Step back in time

This shot­gun could be termed the gun equiv­a­lent of a time cap­sule, and it’s a fine ex­am­ple of what orig­i­nal fin­ish ac­tu­ally looks like


hey don’t turn up like this very of­ten! Many of us buried “time cap­sules” to be opened in 25 or 50 years. Any­one who has wit­nessed the open­ing of such cap­sules of­ten find them­selves smil­ing at the seem­ingly ar­chaic con­tents, al­most dis­be­liev­ing that we could have dressed that way or used such prim­i­tive items.

This shot­gun could be termed the “gun equiv­a­lent” of one of those time cap­sules. It was bought by an Ed­in­burgh pa­per mill owner called Charles Cowan from the gun maker Joseph Harkom, also of Ed­in­burgh, in 1858. Re­mark­ably it re­mained un­fired.

TRare sur­viv­ior

Col­lec­tors should take note of these rare sur­vivors when­ever they get the op­por­tu­nity to do so. They show the stu­dent of such things as what orig­i­nal fin­ish ac­tu­ally looks like. In this in­stance, the won­der­ful col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal ac­ces­sories also serves to show what these guns were equipped with when new. The bar­rels are a lovely even dark brown colour with colour case hard­ened breech-blocks. Of­ten re­fin­ished bar­rels fail to achieve the cor­rect colour, look­ing “cop­pery” and gen­er­ally just too pale. Also re­fin­ish­ing and the rav­ages of time tar­nish the breech-blocks al­most to the same colour and the sharp edges and en­graved de­tail gets rubbed and worn. The same ap­plies to the locks; the colour har­den­ing when ap­plied is bright and ac­tu­ally very colour­ful, con­tain­ing shades of blue, pur­ple and brown. It also of­ten has a glossy sheen to the sur­face, which is more of­ten than not a lac­quer ap­plied by the

“Col­lec­tors should take note of these rare sur­vivors”

gun­smith for preser­va­tion, though some har­den­ing pro­cesses can cause a sim­i­lar ef­fect. The wood to metal fit is ex­cep­tional, far bet­ter than any found to­day ex­cept per­haps on the finest guns pro­duced by the top mak­ers; con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief the wood was not left proud to al­low for shrink­age, well-sea­soned wood does not shrink! The che­quer­ing is per­fect with con­trast­ing bor­ders and no over-runs. The butt is oil fin­ished giv­ing a semi-gloss ef­fect (al­though some gun mak­ers, es­pe­cially the con­ti­nen­tal ones did favour French pol­ish­ing). The fig­ure on a best gun such

Ac­ces­sorised This shows the won­der­ful col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal ac­ces­sories these guns were equi­ipped with

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