You dare not buy an item of clothing lest it’s the wrong tweed, and every serious shooter almost certainly already has a range of hip flasks, peg finders and cufflinks.
So why not a new gun?
This is a question we’re often asked, and it’s a tricky one because buying a new gun involves a lot of personal preference.
Obviously, the shooter in your life will already have at least one gun, and even if they have several there is still probably one old faithful which sees more shooting than most over the course of a season.
But there’s no reason a little room couldn’t be made in their heart for something a little out of the ordinary.
A DREAM PAIR
The first thing that pops into the mind when thinking about the perfect gift for a keen shot is doubtless a pair of handmade English shotguns.
As an Aston Martin is to most lovers of gears and petrol fumes, so a pair of sidelocks from the likes of Purdey, Boss or Holland & Holland are to those fond of loud bangs and the whiff of cordite.
Buying a new pair is something of a dream for most shooting men I think, and there is a hefty price tag attached.
As long as these guns are properly looked after they will last a lifetime, so buying a second-hand pair is a pretty safe bet.
Much like buying a classic car, as long as a gun has been cared for then its age does not matter – though you will struggle to find a really old one which has not had some new parts put in.
Of course there will inevitably be some wear and tear due to the moving parts of a lock mechanism, but thanks to the UK’s fantastically skilled craftsmen almost any gun can be brought back to life.
As such, buying a fairly battered pair of English guns for a low price to be restored might not be such a bad bet.
The most popular period for English guns is the inter-war period, with guns from the 1930s consistently selling for very high prices.
That period is looked upon as the classic period for British gunmakers, and their huge popularity will be reflected in the price of the guns.
Don’t get too fixated on the name either; a Lang priced at £12,000 is almost certainly a much better buy than a Purdey for £7,000.
Guns from Birmingham makers may not be the more desirable sidelocks, but they will have been built to similarly exacting standards, will be extremely reliable and will offer great value for money.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
Away from English pairs there are many excellent guns on the market which would make an unusual gift.
It need not have a high price to be worthy of the attention. Many older handmade guns which would be superb to shoot with sell for around £1,000 today.
Don’t be afraid of buying an older gun: as long as it is in proof it will be safe.
Moreover, any good gun dealer will help you deal with any problems should they arise.
Consider also bore sizes. Does your other half have a collection of 12 bores?
If so, it might be worth considering something a little different. Lighter guns in 20 or 28 bore have become very popular in recent years, but many shooting aficionados swear by the 16-bore as the purest form of the sporting shotgun.
These guns are a little unusual, but they are a joy to use, meeting a sweet spot between handling and weight.
My best advice for buying a gun at this time of year is to be adventurous. It is really very difficult to buy a truly terrible shotgun, even if you’re not spending a vast sum of money.
If you’re completely stumped for ideas then perhaps just buy something on looks.
That way even if the gun only comes out of the cabinet once a year it will look great in the field.
Caesar Guerini Essex Limited
This really is a big boy’s toy. A customer came in and ordered this gun recently as a .410, and it is made more unusual thanks to its massive 32″ inch barrels.
It is clearly a gun for someone confident in their shooting abilities. These Italian guns have been creating something of a storm over the last few years thanks to their stunning good looks, great handling and very reasonable price.
This gun has a side plate which really gives it lovely lines and allows for more of the excellent rose and scroll engraving, which is finished by hand, to be shown off.
The wood to metal fit is excellent, and Guerini guns have a good reputation for reliability.
The Essex Limited is available in a variety of bores and barrel lengths. The 20 and 28-bore models weigh in at just 2.8kg, with the 12-bore slightly heavier at 3.1kg.
The .410 of course will be even lighter still, though the 32″ barrels should mean getting a consistent swing is not too difficult.
Usually the stock comes with a full pistol grip, though a rounded grip is available.
All variations of the gun come with multichokes, so it could happily be used on a variety of targets.
If you’re looking to buy a gun few others in the field are likely to have then you won’t go far wrong with a Caeser Guerini.
They are good looking, reliable and shoot well, making them a great buy.
Matched pair of Purdey sidelocks
This is one of a wonderful pair of guns with 30″ barrels, built in July 1936. Guns from this period with long barrels are quite unusual, as the fashion was much more towards the shorter, Churchill style guns.
They are very attractive with exceptional rose and scroll engraving.
There is a capped Prince of Wales grip, double triggers and a silver sight bead rather than brass. The guns feature an unusual wedge-shaped foreend catch but are otherwise very understated and classic in appearance.
The stocks are in good condition but show a little wear, as you would expect with guns of this age.
Though the stocks are attractive, the wood is not of the very highest grade.
This is beacause Purdey prefer the stock to have a strong grain for added strength, particularly through the wrist where the self-opening action exerts extra pressure when closing the gun.
Most owners of pairs of guns are careful to use each one regularly to ensure even wear.
That being said, do make sure to have a proper look over the guns – it is often a good idea to ask to see the internal parts of the gun to ensure they have been properly maintained.
Any pair of English sidelocks of this quality by a well-known maker is worth a significant sum. They are also sure to incite more than a little envy in the rest of the line.
Husqvarna hammer gun
Hammer guns are a fascinating part of gunmaking history, and seem to become more and more appealing with age – that’s the case for me at least.
You should be looking for a gun with rebounding locks, where the hammers return to half cock after firing the gun, and a top lever.
You should also try and buy a gun that can be opened while the hammers are cocked, which is particularly useful at the end of a drive.
Don’t worry too much about whose name is on the gun; a huge number were made in Birmingham and sent out to retailers and ironmongers to be sold under their names.
Focus on the condition of the gun over all else. The Swedish company Husqvarna had an excellent reputation for building guns, starting in the late 1600s producing muskets for the Swedish army.
You might recognise their chainsaws more readily today, however. This one was most likely made after the Second World War, and is a 16-bore.
It has 29″ barrels with 2¾” chambers, meaning it will take modern cartridges, and has a heavily file cut rib.
It is in very good condition and is easy to maintain, but most importantly will be good fun to shoot with.