I’ve gushed about Boss shotguns before. Now I’m going to do it again. Boss & Co. has built some of the finest shotguns in the world. The two you see here are about as rare and fantastic as they come. They’re both coming up in James D. Julia’s March 2014 auction.
These guns are a consecutively serial numbered set (9018 & 9019), and both were ordered on the same day in 1955. They’re all original and they match their original specs 100%.
The Boss O/U was patented in 1909. To date Boss & Co. has made just over of five hundred of them. Around twenty have been 28 gauges. The other gun is just as rare. Of the 3,975 or so side-by-sides Boss & Co has built since John Robertson took over the company in 1891, around twenty-five have been 28 gauges.
That means the two doubles you see are some of the rarest shotguns ever made by Boss. As a true set, they’re spectacular and one of kind.
Two of the world’s finest doubles? The ultimate shotguns for quail hunting? A collector’s dream? Yes, certainly, and absolutely.
What you see here is an amazing set of double barrel shotguns: A 28 gauge Boss side-by-side and a 28 gauge Boss over-under, both ordered after WW2, never used, and stored away in their original case ever since.
These Bosses were ordered on March 18th, 1955, by an American visiting Boss & Co’s Albemarle Street shop in London. They’ve been in the same family since day one, and they’re consecutively serial numbered, 200% original, and in in mint condition.
Of London’s big three makers, Boss & Co. made the fewest doubles. But the ones they did make are some of the finest side-by-sides and over-unders you’ll ever see.
Here’s a little piece I just wrote about Boss & Co for James D. Julia’s auctioneers. Check it out:
Best Gun. These two words have a magical meaning to gun collectors. First used by British gunmakers in the 19th century, a Best Gun was more than just the finest firearm a company produced. It was the maker’s interpretation of what a fine shotgun could be and the basis for everything he hoped to achieve.
At the end of the 19th century, shooting was the past time of the wealthy. A Best Gun was the way to secure the patronage which could make a gunmaker successful — and even rich. As makers competed for this attention, a handful of them earned a reputation for building the finest shotguns in the world.
The finest materials and flawless craftsmanship have always been a given on a Best Gun. To reach the pinnacle of the trade, a gunmaker needed to bring more to his craft, including an impeccable reputation, patented designs, and a look that set his guns apart. To stand out, a gunmaker needed to reinterpret what a Best Gun could be.
This is just what Britain’s top makers did. In London, the big three — James Purdey & Sons, Holland & Holland, Boss & Co — created shotguns that were uniquely their own.
But while James Purdey & Sons had the Beesley action and Holland & Holland had their Royal-model side-by-side, Boss & Co. had John Robertson. And it was because of Robertson that the shotguns made by Boss & Co are so revered by collectors today.
Robertson took over Boss & Co. in 1891. He was already one of the trade’s top craftsmen; his new firm was well regarded, but not famous. Right away, Robertson applied his genius to reinterpreting what Boss’s Best Gun could be. First, he updated it with refinements like bar-action sidelocks and a sleeker look. Then he added his own patented features: The world’s first reliable single trigger in 1894 and a unique ejector system in 1898.
By the time the twentieth century opened, Boss’s shotguns were cutting edge and beautiful. People noticed and business boomed. But even as the fortunes the company rose, Boss’s most famous creation, and one of the most sought after shotguns in the world today, was still to come.
Firearms with stacked barrels have been around for hundreds of years, and before World War One, center fire over-under shotguns made in continental Europe showed up on the British shooting scene.
John Robertson liked the idea of a shogun with stacked barrels. What he didn’t like was how the Europeans designed their guns. Heavy in the hands, awkward looking, and cumbersome to use, the European O/Us were good ideas that failed to achieve their promise.
Robertson recognized this, and being who he was, he worked with his top craftsmen to create a revolutionary new over-and-under. In 1909 he patented his design, and the innovations he introduced still appear in almost every over-under shotgun made today.
Boss’s new O/U was as lightweight, dynamic, and beautiful as their side-by-sides. It was also more difficult and time consuming to build. In a shop where everyone was exceptionally skilled, only a few Boss gunmakers had the talent to build the over-and-under.
This made the Boss O/U one of the world’s most expensive shotguns, a fact Robertson made no apologies for. Boss & Co, was committed to best quality work, and top-quality work cost top dollar. There was no way around it. Robertson knew this, and he expected his customers to know it, too.
Fortunately for Boss & Co., the beauty of the gunmaker’s new O/U shotguns entranced customers. Shooters around the world recognized the tremendous quality built into every one. Up until the Great Depression and fears of a coming war stalled the world economy, Boss & Co.’s new over-and-under shotgun was a tremendous success.
Today, Boss O/Us from this period attract the most attention from collectors – especially ones in the smaller gauges. Boss made very few small bore over-and-unders before the ‘50s, and the 20 gauge shown is probably one of fewer than 30-40 examples made before World War Two. Built in the 1930’s, and featuring a Boss-patent single trigger, Boss-patent ejectors, superb 28” barrels, a genuine rising-bite action, and generous amount of original finish, it’s an exceptionally beautiful, and exceptionally desirable, shotgun.
John Robertson passed away in 1917, and in his lifetime he created some of the most beautiful shotguns the world has ever seen. In a catalog from 1920, Boss & Co. introduced their guns with a paragraph stating “The owner of a Boss gun has the satisfaction of knowing that he has the best gun money can buy…” The same is true today When you own a shotgun by Boss & Co., you own something people will always value: The absolute very best.
Boss O/Us are impressive shotguns. As one of the most influential designs in shotgun history, they’ve had an incredible impact on modern over unders. In fact, most of the O/Us made today owe a debt to this British design. But that’s not all that makes these O/Us special.
BossS over & unders are also beautifully made. John Robertson was a gunmaker and artists, and the sweeping lines of the stock, the exposed forend iron, and the unique sculpting on the action, make these guns in stunning. The experience and skills that they put into their doubles — especially the SxS and O/Us from 1920-1930s — represent the apex of the trade and are almost extinct today.
Boss made around 450 of their “Vertical Guns,” so handling and inspecting one is a memorable event for a shotgun fanatic like myself. Having the chance to do this with four of them, including two that have never been fired, is extraordinary. But that’s exactly what I had happen a couple Saturdays ago.
A friend of mine invited us over to view part of his collection. Along with a couple minty 12 gauges by Purdey & Woodward, he also showed us his Boss O/Us. At one point, we had Boss O/U in 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and .410 lined up in front of us. That’s a once-in-a- lifetime site, and the I’m grateful for the chance to see it.
This little Boss was one of the highlights. Being a 20 gauge Boss O/U from the 1930s, it’s a rare shotgun. Add in the 28″ barrels, Boss single trigger, and Boss rising-bite style action and you have an insanely rare double. The fact that I had the chance to take a long, close look at it and raise it to my shoulder many times made the weekend incredibly special.
This fantastic Boss O/U just hit the market. It’s #6838, a 28 gauge with 26″ barrels. According to the seller, it’s the first 28 gauge over-under that Boss & Co. made.
An outfit called Etherington Thorpe & Company in Denmark has the gun. I’ve been told that the asking price is $500,000 — aka a 1/2 million friggin’ dollars.
Boss over-unders are special shotguns. Almost every modern O/Us owes a debt to their design (learn why: Bow down to this Boss O/U…). The 28 is one of the rarest gauges Boss made and this one appears to be in spectacular original condition.
It’s also from Boss’s best time period – between the wars – and beautifully made. I’ve seen a bunch of Boss O/Us, and this one is up there with the very best of them.
Here’s more info about this double from the seller:
Barrels: 26″, stock 14 1/4″, double trigger, full filed rib, fine traditional rose and scroll engraving with gold inlaid monogram on the toplever, 100% original as new condition, with original makers case.
The gun was originally commissioned in by Mr. Henry Graves Jnr. who ordered the gun in 1919 through Von Lengerke and Detmold in New York, to be delivered in 1920. Mr. Henry graves Jnr was a man of impeccable taste, an ardent collector, and a perfectionist who demanded the highest quality in everything he purchased…having a reputation for owning the very best of the best, including the most expensive watch in the world “The Supercomplication” made by Patek Philippe in 1933.
Yesterday I wrote about the 20 gauge Woodward coming up in Julia’s fall 2012 auction. Today we’re going to talk about the 12 gauge Woodward that’s in the same sale.
This 12 gauge is an killer double, and in capable hands, it would be an absolute hammer in the pigeon rings. Made in 1927 for Florida real estate mogul Wade Harley, this O/U must have won its owner plenty money. One of its coolest features is unusual forend. It features a series of finger grooves, original to the gun and added by Woodward in London, designed to keep a shooter’s fore hand in a consistent position, shot after shot.
Check out all that original color case harding, too. From muzzle to butt, it’s just a plain awesome O/U.
SN 6798. (1927) Cal. 12 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 30″ Demi-bloc bbls mounted with matted, flat, ventilated rib fitted with two red target beads, are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 64. St. James’s Street. London. England.” on left side of top bbl. Right side of top bbl and bottom bbl flat are stamped with SN and London nitro proofs for 2-3/4″ chambers and the 1 1/4oz load. Bottom bbl is fitted with an extra loop, uncut for latch, to aid in recoil absorption. Robust, case hardened, deeply filed detonating, low profile action features automatic “T-safety” (SAFE inlaid in gold), double triggers, and gold line tumbler end cocking indicators. Action and lockplates are engraved in superb Woodward style with very finely cut small scrollwork with rose bouquet highlights. “J. Woodward & Sons” is roll scroll flanked at front of each lockplate. “Woodward’s” “Patent” “Under & Over” is on bottom. Scroll engraved trigger guard extends to grip cap with SN at grip. Robust, nicely marbled, and lightly figured Circassian walnut full capped pistol grip buttstock measures 14-7/8″ over leather-faced rounded Silver type pad, and features hard rubber grip cap, drop points, point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a gold oval on bottom engraved “P”. Matching, one piece, 11″ long, semi-beavertail, ejector forend has finger grooves carved into sides to match the shooter’s hand with cutout areas stippled. (This feature is specified in factory records.)
Bore diameter: top -.730, bottom -.730. Bore restrictions: top -.033, bottom -.023. Wall thickness: top -.023, bottom -.024. Drop at heel: 2-3/8″, drop at comb: 1-7/16″. Weight: 8 lbs. 6 oz, LOP 14-7/8″. Included with gun are Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag and white bag containing A & F marked envelope with case keys, and wax paper wrapped pair of strikers, automatic safety slide and spring, and action rod. Woodward’s are well known for best quality guns and produced the O/U from 1913-1948, when Charles Woodward retired and sold the firm to Tom Purdey. From this point onwards, the Woodward gun replaced the old Edwinson Green based Purdey O/U and has been the gun offered by the firm from 1950 to the present. If you can’t beat ’em… buy ’em!
PROVENANCE: Factory records indicate that the gun was made in 1927 for Mr. Wade Harley. Wade was a prominent real estate developer who made a “fortune” in Florida’s real estate boom of the late 1920’s.
CONDITION: Excellent. Bbls retain essentially all of what appears to be orig blue, but is possibly an old London quality re-black. Action retains 50 – 60% orig case hardening color, fading on bottom, and silvered on beads and bolsters. Lockplates retain nearly all of their orig vivid color. Top lever and trigger guard retain 85 – 90% of their orig charcoal blue. Thumbpiece is slightly silvered, blue on trigger guard is thinning on grip. Buttstock retains nearly all of a glossy oil finish, most likely redone. Edges are slightly rounded, some finish in checkering, wood well above metal. There is an incipient 3/8″ crack behind left lockplate, and a minor stress crack behind right. These hairlines are typical and should pose no repair problems. Forend finish appears to be original, with slight wear to checkering. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout, with no visible imperfections. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Bottom ejector will not trip (broken spring). Tag is good. Safety parts are fine.Some minor repairs will make this rare Pigeon gun the “Lord of the Ring”. 4-46136 MGM156 (30,000-45,000)
The over-and-under shotguns made by James Woodward & Sons are some of the finest double barrels ever created. Introduced in 1913 and then significantly improved in 1921, the Woodward-patent O/U was offered right until the company was bought by Jame Purdey in 1948 and Woodward turned out right around 225 of them in all, with 118 in 12 gauge & 61 in 20 gauge.
Julia has two of these James Woodwards O/Us–a 12g & a 20g–in their upcoming fall 2012 firearms auction. Both of these are the fully improved, later models and they’re probably one of a kind.
The 20 gauge has two unique features that make it special: original 28″ barrels and an original Boss-patent single trigger. That combo makes it an exceptionally desirable shotgun.
SN 6950. (1931) Cal. 20 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. Desirable 28″ Demi-bloc bbls with solid, matted rib fitted with red beads, are engraved “James Woodward & Sons. 64. St. James’s Street. London. England.” on left side of top bbl. Right side is stamped with proofs, as is breech area of bottom bbl. Both are stamped with SN and London nitro proofs for 20 ga. 1 oz shot and 2-3/4″ chambers. Scaled down, beautifully sculpted, case hardened, low profile, sidelock action features automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold) with Woodward’s typical T-shaped safety slide, reinforcing bolsters, gold band tumbler end cocking indicators, and Boss single non-selective trigger (trigger plate engraved “Boss’s Patent No 22894”). The Boss trigger was the finest of its kind and coveted by London makers. Action and lockplates are engraved with exceptionally well cut small shaded scroll with floral bouquet highlights in “Best” London style. “J. Woodward & Sons.” is in roll scroll flanked oval device at front of each lockplate, and “Woodward’s” “Patent.” “Under & Over” on bottom of action. Small bow, single beaded, scroll engraved trigger guard has SN at tip of grip. Very fine, beautifully marbled, slightly stump figured Circassian walnut semi-pistol grip buttstock measures 14-5/8″ over checkered wood butt with scalloped steel engraved heel and toe plates, and features well shaped drop points and 26 LPI flat top point pattern checkering with mullered borders. A gold oval on toe line is engraved “G.P.” Matching single piece ejector forend has Anson release.
Bore diameter: top -.615, bottom -.615. Bore restrictions: top -.003, bottom -.003. Wall thickness: top -.022, bottom -.022. Drop at heel: 2-9/16″, drop at comb: 1-5/16″. Weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz, LOP 14-5/8″. Included with gun are an Abercrombie & Fitch hang tag with specifications, and plated striker bottle SNed to gun, containing a pair of spare strikers, and mainspring for right lock.
PROVENANCE: Factory records indicate that it was completed in 1931 for Dr. C. H. Ernlunds.
CONDITION: Very fine. Bbls retain nearly all of a very fine London quality re-black. Action retains a considerable amount of orig case hardening color in protected areas, but is mostly a bright hand worn silver. Lockplates retain 30 – 40% fading orig case hardening color, left lock being strongest. Top lever and safety retain most of their orig charcoal blue, trigger guard nearly all of a re-blue. Iron retains most of its orig blue. Screw slots show some use. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout, with no visible imperfections. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are in perfect time. Trigger works flawlessly. Hang tag is very fine. Striker bottle is excellent. A fine small bore “Best” O/U, of a pattern still built today by James Purdey & Son, having scrapped all of their previous designs once they acquired Woodwards in 1948. 4-46137 MGM155 (35,000-55,000)