Stephen Grant was one of the 19th century’s finest gunmakers. Today, he may be one of the under appreciated. Born in 1821 in Tipperary, Ireland, he started his apprenticeship in Dublin and then moved to London where he worked with Charles Lancaster and Thomas Boss.
In 1867, Grant went out on his own. He quickly became one of England’s top gunmakers with warrants from cream-of-the-crop royals like the Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth, and the King of Spain, as well as orders from Aristos and rich people from around the world. By the time of his death in 1898, Stephen Grant was one of London’s most respected gunmakers. If you take a good look at the wonderful 12 gauge Stephen Grant pictured here, you’ll see why – and why his shotguns are as nice as anything turned out by Purdey, Holland & Holland, or Boss.
This Grant is coming up in Little John’s annual May antique and sporting guns auction which starts today. It was made around 1897. The tight, scroll engraving, fluted fences, and sidelever-action are all signature styles of Grant doubles. I’m 99.9% certain that it was re-barrelled by Atkin, Grant & Lang in the 1950s, and the new, fluid-steel bbls look like they’re close to untouched since then. Here’s more about it from the auctioneer:
Lot 545: 12 gauge Stephen Grant & Sons Best Quality London Sidelock, double barrel SxS shotgun: Serial # 6957. Originally one of a pair. The gun is cased in and leather covered oak case. 28” barrels, double triggers, auto-ejectors. Nitro proved for 2 ½” shells, 3 ton proof on each barrel. Choke IC/Mod. Barrels show 90% to 95% original blue with good sharp markings and edges with wall thickness measuring .35 right and .38 left. The action and lock plates retain 50% to 70% original case hardening. The stocks are very good plus with excellent wood to metal fit and crisp checkering. 14 ¼” LOP, 2 1/4” drop at the heel and 2” drop at the comb with slight cast off approximately ¼” at the toe and 5/8” at heel . The bore is bright. The case shows a red felt interior with some slight repairs in areas where rubbed but is in overall at least good to very good condition. Est.: $5000-$10,000
Higher prices don’t always mean higher quality. That’s the case with the 12 gauge sidelock Westley Richards you see here and here. With these side by sides, the better shotgun costs half the money.
Westley Richards is famous for their boxlocks shotguns. But for most of their history they’ve also made sidelocks. Many these sidelocks were actually produced for Westley by makers who worked independently for the trade.
That’s the case with both of these doubles.
These sidelock Westleys were made “in the trade,” the first after 1989, the second around 1964. While both of them look like Best-quality shotguns, the newer one isn’t any wear near as nice as its older brother.
Take a look at the older Westley and you’ll see a much finer, crisper shotgun. From the filing up of the action to the shaping of the stock, the team that made this gun went a bit further in everything they did. And this extra quality really shows.
Here’s are an example of something that drives me nuts: crappy metal-to-metal fit. You see this on all kinds of guns, from the cheapest to the most expensive. Sometimes it’s because of age, sometimes it’s because of a poor repair, and other times it ‘s from plain shitty craftsmanship.
First, lets start with how things are supposed to look on a top-quality double barrel shotgun. Here’s a look at the fit of a lockplate into the action of a Boss side-by-side from around 1925. See the seem? That’s pretty much perfect.
Now take a look at this J. Purdey sidelock. This is off an early Beesley-action double, probably from around 1885. Here you can see a gap. In fact, the fit on this lockplate is gappy at the front and at the back, behind the fences. Now, I don’t this these gaps are Purdey’s fault. Use and wear can lead to poorly fitting locks, as can rehardening an action. And my gut tells me that the colors on that Purdey may not be very original.