James D. Julia’s Spring, 2016, Firearms Auction kicks off next Monday, 3/14. As usual, there a bunch of impressive doubles in this sale.
Along with a pile of big-bore rifles made for Indian Royalty (check out this 4 bore) and this great looking 12 gauge Lefever Optimus made for President Benjamin Harrison, the sale also include this exceptionally rare MacNaughton .450 BPE hammerless double rifle.
James MacNaughton was a gunmaker in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he opened a shop in the city’s center in 1864. In 1879, he patented his ‘Edinburgh Patent Hammerless Ejector’ design, on which this double rifle is based.
With the lockwork mounted on the triggerplate and behind the standing breech, the actions on MacNaughton’s guns were very strong. Because of their strength, they could be adapted to the “Skeleton” design you see here and also used in double rifles, which generate far higher pressures and strain than shotguns.
MacNaughton’s hammerless design evolved over time, and I think this rifle is built on one of the earlier, or the earliest, variation. It uses the opening-motion of its extra long toplever to cock the locks. Later ones had regular sized toplevers and cocked on the drop of the barrels (here’s one in 12 gauge).
EARLY AND RARE MACNAUGHTON “SKELETON” ROUND ACTION DOUBLE RIFLE: SN 1156. (ca 1885 ?) Cal. .450 BPE. 28″ Dovetailed steel bbls are fitted with full length matted rib with one standing, one folding leaf rear sight. Leaves are unmarked and unnotched. Standing leaf has inset “certifiable antique ivory” sighting triangle. Central portion of rib is swamped and rises at muzzle to ramp holding steel bead.
Tops of bbls are engraved “James Mac Naughton” and “26 Hanover Street. Edinburgh.” Bbl flats are stamped with London black powder proofs, and bottoms of bbls with SNs. A sling eye is screwed into bottom rib. Bbls are fitted with early bail type extractor system, often used by Purdeys on early breech loaders. Round bodied, trigger plate action has wood which extends over bar in a style favored by MacNaughton, in which they referred to as their “Skeleton” action. This trigger plate action was the first (1879) of the famous “round” actions of Edinburgh. This basic design was used by John Dickson beginning in 1880 with resultant lawsuit over the concept. The action on this rifle is patent use no. “66”, and incorporates early long top lever which also cocks hammers. Central area is milled away to access action pin and view hammers through glass window as cocking indicators. Action also features MacNaughton’s toggling safety, pivoting third fastener, and dbl triggers. Large trigger plate has tail which extends to grip cap. Trigger guard is attached to trigger plate at front and back. Metal parts are engraved with near full coverage well cut scroll with Celtic knotwork borders. Top of action is engraved “MACNAUGHTON EDINBURGH”. Finely fiddle figured and lightly streaked, dense, European walnut horn capped pistol grip buttstock measures 14-1/2″ over checkered horn buttplate, and features slim shadow line right hand cheekpiece, and flat top point pattern checkering with mullered borders. A gold oval on toe line is engraved with wild boar in sling held by cleft in oak tree all over motto “Lock Sicker” (Keep Securely) This is the Douglas family crest – either Kinglassie or Sir Arthur Percy Baronet of Carr. This crest plate is behind sling eye engraved with star. Matching splinter forend has forward pivoting lever release. Drop at heel: approx 2-5/8″, drop at comb: approx 1-7/8″. Weight: 7 lbs. 14 oz. LOP: 14-1/2″.
PROVENANCE: Email stating that Dickson records indicate that a rifle with this SN was sold Aug 1895 to Sir A. M. MacKenzie (3rd Baronet), and “A relatively small amount of MacNaughton round actions were made about 400 in total. Of these, a mere handful were dbl rifles around 4 or 5.” (This rifle is most likely from an earlier period, and different SN series. Published records began with SN 110 in 1894. Info on Sir Arthur Percy Douglas and Banglapedia info on Sir Alexander MacKenzie (Not Alexander Muir MacKenzie).
CONDITION: Excellent, original, as found. Bbls retain 80 – 90% orig blue thinning overall, silvering on sides of rear portion from normal hand wear, with some attendant minor scratches and marks. Action retains 70 – 80% orig light case hardening color. Top lever retain most of its orig fire blue, as does cocking window housing. Stocks retain nearly all of what appears to be their orig hand rubbed oil finish, with some fairly deep scratches on the right side of butt, and some minor marks and scratches scattered overall, checkering lightly worn. Bores are very fine, shiny with sharp rifling throughout. There is some pitting toward breech end of right bbl, and a few other scattered light pits. Action has a hint of looseness with forend removed, feels tight with forend installed. Bbls are slightly off face. A wonderful Scottish deer stalking rifle. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000