The Greener Blue Rock pi­geon gun

Gun­mak­ing his­to­rian Don­ald Dal­las ex­am­ines a gun once used for a long lost sport­ing pas­time.

Shooting Gazette - - The Empire Patent 1910 -

Boxlock non-ejec­tors, the main­stay of the rough shooter for over a cen­tury, are in lit­tle de­mand these days and are dif­fi­cult to sell. Sim­i­larly, their up­mar­ket cousin, the boxlock ejec­tor, is also out of fash­ion as the Beretta con­tin­ues to im­press with its func­tion­al­ity. But what about form?

If you can find cer­tain un­usual boxlocks they still com­mand very high prices. I am think­ing of such guns like Harkom of Ed­in­burgh’s very in­di­vid­ual boxlocks with gold washed in­ter­nals, or Hol­land & Hol­land’s Aero Gun, orig­i­nally de­signed for shoot­ing down Zep­pelins. To this list can be added the Greener Blue Rock pi­geon gun.

The Greener Blue Rock was a vari­a­tion of its pop­u­lar Em­pire model, de­signed specif­i­cally for ei­ther live pi­geon shoot­ing on the Con­ti­nent or trap shoot­ing. Greener Em­pire guns were made in their thou­sands but the Blue Rock model was made in only small quan­ti­ties. This rar­ity, com­bined with the ex­cel­lent qual­ity of the gun and its suit­abil­ity for the cur­rent fash­ion for high pheas­ants, makes it a highly sought after gun, hence the fan­tas­tic prices they can achieve.

W.W. Greener liked to make all his firearms as sim­ple as pos­si­ble; with fewer parts there was less to go wrong, vi­tal in the large ex­port trade he had cre­ated. With this in mind he in­tro­duced the Em­peror boxlock model in 1894, a gun that had only three parts in the lock, the sim­plest ac­tion de­vised to this date.

How­ever, what W.W. Greener and his son Harry were re­ally aim­ing for was a sim­ple gun that could be pro­duced vir­tu­ally en­tirely by ma­chin­ery, thereby re­duc­ing costs. The re­sult was the Em­pire boxlock patented by Harry Greener in pa­tent no. 12012 in 1910. It had the same num­ber of lock parts as the Em­peror but un­like the Em­peror had a con­ven­tional V-shaped main­spring with its apex pro­trud­ing through the knuckle. When the bar­rels were low­ered, the fore-end

“The Blue Rock was a vari­a­tion of the Em­pire model, which was de­signed specif­i­cally for live pi­geon shoot­ing.”

iron acted against the main­spring and pushed it back­wards to cock the tum­bler.

The re­sult was a tri­umph for Green­ers, a high qual­ity, strong gun, sim­ple and easy to main­tain and above all rel­a­tively cheap. The first Em­pire grade E10 ap­peared in 1910, cost­ing 10 guineas and from then on they were sold in the thou­sands. The early Em­pires were all non-ejec­tors with long 3” ac­tions known as “Long Em­pires”. In 1925 a shorter ac­tion was in­tro­duced, this model be­ing known as the “Short Em­pire”. Later, an ejec­tor ver­sion was of­fered, usu­ally of the South­gate va­ri­ety. Be­tween 1910 un­til We­b­ley’s takeover in 1965 some 17,000 Em­pires were built.

It was a rel­a­tively sim­ple mat­ter to of­fer a vari­a­tion on the Em­pire, and Green­ers mod­i­fied it to cre­ate a spe­cific pi­geon gun for live pi­geon shoot­ers on the Con­ti­nent of Europe and for trap shoot­ing. In a very clever mar­ket­ing ex­er­cise, Green­ers named this gun the “Blue Rock” pi­geon gun after the type of pi­geon used in live pi­geon shoot­ing. The name caught the era per­fectly and all Blue Rock pi­geon guns have such a pi­geon en­graved upon the top rib.

The Blue Rock was ei­ther an E25 or E35 gun and was avail­able as ei­ther a non-ejec­tor or ejec­tor. It was a medium-grade gun and was sold for 25 guineas be­fore 1939 and 35 guineas after 1945.

It was a typ­i­cal pi­geon gun and quite heavy, weigh­ing in at a sub­stan­tial 7¾lbs The bar­rels had 2¾” cham­bers and were proved for 1¼oz of shot, the max­i­mum per­mis­si­ble in live pi­geon com­pe­ti­tions. When orig­i­nally made, both bar­rels were heav­ily choked, in­vari­ably full-choke in both bar­rels. This spec­i­fi­ca­tion ex­plains why Blue Rock guns, par­tic­u­larly the ejec­tor ver­sions, are in so much de­mand for high pheas­ant shoot­ing to­day.

The model pic­tured on page 67 is no. 77818, a late-built ex­am­ple dat­ing from 1955. It has 30” bar­rels with a matt file cut top rib en­graved “W.W. Greener, Maker, 40 Pall Mall, Lon­don, Works, Birm­ing­ham”. A Blue Rock pi­geon is en­graved on the top rib. Un­usu­ally the breeches are fluted at the top for bet­ter vi­sion over the breeches. The bar­rels have 2¾” cham­bers and both are bored ¾ choke. It has a tre­ble-grip ac­tion due to the large loads that would be put through the gun. Like most pi­geon guns, the safety is man­ual only. It weighs 7¾lbs, is of ex­cel­lent qual­ity and is nicely en­graved on ei­ther side of the ac­tion.

Live pi­geon shoot­ing was banned as long ago as 1921 in Great Bri­tain but the prac­tice still con­tin­ued on the Con­ti­nent of Europe, no doubt where this gun spent most of its life. It is grat­i­fy­ing that this gun, although built for a use not per­ti­nent to­day, will have a new lease of life among the copses and woods not fore­seen in its orig­i­nal man­u­fac­ture.

“Green­ers clev­erly named the gun the ‘Blue Rock’ after the type of pi­geon used in live pi­geon shoot­ing dur­ing this era.”

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