Old faithful by my side
The Side by Side Nationals, held at Benalla Field & Game this year, is more than a target shooting competition; it is a chance to take a long stroll with an old and faithful companion.
Len Box has brought a 1912 Charles Boswell live bird gun for company as he walks to the first stand. He saw the gun advertised 16 years ago by Mcdonald’s Firearms in Footscray and decided it was the side-by-side shotgun he needed in his gun collection. “I wanted a good side-by-side, it was in pretty good condition, and Boswell has a good name,” he said. “I’ve broken firing springs both sides and had them replaced so it probably owes me more than I could every get for it; it will stay in the family and be passed to the next generation.” The Boswell has 30” barrels, a tapering top rib filed for reflection, a small forend, double trigger and the original Silver & Co. pad on it, which is just a hard rubber pad that Len has decided not to replace. “Originally it was a bespoke gun made for the person who ordered it, who I dare say was a live bird shooter,” he said. “I haven’t done much with it apart from
shoot side-by-side events and there are not too many of them anymore. It is a novelty but it is another aspect of the sport that I like. “It has a nice bit of wood and the Purdey scroll on it, overall it is a nice gun and very well balanced, very nice to shoot. It isn’t a very heavy gun and I don’t put heavy cartridges through it, it is more than 100 years old, so I don’t want to wreck it.
“It is a very unusual shotgun for its day because it has 3” chambers and most of the English shotguns had 2–1/2” chambers, a 1250 or 1300 cartridge seems fine through it.”
Martin Holmes is using a mate’s gun at the Nationals because his new pride and joy, a 1954 Charles Hellis & Sons side lock ejector pigeon gun with two sets of barrels hasn’t been fitted yet.
“It is a 2 3/4” nitro proof gun, just a lovely little gun of the more modern era but I don’t know too much about its history, the initials on the original case are W.A.F.
“It is a good representation of the era and very well made, just not as expensive as the Purdey or Holland & Holland.” The mates gun is a1 920s G.S. Holloway. “It has a very short stock on it so a couple of extenders are there to compensate for the very small Englishman who originally owned it; he was probably 5 ft tall not 6 ft.”
Martin missed the shoot off at the 2016 Side by Side Nationals by one target but he said he competes for the pure enjoyment of firing his old gems. “We all shoot because we enjoy it, any success is just a bonus, that’s Field & Game.”
While the plan is to shoot the Charles Hellis & Sons shotgun next year there’s no guarantee it will still be the latest addition to the collection.
“I’m a bit of a collector, I go to the auctions, and if I see something, I can’t resist,” Martin said with a chuckle.
Len Box's 1912 Charles Boswell
1954 Charles Hellis & Sons side lock ejector pigeon gun
A modern classic