I used to work at one of the finest gunshops in the world – New England Arms of Kittery Point, ME. While I was there, I came across a lot of nice doubles – Purdeys, Holland & Hollands, Fabbris, Flli Rizzinis, etc.
Of all them, two stuck in my head as being far above all the others. One was a 16g Boss O/U we sold to a client in Austin, TX. It was the Boss over-under I ever handled and one of the most beautiful shotgun I had ever encountered. That gun is one reason I’ve been obsessed with Boss shotguns ever since.
The other shotgun I remember from back then is this 16g Woodward O/U. This double came to auction in May of 1999, and I bid on it on behalf of the shop. We didn’t get it, and I’ve thought a lot about it ever since. I still have the original auction catalog, and I’ve kept an eye out for shotgun, sure that it would pop up on the market again sooner or later. Fifteen years later, here it is.
James Woodward & Sons patented their over-under in 1913 – four years after Boss & Co invented the low-profile O/U. Woodward made around three hundred over-unders in all and just a handful were 16s.
Serial # 6680 Barrel Length 28″ Choke M Choke 2 IM Trigger DT (Double) Stock Straight Grip Foream Rib Solid rib Receiver Finish Casehardened Receiver Engraving Type Fine Scroll & Rosette Engraving Other Options original maker’s leather case with accessories, Leather covered pad, Lots of provenance Condition EXC. Plus Condition Weight Description 6#7oz Description 1 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 14 3/4 with 1/8 cast off Other Details Mfg 1923, A super rare, super nice gun
In the world of fine shotguns, a Best-quality double is just that: The very best side-by-side or over-under a company could make (or in some cases, the best one they retailed). Best guns were top-of-the-line, and top gunmakers made their best guns in special ways. This was called the “House Style”, and it was applied to the entire gun, from the engraving pattern and the shaping to the action, metalwork, and stock.
The side-by-sides you see here are Best-guns by Boss & Co. and James Woodward & Sons. The Boss is 12g made the later 1920s. The Woodward is a 16g. I think it’s from the 1930s. Even though these doubles have a lot in common, they are very different guns. Look closely and you’ll see what sets them apart.
Woodward started making guns in 1874 and ceased in 1948 when they sold their business to James Purdey & Sons. In the seventy-six years they made firearms, two of their most important patents were for the Woodward Automatic – a gun that cocked “automatically” when it was opened – and the Woodward Over Under.
This 28 gauge SxS was made on Woodward’s later hammerless design. It’s a pretty standard barrel-cocker, meaning the action uses the leverage of the dropping barrels to cock the hammers.
To my eye, it looks like it has been refinished. I wonder if it has been restocked, too? Either way, it’s probably the only one in the world like made by Woodward.
Here’s more about it from the seller:
JAMES WOODWARD BEST PRE WAR SXS 28 GAUGE: POSSIBLY THE ONLY 28 GAUGE SXS THAT WOODWARD MADE 26″ 022 AND 028 2 3/4 DOUBLE TRIGGER EJECTORS SPLINTER FOREARM ENGLISH GRIP CHECKERED BUTT NEW CONDITION MAKERS MOTOR CASE 5LBS 1 OZ X 2 1/2 X 1 1/2 X 14 7/8. Price : $99,500.00
James Woodward & S0ns is a mysterious maker. Even though they made some of the finest double barrel SxSs and O/Us to come out of the UK, not a lot is known about the company.
In business from 1874 to 1948, Woodward created several influential designs, like the Woodward Automatic, a hammerless sidelock shotgun that cocked “autmatically” when you opened the shotgun, and in 1913 the Woodward-style over-under shotgun. Somewhere in the history of the Woodward O/U, the round-body action was introduced.
No one know why Woodward added this option to their O/Us. The London gun trade was brutally competitive. Makers were always looking for novel ways to set their guns apart. I suspect this is why Woodward introduced the round-body styling to their O/U shotguns. But like a things Woodward, we’ll never know if that’s the truth.
What we do know for certain is that this is an exceptional shotgun. It’s also exceptionally rare. I bet Woodward made fewer than 20 round-body over unders. I’ve seen 6-7 of them, and the one below is the finest one, by far. It’s coming up at Julia’s Auction next week. So if you like what you see, get your bids in today.
RARE AND FINE WOODWARD ROUND BODY OVER-UNDER SINGLE TRIGGER HEAVY GAME GUN WITH CASE. SN 7173. Cal. 12 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 29-1/8″ Demi-bloc bbls with solid, file cut rib are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 29. Bury Street. St. James’s. London. England.” on left side of top bbl. Right side of top bbl and bottom of bottom bbl are stamped with London nitro proofs for 2-3/4″ chambers. Case hardened, round body, low profile, OU action features automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold), gold band tumbler end cocking indicators, and non-selective single trigger. Action is engraved with well cut, classic, small, shaded scroll with rose bouquet highlights. “J Woodward & Sons” is in parchment scrolled device at front of each lockplate. Bottom of action is engraved “Woodward’s” and “Under & Over” in arches around recess cut for forend iron, which is engraved “Patent”. SN is on tang of scroll engraved small bowed trigger guard. Fully marbled and lightly figured European walnut straight grip
buttstock measures 14-1/2″ over leather faced, thin, red pad. Standard point pattern checkering with mullered borders is at grip. Toe line with gold oval engraved “G.P.” is shaped with about 3/16″ negative camber giving racy swept look. One piece matching ejector forend has Anson release. Bore diameter: top -.729, bottom -.729. Bore restrictions: top -.036 (Full), bottom -.037 (Full). Wall thickness: top-.024, bottom -.025. Drop at heel: 2-1/8″, drop at comb: 1-1/4″. Weight: 7 lbs. 12 oz. LOP: 14-1/2″. Makers oak and leather case with brass corners and leather trimmed canvas outer cover, is embossed with an early owner’s name on rectangular inset leather label on top. Leather is additionally embellished with embossed line borders with fleur-di-lis highlights. Interior is lined in scarlet cloth with gold embossed black leather Woodward label in lid. Case contains pair of A & F marked snap caps, red morocco wallet with cleaning brushes inside, 2-pc rosewood and brass cleaning rod with mop, Turk’s head and jag. There are also an A & F marked square oil bottle, hard rubber striker block, and the key.
PROVENANCE: Abercrombie & Fitch hang tags with specifications and known information.
CONDITION: Excellent. Action retains 90 – 95% of its orig bright case hardening color, silvered on sharp edges. Lockplates retain nearly all of their color. Top lever and forend iron show only slight silvering to their orig bright blue. Trigger guard re-blued, and retains essentially all of that blue, engraving still sharp. Stocks retain nearly all of a factory quality oil finish with some light marks and a small scuff in forend checkering. Pad added after making, as cut off piece of buttstock with checkered butt is in case. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout. Action is tight. Bbls are on
face. Ejectors are in time. Trigger works, but is a bit sticky (probably needs cleaning). Case leather is very fine with some slight darkening and rubs. Straps and handle are fine. Canvas outer cover has rubs and discoloration, leather trim also rubbed, with some slight tatters. Straps are good. Interior cloth is fine with some areas patched, lightly soiled, and marked by gun and accessories. Accessories are good. By SN, one of the last guns to leave Woodward’s after being taken over by Purdey’s. Records indicate it was delivered in 1949, so was most likely finished by Purdey’s. Round body Woodward O/Us are very rare. This may be one of the finest extant. Estimate: $30,000-$50,000
Old gun cases fascinate me as much as old firearms. The dings in the leather, the name embossed on the lid, the oil and powder stains in the baize lining, and the musty smell when you first lift the lid — that’s the tease before you get to the main show of the gun itself.
The two cases you see here are from James Woodward & Sons. Ones all leather and the other is an oak & leather. Both were made for O/Us, and they contain a mix of accessories. They’ve never been recovered or relined, and the labels are 100% original.
Woodward opened his shop in 1874, and he made all sorts of guns until his name and designs to Purdey in 1948. In 1913, Woodward introduced his most beautiful shotguns – the Woodward-patent Under & Over gun. You can see on the labels that these cases you see here were made to hold two of those famous shotguns.
Both of these cases are for sale. If you’re interested in them, drop me a note for full details & prices.
Of all the London “Best” shotgun makers, nice doubles by James Woodward are some of the toughest guns to find. Woodward was in business from 1874 to 1948. In that time, the company made fewer than 4500 guns, and that includes double rifles, sidelock and boxlock side-by-sides of all grades, and the company’s famous Under & Overs.
So if this best-quality, sidelock Woodward is legit and original, it’s a tough side-by-side to find and maybe a great deal:
James Woodward & Sons, 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun: 12-3/4″ 12 Guage Side by Side Shotgun. Best Quality AE Sidelock, Number 1 of 2. 28″ Cyl. & Mod. 1-1/8 ounce Nitro Proof. Pistol Grip, 14-1/2″ Lenght of Pull to Checkered Butt. 6 Pounds 8 ounces. 90% Case Color. In origonal Leather Case. Price: $17,700.00
James Woodward & Sons O/U are one of the finest double-barrel shotguns ever created. Patented in 1913, Woodward made his legendary O/U for 35 years — right up to his company’s end in 1948. In that time, he turned out just 225 of them. Just 41 of those O/Us were made in 16 gauges.
LOT 2163: VERY FINE 16 GA. WOODWARD OVER-UNDER SIDELOCK EJECTOR BOSS SINGLE TRIGGER GAME GUN: SN 6602. (ca 1921) Cal. 16 ga. 28″ Demi-block bbls with full length file cut solid rib, are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 64. St. James’s Street. London. S. W.” and “Made of Sir Joseph Whitworth’s Fluid Pressed Steel” on either side of rib. Bbls are stamped with London nitro proofs for 1 oz of shot. Beautifully filed, case hardened, low profile action features typical Woodward automatic T-safety (SAFE inlaid in gold), bolstered sides, gold band tumbler end cocking indicators, and Boss non-selective single trigger.
The Woodward action is renown for its grace, and is the prime reason for Purdey’s acquiring Woodwards and the rights to this action, in 1948. All subsequent Purdey OU shotguns and rifles were built on this action. The action and sidelocks of this particular gun are engraved with exceptionally well cut, shaded, small scroll with rose bouquet highlights in Woodward house style. “J. Woodward & Sons” is in rolled scroll flanked device on front of each lockplate. Bottom of action is engraved “Woodward’s Patent Under & Over”. Some time after the initial making of this gun, probably 1950’s, it was fitted with Boss’ renown single trigger, with new trigger plate and small bow single beaded trigger guard installed. Gun is accompanied by Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag, filled in with specifications of this gun. The original notation of “double trigger” has “double” lined out and “single” written above.
Color hardening of trigger plate and bright blue of trigger guard are both vivid, and engraving, although the correct style, is by a different hand. Nicely figured, and beautifully marbled Circassian walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-1/8″ over ribbed horn buttplate, and features drop points, diamond hand, classic point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a silver oval on toe line engraved “P”. Matching one piece ejector forend has Anson release. Bore diameter: top -.663, bottom -.663. Bore restrictions: top -.023 (full), bottom -.013 (mod). Drop at heel: 2-7/16″, drop at comb: 1-7/16″. Weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz. LOP: 14-1/8″.
PROVENANCE: Factory letter giving the history of this gun as evidenced by a number of entries in the VL & D and A & F inventories, being first rec’d by VLD in March 1923, last sale was in 1956 to Grant Pierce.
CONDITION: Very fine. Bbls retain approx 95% of an old London quality re-black, silvered on sharp edges of bolsters, rib, and muzzles. Action retains 40 – 50% muted orig case hardening colors, vivid where protected, especially at top fence. Lockplates retain most of their muted orig colors. Orig color on trigger plate is near 100% and vivid. Top lever and forend iron retain most of their orig charcoal blue, with silvering at thumbpiece and rounded edges of iron, some loss due to flaking. Charcoal blue on trigger guard is near 100%. Screw slots show some use. Stocks retain most of their orig hand rubbed oil finish with numerous small marks and light scratches from normal handling and use. There are a few minor chips on left side forearm at juncture of iron. Checkering is slightly worn. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout. Action has hint of vertical play and a glimmer of light visible on top bbl. Ejectors are in time. Trigger works. Hang tag shows some creases. A great handling, all time classic.