column By: Ernie Foster | July, 20
One of Belgium’s Finest Shotgun Makers: 20-gauge Bespoke Side-by-Side
The bespoke gun (custom-made for a specific individual) was usually a side-by-side, one of London’s “Best,” or some American maker’s finest, displaying engraving; a piece of art that — were it on canvas — would be hung in a museum. This Defourny would fall into that league.
The Defourny family lineage has been making fantastic high-end shotguns on a par with the big English makers since the mid-1800s. The same individual craftsmanship that distinguishes an English “Best” side-by-side goes into the making of these fine European guns. The end product comes from the craftsmen who produce the parts, shape the stocks and forends, apply the finishes and chisel the engravings — all artisans. They can be found in different countries: England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and America. Joseph Defourny happens to live in Belgium.
Antoine Joseph Defourny Sr. founded the company in the mid-19th century, and his grandson, named after his grandfather, took over during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Defourny dynasty is vast, and its representatives gained authority among the gun masters of Liege, Herstal and surrounding areas. Each subsequently made some contribution to the development of quality Belgian hunting weapons. Antoine Joseph Defourny Jr., in addition to being a skilled craftsman, was a talented and prolific inventor who registered 15 patents. There is evidence that A.J. Defourny Jr. contributed designs to the modern over-under as early as 1905, with further advances in the 1920s and ’30s. Barrel selectors and single triggers became commercially available in 1933.
This beautiful, prestigious side plate boxlock made by one of Belgium’s distinguished makers is a good example of a bespoke side-by-side lightweight upland gun.
It all starts with a buyer wanting a personal “one of a kind” side-by-side shotgun for personal use, a standard-action firearm with desired custom features, properly fitted to the shooter. Such a shotgun will reflect the owner’s taste, status, love for quality guns and knowledge of use.
That said, this Joseph Defourny bespoke gun goes beyond. It appears this gun buyer was a “lefty” and had the trigger mechanism made so that the gun’s left barrel, activated by the front trigger, would shoot first; the rear trigger turns to the left, making it easy to go from the front to the rear trigger. The left barrel was choked to .031; the right, to .035, as marked on the barrel flats, and the stock with cast on at the heel and toe has also been sculptured to fit a full face on the left-hand side. In addition, side plates attached to the gun give the appearance of a sidelock and provide more area for engraving.
This beautiful 5-pound, 10-ounce custom ordered boxlock 20-gauge ejector gun, with high-grade 28-inch steel barrels with side clips and 2¾-inch chambers, sports a very fine, concave, engineered-turned tapered rib from breech to muzzle. The Scotts spindle top lever works the Purdey sliding-bolt locking mechanism, which engages the barrel lumps. The lightweight upland gun, handmade to proper scale, supports side plates, and the highly figured semi-pistol grip stock with drop points has extra-fine elegant checkering, as well as a splinter forend with Anson push rod fastener. Profusely engraved, the gun displays deep-chiseled, finely detailed oak leaves on the fences and exquisite English-style bouquets with delicate, full-coverage scrolls on the frame, side plates, trigger guard and straps. The top lever has a deeply chiseled leaves-and-vine pattern.
When I go on that Georgia plantation quail hunt, this Joseph Defourny will make me proud. At auction, the gun should bring $10,000 to $15,000, maybe more, if compared alongside one of the better-known names of less quality.