Has John Rothery found the winning formula for a successful gun? Lewis Potter tests a "dinky Lincoln”.
What makes a particular model of shotgun, or range of guns, popular? You could argue that it is fashion, but that is ephemeral and rarely results in long-term interest. Perhaps we could assume it is maybe a combination of looks, reliability, availability, price and name. That is probably not all — if it were, every gunmaker could produce guns to a formula that ensured instant sales success. In the real world, this is rarely the case, no matter how worthy the product.
David Nickerson achieved popularity with his Lincoln range of shotguns and that has been built on by his successors at John Rothery. When the chance came to test the “tiddler” of the range, I was interested to see if I could define what has ensured their popularity for more than 25 years.
Let us start with the looks, which is any gun’s first attraction. There is nothing ill-proportioned or outlandish about this .410 and that is difficult to achieve with a modern small gauge over-and-under. Into the 20th century, it was common to produce .410s as scaled-down larger gauges, so every part was reduced in size. This meant that the proportions were pleasing to the eye but not the most practical for those of us with large, or even average-sized, hands.
It is now much more common, as with this dinky Lincoln, to produce an over-and-under that is more of a “hand filler”. It is still slimmer than, say, a 12-bore but, while the pistol grip and fore-end add a certain chunkiness in contrast with the ultra-slim barrels, those parts are not offensive to the eye. They are certainly practical.
Overall, the styling is fairly conservative: the barrels are a glossy black, the ventilated top rib is suitably slim and it sports solid side ribs that always look the part on a game gun. The decoration on the action body, with its gold pheasant and duck and the neat inlaid woodcock on the trigger-guard, are a matter of choice, as both more fancy and plainer models are available.
The woodwork with a factory oil finish, simple but nicely executed chequering patterns and panels at the head of the stock follow a comfortable, traditional line; only the schnabel fore-end tip hints at a modest extravagance. While the trigger and guard are full size — meaning the same as found on a larger-gauge gun — they blend in reasonably well and, more importantly, once again put practicality to the forefront. Yet in spite of this tendency towards such features, the Lincoln Premier remains a good-looking gun. It is quite possibly one of those a potential customer will be drawn to when racked up alongside others.
Reliability is something we expect from any gun and, compared with cheap offerings from years ago, modern, economically priced factory made guns are amazingly reliable. Of course, they have to be; competition is strong and any hint of unreliability would dent sales even in the face of the most extensive advertising.
The Lincoln range, made for John Rothery (Wholesale) Ltd by Fabrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, achieves reliability by using a time proven design and seemingly applying the worthy adage “simplicity equals reliability”. So the gun features reasonable-sized hinge discs (trunnions), twin cocking rods, helical mainsprings with limit stops and the inertia block trigger system, though this also incorporates a mechanical changeover, important on a light recoiling gun.
A simple bar or range operates the autosafe and the safety button incorporates the sideways-moving selector with the wellused one- and two-dot system for barrel identification. Strikers, or firing pins, are of a useful size and there is good attention paid to the layout and detail in the lockwork. The extractors are permanently sprung and, while the springs do seem a little on the strong side, this is necessary when ejecting the 3in long cartridges that this gun will chamber.
Lincoln Premier Gold .410 on test
At a smidgen over 6lb on my scales with the 28in fixed-choke barrels, this small-gauge Lincoln carries a useful amount of weight that is actually an aid to handling and balance. It balances right on the hinge point of the barrels and that, combined with its useful, albeit still modest, weight makes for fast handling with quite precise pointability.
Trigger-pulls tripped at just about 4¼lb in whichever sequence they were used. There was only the smallest amount of creep due to deep sear engagement which, undoubtedly, is done as a safety feature.
As expected, the ejection was excellent with the original 2in Fourten and 2⁄in cartridges and quite adequate with the 3in, which can drag a bit due to their length compared with the small diameter. Cartridges used on test included Eley Fourten (2in), Fourlong (2⁄in) and the 3in Trap cartridge; I also tried Lyalvale Express 2in and 2½in and Hull Cartridge Game and Clay 2½in. Shot loads varied from 9g in the short cartridges through 11g and 14g in the medium length to a big (for a .410) 19g load in the Eley Trap.
The stock dimensions meant, for me, the aiming point could be seen clearly above the foresight bead, though the length of pull was fine at some 14¾in. Altogether, it meant I had a good view of any likely target and a bit of “built-in lead” for overhead shots. Recoil was amazingly mild with the short, light loaded cartridges and quite acceptable for a youngster’s first gun experience even with the Trap cartridges.
Shot patterns through the fixed chokes in this gun were good with all the cartridges used on test. It made me just a little envious to compare it to those shaky, worn and pitted old Belgian .410s we used years ago — they often threw shot in a manner that could hardly be described as any sort of pattern.
Availability and price
The Lincoln range of shotguns is available from most gunshops and at competitive prices. As for that choice of name — Lincoln — it was, I think inspired. The founder of this range of guns was based in the city. It is very British, at the same time almost a little unassuming, rather like the restrained and slightly understated styling indicative of many shooters’ taste in guns.
The end product adds up to more than the sum of its various features