Of all the famous London gunmakers, James Woodward & Sons is the most mysterious. Great examples of their doubles are hard to find. So is reliable information about the company.
We do know that James Woodward opened his business in 1874 and that his company was bought by James Purdey & Sons in 1948. In its 74 years, Woodward may have built around 4,500 guns or so — no one is sure about the exact number. The company introduced its famous Woodward over & under in 1913.
The James Woodward & Sons side-by-side you see here is one of the nicest Woodward SxSs I’ve seen on the market in years. It made around 1930, and according to the seller it’s in minty condition. It’s a big gun, and its weight, broad, file-cut rib, sideclips, and 2 3/4″ chambers make me thing it may have been made with live-pigeon shooting in mind.
The deep cut, arcaded fences on this gun are one of Woodward’s signature features. So is this gun’s T-shaped safety.
The shotgun you see here is a dream-double for a lot of guys. This 20 gauge Woodward Over-Under shotgun is one of the world’s rarest shotguns. If you have to have it, you can bid on it in Gavin Gardiner’s 4/18/18 auction.
James Woodward & Sons introduced their version of an OU shotgun in 1913 and built them until the company was acquired by James Purdey & Sons in 1949.
Before 1949, James Woodward & Sons built fewer than four hundred OUs. Of those, sixty or so were 20 gauges.
A few weeks ago, I put up this post about James Woodward & Son’s first type over-under shotgun. Now that my life has slowed down a bit (sorry for being aways for so long), lets talk about how these first-type OUs evolved into the later model.
Woodward patented their OU in 1913. In all, they built around 300 of these guns before the company was bought by James Purdey & Sons in 1948.
Around 1922, James Woodward & Sons completed OU #6640, a lightweight 12 bore noted by them as having their “new type action and ejectors.” Woodward OUs with these new features are what I’m calling the “Type 2” guns.
A great example of a Type-2 gun is shown here, Woodward OU #6664 from 1923. From what I can see, Woodward two significant changes on these:
The design of the ejectorwork was modified and all the components were moved into the forend.
They altered the flats on the barrels and the corresponding areas in the action.
Why did Woodward made these upgrades? I would say they were done to improve the cocking, ejecting & reliability of these guns.
I’ve been looking at old shotguns for twenty + years now, and the one thing I still love to see more than ever is original color-case hardening, especially when it has had decades to mellow and age.
This 12 gauge sidelock by James Woodward and Sons has tons of that kind of color. It also has killer engraving and all of Woodward’s signature features — 29″ barrels, arcaded fences (kind of like claw-foot pedestals), and a T-shaped safety.
James Woodward started out in the trade around 1825 with an apprenticeship with the London gunmaker Charles Moore. In 1872, he went into business as James Woodward & Sons with his two boys, James Jr. and Charles. The firm lasted until 1948 when it was sold to James Purdey & Sons.
Up until its sale, Woodward recorded 5,184 serial numbers (they started with #2,000 and ran to #7,184). So they may have made 5,184 guns. (Or, if they assigned serial #s to extra barrels and new sets of barrels, fewer than that.) Of these, I bet fewer than 2,000 are fully refined, hammerless SxSs shotguns like the one here. That’s not a lot guns. Considering they’re all 70+ years old, finding ones in excellent original condition like this are hard to do.
JAMES WOODWARD & SONS BEST SXS 12 GAUGE: THIS IS THE HIGHEST CONDITION WOODWARD WE HAVE EVER HAD #69XX 28″ 004 AND 017 2 3/4 PROOFED DOUBLE TRIGGER EJECTORS SPLINTER FOREARM PISTOL GRIP MAKERS CASE EXCELLENT ORIGINAL CONDITION 6LBS 12 OZ X 2 1/4 X 1 7/16 X 15 1/8 Price:$39,500
Own a best-quality British shotgun? Here’s the perfect place to store it. The rare James Woodward & Sons shotgun cases below are on Ebay now. Both are being offered at No Reserve.
Brady and other companies in the UK built cases like these for Woodward, Westley Richards, Purdey, and other makers. When a customer ordered a gun, the case was optional (so were the accessories). Most makers offered cases in different qualities. Oak & Leathers were the best, the most expensive, and the most durable. They were also the heaviest. The all-leather cases were rugged, but a bit smaller and several pounds lighter.
The cases you see here are in great shape, and because they include their original labels and some of their original Woodward accessories, both are incredible finds.
No — that’s not a typo, and the price shown is not missing a zero. Here’s is a 20 gauge James Woodward & Son sidelock side-by-side shotgun for just $3,000. But of course there’s a catch: this double barrel is missing its forend.
This gun was made around 1896. For some reason, it looks like it was proofed for nitro loads a few years later. James Woodward was in business from 1874 to 1948. In all, they made around 4500 or so guns — far fewer than Boss, Purdey, or Holland & Holland. Twenty-gauge, best-quality side-by-side Woodwards are rare. The last one I saw sold for a around $40,000, and a decent one could easily bring $50,000+ today.
Three thousand dollars isn’t a bad price for this one. Building a new forend will be expensive, but it is doable — especially if the barrels are sound and the rest of the gun is in good shape. But because the seller has listed the gun “as is,” you won’t know if restoring it is an option until after you own you own the gun. And if the barrels are bad, you’ll have spent $3000 on a paperweight, some firewood, and a fancy stake for a tomato plant.
So are you feeling lucky?
J. Woodward & Sons, English “Best Gun”, 20 gauge, 28 inch barrels: Being sold as a “parts gun” as it is missing a complete forend. Without the forend, it will not cock. Butt stock has been shortened and added to. Bore is shiny without evident pits. Right barrel on underside has small ding/dent, felt when running hand up and down. No evident pits on metal. Purdey and other English gun makers have been contacted for an appraisal as to restoring gun to shooting condition. Estimates have been as high as $31K. U.S gunmakers contacted have not been willing to undertake project. Gun closes tightly and is not loose in any part. Receiver metal has light patina. C&R/FFL needed. No sale to CA. Ask any and all questions. More photos can be asked for. Seller has given up hope of restoring as restoration cost may exceed value of finished gun.
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.
Yesterday I wrote about the 20 gauge Woodward coming up in Julia’s fall 2012 auction. Today we’re going to talk about the 12 gauge Woodward that’s in the same sale.
This 12 gauge is an killer double, and in capable hands, it would be an absolute hammer in the pigeon rings. Made in 1927 for Florida real estate mogul Wade Harley, this O/U must have won its owner plenty money. One of its coolest features is unusual forend. It features a series of finger grooves, original to the gun and added by Woodward in London, designed to keep a shooter’s fore hand in a consistent position, shot after shot.
Check out all that original color case harding, too. From muzzle to butt, it’s just a plain awesome O/U.
SN 6798. (1927) Cal. 12 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 30″ Demi-bloc bbls mounted with matted, flat, ventilated rib fitted with two red target beads, are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 64. St. James’s Street. London. England.” on left side of top bbl. Right side of top bbl and bottom bbl flat are stamped with SN and London nitro proofs for 2-3/4″ chambers and the 1 1/4oz load. Bottom bbl is fitted with an extra loop, uncut for latch, to aid in recoil absorption. Robust, case hardened, deeply filed detonating, low profile action features automatic “T-safety” (SAFE inlaid in gold), double triggers, and gold line tumbler end cocking indicators. Action and lockplates are engraved in superb Woodward style with very finely cut small scrollwork with rose bouquet highlights. “J. Woodward & Sons” is roll scroll flanked at front of each lockplate. “Woodward’s” “Patent” “Under & Over” is on bottom. Scroll engraved trigger guard extends to grip cap with SN at grip. Robust, nicely marbled, and lightly figured Circassian walnut full capped pistol grip buttstock measures 14-7/8″ over leather-faced rounded Silver type pad, and features hard rubber grip cap, drop points, point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a gold oval on bottom engraved “P”. Matching, one piece, 11″ long, semi-beavertail, ejector forend has finger grooves carved into sides to match the shooter’s hand with cutout areas stippled. (This feature is specified in factory records.)
Bore diameter: top -.730, bottom -.730. Bore restrictions: top -.033, bottom -.023. Wall thickness: top -.023, bottom -.024. Drop at heel: 2-3/8″, drop at comb: 1-7/16″. Weight: 8 lbs. 6 oz, LOP 14-7/8″. Included with gun are Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag and white bag containing A & F marked envelope with case keys, and wax paper wrapped pair of strikers, automatic safety slide and spring, and action rod. Woodward’s are well known for best quality guns and produced the O/U from 1913-1948, when Charles Woodward retired and sold the firm to Tom Purdey. From this point onwards, the Woodward gun replaced the old Edwinson Green based Purdey O/U and has been the gun offered by the firm from 1950 to the present. If you can’t beat ’em… buy ’em!
PROVENANCE: Factory records indicate that the gun was made in 1927 for Mr. Wade Harley. Wade was a prominent real estate developer who made a “fortune” in Florida’s real estate boom of the late 1920’s.
CONDITION: Excellent. Bbls retain essentially all of what appears to be orig blue, but is possibly an old London quality re-black. Action retains 50 – 60% orig case hardening color, fading on bottom, and silvered on beads and bolsters. Lockplates retain nearly all of their orig vivid color. Top lever and trigger guard retain 85 – 90% of their orig charcoal blue. Thumbpiece is slightly silvered, blue on trigger guard is thinning on grip. Buttstock retains nearly all of a glossy oil finish, most likely redone. Edges are slightly rounded, some finish in checkering, wood well above metal. There is an incipient 3/8″ crack behind left lockplate, and a minor stress crack behind right. These hairlines are typical and should pose no repair problems. Forend finish appears to be original, with slight wear to checkering. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout, with no visible imperfections. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Bottom ejector will not trip (broken spring). Tag is good. Safety parts are fine.Some minor repairs will make this rare Pigeon gun the “Lord of the Ring”. 4-46136 MGM156 (30,000-45,000)
The over-and-under shotguns made by James Woodward & Sons are some of the finest double barrels ever created. Introduced in 1913 and then significantly improved in 1921, the Woodward-patent O/U was offered right until the company was bought by Jame Purdey in 1948 and Woodward turned out right around 225 of them in all, with 118 in 12 gauge & 61 in 20 gauge.
Julia has two of these James Woodwards O/Us–a 12g & a 20g–in their upcoming fall 2012 firearms auction. Both of these are the fully improved, later models and they’re probably one of a kind.
The 20 gauge has two unique features that make it special: original 28″ barrels and an original Boss-patent single trigger. That combo makes it an exceptionally desirable shotgun.
SN 6950. (1931) Cal. 20 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. Desirable 28″ Demi-bloc bbls with solid, matted rib fitted with red beads, are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 64. St. James’s Street. London. England.” on left side of top bbl. Right side is stamped with proofs, as is breech area of bottom bbl. Both are stamped with SN and London nitro proofs for 20 ga. 1 oz shot and 2-3/4″ chambers. Scaled down, beautifully sculpted, case hardened, low profile, sidelock action features automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold) with Woodward’s typical T-shaped safety slide, reinforcing bolsters, gold band tumbler end cocking indicators, and Boss single non-selective trigger (trigger plate engraved “Boss’s Patent No 22894”). The Boss trigger was the finest of its kind and coveted by London makers. Action and lockplates are engraved with exceptionally well cut small shaded scroll with floral bouquet highlights in “Best” London style. “J. Woodward & Sons.” is in roll scroll flanked oval device at front of each lockplate, and “Woodward’s” “Patent.” “Under & Over” on bottom of action. Small bow, single beaded, scroll engraved trigger guard has SN at tip of grip. Very fine, beautifully marbled, slightly stump figured Circassian walnut semi-pistol grip buttstock measures 14-5/8″ over checkered wood butt with scalloped steel engraved heel and toe plates, and features well shaped drop points and 26 LPI flat top point pattern checkering with mullered borders. A gold oval on toe line is engraved “G.P.” Matching single piece ejector forend has Anson release.
Bore diameter: top -.615, bottom -.615. Bore restrictions: top -.003, bottom -.003. Wall thickness: top -.022, bottom -.022. Drop at heel: 2-9/16″, drop at comb: 1-5/16″. Weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz, LOP 14-5/8″. Included with gun are an Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag with specifications, and plated striker bottle SNed to gun, containing a pair of spare strikers, and mainspring for right lock.
PROVENANCE: Factory records indicate that it was completed in 1931 for Dr. C. H. Ernlunds.
CONDITION: Very fine. Bbls retain nearly all of a very fine London quality re-black. Action retains a considerable amount of orig case hardening color in protected areas, but is mostly a bright hand worn silver. Lockplates retain 30 – 40% fading orig case hardening color, left lock being strongest. Top lever and safety retain most of their orig charcoal blue, trigger guard nearly all of a re-blue. Iron retains most of its orig blue. Screw slots show some use. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout, with no visible imperfections. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are in perfect time. Trigger works flawlessly. Hang tag is very fine. Striker bottle is excellent. A fine small bore “Best” O/U, of a pattern still built today by James Purdey & Son, having scrapped all of their previous designs once they acquired Woodwards in 1948. 4-46137 MGM155 (35,000-55,000)