In Daniel Craig's last film Skyfall he used a rifle from English luxury gunmaker Anderson Wheeler during the assault on Skyfall Lodge.
Spectre, the new James Bond film, is out in cinemas on Monday 26 October. Bruce Potts was lucky enough to be able to test the .500 Nitro Express double rifle used in the 2012 film Skyfall.
It’s definitely more upmarket than any previous James Bond firearm as well as rather more powerful.
Daniel Craig is seen with the Anderson Wheeler .500 and DB5 just as Connery was seen posing with a Walther .177 LP 53 air-pistol in the poster for You Only Live Twice.
This particular Bond dragon-slayer has just a bit more real-world knock-down power than the .25 Beretta or Walther (nearly 6,000ft/lb of muzzle energy).
A London gun for James Bond
Stuart Anderson Wheeler, sometime professional hunter (PH), told me that he had sold a big-bore double to a member of the Bond production team. “One of the armourers came round to our shop asking for double rifles; he had a list of London firms that he had been visiting. He liked the feel and balance of our boxlock rifle, and the price. I had a .470 and a .500 in stock.
“He seemed especially impressed with the .500 cartridge, and the overall form of the gun. I had used it on one previous safari, it was almost new but had a small dent in the stock. He bought it.”
As you would expect of a good PH, Anderson Wheeler was nonchalant about all this, but I have no doubt it will have many positive consequences for him and his Shepherd Market-based business.
The firm makes over-under and side-by-side shotguns as well as bolt-action and double rifles.
The big doubles are offered in calibres from .303 to .600, and in two grades: best (sidelock) and field.
The Bond gun, a boxlock, is popular with PHs and takes from six to 10 months to complete from point of order.
The test .500 impresses from the start. It is not flashy but functional, rather like a gun-metal cigarette case.
Nor is the price exorbitant by modern standards from £14,000 excluding VAT. Most London big-bore doubles albeit sidelock begin closer to the £100,000 mark these days. Anderson Wheeler’s best start at £42,000.
The basic specification of the Anderson Wheeler, which weighs 12lb, includes 26in, chopper-lump barrels with quarter rib and fixed and folding leaf Express-type sights. There is a traditional foresight with an additional folding white bone night sight. The bolstered, boxlock action manufactured in France with the barrels but engraved here is powered by traditional V-springs and has disc-set strikers.
The well-proportioned stock is made from first-class Turkish walnut, English-finished with oil and hand-cut chequering (a small criticism is that the butt is a little long with a 15in-plus length of pull, making it rather heavy at the back end).
It has a full pistol grip, a kidney cheekpiece, Silver’s rubber recoil pad and a gold oval. The splinter fore-end has a button/rod-type fastener. There are fixed sling loops to barrels and butt. The front trigger is articulated. The safety is non-automatic.
All in all, it’s a classic specification.
The .500 Nitro Express is not the gentlest of rounds to shoot, but nor is it the most fearsome.
It is a relatively low-pressure cartridge pushing a 570gn pill at around 2,150ft/second to achieve muzzle energy just under 6,000ft/lb.
It’s no pussycat, but it is the sort of thing that would stop an angry, hard-skinned beast in a hurry (or even a passing black Mercedes or helicopter).
The recoil was manageable with the 26in barrels and accuracy truly excellent. Standing is advisable with these big guns; one should roll with the punch – I would not recommend shooting it from the hip. I did and consistently managed to group to point of aim within 2in at 25yd with several shots going into an inch. This is more than good enough for the intended up-close-and-personal purpose.
Overall, the rifle is well made, well finished, well regulated, and well priced.
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