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Boxall & Edmiston: British gunmakers

Boxall & Edmiston is a company with traditional, uncompromising production values, which also takes full advantage of new machining and laser engraving technologies. Innovation and keen pricing are parts of the equation too – a recognition that many British guns, though as desirable as ever, are getting so costly that they are beyond the reach of most game shooters.

Boxall & Edmiston’s first gun was a boxlock side-by-side and Peter Boxall told me: “James Edmiston came over to see me around Christmas 2008. We sat down and chatted it all through. There was a natural synergy between us. We decided on an Anson and Deeley design initially, because we both thought it was a bit of an unsung hero, not often made to look really elegant. During the talks with James, I was saying things like, are you sure you don’t want to make a sidelock first? So we committed at that stage to capturing the classic game gun in a developed boxlock. We carried on designing and looking at tooling for six months and took the keys for our factory at Atcham Business Park in Shrewsbury, Shropshire – an old RAF camp – in June 2009.”

Innovative design features from Boxall & Edmiston

So Boxall & Edmiston was born and the new boxlock with it. Although classic Anson and Deeley in form, it is distinguished by some interesting features. There is a replaceable draw on the bridge of the action table – something more commonly seen in rifles, which reduces stresses on the hinge pin.

To keep costs within reasonable limits (this gun retails from £15,900 in scroll back form and £19,600 with sideplates) barrels are monobloc but with TIG welded invisible joints. With TIG welding it is hard to see any real disadvantage to the monobloc system, although Purdey screws the tubes into the monobloc in the case of its new sporter, which is another useful refinement. Boxall & Edmiston boxlocks are still struck up and regulated in the traditional manner, and rust blacked in classical fashion, too. The ejector work is also worthy of note.

The action from the Boxall & Edmiston side-plated boxlock, showing the detachable draw.

Rather than the usual semi-circular leg and narrow guide rod running next to it, this design has a diamond cross section in the extractor legs. This eliminates rotation on activation thus dispensing with the need for an extra guide rod too. It is made possible by high-tech machining. Because of this new arrangement, other changes are possible. The Boxall & Edmiston ejector system also offers increased contact area between the extractor head and the cartridge rim. Cartridges are ejected more positively and because of the increased contact surfaces, there is reduced wear.

A classic English boxlock from Boxall & Edmiston

Apart from these features, the Boxall & Edmiston gun looks, feels and shoots like a traditional best quality boxlock. The appearance of the metal parts, the overall weight of under seven pounds, its balance, and stock shapes all accord to the British norm. You would be hard pressed to tell it was in any way different from the guns you are already familiar with, unless you took a magnifying glass to the beautiful laser engraving. Close inspection would reveal all the cuts have vertical sides rather than the angled edges left by a hand-powered tool. The company offered the gun from the start in two forms; one with sideplates to increase the canvas for engraving and to put a fraction more weight between the hands; and one with a scalloped back, which is often a feature of extra finish boxlocks.

The scroll back boxlock from Boxall & Edmiston retails for £15,900.

The Anson and Deeley boxlock has rather fallen out of fashion, but a few makers like Tony White, Westley Richards and now Boxall & Edmiston keep it alive. Introduced in the 1870s, it remains one of the greatest of all gun designs. I do much of my shooting these days with an old Webley & Scott boxlock pigeon gun, an option available from Boxall & Edmiston too. And I also much enjoy a side-plated boxlock Fausti 28 bore, so I am a boxlock fan. Mr Greener argued for many years that it was the best side-by-side. But the truth, I suspect, is that it may be the most reliable.

Why the Boxall & Edmiston sidelock shoots likes a dream

After the boxlock it did not take Boxall & Edmiston long before it thought it might develop a sidelock of its own. The company was three quarters of the way there with the side-plated gun. The new project was debuted at the CLA Game Fair at Blenheim 2011 and it is a very elegant gun of pinless lock form, which extends the canvas for engraving. It is, in essence, a Holland & Holland-style intercepting safety sear sidelock with Southgate ejectors. It also shoots exceptionally well. I shot the prototype with Drew, Peter Boxall’s son, together with a scalloped-action boxlock. They both performed exceptionally well on skeet and simulated game birds, with the sidelock having the edge on balance and trigger pulls. Truly impressive for a gun that looks great and comes in at a price which is half, or less, the cost of most other English sidelocks.

The new over-under from Boxall & Edmiston

Having seen the superb guns their company was already producing, I approached Peter Boxall and James Edmiston in 2010 with the idea of a new over-under. They said an over-under had always been part of their business plan so we started to discuss the details. My suggestion was for a low-profile trunnion hinging action (like a Wooodward, Perazzi or a Beretta) with Boss locking and leaf springs to power the hammers. The lock work should be fixed. The weights and balances had to be right and the stock shapes were all-important. The base price for the gun needed to be around the £10,000 mark. I sent Pete a couple of old guns for discussion and he went to work designing a prototype. It quickly took shape because much of the design was already in his mind from his previous experiences.

Peter Boxall – one half of Boxall & Edmiston

We ended up with two prototypes, one I took to a friend in Portugal, Manuel Ricardo, because he offered the facilities for very rapid stock making and excellent on-site ranges. We finished the first stock after a week of non-stop effort. Peter, meantime, stocked the second prototype. Happily, they both ended up looking and feeling very similar. We had both opted for semi-pistol grips and something like a Boss forend. Some slight mechanical changes were made at this point too. A cover plate was incorporated into the action so the cocking rods would not be subject to the ingress of debris. The design of the trigger plate was also improved for purely cosmetic reasons, cutting less metal from the belly of the action bar. The production gun now incorporates all this with barrel lengths up to 32” possible. The final stage of development concerns the barrel geometry and we are considering a mechanical trigger. And the basic round bar model is now on sale for £10,900.

The men behind Boxall & Edmiston

British gunmaking firm Boxall & Edmiston is based in Upton Magna, Shropshire and is a partnership between development engineer Peter Boxall, late of Holland & Holland and Jaguar Cars, and James Edmiston, who once owned the Stirling Armament Company, famous for its sub-machine guns. It would be fair to say both men are interesting and unusual characters who bring a lot to the gunmaking table. They both manage to be ‘old school’ whilst demonstrating some very modern thinking.

James Edmiston – one half of Boxall & Edmiston

Peter, a mechanical perfectionist with a bit of artist in him, is the CNC specialist who, under Holland & Holland technical director Russell Wilkin, did much of the design work on the H&H Sporter. This gun was notable for being the first predominantly machined British over-under of quality. He has a long interest in guns and shooting and is a fine shot.

James is a very experienced shooter, a production specialist, and a savvy businessman who has played hardball in the arms industry and survived. He has a long involvement in the trade – both military and sporting – and a vision of how it might proceed into the future. I think it would be fair to say, in particular, that he saw the writing on the wall for the traditional British sporting gun trade many years ago, an observation that led him to consider alternative, more efficient models of manufacture.

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