I like the old and impractical: bamboo fly rods…wooden decoys…books…and, of course, double-barrel shotguns — especially hammer guns with damascus barrels.
Nice hammerguns are to find. So when I saw these three on Saturday at the preview for James D. Julia’s 3/12 auction, I stopped and gave each one a closer look. They’re nice shotguns, and all three –a 28 gauge, a 20 gauge, and a lightweight 20 gauge — are very hard to find.
LOT: 2202. THEATE FRERES 28 GA. HAMMER GUN. SN 2135. Cal. 28 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 29-1/2″ Dovetailed steel bbls are gold inlaid “Acier Extra” (Extra steel) and “Para Polvora Sem Fumaca” (For smokeless powder) on tops, which are also stamped “Theate Freres” and “Liege”. Raised, matted game rib is gold inlaid “Casa Laport”, breech end “28”. Bbl flats are stamped with Belgian nitro proofs for 28 ga 2-3/4″ chambers. Coin finished back sidelock hammer action features square crossbolt third fastener, side clips, and double triggers. Locks have rebounding hammers. Action is engraved with rudimentary scroll, and dog pointing flushing duck on each side. Nicely figured European walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-7/8″ over red open sided pad. Matching forend has Anson release. Bore diameter: left-.555, right -.550. Bore restrictions: left -.030 (extra full), right -.020 (full). Wall thickness: left -.024, right -.026. Drop at heel: 2-3/8″, drop at comb: 1-1/4″. Weight: 5 lbs. 4 oz. LOP: 14-7/8″.
CONDITION: Excellent, retaining nearly all of its orig finish on wood and metal, bottom of action browned somewhat. Pad is petrified. Wood has some minor marks. Sling eyes have been removed from bbl and butt (replaced by Phillips screw). Bores are excellent, bright and shiny. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Locks are crisp. Hammers are a bit loose on tumblers. Twenty-eight gauge hammer guns in this kind of condition are hard to find, especially with long bbls and stock. This sleek little gun should be a lot of fun to shoot.
LOT: 2183. WILLIAM POWELL BAR IN WOOD 20 BORE HAMMER GUN. SN 6920. Cal. 20 ga. 2-1/2″ Chambers. 29″ Blued Damascus bbls are engraved “William Powell & Son, 13, Carrs Lane, Birmingham” on broad, concave game rib. Bottoms of bbls are stamped with Birmingham black powder proofs for 20 bore and 22 muzzle, and “Not for Ball”. Bar in wood action is stamped “Powell’s Patent” on water table, referring to locking system, which in this case uses a pivoting top lever and mid mounted crossbolt instead of the usual Powell push-up lever. Rebounding sidelocks have high spurred, round bodied, serpentine hammers. Action and locks are engraved with nicely cut medium scroll. “William Powell & Son” is on each lockplate. Trigger plate has double ball finial with SN on tang. Trigger guard is scroll engraved on bow. Nicely marbled European walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-1/16″ over leather faced Silver type pad with white line spacer. Flat top point pattern checkering is at grip and a vacant silver oval is on toe line. Matching, but fully checkered, splinter forend has Anson release with Anson patent marking on iron. Bore diameter: left-.622, right -.623. Bore restrictions: left -.015 (mod), right -.014 (mod). Wall thickness: left -.033, right -.035. Drop at heel: 2-7/16″, drop at comb: 1-1/2″. Weight: 5 lbs. 13 oz. LOP: 14-1/16″.
CONDITION: Good. Bbls retain most of an old matte re-black, no Damascus pattern showing. Action and lockplates mostly cleaned to pewter gray, with scant traces of orig color hardening visible where protected by hammers. Stock retains most of an old oil finish over visible sanding marks. Checkering re-run long ago on buttstock. Forend checkering is considerably worn. Action is slightly loose even though punch marks, from “blacksmith” tightening, are visible at hook and locking lug. Locks are crisp. Left hammer screw is a modern replacement. Bores are bright and shiny with some scattered pits. A rare, high grade small bore hammer gun that’s certainly worth restoring to its former glory.
LOT: 2181. W. & C. SCOTT “THE ZEPHYR” HAMMER GUN. SN 46949. (ca 1893) Cal. 12 ga. 2-3/4″ Chambers. This unusual lightweight gun has 28-3/16″ two stripe Damascus bbls with concave, matted game rib engraved “W & C Scott & Son Makers & Patentees London.” on unmatted portion. Top of left bbl is engraved “The Zephyr”. Bbl flats are stamped with Birmingham black powder proofs, “Choke”, and “England”. Special lightweight action with tiny bar mounting rebounding hammer back action sidelocks derives extra strength from dolls head extension. Action is engraved with about 50% coverage medium scroll. Sidelocks are engraved with semi-relief shaded oak leaves. Locks are engraved “W & C Scott & Son”. Scroll engraved trigger guard has SN at grip. Broadly striped and nicely figured European walnut Prince of Wales grip buttstock measures 13-7/8″ over Silver pad, and features flat top point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a vacant silver oval on toe line. Fully checkered splinter forend has engraved metal tip and pluck-off tension spring release. Bore diameter: left-.734, right -.734. Bore restrictions: left -.030 (full), right -.010 (IC). Wall thickness: left -.029, right -.032. Drop at heel: 3-1/4″, drop at comb: 1-7/8″. Weight: 5 lbs. 9 oz. LOP: 13-7/8″.
CONDITION: Fine. Bbls retain nearly all of a very fine re-brown with good definition to pattern, over some scattered pitting. Action retains approx 30% orig case hardening color where protected, but is mostly pewter gray. Stocks retain most of an old rubbed oil finish with a few subsequent minor marks, checkering competently re-cut. All restoration work appears to have been done quite a long while ago. Action is tight. Bbls are somewhat off face. Dolls head shows some peaning. Locks are crisp. Left hammer is an unengraved replacement, but is of the correct style. Bores are very fine, shiny throughout, with some light frosting. Overall, a very unique and classic shotgun.
The “proofing” of individual firearms is something we’ve never really done here the US. But in the UK, Europe, and in other parts of the world, proofing is a process required by law and carried out by independent “proof houses”.
This video takes an interesting look at William Powell, and it worhships the usual gods of the English gunmaking: handfitting, bespoke ordering, tradition, cost, etc. Interesting stuff, but we’ve seen it all before.
The cool part is at 4:16-5:00 and 5:42-6:00. That’s where you get a glimpse of how the Birmingham proof house goes about proofing shotguns. I’ve never seen this recorded on video before, and it’s definitely worth checking out. I love that shot of the smoke puffing out after the testing of the bbls…