Eight-gauges and even four-gauges were common in the US around the Chesapeake Bay and other big waterfowling areas. Affluent shooters used them to pass shoot ducks, geese, and swans.
While waterfowl hunting with shotguns larger than 10 gauges was outlawed in the US in the ’30s, it remained legal in the UK. Judging by fantastic condition of these guns, I doubt they’ve spent much time in the field.
When you think of “British” doubles, London and Birmingham are the cities that usually come to mind. Many of the UK’s top gunmakers worked in and around those cities for over two-hundred years. But top gunmakers were also located in other parts of the country for almost as long.
John Dickson & Son built their famous Round Action shotguns way up in Edinburgh, Scotland, while W.R. Pape built his doubles across the border in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. South of Pape’s shop was another top British gunmaker — Thomas Horsley of York.
Thomas Horsley started his business around 1830 and his firm continued on until 1959. In 1862 & 1863, as breechloading guns were appearing on the the UK’s shooting scene, Horsley patented a unique pull-back, snap action. He also came up with a patent for retractable firing pins. The bar-in-wood double rifle you see here uses these patents.
Rifle generate far more pressure than shotguns, and this pressure stresses the gun’s action in extreme ways. This is why it’s unusual to see one built as a bar-in-wood. Compared to a standard bar-action shotgun, the actions on bar-in-woods are fairly slim. This means there’s less metal to take up the twisting and flexing that happens every time the gun is fired. Judging by the condition this one is in, I don’t think it was fired very much.
Thomas Horsley .450BPE Bar-in-Wood Hammer Double Rifle: Through innovation and superior craftsmanship, Thomas Horsley earned the name the “Purdey of York,” and this remarkable example demonstrates why. Incorporating his famous pull-back top lever locking system (patent 2410 of 1863) and distinctive retracting firing pins (patent 1138 of 1867). It is in all original exc-plus condition w/ bores As New. Difficult to come by from a most esteemed provincial maker. 27 3/4″ Bbls, 13 7/8″ London proof-marks. Including 20 rnds Bell brass. Price:$9,000