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Recently there was a brief discussion here about a fine boxlock double barreled rifle that was engraved with the name of a builder of very best guns and rifles.

A question was raised-----Did any London gun and rifle makers build any boxlock rifles and guns including the ones that they sold with their names and addresses engraved upon? All of us have an opinion.

However, I think that most of us would want an opinion on this often discussed topic from a person or persons who is an acknowledged premier researcher and whose statement to where these boxlock rifles and guns were built could be relied upon even in a court of law.

The two such researchers (and authors) that came to mind (one of Birmingham gunmakers and the other of London gunmakers) was Douglas Tate, author of BIRMINGHAM GUNMAKERS; and Donald Douglas the prolific author of the definitive books of the history of such London gunmakers as PURDEY, BOSS, HOLLAND & HOLLAND, and Scottish gunmakers DAVID McKAY BROWN, ALEX HENRY and others. Since I am acquainted with each of these gentlemen, I sent to them an email asking them if they had ever encountered any evidence of any London gun or rifle maker building a boxlock gun or rifle? They both responded straight away with the following response:

First from Douglas Tate:

"I have not but then I have never researched London boxlocks. I would ask Diggory Hadoke and Toby Barclay."

NOTE: Since I believe Toby will comment on this post soon we will see what he says and I will contact Diggory.

Next from Donald Dallas:

"Hi Stephen,
The London gunmakers bought in their boxlocks (and many of their sidelocks) either complete, or in the white from Birmingham. There is plenty of evidence for this in their records. For example in the MacNaughton records and the Henry records many state where they were bought from in Birmingham. You will also find evidence on the guns themselves where the Birmingham makers stamped their initials on the barrels and inside the actions. Economies of scale played the major part in this as building thousands of boxlocks in Birmingham was the cheaper option. This in no way implies the Birmingham guns were inferior - they were every bit as good as the London guns. All the Holland guns for example pre 1894, before they had their London factory were made in Birmingham and even after this all their second quality guns continued to be built in Birmingham.
Regards,
Donald Dallas"

Stephen Howell

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At least one London gunmaker made boxlock guns.Namely Cogswell and Harrison.In his book Experts on Guns and Shooting,[Published in 1900]G.T. Teasdale Buckell describes in chapter XX1V , Edgar Harrisons adaption of precision machining to reduce the cost of shotgun manufacture. In this chapter Mr.Harrison States,""every part of our cheap guns excepting for the tubes is made in our Gillingam street works."Mr Harrison points out that owners of guns bearing our our name can be confident that it was made in our works,In preference to a gun made elseware, bearing a London sellers name.


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Roy;

The authors of "COGSWELL & HARRISON" (Safari Press--2000) repeat that discussion with Harrison and Teasdale Buckell on page 44 of their book in reference to the Gllingham Street Works prior to its destruction by fire in 1922. In my reading of the histories of the London gunmakers this is the only reference to building a boxlock (in this case the Avant Tout) of any London maker.

Stephen Howell

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I think we would be well served to define "make" in this context.

Does it mean forge and machine the metal parts, file the action and barrels
stock and finish, etc?

If the action comes from London but the barrels originate in Birmingham or
Belgium - where was it made?

Food for thought.

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A Purdey is still a Purdey even if the tubes come from Sir Joseph Whitworth or Krupps.

I would suggest that a start point for “made” is by whom and where the machining of the rough action forging takes place.

Even so it can no doubt be argued that if a London maker acquired a Birmingham barrelled action in the white, strikes down the barrels, files it up, stocks, engraves and finishes it that in terms of “added value” there is more of London there than Birmingham.

Last edited by Parabola; 09/25/21 08:17 AM. Reason: Typo
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Fullerd ceased production in 1844. Thus all London barrel blanks from that time forward were made in other locations.

16 October 1858, "The Field"
[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

But Reilly for one was advertising boring his own barrels as of 1841 - presumably others in London did so as well:

13 Jun 1841, 1843 Bell's Life

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

Last edited by Argo44; 09/25/21 08:38 AM.

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Originally Posted by Steve Helsley
I think we would be well served to define "make" in this context.

Does it mean forge and machine the metal parts, file the action and barrels
stock and finish, etc?

If the action comes from London but the barrels originate in Birmingham or
Belgium - where was it made?

Food for thought.

Steve;

Good thought.

I was contemplating "make" (since we are subjecting London gun makers) as the Purdey model of making guns and rifles of the period---that of procuring forged actions and barrel tubes from the trade, then filing or machining. boring, drilling, reaming, screwing and so forth required to "make" or build a gun or rifle during the period of about 1880 to 1950. I use the term filing (as you did) because few gunmakers likely had milling machines in 1880--and for a few years. Further the procurement of boxlock (A&D) forging would be expected to come from the trade in the English midlands, to my mind, and of course as you note the barrels could be sourced English or abroad.


Stephen Howell

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Stephen,
Frankly I can not see any reason why the London makers would bother themselves with the 'filing or machining. boring, drilling, reaming' of the component parts of a boxlock. I am sure that if the profit margin allowed, they would polish (int & ext), engrave, black, CH, stock and regulate but I really can't think why they would bother with the raw material. They knew that, if the right supplier was contracted, the metalwork (with or without stock and barrels) would be perfectly good for their purposes and they could take it from there.
If I could take Blanch as an example (although Evans and several other well known names would do just as well) I doubt they bothered to do ANYTHING to their main stock lines. They knew the Birmingham trade very well and could specify whatever they needed. Why have a dog and bark oneself?
I grant you that H&H, Boss (Robertson) and Purdey may have had different criteria but I have yet to see a 'London' BL that is any better that a Westley Richard or William Powell (and some a lot worse!).
I have several 'London' boxlocks and I love them all but the difference between them and a 'Birmingham' BL is non-existent.
ATB Toby

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Toby;

Thank you for adding your expert and experienced knowledge to this discussion.

ON ANOTHER NOTE, let me say that the very, very rare matched pair of Purdey island lock 30 inch barreled 2 3/4inch chamber hammer guns that you now have for sale are a delight to behold. They are going to make some lucky buyers very happy.

http://www.heritageguns.co.uk/Purdey%208521.22%20Hgun/Purdey%208521.22%20Hguns%20Info.htm


Kindest Regards;

Stephen Howell

Last edited by bushveld; 09/25/21 01:35 PM.
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Just to reinforce what Toby said, at the 11 Dec 2019 Gavin Gardner catalog there was a whole collection of unfinished actions. Someone was selling them off and there had to be a story behind that. Who made them? Where? Etc.
-- Lot 143 - a T Bland & sons action casting
-- Lot 144 - Reilly 4 bore action
-- Lot 145 - Parts for a 4 Bore W Tolley action
-- Lot 146 - Parts for a 4 bore W. Tolley action
-- Lot 147 - Parts for a 4 bore Army-Navy action
-- Lot 148 - A pair of 20 bore actions for Henry Atkin type self-opening side-lock

re: Lot 144 - Parts to build a 4-bore double barrel Hammer gun. E.M. Reilly action, with underlever, fore-end, iron trigger plate, hammers, etc. I was hoping that a query to the seller would answer some questions about gun making in UK at the time. Here is what Gavin sent me about the action.

"As you can see from the hi res image, it is just a kit of unfinished parts, in the white. It has come from someone in the trade who refers to it as the "Reilly" action and insisted that I refer to is as such. but of course it impossible to prove that this unfinished action is originally from the Reilly works. There are no marks or identifying numbers I am afraid."

[Linked Image from jpgbox.com]

I still would like too talk to the seller. He obviously had a connection to the 19th century trade - otherwise why collect action forgings?

Last edited by Argo44; 09/25/21 03:54 PM.

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