Alex Flint discovers a gunmaker with the talent and quality to give the old stagers of the shooting world cause to look over their shoulders.
When one thinks of a British gunmaker certain factors will push to the forefront of one’s mind thanks to the history any great marque builds upon. The name is a reminder of what you are buying into, and it is no coincidence that over the years new starters have resurrected the names of long-defunct gunmakers, hoping that history will rub off and add to the cachet of its products.
Producing their first gun almost six years ago, Peter Boxall and James Edmiston took a rather different approach, proudly putting their own names to their guns, confident the quality of their design and engineering would speak for themselves. Both men have extensive experience of high-end design and manufacture, and ties to big names inside and outside the shooting industry. But they are open in acknowledging the importance of embracing modern tools and methods in producing their guns. This forward-looking approach is also embodied in their 14 full-time staff, all of whom boast a variety of skills, a reflection of the men at the top of the company.
The principal designer of the guns is Peter Boxall, who in his years working for W. & C. Scott and Holland & Holland was responsible for bringing in the best in CAD and manufacturing processes. While older firms like to emphasise the amount of hand work they employ and perhaps underplay the role of technology in building their products, Boxall & Edmiston is keen its customers should know its guns are produced using the best CNC machines to remarkable tolerances.
This, Peter’s son Drew Boxall tells me, allows the company to be clear about how it can produce high quality guns at a lower cost than its London counterparts. It also helps reassure customers they will be getting a gun which feels and behaves the same way as a gun they have seen in the field or tested, removing the variance inherent in parts milled by hand. This is not to say these guns lack the craftsmanship one expects in a best quality gun – far from it, they are truly bespoke with extensive finishing carried out by hand.
A striking shotgun
The firm is particularly proud of its range of over-under guns, such as the 12 bore over-under I tested. Centred on a unique system designed and built entirely in-house, the gun works on a double inertia system. Boxall & Edmiston says this mitigates against problems seen in purely mechanical and single-inertia systems when using a range of ammunition as is common across a
shooting season, essentially making accidental double firing impossible.
So, the gun is technically advanced and built to the highest standards – but let’s get to the important bits: the way it looks, feels and shoots. First impressions are very good, the most striking thing being just how round the round-action is. The bottom half of the gun’s action is almost semicircular, enhanced by the lovely double scalloped back flowing towards the grip and the elongated Boss-style wings advancing pleasingly into the fore-end.
The wood is attractive, with the fore-end and stock matching remarkably well thanks to a stringent selection process with stock blanks being hand-picked by Peter. Chequering is carried out by hand, since the firm has found laser work simply cannot give the required quality of appearance and grip compared to hand-cut work.
Most striking is the engraving work. While hand engraving is of course an option available on any of the guns, it also adds a significant cost to the customer and you will find it hard to believe the engraving on display has been carried out by laser. It is mesmerisingly good on our test gun and on many other examples I saw, featuring deep, dark carved sections of Acanthus I have only ever seen executed to a similar standard by hand on far more expensive guns.
The engraving is designed in-house by a talented artist, with customers able to request bespoke artwork or choosing from an extensive library of existing work. Having the engraving carried out by laser also makes any joins between the various parts of the action body almost imperceptible.
Fun to shoot
In the hand and in the field the gun is even more fun to shoot than it is to look at. This is down to Peter, a life-long sportsman who has designed a gun to be used. He tells me all those visual elements have an engineering purpose first, taking great pride in the fact this is a gun which stays open when you open it. Indeed, the gape of the gun is consistently good – you never have to give the barrels an extra tweak as one so often finds, meaning one should not have to take one’s eyes off the drive ahead when loading. The trigger pulls are particularly crisp, too.
It is clear from handling a Boxall & Edmiston gun a huge weight of experience has gone into its manufacture. Almost all of those working on these guns are shooters and have an understanding of the shooting world, and it shows. All the guns are finished by two men, withone final pair of hands overseeing every gun ensuring each one feels like a Boxall & Edmiston – there is no ‘off-the-shelf’ concept here.
“I have been shooting virtually all my life,” Peter tells me. “If I don’t think a gun will work, I won’t make it. I have been taught the recipe to making a good gun and it tastes good, so why would I change it?”
It is a recipe the firm is confident in as they offer a 10-year warranty on the guns with the first two years’ servicing included. This is a stamp of authority and confidence in what they are doing, and they are building a passionate following as a result. Perhaps this is not surprising when the man behind one of the names on the gun will most likely pick your gun up for you when servicing is required. James Edmiston telling me, “I think I’ve probably been to most of our customers’ houses!”
Its 100 guns are spread around just 50 or 60 customers, but each of these has come away an evangelist for the firm. Testing one of these guns makes it easy to understand why one customer now owns seven of them – they feel special and look exceptional value.
Boxall and Edmiston in the field
I was able to test both the 12 and 20 bore variants of the Boxall & Edmiston round action overunder against some excellent simulated targets laid on by Jonathan Auliffe of Shropshire Simulated Game. The 12 bore was a particular pleasure to use on some high driven birds, with the gun mounting easily and flowing well in the swing whilst being predictable and easy to keep on-line. Interestingly, the gun was also natural to use in a more instinctive style too, dealing with a challenging midi clay in a pleasingly snappy fashion.
Target acquisition was easy and unfussy, and the gun was simply very comfortable to use with the pleasingly rounded edges to the trigger and trigger guard and excellent grip shape. Recoil was dealt with very well indeed, with the act of operating the safety catch and top-lever being very satisfying.
Weight distribution is excellent, with a very slight bias towards the barrels. It was extremely comfortable over an extended period of shooting and doubtless would be a welcome companion over the course of a shoot day.
The good, consistent gape of the gun on opening was most welcome, and made it very clear this is a gun made for shooting game – though one would also be quite at home using this gun as an all-rounder in the off season too.
The 20 bore was similarly high-performing, and was exciting to shoot in the way most small bore guns are. It probably asks a little more of the shooter if one wishes to shoot consistently well, feeling very alive in the hands due to its reduced weight, but is all the more satisfying for it when one gets it right.
Both guns are very hard to criticise, and it is clear from their handling an awful lot of experience and care has gone into their production to create something feeling really quite special.
Amongst the best over-under shotguns I have ever tested