column By: Ernie Foster | March, 20
The beautiful barrels quickly connect with my eye, and the gun makes a statement all by itself. A brief glance at the nicely figured, straight-hand stock shows evidence of field use and has a steel butt plate, and the wrist of the checked stock and trigger guard tang showed wear from the hand that once carried the gun in the fields and marshes. For safety reasons, I proceed to break open the action to check for empty chambers, only to learn that the break open system is operated by a Jones Rotary Underlever that releases the locking mechanism when the arm is manually rotated to the right. The system was patented by Henry Jones in 1859, and, of the five types of lock operating mechanisms at the time, it was adopted by almost every gun-maker until the Scott Spindle of 1865 was introduced.
William Scott is a great example of an individual who learned a skill/trade in a specific field in the early 19th century, and, with generations of family participation, built one of the largest firearms manufacturing companies in the United Kingdom. It began in 1834 when Scott completed his apprenticeship as an outworker (finisher) in the gun business. He started a gun and pistol business in Birmingham and was joined by his brother Charles; together they established the firm, William & Charles Scott. In 1835 William’s wife Mary had a son, William Middleditch Scott, and in 1837, another son, James Charles Scott, was born. By 1850, William’s sons William Middleditch and Charles were working in the firm as a finisher and an engraver, respectively. In 1858, William Middleditch became a partner in the firm, and the firm was renamed W & C Scott & Sons. His gun design skills grew as time passed, and in 1865 he received a patent for the famous “Scott Spindle” top lever that was used in conjunction with the Purdey double bolt locking system designed earlier. The Purdey bolt locking system with the Scott Spindle became the standard operating mechanism for double-barreled guns. William Middleditch Scott went on to receive several more shotgun patents, such as the cocking indicators that protruded through the top of the action body when the gun was cocked, as well as a similar design feature, the Scott Crystal Cocking Indicators: small windows on the lock plates that allow the user to see if the tumblers were in the cock position or not.
As the Scott family name and numbers grew over the years, many of their descendants were involved in the business. By 1887, W & C Scott & Sons employed about 200 craftsmen and was a supplier of all types of guns to other Birmingham and provincial gun-makers. Many of the top London firms sold Scott guns under their own names. The W & C Scott & Sons firm stopped producing sporting guns around 1939.
This robust, 30-inch laminated-steel barreled W & C Scott & Sons gun with a smooth, concave classic game rib and bold action frame supports the 10-bore, 3-inch chambers. The high-spurred rebounding hammers are 100% engraved and complement the 80% engraving on the side plates, which retain most of the original color. The checkered forend with a horn tip insert is secured with a wedge fastener. The 8-pound, 10-ounce well-balanced gun is proportionally made; it would appear to be heavy for an upland gun and more inclined for waterfowl and driven pheasant shooting. That said, many of today’s trap and sporting clay guns weigh the same as a 12-gauge. Being mechanically sound, on face and black powder proof, as well as having its original barrel wall thickness and bright bores, this gun should bring an auction value of $1,200 to $2,500, regardless of whether one plans to use it in the field, in a vintage shoot or just as a wall hanger.