloped action has gold “WESTLEY RICHARDS” in a banner accented with scrollwork on the sides. The shotgun has double triggers and a tang safety. The nicely figured straight grip stock is checkered and has a blank initial oval and bare checkered butt. Length of pull is 14 1/2 inches. Comes with a locking takedown case with a Westley Richards label on the inside of the lid and accessories. The following accessories are included: two snap caps, two piece cleaning rod with attachments, and oiler.
Condition: Excellent. Both barrel sets retain 98% original blue finish showing some mild thinning. The receiver retains 97% original case colors. The wood is also excellent with some minor handling marks. Checkering is crisp overall.
Catalog description: Single bead sight, “WESTLEY RICHARDS & CO. LTD. BIRMINGHAM. ENGLAND” marked solid rib, 2 3/4 inch chambers, choked improved modified/improved cylinder, and ejectors. Scalloped box lock action marked in gold “WESTLEY RICHARDS” on both sides. Double triggers and tang safety with replacement forearm. Checkered straight grip stock with blank initial oval and bare checkered butt. Length of pull is 14 1/2 inches. Comes with a takedown case with a paper Westley Richards label attached to the inside of the lid, oiler, four snap caps, and cleaning rod with attachments
Condition: Excellent. The barrels retain 95% original blue finish showing some minor thinning with a series of tool like marks near the breech (left barrel) The right barrel shows dent repair at mid point. The receiver retains 90% original case colors. The wood is fine with a number of minor handling marks and overall crisp checkering. Two small holes have been drilled on the butt. Case is very good overall.
A little while ago, this discussion came up over at Doublegunshop.com regarding how a new stock on a double barrel shotgun would affect the gun’s overall value.
I contend that when all’s equal, restocked shotguns are always worth less than comparable, 100% original models. This is regardless of who restocks the gun or the quality of the work (in the online disussion, I’m the PITA who goes by Obsessed-with-Doubles).
Others disagreed. They felt that a properly restocked shotgun was just as valuable as one with the original wood, especially in the UK markets.
This leads us to the point of this post. On 4/18, we have the chance to put the BS to the test.
Catalog info: 29-inch replacement barrels by the maker (no. 9995), with 2 1/2-inch chambers, about 1/4 and 1/2 choke boring, the frame, locks and gold numbered top lever with fine bouquet and scroll engraving and retaining traces of hardening colour, gold lined cocking indicator, rolled edge trigger guard, 14 1/4-inch well figured replacement stock, 6lb. 11oz., nitro proof, lightweight leather case with reproduction label.
The maker confirms that the gun was rebarelled in 1988 and restocked at the same time. Bores/walls: Rt: 729/28 & Lt: 729/28.
To clear things up a bit, I emailed a few more questions to the auctioneer. Here’s the response I received from Gavin Gardiner:
“As you can see, the gun is a very attractive example, that was rebarreled and restocked by the makers in the late 1980’s. Since then the gun has been little used. The barrels have not been re-blacked since that time and neither has the furniture(lever, guard etc… though this will have been re-blacked when the gun was rebarreled). The hardening colour that remains on the action is the original. The barrels remain as new and are free from any pits bulges or dents and measure as for new. The gun is clean, crisp and tight and everything is functioning as it should. As I said, it appears little used since refurbishment, and is an excellent example that is ready to be used right away.”
Granted, this Boss has been more than restocked. It has also been rebarreled. But all the work has been done by Boss – the side-by-side’s original maker. So this should be the ultimate test of the “if it’s done right, it’s fine” line of reasoning.
Once this auction ends, we’ll compare this lot’s final price to what all original Boss sidelocks are bringing. This will give us a sense of how the market values restocking & new barrels.
For now, here’s a list of vintage Boss sidelock doubles on the US market. Take a look and check out what you get for your money.