The Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd, later to become BSA Guns Ltd of Birmingham, entered the shotgun market 100 years ago with the launch of a single-barrel bolt-action .410 shotgun, the production of which ran for 28 years, ceasing only with the outbreak of World War II.
After World War I, BSA was the first British gunmaking company to launch an almost fully machine-made double-barrel sporting gun at an affordable price.
Introduced in mid-1920, the BSA Proprietary Sporting gun was made in 12-bore, in a wide range of types and styles, from a plain non-ejector to a deluxe engraved and beautifully finished ejector model in its own case. Prices ranged from six guineas (£6.30) to 25 guineas (£26.25).
Until the outbreak of World War II, more than 48,000 were produced.
After the war, two short runs of single-barrel 12-bore shotguns were produced, but the company did not re-enter this market again until the mid-1960s, producing shotguns of various types to its own specifications in Japan, Finland and France.
BSA did not undertake production of double-barrelled sporting gun until after World War II as all machinery, tooling and drawings had been destroyed by enemy action.
BSA re-entered the shotgun scene again, and is having a comprehensive range of shotguns produced to its specifications in Italy and Spain. Its Warwick models in .410, 12, 20 and 28-bore are side-by-side ejector, boxlock models, with single selective trigger, automatic safety catch and 27.5in chrome-lined barrels.
The .410 models are chambered for 3in cartridges, the 12 and 20-bore guns being proofed for the use of steel shot as standard. The 28-bore version is chambered for 2.3/4in cartridges. As BSA entered the shotgun market with a .410 gun, I chose the Warwick .410 for evaluation.
The test gun measures 44.1/4in in overall length, with a barrel length of 26.7/8in and length of pull at 14.1/2in. It has a plain concave rib, colour-hardened action with floral bouquet and scroll engraving on action sides and bottom plate.
The BSA logo in gold is on the plain trigger-guard and it has a gold-coloured single selective trigger. It has a Prince of Wales-style semi-pistol grip stock, with the sides of the grip laser-chequered and is fitted with a 1.1/16in-thick recoil-absorbent butt pad. The fore-end is the slim splinter type, with laser cut panel chequering, and is retained with an Anson-style snap fastening.
The gun weighs 5lb12oz, with the balance point being 1/2in back from the joint pin. The woodwork is European walnut, the grain slightly figured, with the run of the grain on the hand of the stock giving good strength at this usually weak point.
The polished wood is finished with a matt lacquer, the barrels well polished and deeply blued, as is the furniture. The wood-to-metal finish is very good indeed for a machine-made gun of this price. Generally, this pretty little gun is of pleasing appearance, though spoiled by the excessive depth of the action, unfortunately unavoidable as the gun is built on the same action as the 20 and 28-bores.
The barrels on the test gun, advertised as 27.1/2in long, proved to be 26.7/8in when measured, and are chambered for 3in cartridges. The chamber cones are well finished and are of longer than usual length, which will have an effect on sensible recoil, though hardly noticeable on this small-calibre gun. The barrels are of monoblock construction and are of substantial proportions for their small size. Of necessity, due to the size of the action, the barrels are heavy at the breech end, with a chamber wall thickness of 0.250in almost double that of a conventional 12-bore shotgun.
The barrels are well struck up and taper down towards the muzzles, where they have an equally substantial wall thickness of 0.075in. The bores are highly polished and chrome-lined, giving them an exceedingly hard and durable finish. The barrels have fixed chokes and are bored quarter and a half. The top-rib is of the smooth, concave type and is fitted with a small brass bead.
Leaping into action
The hammerless action is of conventional Anson & Deeley type, which utilises vee, not coil, springs, and cocks the tumblers on opening the gun. The barrels are well jointed to the action, which incorporates a removable joint pin. The barrels are locked on to the breech face by a double-bite locking bolt, operated by the top-lever.
The action mechanism is fitted with intercepting safety sears and has a mechanical single selective trigger, which, for a small-calibre gun, is so much better than a recoil-operated single trigger. The gold-coloured trigger blade matches the BSA piled arms logo on the bow of the trigger-guard.
The sequence of firing the barrels can be changed by means of a selector switch on the automatic safety slide. A Southgate-type selective ejector mechanism is located in the fore-end iron. The ejection was well timed and operated positively and strongly. The action body is polished, colour-hardened and finished with floral bouquet and scroll-engraving.
Out of the woodwork
Good-quality European walnut is used to make the stock and fore-end; the stock is cast off for a right-hander, with a cast of 3.1/6in at the comb and 3/8in at the heel. The drop was measured as 1.3/8in at the comb and 2.1/4in at the heel.
The stock had a pull of 14.5/8in at the centre, 14.3/4in at the heel and 15in at the toe, and is finished with a black synthetic composition recoil pad and is of Prince of Wales design, with well-defined laser-cut chequering. The fore-end is of matching walnut, again with laser-cut panelled chequering. Both stock and fore-end are finished with a matt lacquer, which is not a very practical finish for a sporting gun.
In spite of the extremely sturdy barrels, for a gun of such small calibre, its 5lb 12oz weight and the fact it had been built on a basic 20-bore action reduced in width but not in depth, the gun handled remarkably well.
The sensible weight was distributed between the hands and the gun was quick and crisp to handle. Some lightweight small-bore guns tend to overswing, due to the fact that most are stock-heavy and barrel-light. With the Warwick, however, weight and balance were perfect and it was easy to use positively without any chance of overswinging. On test, the gun threw good patterns, both barrels using Eley 3in No.7 shot cartridges. A few patterns were tried using Eley Fourlong 2.1/2in cartridges loaded with No.6 – these proved quite adequate for use against small targets, such as rabbit and pigeon, at ranges up to 25 yards.
Proofed in Spain to a service pressure of 1,370 bar, at first appearance the .410 Warwick looks a rather clumsy and overweight gun. When handled, however, I found it perfectly balanced for sporting use, well made, smooth and crisp to handle, and a joy to shoot. Because it was noticeably heavier than a conventional .410 double-barrelled gun of English make, it was far easier to adapt from using a larger bore gun.
This small-bore shotgun is well designed and engineered even if not very elegant in appearance. Being so well balanced, it is surprisingly easy to use and performs well in the sporting and clay sporting fields. Its very reasonable price makes it a welcome addition to any sportsman’s gunroom.
BSA WARWICK .410 SPECIFICATION
– Double-barrelled boxlock action.
– Single selective trigger with intercepting sears and selective ejectors.
– Semi-pistol grip Prince of Wales-type stock and splinter-style matching wood fore-end.
– 26.7/8in 3in-chambered monoblock barrels with hard chrome bores.
– Chokes: 1/4 and 1.2
– Concave top-rib with brass bead foresight.
From all BSA stockists and all good gunshops.
Recommended price of £645, but being offered at keener prices at some stockists.
– Good weight distribution and balance.
– Quality wood-to-metal finish.
– Excellent handling.
– Lacks elegance of appearance.