Here’s a jaw dropper. This stunning black-powder double rifle was by John Dickson & Son for eccentric collector Charles Gordon.
28in. black powder only fine damascus barrels with dolls-head extension, raised matted rib with open sights and two folding leaf sights with white metal inlaid sight lines and marked for 100, 200 and 300 yards, bead fore-sight, tubes engraved ‘JOHN DICKSON & SON. 63 PRINCES STREET. EDINBURGH’, Jones patent rotary-underlever, finely carved percussion fences, non-rebounding back-action locks with front bolted hammers, fine border and acanthus scroll engraving, retaining much original colour-hardening and finish, 14 5/8in. well-figured pistolgrip stock with cheekpiece, floral engraved sling eyes, engraved and colour-hardened steel pistolgrip-cap, chequered steel buttplate with ribbon and scroll engraving retaining much original blued finish, fore-end with large grip-catch release lever, weight 9lb. 5oz., in its brass-mounted oak case, fitted internally in the French style with green baize lining, with some original accessories and with its original leather outer cover with later brass name plaque engraved ‘A MATHESON’
Provenance: The makers have kindly confirmed this to be a ‘Gordon Gun’ and that it was completed for him on 5th February 1886 as a ‘.500 hammer double C.F. Express rifle, underlever’.
Of the 229 recorded guns and rifles ordered from John Dickson & Son by Charles Gordon, just 25 were centrefire hammer rifles.
In the 1908 auction of Charles Gordon’s Collection by Dowell’s of George Street, just one centrefire rifle by Dickson’s was offered for sale, Lot 319. Described simply as ‘Breech-loading rifle, under lever action, by John Dickson, Edinburgh, and waterproof cover’. It sold for 21/-.
It is possible that this is when the rifle came into the possession of the current Vendor’s family.
This Dickson Round Action is one of the shotgun world’s iconic designs. Patented in 1880, it has attracted fans for 130+ years. If you’re one of them, here’s an accessory your Dickson needs to have:
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”.
But in the Golden Age of gunmaking, bespoke went beyond this. In the case of this side-by-side by John Dickson & Son – Scotland’s most famous maker built a shotgun on London’s famous Beesley action.
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.