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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
There is a new British gunmaker doing exciting things at the moment and the company’s name is Boxall & Edmiston, based in Staffordshire. This is a partnership between Peter Boxall, who used to work for Jaguar cars, then W&C Scott (owned by Holland & Holland) and James Edmiston, who once owned Sterling Armaments who were famous for the Sterling 9mm machine gun amongst other things. As an aside, I was always rather fond of the Sterling, especially in its suppressed variant which was surprisingly effective with subsonic, heavy bullet, ammunition.
CNC Meets the Craftsman’s Bench
Anyway, as ever, I digress. Boxall & Edmiston launched a sideplated boxlock last year and have just announced a new sidelock gun too (which we will bring you in a forthcoming issue), but the focus of our attention here is a lovely, scalloped, best boxlock model. The Anson and Deeley boxlock has, like the side by side itself, fallen out of fashion somewhat, but, as a design it still has a lot going for it, not least simplicity. I have always liked good quality boxlocks (not to mention good shooting boxlocks) and own and use several.
This new gun has 28” barrels (though 30” tubes are an option), double triggers, and a very high standard of finish. The action is silver polished and beautifully engraved by a sophisticated mechanical process that involves lasers and computers (and, oddly, is no quicker than traditional methods and requires a vast investment in high-tech equipment – one which Boxall & Edmiston have boldy made and obviously hope to recoup). The gun itself is made by very high tech machining processes too, but incorporates a lot of good ‘ol bench work. For example, the well figured stock is made traditionally, the monobloc barrels are struck by hand, and the gun is hand finished like one of London’s best.
The Italians began a high-tech gunmaking revolution in the 1970s – by which time most of our trade was dead or in the doldrums. Ivo Fabbri, Daniel Perazzi and others (not least the Beretta dynasty) changed the way guns were made. We were slow to take up their lead though there were some CNC pioneers in the UK such as John Shirley. Holland & Holland famously used machines to make their detachable trigger lock over and under, and Purdey have also developed a very sophisticated machining operation – not just for their new sporter model created in association with Perugini and Visini, but to produce actions and other parts for their entire modern range.
What has taken a surprising amount of time though is for these new techniques and processes to be applied to guns in the middle market (probably because of the investment required). Our test gun has a selling price around the £10K mark plus tax. There is a sideplated version at £16K plus VAT and the new full sidelock at £25K plus. This is not cheap, but it is a lot cheaper than London where prices tend to begin at least around the £50,000 mark these days for English built guns putting them out of reach of all but the super rich. Twelve grand, on the other hand, is something that quite a few ordinary enthusiasts could aspire too.
What’s the Boxall & Edmiston boxlock like?
Well, it looks very good and feel fine when you pick it up – lively but not excitable is how I would put it. The level of finish is excellent. Blacking is of best quality, the scroll engraving pleases my eye (and everyone else who has seen the gun that I know), the stocking – a classic English straight grip – is by Stephan Dupille (one of the acknowledged masters of the craft). And, it goes without saying that all the machining and engineering appear first class as well.
Looking at the gun technically, it is a slightly modified Anson & Deeley boxlock with Southgate ejectors. There are some interesting changes though to a design which originates to the 1870s and 80s; the gun has a removable draw which allows for the rear lump to bear precisely against the bridge in the action. This reduces stress forces on the cross pin and is an arrangement commonly seen in double rifles. The ejector work is also interesting. Instead of the usual semi-circular leg and a very narrow, circular, guide rod running parallel to it, this design has diamond shaped ejector legs which don’t need the extra guide rod but which are only made possible by high tech machining.
Don’t get the impression from all this that this is a conventionally ‘machine made’ gun. It isn’t. Like most best guns today, the main components are machined, and this extends to the engraving as noted which is applied with cutting edge methods. BUT, the gun is truly hand finished. Indeed, I think it would be easy to be misled. B&E are very upfront about all the machining that goes into the gun. Nearly all best guns are now made by a similar processes today though they may be hand-engraved (although even here, you may get Italian guns of the first quality which have the first pattern applied by laser which is then gone over with a hand cutting tool). Gunmaking has changed at all levels.
Let’s look at the spec. The barrels are monobloc, but the joint is TIG welded, so this is not immediately apparent. They are 2 ¾” (70mm) chambered and bear London proof marks. The chokes are fixed at ¼ and ¾ and there is a traditional concave sighting rib – the classic British game pattern (though I like some flat top designs too). The stocking, as you would expect from Stephan, is first class. This is a bespoke gun, but I will mention the shelf dimensions for interest (and because they suited me well). The length of pull is 15 1/8”. Drop is 1 3/8 at comb and just under 2 1/8” at heel. There was a bit of cast for a right-hander – about 1/8 at heel, and smidgen more at toe. The whole package weighed in at an excellent 6lb. 12oz.
Well, I didn’t miss much – honestly! Shooting this and the sidelock on the same day, I shot 70 birds and missed one with each gun. Targets were a mixture of skeet birds, and longish crossers. I liked the B&E boxlock a lot. Was it perfect? Of course not, but it was very good! The safety was not very positive, there was slightly less movement in the first trigger pull than the second. The handling qualities were A1 though, and the details mentioned were accounted for by the fact that this gun had been in rushed production for the CLA and had yet to be finally regulated. I am, meantime, delighted to endorse this great new English gun. I think Boxall & Edmiston have done something wonderful with it – they have brought back affordable gunmaking to England and they deserve every success (which I am sure they will have). This is just the beginning of the story.
PRICE: £10,000 plus Vat