Boss & Co Round Body side-by-sides are some of the rarest shotguns in the world. Introduced in 1893, the company has made fewer than 400 of them to date. Over the last 20 years, I’ve come across around a 1/4 of them. The one you see here is the most unique one I’ve seen: Boss & Co. Best Quality SLE 12 bore Rare Round Body
While it’s “round”, it still carries some shaping from a standard Boss SxS action. You can see this ahead of the locks and behind the hinge pins. This shaping also continues onto the bottom of the action.
Why is this extra shaping there? I’ve seen Belgian shotguns with similar rounded actions like this. Maybe the person who commissioned this gun saw guns like that, too, and asked Boss to make him a similar pair. Or maybe the person wanted a Boss Round Body with a personal spin?
Of course, the Boss tradesman who filed up the action may have just finished the gun this way. Boss was a quirky gunmaker, and it’s not uncommon to see variations in their actions that make little sense — other than they may have pleased the man building the gun.
For a while now, some of the finest British shotguns in the world have been built by two German gunmakers. Hartmann & Weiss is located in Hamburg, and their guns are on par with, and maybe better than, the finest side-by-sides and over-unders being built in the UK today.
Gerhard Harmann & Otto Weiss learned gunmaking in Germany: In the ’50s, Otto trained in Suhl and Gerhard trained in Hamburg. Otto Weiss furthered his education in Switzerland and England (with James Purdey & Sons), and Gerhard Hartmann went to work in Austria. In ’65 they joined together to build firearms. Today, their company builds a range of rifles as well as side-by-side and over-under shotguns.
Their over-unders are built on Boss-style actions, and their side-by-sides are built on Boss , Holland & Holland and Purdey/Beesley systems. The one you see here is one of the very few self-opening, Boss-style Round Body side-by-sides Hartmann & Weiss built. It unfired, and it’s coming up in next month in Holt’s December 2015 Fine Modern & Antique Guns Auction.
Boss & Co introduced their Round-Body style actions in 1893, and so far they’ve built around 300 of them all together. The self-opening feature was introduced in 1932 and used on a small number of SxSs up to WW2 and then phased out after in the ’50s. Finding both these features on a real Boss is tough to do, its not impossible: Here’s a real 12g Boss & Co. Round Action Self Opener.
(BTW: Vic Venters published an excellent piece about Boss & Co. self openers in the Nov/Dec, 2o15, edition of Shooting Sportsman magazine. To find out more about these super rare guns, check it out.)
HARTMANN & WEISS: AN EXCEPTIONAL 12-BORE GULLERT-ENGRAVED BOSS-TYPE SINGLE-TRIGGER ROUNDED BAR SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR, serial no. 2403. 29in. nitro chopperlump barrels with finely matted rib with fine acanthus scroll detailing at the breech end, the tubes engraved ‘HARTMANN & WEISS. HAMBURG’, 2 3/4in. choke, bored approx. 1/4 and 3/4 choke, rounded bar action with Boss patent self-opening system, removable striker discs, manual safety with gold-inlaid ‘SAFE’ detail, gold-inlaid cocking-indicators, non-selective single trigger, rolled-edge triggerguard, best fine floral bouquet and acanthus scroll engraving, the triggerguard signed ‘F. GULLERT’, retaining virtually full original colour-hardening and finish, 14 3/4in. highly-figured stock, weight 6lb. 10oz., in its lightweight leather case with accessories. Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000.
The late 19th century was a golden age for sporting guns in the UK. Hundred of makers had shops throughout the country, thousands of people were employed by the trade, and because shooting was THE ACTIVITY for the Royals and other well-to-dos, there were plenty of customers.
The country’s most prestigious makers were in London, close to Buckingham Palace. Makers like Purdey, Boss, Holland & Holland, and Stephen Grant had shops in the West End. They fought for patronage from high-end customers and were always on the lookout for ways to set themselves apart from the competition.
On January 1, 1891, John Robertson took control of Boss & Co. Robertson had grown up in gunmaking. He joined the London trade in 1864 at Purdeys and went out on his own in 1873. Once he was in charge of things at Boss, his first task was to update the company’s shotguns and remake Boss as the city’s premier gunmaker.
Pre-Robertson, Boss had been known for making back-action sidelocks and hammerguns with Jones-style underlevers. Robertson ditched these old designs for modern, bar-action locks and a look all his own. He came up with a new, streamlined design for Boss’s guns and created the company’s classic look – snakey, handsome, and sleek.
A few years later, Robertson pushed this streamlining further and came up with something daring: Boss’s famous Round Body Action. The Round Body pushes sleek as far as it will go, and it looks more Space Age than Victorian Age. The lockplates and action are filed up for a round appearance. There are no beads, hips, or edges to be seen. The fences retain their bulbous “Boss” shape, but the stock gets the “round” treatment around the locks and through the hand. There are no drop points. The result is very unique and very modern. If George Jetson found his way back to London in 1900, he would want this shotgun.
Round-Body Bosses were never popular, and of the 10,000 or so double barrels Boss has built to date, fewer than 300 were the Round-Bodies. Most of these RBs were 12 gauges, very few were 20s. So the 20 gauge Boss Round Body you see here is a rare side by side. It was made in the early ‘3os and it looks like it’s in decent shape.
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
Griffin & Howe has been importing these spanish-made side-by-sides for a while now. I’m pretty sure they’re made by Arrieta. Brand new at G&H, this is a $9,500 shotgun. If this one auctions off for $5,000, or less, it will be a steal.
Here’s the info on it, as provided by the auctioneer: Griffine & Howe 28 gauge double barrel shotgun with case hardened receiver, beautiful floral engraving. English stock and hand carved buttplate. Condition: new in original carrying case. Estimate: $6,000 – $10,000.
This gun was one of a trio of 17″ Boss 20 gauges made for beer magnate A.E. Guinness. Round body, Boss twenty gauge side-by-sides are pretty rare, especially with original 3″ chambers. I bet the made fewer than 10.
I have no idea why A.E. Guinness. wanted such short barrels. You have to wonder how they handle. Mr Guiness must have used them for driven game. I can’t think of any other reason for ordering a trio.
The description in Bonham’s catalog does say that the stock was originally about 13 3/4″ inches long. Perhaps Mr Guiness was a small man? Or maybe he was tipsy on the family’s product when he placed the order?
The rest of the sale seemed pretty soft, with a lot of guns not selling. You can see the entire catalog online here.