Slim and simply decorated, this little .410 includes some clever practical features, says Lewis Potter
The Midland Gun Company was formed in 1889, making it in some ways a relative newcomer to the Birmingham gun scene. It grew to become quite a large business and manufactured a broad range of worthy, if sometimes rather substantial, shotguns as well as carrying out subcontract work for the trade and supplying parts.
A little over 60 years after its formation, it was taken over by Parker Hale. In later years, the once- proud name, Midland Gun Company, became just a brand name for the more economically priced products of Parker Hale. Yet in its heyday the Midland, as it was generally known, marketed an extensive range of shotguns, including the single- barrel .410.
There is a familiarity about this slim little gun because of its resemblance to the ubiquitous Belgian folding .410, often referred to as a poacher’s gun. However, this Midland is somewhat more upmarket, and brings with it an air of respectability often lacking with the Belgian version.
For all that, though, the features are very much the same: the curved side-lever, a graceful shape for an economy firearm; and the hinged barrel and release button, which allows it to be folded for ease of transport. Other familiar features include the part-octagonal, part-round barrel, dinky and virtually impractical fore-end and the central hammer.
Inside the action mainspring power is provided by vee spring, which also acts as the trigger-return spring. And tucked away in the action bar is a simple curved spring to tension the side-lever. So far, we have a basic description applicable to thousands of similar .410s — but there are differences.
Midland Gun Company differences
Compared with the average Belgian, this Midland Gun Company gun has a more substantial action body, which projects either side of the barrel. One advantage of this wider body is that it allows the fitting of a heavier stock. This is especially useful around the head of the stock where it fits the action because this was always a point of weakness on the ultra-slim Belgian versions.
As for the stock itself, the bag-grip style (also variously called semi-pistol grip, pommel-grip
or Prince of Wales, depending upon locality or marketing strategy), was at one time very much
a Birmingham standard. The walnut sports some fiddleback and the butt is cut with simple horizontal lines in the same manner as many of this maker’s larger shotguns would be finished. Obviously, the wider action allows the fitting of a slightly bigger fore-end, but it still falls into the category of somewhat more ornamental than useful.
The attention to detail is good for a shotgun of this type, with simple engraving to the screw pins and a double borderline around the sides of the action body. The cross pin or hinge pin is even fitted with a small locking screw pin, as there can be a tendency for the former to loosen with the gun being repeatedly folded open and closed. Even the central hammer has a particularly clean shape, with tiny chequering on the thumbpiece.
How much of this .410 was made by the Midland is open to question. We know there was trade between Liège and Birmingham and, while features of this shotgun shout in-house work, some of it may have started as a Belgian part-finished kit of parts. With the passage of time we might never know, but on the barrel it proudly declares “Midland Gun Co., Birmingham. Made in England”.
What to look for when buying a second-hand Midland Gun Company Single-Barrel .410
Barrels: .410s are often neglected, check for pits from both breech and muzzle ends
Action: Like any break-open shotgun, it will, with lots of use, shoot loose and the spring operation on the side-locking lever is prone to failure
Value: With this name, in very good condition, circa £150