Henry Atkin 20-bore: The gun has 29″ barrels and weighs 5lbs 15oz. It was originally made in 1900, about the time J.P was scheming to create the US Steel Corporation – the first billion dollar corporation.
He also controlled 5,000 miles of US railroad, helped create General Electric and General Harvester and was instrumental in saving the US Treasury from collapse.
This great old gun has been completely re-manufactured by Ken Duglan’s admirable Atkin, Grant & Lang in Hertfordshire.
Ken is a great enthusiast of vintage guns and has made a real speciality of re-manufacturing them in recent years, as well as making a significant number of bespoke new guns under his stable of famous names.
In addition to this Atkin he is currently in the process of finishing a Dickson, and has a couple of side-lever Grants, a top-lever Grant, and a 16-bore Lang going through the works. Re-manufacturing involves more than restoration.
Barrels, stock and fore-end are replaced, as are many working parts, including springs, strikers, swivels and striker discs, if fitted. The action is vacuum annealed by a high-tech process and the colour case hardening is renewed.
Provided you start with the right materials you end up with, in effect, a new gun.
The cost is surprisingly reasonable – about £15,000 for a 12-bore and a little more for 20s. The test gun, having a special provenance, cost the buyer, US based spinal surgeon, John Thalgot, a still reasonable £18,000.
This is a significant capital sum, but still relatively cheap compared to the current cost of a new London gun, which might begin around the £40,000-50,000 mark.
You also get the advantage of a ‘new’ vintage gun finished to your exact specifications.
Solving the crime…
Ken Duglan explains the unusual story of how he acquired the Atkin: “We had a phone call from an American dealer to tell us he had been offered a Henry Atkin 20 gauge for sale. He gave us the serial number and we looked it up in our books, we told him it had been built for J.P. Morgan, was probably a nice gun and that he should buy it.”
“He told us the gun was in poor condition and he would think about it. We then got another call from a well-spoken American, the CEO of a company, Fitz Hudson, who told us he was looking for the price of replacing a 20 gauge Henry Atkin gun that he had lost together with 17 others in a burglary. The thieves had taken his gun safe. We asked him for the serial number of the lost Atkin but he did not know it and added he was not the owner but had been looking after it for the grandson of the original owner, a Fred Morgan.”
Ken continued: “All this rang alarm bells in my mind and I was able to tell Mr Hudson of the previous enquiry a couple of months earlier. I rang the dealer – an innocent party – back to try and ascertain whether the gun he had been offered was still for sale. Obviously, I wanted to know what the status of it was. The dealer rang me back to say he had gone to look at the gun again and it was still for sale. I then told him it had been stolen and who it had been stolen from and put them in touch.”
“Fitz Hudson and the dealer contacted the local sheriff and made a visit to the vendor. They found the gun and also recovered a considerable amount of the property that had been stolen in the original burglary!”
So, the Atkin was recovered and was offered for sale to Ken – who had played a significant part in solving the crime. He bought it and proceeded to rebuild it completely. It is now indistinguishable from new. Replacement chopper lump barrels – choked full and full as they were originally – have been built by Bill Blacker, a former Holland & Holland and Purdey craftsman.
Bill does most of Ken’s barrel-making. They only deviate from the original in having 70mm chambers. Bores remain quite tight at 15.6mm.
The tastefully scroll engraved, third bite action – a conventional bar design looks, splendid too. Indeed, it appears as if it was made yesterday, save perhaps for the gas checks on the action face, common on guns of this era.
The form of the action, emergency gas vents apart, is entirely modern – the sidelock side-by-side having been perfected to all intents and purposes by 1890, courtesy of messrs Beesley, Purdey, Southgate and Holland.
Meticulous mechanical work in this case is down to the efforts of actioner, Gary Hibbert. The bone meal colour hardening has been carried out by St. Ledger.
The straight hand stock is no less impressive than the metal work. It is made from a well figured Turkish blank – the shapes are elegant, and, no doubt, match the original, which may have been templated to ensure this.
The oil finish and chequering are to a very high standard too. The stock has been made by French émigré Stephane Dubille who is doing some very fine work at the moment.
The gun felt well balanced with its 29″ barrels when handled ‘dry’.
29″ is a very sensible length for a 20 bore side-by-side – pointable yet swingable. It felt just as good when shot. It was lively as one might expect a sub-6 pound gun to be, though 6 pounds (ish) is typical of 20-bores of this era.
But it was controllable and did not recoil excessively with 24gram Express loads. The recoil was noticeable as the laws of physics dictate it must be in a gun of this weight.
Trigger pulls were first class, breaking cleanly at three-and-a half and four pounds. They have that precise, crisp, quality of a best sidelock. The Southgate ejectors worked flawlessly throwing empty cases out positively and together. Everything felt, and worked, as it should.
Enjoying the test, I tried some of the more challenging targets and found myself having fun on everything up to and including 40 yard crossers. This gun would not disgrace itself in the right hands on any driven day, but it would be in its element walking-up quail, partridge or grouse.
I might end by noting that its new owner is founder and president of the Anglo-American Shooting Society – most appropriate.
I hope he enjoys it.