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Shooting Gazette gun review: Boxall & Edmiston boxlock

Boxall & Edmiston: There was a time when English shotguns were manufactured in their thousands every year by myriad different gunmakers, large and small. Today the production of new British guns has dwindled to a few makers with names powerful enough to attract the biggest spenders. As such, the arrival of brand new gunmaker Boxall & Edmiston just a few years ago caused something of a stir.

Though a new company, the men behind the name are by no means inexperienced: Peter Boxall is a former manufacturing director for Holland & Holland, and James Edmiston the former managing director of the Sterling Armament Company. They produce classic bespoke British guns from their factory in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, thanks to state-of-the-art technology and experienced craftsmen, creating an intriguing tension between British gunmaking’s past and future in each one of its guns.

Powerful technology

Boxall & Edmiston obviously believes in the importance of an individual’s skill and the craft of producing a shotgun. It employs three full-time craftsmen and uses a number of the skilled independent stockers, actioners and barrel-makers who support the major London makers. However the company also places great emphasis on modern techniques, employing four engineers to run the company’s top-of-the-line design software and machines. Thus, a gun can be designed and stress-tested entirely in software, and hundreds of parts produced to identical exacting standards, but the checkering and oil finish on a Boxall & Edmiston are still applied entirely by hand.

Boxall & Edmiston has taken the classic Anson & Deeley boxlock action and made various improvements.

First impressions of this 12 bore side-by-side boxlock with sculpted ‘scroll back’ action are very positive. It looks very pretty indeed thanks to its classic game gun shape with slim action body and well figured wood. The engraving is particularly impressive, being extensive – indeed covering almost every millimetre of the action – and impressively deep. Screws and the main body bolt are engraved to look like roses and the name of the maker stands out impressively on the bottom plate. Though obviously too perfect to have been carried out by hand, the engraving is nonetheless a delight. The details are cut totally by laser and the depth Boxall & Edmiston has been able to achieve is unlike anything I have seen outside of a gun engraved or at least finished by hand.

Rich, deep engraving covers virtually all of this English gun’s metalwork, but the wood finish is not the very finest the tester has seen.

There are a range of options available to potential buyers, many of which are aesthetic and include a selection of specific engraving types. Our well-worn demonstrator model had a Deeley catch in the fore-end, which is certainly the classic choice, though I would be inclined to have a push-rod fore-end as I feel this is simply prettier and certainly easier to operate. Our gun also had a “beetle back” button safety catch, which seemed to me to be very much at odds with the rest of the gun, being large and a little uncouth compared with the boxlock’s otherwise fine lines. Of course, taste is subjective, but for me a more traditional ramp-style catch would only help to improve the gun’s good looks.

Some minor flaws

Though finishing overall is good, I found some details on the wooden parts of the gun to be a little lacking. Though excellent wood had been selected with some lovely figuring, the stock did not have the real gloss and shine one expects at this price point. Next to a Browning D5 – available for around £9,000 – the woodwork looked slightly underwhelming.

Similarly, the external edges of the barrel flats have been left straight to create an interesting line for the engraving to follow; however, this has left quite a sharp and obvious step between the barrels and the action. Though pleasant enough aesthetically, it seems an odd choice not to have attempted to round off the edges a little and is an intrusion of harsh engineering into an otherwise refined and organic-feeling gun.

Boxall & Edmiston combines cutting-edge technology with traditional craftwork.

In the hand, however, one can have no complaints. The gun is a pleasure to shoot, inspiring confidence thanks to excellent balance. I would be as happy walking the fields with it as I would be standing on a peg.

A Boxall & Edmiston will obviously appeal to anyone looking to buy a bespoke modern British shotgun without the prohibitive cost of approaching the likes of Purdey or Holland & Holland. Despite being less expensive than a gun from one of the London makers, the price could be a sticking point for many buyers. One could secure a top quality Spanish sidelock, a new handmade Belgian Browning or a good quality London sidelock from the inter-war period for similar money.

However, if you want a new gun made entirely in England then this pretty and brilliant handling gun will doubtless serve you well.

In the field with the Boxall & Edmiston boxlock with scroll back

This is a pretty gun and it feels right at home in the field. It is sure to draw admiring glances from fellow guns, and it would doubtless be a lovely thing to be able to say you own a bespoke English gun.

In the hand is where it really counts though, and here Boxall & Edmiston has had real success. Weight distribution is factored into the gun at the design stage and the number crunching has obviously paid off as the gun feels superb in use. At 6lbs. 14oz. it is a good weight and the balance is among the best I have experienced on a side-by-side. Mounting is easy and comfortable, and the gun swings easily. Trigger pulls are crisp and the fore-end is a lovely shape, sitting comfortably in the front hand.

All things considered, the Boxall & Edmiston boxlock shotgun is a lovely thing to take into the field.

View from the gun shop

Bill Elderkin casts his expert eye over the new Boxall & Edmiston boxlock

This is an interesting gun, both mechanically and from a broader market perspective. It has been well designed and built, essentially being an evolution of the classic Anson & Deeley boxlock action. There are a couple of clever features worth mentioning in the action body itself and in the design of the ejectors. The ejectors are built without a top guide, rather they are constructed on a single limb of a sturdy hexagonal design, which stops any play developing. This system should prove reliable, and the ejectors themselves also produce a satisfying and effective kick.

In the action body, Boxall & Edmiston has fitted a detachable draw, a feature most commonly seen in double rifles. Here, a removable square block is inserted into the trench or ‘T slot’ on the action flats, providing a second face for the force of the gun firing to pull against, rather than just the cross pin or trunnions. This strengthens the gun hugely and should any play develop, a new block is easily fitted.

However, inside the action a number of screws with hexagonal heads requiring the use of an Allen key have been used. This will mean nothing to the average owner, as with proper maintenance they should never need to get inside the workings of the action, but from a gunsmith’s point of view these screws can easily be stripped, meaning they have to be drilled out.

The longevity and reliability of these guns are unknown factors at the moment as there are relatively few Boxall & Edmiston guns around and the company is still young. However, given this boxlock has been designed around one of the classic shotgun actions it seems likely there will be few problems.

Scores for the Boxall & Edmiston boxlock with scroll back

Engineering: There are some clever ideas at work with the ejectors and detachable draw. This Boxall & Edmiston uses a careful development of a classic action. 8/10

Handling: Excellent. The gun has superb balance and good trigger pulls, and recoil is dealt with well. 9/10

Looks and finishing: Pretty engraving and good lines are let down by a lacklustre wood finish. 7/10

Reliability and customer service: Built on a simple action so should be easy to maintain. 8/10

Value for money: A tricky proposition. Could be difficult to sell on, but this is at the lower end cost-wise for a bespoke British gun. 7/10

Overall: 39/50

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