Though your gun will no doubt be among your most treasured possessions, there may come a point where you grow tired of your favoured firearm.
It could be that your basic over-under is beginning to look a little out of place amongst your friends? fine English sidelocks, or perhaps your skills have surpassed the abilities of your grandfather?s old workhorse.
Either way, purchasing a new gun can be both an exciting and vexing experience and is not one you should rush into lightly.
Just like buying a car, it can be very tempting just to go out and buy the latest, most expensive version of what you already have.
But if you?re willing to hunt around there are a huge number of guns out there that will prove wonderful to shoot as well as catching the eye.
LOOK BEYOND THE BIG NAMES
I will always wholeheartedly recommend a gun from Browning, Beretta, Miroku or any of the other big manufacturers.
It is very difficult to buy a bad gun today; they will be almost universally well constructed, reliable, attractive and good to shoot. This, of course, makes them a quite common sight in the field.
For a budget of £2,000-£5,000 you can look quite happily beyond the more obvious names, perhaps to the continental gun makers, and find exceptional guns at a fraction of the price of their more famous cousins.
If you?re unwilling to try your luck with an unfamiliar name, then there is always the option of picking up an older gun from one of the major English names.
Though these will require more care and attention, they have a sense of style and history that it is difficult to find anywhere else.
A SOUND INVESTMENT
In the present financial crisis best shotguns have grown in popularity as an alternative investment to property, classic cars and the like.
There is a little-known tax quirk with shotguns, as they are classed as ?wasting assets? which means there is no Capital Gains or Inheritance tax payable on them.
Most people tend to think of Purdey, Boss and Holland & Holland guns of over £20,000 in investment terms.
I feel that overlooking a gun of £2,000-£5,000 would be a mistake, as at this price you can pick up a big-name gun which represents remarkable value both as an investment and as a usable gun.
You only have to look at the on-going success of sales by the likes of Holt?s, Bonhams, Gavin Gardiner and Patrick Keen to see the real investment potential of a shotgun.
Boss hammer gun £3,450
If you?re upgrading, you might be considering moving to a side-by-side gun. If you are, a good quality English hammer gun would make an excellent purchase.
These guns are a delight to use and are also extremely unusual. When looking for a gun of this type, I would advise buying a top lever rebounding hammer gun, as they are a lot easier to use if you are used to more modern guns.
You should also ensure the barrels are properly proved for modern cartridges. To give you an idea of what to look for, at the time of writing we have a Boss hammer gun with a side lever in stock.
This gun is ornately engraved all over the action and lock plates and features exhibition grade walnut stocks, and new 27″ barrels, all at £3,450.
These guns have a timeless quality about them, and make a secure investment in a best English name.
For this sort of price you could get an early sidelock over-under, which would be very fine indeed to shoot, weighing in at 6¾lbs to 7lbs.
These can most usually be found with solid file cut game ribs and very bold scroll engraving.
These guns are often quite underrated, and if you?re willing to take a chance on buying at an auction you could bag a brilliant gun for a very low price.
Whichever you choose, you will get a gun that is a sound investment and will give you great pride of ownership.
It will also be very good fun to shoot, and will surely be a great talking point.
W. J. Jeffery Sidelock shotgun £3,450
Another obvious gun to consider in this sort of price range would be either a sleeved or second name English sidelock side-by-side.
These are the most traditional of game guns and are what many sportsmen dream of during the off-season. There are a vast number of excellent examples out there, so there is no reason at all why you cannot make your dream a reality.
Names to look out for include Midland, William Powell and W.J. Jeffery, amongst others.
I would recommend you try and find a good quality nine-pin best sidelock shotgun, preferably with the Southgate ejector system.
This is the style of the best London sidelock, and is one which has been copied by gun makers all over the world.
Indeed, the popular Spanish makers AYA and Arrieta both produce superb copies of the traditional English sidelock.
We currently have a W.J. Jeffery nine-pin sidelock, which is beautifully engraved. This London gun has new 28.1/2″ best steel barrels, a well-figured stock with straight hand grip and matching forend.
By looking for a gun with re-sleeved or new barrels you will be buying a gun that effectively offers another lifetime?s use.
The balance tends to be slightly forward with the extra weight of the new barrels, though this is good for driven shooting as it allows you to keep the gun moving well right the way through your swing.
Merkel 2001C shotgun £5,000
If you?re looking for a new and different over-under shotgun, then you won?t go far wrong with a gun from the German manufacturer Merkel.
These guns can be had in 12, 20 and 28-bore and feature excellent fit and finish, with particularly good wood used in the stocks.
These guns are constructed to the standards you would expect from German engineering, and are enormously reliable as a result.
They have a number of features which differentiate them from other European guns, such as a three piece fore-end that is partly secured to the barrels.
All the guns have single selective triggers, Prince of Wales style grip and 28″ barrels, and are built on the extremely strong Kersten cross bolt action.
Merkel offer a number of customisation options on their guns which will obviously affect the price.
Options include colour case finishing, hand engraving, double triggers and the fitting of longer sideplates for more elaborate engraving.
These guns have a small following in this country and are well worth considering if you want a truly personal gun at a reasonable price.