Anderson Wheeler Game Gun
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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
Although having been around since 2006 in the UK (and some years before that in Africa), Anderson Wheeler are still regarded as a relatively new London gunmaker and luxury goods firm. Their compact premises in Shepherds Market, London, not only house their guns, but some very up market fly fishing gear. Stuart Anderson Wheeler, the MD of the firm and a friend, is still an active Professional Hunter (he reappears from the Congo basin occasionally looking unruffled on a Monday morning having spent the fortnight deep in the forest guiding clients). His father was a hunter and his brother, Scott, is serving an apprenticeship as a PH in Tanzania too.
So, the genesis of this new company is partly African. Chris Clemes is the fly fishing specialist (and AW also offer a range of luxury goods and clothing – so start making your Christmas list), and Keith Andrew McAllister is the artist in residence who heads up their art and collectables department. Back to guns. Anderson Wheeler initially came out with their range of shotguns in 2009. They offer Spanish actioned side by sides, Italian action over and unders (hand engraved in France and all stocked in England), not to mention very high quality bolt action and double rifles for stalking and dangerous game, and, best grade English shotguns too. Everything is bespoke – at all price points – at no extra charge.
The test gun is a 28” 12 bore with a price tag of £8,950 plus VAT. It is based on a familiar action – not unlike a Guerini or Rizzini – and exceptionally finished and detailed. First impressions are definitely good. This is a handsome gun with bold scroll engraving which is not the usually machined offering but hand cut. The gun has side plates and they are well inletted and allow extra space for decoration. Even though a 12 with a full width bolt (see below), the gun looks quite svelte, and putting it on the scales reveals a reasonable weight around 7 ¼ pounds – lighter than the average over and under game gun.
Bringing the gun to the shoulder, one notes that it is well balanced and not as front heavy as many modern OUs. I have always had a preference for an over and under game gun under 7 ½ pounds and the Anderson Wheeler meets that criteria effortlessly. I like a side by side a little lighter – something around 6 3/4lbs. My 32” Guerini 20 bores - and I have found nothing better to shoot game with yet – hit the scales at 7lbs 3oz.
The Anderson Wheeler is available as a 16, 20, 28 and .410 as well, and with 30” barrels (my preference is always for longer barrels on a small bore, but 28” can suit an over under 12 bore intended for general field use).
The barrels are, of course, monobloc. They are well crafted and richly blacked (London best). The chrome lined tubes are presented well and straighter than many, the monobloc joints are neat. The vented sighting rib is well finished and true to the eye (you can have a solid rib if you prefer). Joining ribs are solid. With regard to bore diameter, the barrels are both stamped 18.5mm, the forcing cones are of medium length and the gun is London proofed for 3” cartridges. The Anderson Wheeler will, however, happily digest 2 ½” and 2 ¾” fodder as well. [Personally, I would avoid using heavy or very light loads for game shooting. My preference, 12 or 20, is 30 or 32 grams of 5s (I bring this down to 26 or 28 grams in a lighter weight 20 or 28 bore).
The test guns action is similar to many one sees from Italy, and, indeed, on the Italian based models coming from a number of makers now – E.J.Churchill, William Powell, and William Evans, for example (the last two firms both offering a Continental range). The action combines the usual elements seen in this style of Anglo-Italian gun. The hinging system is of the trunnion type with stud pins resting on recesses in the bifurcated lumps of the monobloc barrels and a low Browning style bolt coming from the bottom of the action face to engage with a bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth. It’s a common and well proven plan. The arrangement is also adopted by Rizzini, Fausti, and FAIR amongst others. Sometimes, the system seen here, which is undoubtedly strong, leads to a gun that can look too deep in 12 bore. Not so here. The proportions are good.
The action has a Beretta style barrel selector (but better for being a little bigger) and a well shaped top lever and plain steel trigger blade (the proportions of which could have been made even better with a little more judicious filing, I also thought the bow of the trigger guard could be refined). The action is powered by reliable coil springs. The sideplates, usefully, allow for more space for decoration and put a little more weight between the hands. I have always liked side-plated over and unders – some were prejudiced against plates, but the Beretta EELL and Jubilee proved that they have their place on a quality gun. There is room for more decoration as noted, the beauty of line of the sidelock, and the mechanical reliability of the simpler action mechanism.
What of the wood?
The butt was made from well figured, nicely oiled and (hand) chequered walnut and was not fitted with the usual butt plate (another plus), but did have a silver oval. The forend was of Schnabel pattern. Aesthetically, I was not quite sure of this. I would stipulate a rounded, Boss style forend. The stock shapes were generally good, however. The pistol grip fills the hand – I might also consider a semi-pistol if I ordered a gun – I liked the comb which was well tapered. The length of pull was just over 14 1/2”. The length to heel and bump was +1/8” and +3/8” relative to LOP - ideal. The drop was a standard 1 3/8” and 2 1/8”. It is all pretty academic, as you can have whatever you want at no extra charge.
Stuart and I shot this gun together at my local shooting ground along with one of his side by side 20 bores. This new OU showed few vices. It had that positive quality that I call ‘forgiveness’; it was predictable to shoot and did not need to be ‘driven’ excessively. It did what you wanted naturally. Perhaps this is why this pattern of gun – like the Anson & Deeley, Holland Royal and Browning OU – has inspired so many. What sets the Anderson Wheeler apart, is that there is a lot of extra hand work in it. Bearing this in mind, I don’t think it excessively expensive, though 10K plus is not small change, it is well priced compared to some of its competitors.
What I really like about Anderson Wheeler meantime is the sense not only that the firm is young and going places, but that everyone is willing to go that extra mile to make things right. The gun as tested was a shelf model. You can order what you want with regard to barrels, stock measurements, rib type etc. This is a way of having the pride of ownership of a London gun, though, without breaking the bank or taking out a third mortgage.
PRICE: £8,950 plus VAT
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