Henry Atkin, Sr, used to be one of the big boys of the London shotgun trade. Coming from a family of gunmakers, he learned his trade at Purdeys. In 1875 he went out on his own and by 1890 he was doing so well that he moved to Jermyn Street–a prestigious part of town . He passed away in 1906, 1 year before his firm (being run by his nephews, C.F and F.W Hinton) developed the side-by-side which some people claim bested Purdey and created the finest self-opening double barrel in the world.
From the AG&L website:
“In 1907, Atkin produced the first of the guns which were to become the firm’s trademark ‘1909 model’; the spring opening side-lock ejector. The gun is essentially the Beesley/Purdey 1880 patent spring-cocking mechanism, with alterations to the ejector system and cocking pads to make the gun easier to close. Many aficionados believe this the very best of the self-opening side-locks; giving the advantages of the self-opener without the stiffness associated with the Beesley design upon closing.”
Among the 1909’s fans was Gough Thomas Garwood, the engineer/gun writer who penned many articles and books on shotguns and shooting. G.T. had Atkin’s make him a Spring Opener in 1947, spelling out that the company needed to “guarantee that in respect of material, workmanship, finish and shooting qualities, the gun will conform to your highest pre-war standards.” Apparently they succeeded (although I’ve read that after delivery the gun went back to the maker for some tweaks). Thomas went on to rave about the gun for the rest of his shooting & writing career.
Atkin made a number of Model 1909 “Spring Openers” and today they come on the market from time to time. Right now there’s this one at Fieldsport in MI. There’s also this one. It just popped up at Cabela’s and from what I can tell, it looks like a pretty good deal. It’s a later gun (1959 or so) so it has the typical so-so engraving of the period, but the overall quality of the shotgun looks excellent. And where else can you find a double barrel that’s better than a Purdey, and in excellent original shape, for just $13,500?