English Boxlock shotguns for under £5,000.
If you are looking for an individual, well balanced side-by-side that is good to shoot, then English boxlock shotguns always represent value for money.
They represent a great way of owning a good quality English shotgun by a recognisable name for a more reasonable sum of money than might be asked for a best sidelock.
Many people look upon the boxlock as the poor relation to the sidelock, whether in style or shooting characteristics, but this need not be the case if you select your gun carefully.
THE VALUE OF ENGLISH SHOTGUNS
The profit on a purchase of one of these guns has been stable for over 20 years now, and values have not altered appreciably in that time.
Best sidelocks, however, have proved to be a sound investment and good examples still sell consistently well in the trade and at auction. The reason for this is hard to pinpoint.
I feel this development has occurred with a change in the makeup of shooting sportsmen and women in Britain.
Around 20 or 30 years ago the first gun that a person started shooting with was most likely either for shooting rabbit or pigeon, and would probably therefore be a side-by-side 20-bore or 12-bore borrowed from their father or grandfather.
Subsequently, if they decided to carry on shooting and buy a gun themselves they would look at a very nice English boxlock shotgun – the style of gun they were familiar with.
No doubt this would also fuel the aspiration to own a gun that is the preserve of the English sportsman – the sidelock. Today of course most people start their shooting with an over-under on clays at a shooting school.
Being comfortable and confident with this type of gun, many will go on to buy an over-under as a first gun instead of a traditional English side-by-side shotgun.
Most sportsmen will stick with one type of shotgun throughout their career – though a change is not unknown.
Indeed, we have noticed that in recent years more and more people are looking to move away from the over-under and shoot with a traditional side-by-side for driven game.
In the late 1970s and even up to the mid 1980s, if we purchased a new gun, for example a Webley & Scott Model 700, it would likely cost something in the region of £1,500.
This is around the price that you would expect to pay now for a good second hand gun.
A good, new side-by-side gun made from scratch today, however, will likely cost in the region of £7,000 – £8,000.
RELIABLE AND CONSISTENT
People always say that a sidelock is the superior gun due to better balance between the hands and smoother trigger pulls – as well as having more metal for engraving.
This attitude is more than a little subjective: like any tool, a gun has to be considered individually for its merits and faults – all guns have them, whether sidelock, boxlock, over-under or side-by-side.
The main difference between the two types of gun mechanically is that sidelocks have an interceptor sear. This adds an extra layer of safety over some of the better boxlocks featuring the Webley action, but in reality it is very rarely required.
A good, well-finished boxlock will undoubtedly be a better gun than a second-rate, heavily used sidelock. Apart from the selection opposite another boxlock worth considering would be from E.J. Churchill.
They have their best Hercules utility action, which is extremely sound and also makes them spring opening.
These guns nearly always have 25″ barrels, which is certainly short, but whether or not this is a problem is purely down to personal preference.
Webley & Scott Model 700 £1,500
I have often heard people say ?it?s only a Webley?, both in the shop and in the field, but this easy dismissal is at best unjust.
The main reason for criticism is that they have a solid hinge pin. This makes re-jointing these guns quite a challenge compared to other actions, but the welding techniques available today means this is no longer a problem.
The Webley action, recognisable by the horse shoe spindle on the top lever, is probably the most used action in the gun trade, with William Evans, Holland & Holland and Westley Richards just a few of the big names to have used it in their guns over the years.
If these great names were confident enough to use the Webley actions in their own guns then you can be sure that guns by Webley & Scott are well worth considering.
These guns are the closest you can find to a mass-produced side-by-side gun, but they still have the individual feel and balance you would expect of an English shotgun.
A good secondhand gun will cost around £1,250 – £1,500 for the standard Model 700.
This really does represent remarkable value for money, especially when considering the price of Spanish guns of an equivalent quality.
For example, the boxlock AYA Number Four now costs over £3,000 when new.
William Ford boxlock £2,150
William Ford is not the most instantly recognisable of the Birmingham gunmakers, but the firm produced a number of delightful English shotguns.
Ford started in the trade as a barrel borer, working for W.W. Greener before setting up shop in the 1870s.
The firm was taken on by his son in 1909 and was later amalgamated with James Carr & Sons, becoming a limited firm that only closed its doors in 1993.
This 12-bore boxlock with its original 28″ barrels and 2½” chambers is a fine gun. It has a well-figured stock with an elegant straight-hand grip.
The fit between the wood and action is excellent, and the gun features finest scroll engraving on the action, fences and barrels, which retain much of their colour.
This gun comes with the tried and tested Southgate ejector system, which is most commonly found on best London guns.
The gun mounts easily and the weight is slightly biased towards the front hand, giving a good heft and allowing for a smooth, deliberate swing without being unbalanced.
These guns really do have a very individual feel to them, being extremely well built and presented.
It is a lovely gun to shoot and is well-priced, costing much less than a new equivalent European boxlock. It will happily provide good, reliable service for another lifetime.
Westley Richards Droplock £4,000
The final gun in our selection comes from the famous Birmingham gun maker Westley Richards, and features their famous detachable locks.
This action is unique to Westley Richards, with the bottom plate on the action body opening to reveal the locks, which can easily be removed and replaced in the field by hand.
The workmanship on these guns is second to none among guns from both Birmingham and London, which makes them very sought after and collectable.
They come with the Westley patent lever, which, like the removable locks, is unique to their guns and which gives a most desirable individual finish to the gun.
Barrel lengths of 28″ and 2½” chambers are not unusual in guns built around 1920.
You should expect fine scroll engraving across the action, and these earlier guns will feature the Westley box ejector system.
This is slightly different from the more well-known and widely used Southgate ejector, but is still very reliable and efficient.
You can regularly find these guns in good condition, complete with their own cases and all accessories. They tend to sell for £4,000 – £6,000 depending on age and condition.