Boxall & Edmiston Sidelock shotgun
We test a lot of guns at The Field but we do not test as many British guns as we might because the British trade has taken a terrible hammering in recent generations.
The problem has been the decline of the artisan (and his time-consuming and ever-more-costly work) and the rise of the imported machine-made gun.
Happily, things are changing; hi-tech gunmaking is establishing itself here.
It began with London firms such as Holland & Holland and Purdey. Now the machine revolution has moved on to Staffordshire, Birmingham, Suffolk, Lancashire and Scotland.
We have realised that the costs of running multi-axis CNC kit is similar in the UK and Brescia these days, and that there is a good potential market for British products at the right price.
The test gun, a pinless sidelock of apparently classic form, is the latest model by Boxall & Edmiston (a partnership of Peter Boxall, late of Holland & Holland and Jaguar, and James Edmiston who once owned Stirling Armaments).
Earlier in the year, we looked at a sideplated boxlock by this company and were impressed.
The new sidelock, like its sibling, is the result of ultra-fine-tolerance machining combined with a high proportion of traditional bench-work (the gun is stocked and finished conventionally and the barrels are struck up and regulated in time-honoured fashion).
Boxall & Edmiston has a policy of trying to foster craftwork ? and craftsmen ? alongside its sophisticated manufacturing processes.
The test gun costs £25,000.
This is not loose change, but it is a lot less than a London gun of similar type. How are the costs kept down?
Principally by the machining of the action (as in London) and laser cutting the engraving (as is increasingly common abroad).
The specification of the gun also includes monobloc rather than chopper-lump barrels (though this is not obvious as the joints between tubes and monobloc are TIG welded).
Peter Boxall notes that chopper-lump barrels might be an option in the future (and one that would add £2,000 or so to the bottom line).
What of first impressions?
The gun felt good between the hands, with a little weight forward. Proportions of action, barrels and straight-hand stock all look right ? though more sculpturing of the action near the knuckle would be a possibility.
The action bar is quite square, reminding me of a vintage Westley Richards.
The pinless presentation of the locks ? a best-gun touch ? is an option that accentuates the bold engraving (standard pins visibly coming through the plates are available on request).
Boxall points out that this is a work in progress and that most of the details could be changed. One has to start somewhere, though.
He is being modest. This gun, as it stands, is attractive with its fine finish, good lines and full-coverage engraving, which looks almost chiselled.
The deep cuts made by laser, and it takes a month to do this with preparation, almost as much time as handwork, are intriguing when examined with magnification.
There are no angles and no burring, as with a chisel. Only experienced eyes would notice.
This remarkable process developed by Boxall & Edmiston, but inspired by what is happening in Gardonne, can incorporate any motif the client might want.
This is essentially a Holland-style intercepting safety sear sidelock with Southgate ejectors. There are no disc-set strikers.
The front trigger is not articulated but both trigger blades are elegantly shaped.
There is no easy-opening feature, though one can be added.
Unusually, there is a detachable draw on the bridge of the action table (as in many rifles and the Boxall & Edmiston boxlock).
This reduces the load on the cross pin.
An interesting feature is an improved ejector system with diamond-shaped ejector legs eliminating the need for flimsy supplementary guides.
If I were to be picky, I would note that the function of the auto-safety is not especially positive, and the trigger pulls not quite perfect in the test gun ? but these are minor issues and acceptable in a prototype.
The gun, with all the skill sets that have gone into its design and manufacture, is a triumph of British engineering.
The gun was sound in the shooting department. It weighed 7lb with 30in barrels ? enough to be steady, not so much as to impede easy swing.
The fixed chokes were quarter and three-quarters. The stock shapes promoted control; felt recoil was relatively mild. The handling was fine.
I would have preferred 28in barrels (as I usually do in a 12-bore side-by-side) though I tend to hanker after more length in a 20-bore or over-under.
This Boxall & Edmiston has integrity. There is no other English sidelock near its price.
I like the fact the firm not only has a flexible mind-set, it is making a well-finished, well-designed, British sidelock at a cost that will not necessarily require a second mortgage.
I often find myself advising people to buy second-hand these days, if they have a capital budget and are looking for value.
However, this sidelock represents a serious and sensible alternative if you want a gun of quality made to your exact specification
Boxall & Edmiston Sidelock shotgun