Happy an­niver­sary!

As David Mckay Brown marks his 50th year in gun­mak­ing, Pa­trick Lau­rie ex­am­ines the Scots­man's life in shoot­ing and a special pair of shot­guns he has made for an Amer­i­can cus­tomer.

Shooting Gazette - - News -

What shot­gun would you love to be pre­sented with on your an­niver­sary? David Mckay Brown’s (right) half-cen­tury in the gun trade will be ex­tra special for one Amer­i­can cus­tomer, who is about to come into pos­ses­sion of a very special pair of Glas­gow-made shot­guns that bear all the hall­marks of this iconic gun­maker’s skill and pas­sion.

The stamp of an English shot­gun car­ries a ring­ing en­dorse­ment wher­ever shoot­ing folk gather to­gether. In a world of mod­ern de­sign that is often dom­i­nated by big-name brands from Amer­ica, Scan­di­navia and Europe, English shot­guns re­tain their rel­e­vance with a note of clas­sic cool. We might be drawn to Mar­lon Brando or Gre­gory Peck, but we al­ways re­turn to David Niven and James Bond. But as with Niven and Bond, there are some wrin­kles in the English shot­gun’s pedi­gree. Both Purdey and Boss had strong con­nec­tions to Scot­land, and many of the “coolest” fea­tures of the “English” shot­gun have their roots North of the bor­der.

Viewed in­de­pen­dently, the his­tory of the Scot­tish sport­ing gun has taken some unique and ex­tra­or­di­nary turns over the past cen­tury. This in­no­va­tive tra­di­tion re­mains alive and well to­day, and nowhere is it ex­pressed more clearly than in the work of David Mckay Brown, whose pres­ence in the gun­mak­ing world has now been de­light­ing shoot­ing folk for more than half a cen­tury.

Build­ing on the tra­di­tional “Ed­in­burgh” de­signs, David’s take on the Dick­son trig­ger plate round ac­tion be­came the foundation for a busi­ness based on ef­fi­ciency, el­e­gance and quin­tes­sen­tial Scot­tish­ness.

Cel­e­brat­ing 50 years in busi­ness in 2017, David has re­cently com­pleted work on a ma­jor project for an Amer­i­can col­lec­tor. Around 60 per cent of Mckay Brown shot­guns head over the At­lantic where an en­rap­tured au­di­ence waits with baited breath for every new tweak and re­vi­sion in David’s work. An Amer­i­can trend to­wards shoot­ing small-winged game such as quail often means David is asked to make light shot­guns in .410 or 28 bore. His 50th an­niver­sary project has been to build a matched set of over-un­ders in both of those gauges. The Amer­i­can client was keen that the guns should be dec­o­rated in a manner be­fit­ting their in­tri­cate light­ness, and from the be­gin­ning of the process he was de­ter­mined to avoid the usual scenes of gun­dogs and game birds. Work­ing along­side David in the de­sign phase, the client asked for en­grav­ing based on but­ter­flies, and this has fi­nally been re­alised in two of the most ex­quis­ite and or­nate shot­guns it is pos­si­ble to imag­ine. The en­grav­ing has been el­e­gantly ren­dered by Ital­ian crafts­man at Cre­ative Art in Lom­bardy, and the work has taken over a year. Minute gold de­tails have been in­laid into dove­tail sock­ets, and the rich colours of the pre­cious met­als com­bine to cre­ate an as­ton­ish­ingly three­d­i­men­sional ef­fect.

It would be easy to mis­take these guns for a vic­tory of style over sub­stance, but the bar­rels “clop” shut with a joyous ring, and even swing­ing the 28 bore through an imag­i­nary quail in the con­fines of David’s of­fice re­vealed the gun is beau­ti­fully bal­anced. Make no mis­take – these shot­guns will be as lovely to use as they are to look at. The link be­tween de­sign and func­tion has al­ways run through David’s work, and much of this can be traced back to his roots in the shoot­ing field.

A life­time in field­sports

David Mckay Brown is a coun­try­man through and through. His en­tire life has re­volved around shoot­ing and wildlife, and his ear­li­est child­hood was spent with his fa­ther poach­ing par­tridges and grouse from the moors around his home in Bell­shill, Glas­gow. The post-war years saw a surge in poach­ing, and David’s fa­ther was re­put­edly able to kill an en­tire covey of grey par­tridges one by one with his trusty .22 rim­fire. The young David ac­com­pa­nied his fa­ther and noted every de­tail.

De­ter­mined to make a ca­reer with his hands, David was build­ing fish­ing rods and fid­dling with guns in his early teens, and within six months of tak­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship as a drafts­man, he was al­ready draw­ing guns. Tech­ni­cal ideas of de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing were bal­anced in a life which seemed to swing from dark, lonely work­shops to the wide open hills of Argyll. David’s sto­ries of his early life are spell­bind­ing to a mod­ern au­di­ence which has grown used to de­clines in wild game; his stir­ring tales of ca­per­cail­lie and black game are enough to make your hair stand on end, but they sim­ply re­flect the fact David was just the right man in the right place at the right time. Em­ployed by the Forestry Com­mis­sion for two years, first as a trap­per and then as a ranger, he was given com­plete sport­ing con­trol over 26,000 acres along Loch Lomond­side, rel­ish­ing the free­dom and joy of the work.

Although much of his work is now car­ried out at a desk with high-tech soft­ware, those ru­ral ori­gins bind his shot­guns to a real, prac­ti­cal func­tion­al­ity. Even in the thick of his time as a deer stalker, David’s fas­ci­na­tion with gun­mak­ing con­tin­ued at week­ends. After a five-year ap­pren­tice­ship with the gun trade, he worked on re­pairs and ser­vic­ing for Dick­son’s in Ed­in­burgh, build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for qual­ity work­man­ship. David parted com­pany with Dick­son’s and set up his own firm in 1967, ser­vic­ing and re­pair­ing shot­guns for some of the big­gest names in the busi­ness and trav­el­ling from Corn­wall to Caith­ness in the process. It wasn’t al­ways an easy ride, and the work

“David’s sto­ries of his early life are spell­bind­ing; his tales of ca­per­cail­lie and black game make your hair stand on end.”

David has spent years hon­ing his skills in his work­shop with myr­iad tools.

the beau­ti­fully en­graved de­tails were ren­dered by ital­ian crafts­men in lom­bardy.

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