The per­fect shot

Buy the right name and avoid any­thing off-the-shelf, ad­vises Head of An­tique Arms, Ar­mour and Sport­ing Guns Howard Dixon

Country Life Every Week - - Future Heirlooms -

MY best ad­vice, to any­one look­ing to pur­chase some­thing that will last the gen­er­a­tions, would be to buy a pre­mium gun and to look af­ter it well. Built to last, there is still value and use in the best guns made in the late-vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian pe­riod as, in essence, the de­signs haven’t changed very much in 140 years.

The only as­pect that has changed is that peo­ple are in­creas­ingly choos­ing over-an­dun­der in favour of side-by-side shot­guns. Yes, the de­bate about bar­rel con­fig­u­ra­tion goes on and the quip that you hit twice as much with an over-an­dun­der, ‘but you get half as many in­vites’ still holds on some shoots, but there are ex­cep­tions. If you turn up at any shoot with a be­spoke over-and-un­der Purdey, Wood­ward, Boss or Hol­land & Hol­land, the chances are you’ll get away with it.

There’s a long tra­di­tion of gun-mak­ing in Lon­don and buy­ing a be­spoke gun from any of the tri­umvi­rate of Purdey (which bought Wood­ward in 1949), Hol­land & Hol­land and Boss will be the finest heir­loom to pass on. And, when you match a pre­mium brand with be­spoke crafts­man­ship, that’s what re­ally sets the gun apart.

With beau­ti­fully carved woodand met­al­work, scenes en­graved by a mas­ter crafts­man and the en­tire gun cre­ated by hand, th­ese are truly works of art. But al­though a be­spoke gun won’t be within every­one’s price range, in the past 10 or so years, an alternative has emerged that is a hy­brid be­tween off-the-shelf and some­thing that’s en­tirely be­spoke. Th­ese guns, which are de­liv­ered ‘in the white’ (me­chan­i­cally com­plete, but re­quir­ing dec­o­ra­tive work) and then fin­ished by the gun­mak­ers, would make per­fectly good heir­looms. In­vest­ment-wise, they will al­ways be se­cond tier, but they boast both the longevity and the right brand name.

£5,000 at auc­tion

If you come across any of the top names at auc­tion in this price range, a word of warn­ing: ap­proach with cau­tion. Nev­er­the­less, there are some very good vin­tage and clas­sic guns by the likes of Stephen Grant, Joseph Lang or John Dick­son & Sons and, if you look af­ter it, it’ll be per­fectly good to hand down.

£5,000 to £20,000

For about £10,000, you’ll get a re­ally good, clas­sic, sin­gle, pre­mium-brand gun. Head­ing to­wards £20,000, and you’re be­gin­ning to look at good pairs of clas­sic, pre­mium guns. When look­ing at pairs, it’s worth not­ing that it’s not un­com­mon to find one gun show­ing more signs of use than the other due to the fact that the orig­i­nal owner may have favoured one over the other.

£20,000 to £50,000

Within this bracket, you’ll find nice, re­cently built pre­mium guns as well as the very best pairs of clas­sic pre­mium guns. Al­ter­na­tively, per­haps, look to the top gun­mak­ers of north­ern Italy, such as Lu­ciano Bo­sis or Ivo Fab­bri, who are at the top of their game. The num­bers of their be­spoke guns in cir­cu­la­tion are lim­ited cre­at­ing an aura about them that will last.

At £50,000 and above, this is very spe­cial ter­ri­tory in­hab­ited by the very best pairs of guns with be­spoke, signed en­grav­ing by mas­ter crafts­men, such as the Hunt fam­ily, Kelly, Cog­gan, Carls­bad, Brown and Grifnee.

An­other view

Dur­ing the zenith of the gun trade in the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, the Scot­tish gun trade was in­spired to pro­duce some of the best-qual­ity shot­guns and ri­fles of its time. Ed­in­burgh was once home to the likes of John Dick­son & Son, Macnaughton, Daniel Fraser and Joseph Harkom, who were com­pa­ra­ble with the Lon­don trade and ar­guably pro­duced even slightly more elab­o­rate pieces. Sadly, the only sur­viv­ing firm is John Dick­son & Son.

For some­one look­ing specif­i­cally for a Scot­tish gun to buy as an heir­loom, I would sug­gest a 16g or a 20g round ac­tion by John Dick­son & Son, the most el­e­gant of guns and ex­tremely rare.

Graham Mackin­lay (01389 751122; www.gmackin­lay.com)

One of a pair of new and un­used Purdey 12-bore ‘large scroll’ sin­gle-trig­ger side­lock ejec­tors sold for £74,500 at Christie’s

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