column By: Ernie Foster | August, 19
With each article, I try to offer a different smoothbore gunmaker or manufacturer from an extensive range of makers, periods, designs, quality and suggested values. In the Winter 2008 issue of The Upland Almanac, I wrote about the beautiful Harrington & Richardson (H&R) side-by-side hammerless shotguns offered from 1882 to 1885. At the time I wrote, “This beautiful, hard to find H&R Boxlock is a missing gun among the American gun collectors’ inventory. I sure would like to have one in my collection for $1,800 to $2,000 and even more for a 12-bore A grade.”
This is one of the A grade guns. How many were made, if there are two alike or if they were made to order are all unknown. To the best of my knowledge, the grades are not identified on the gun but are determined by the handcrafted embellishments done by the individual artisans who put the finishing touches on them in wood and steel.
H&R became known in the industry for its revolvers, and its reputation in the American marketplace led to a five-year license agreement with Anson & Deeley of Birmingham, England, to be the sole licensed North American manufacturer to produce and sell the new Anson & Deeley action double-barrel hammerless shotgun in the United States.
The Anson & Deeley boxlock action was designed by two Westley Richards employees, William Anson and John Deeley. Westley Richards, the prestigious Birmingham gunmaker, produced (crafted) the first Anson & Deeley hammerless boxlock gun in May 1875. The new action design was coupled with the Scott spindle-top lever and the Purdey sliding underbolt. The Anson & Deeley boxlock design became the world standard and continues to be so today for boxlock guns.
Between 1882 and 1885, H&R provided the marketplace with approximately 2,700 side-by-side boxlock shotguns in 10- and 12-gauges with Damascus steel barrels in 28-, 30- and 32-inch lengths in four different grades: A, B, C and D. The grades were determined (though I’m not sure who made that determination) by the amount of engraving, quality of wood and Damascus steel barrel finish. The top-grade A would rival any of the boxlocks made in the world during that period.
This beautiful A grade 7.5-pound, non-ejector, 12-bore with 2¾ -inch chambers has finely detailed 28-inch Damascus steel barrels. The smooth, concave Damascus classic game rib, swooped to follow the contours of the barrels, is etched with “Harrington & Richardson, Worcester, Mass USA.” The rib extension (referred to as a doll’s head) that fits into the cutout on the standard breech creates a third fastener that complements the Purdey sliding bolt locking system that is activated by the top lever (Scott’s Spindle).
The semipistol grip stock architecture, crafted from exquisite extra fancy figured walnut, displays checked side panels in a heart shape with a broadhead shape to match the drop points on the grip. The grip has extra fine checkering with a scalloped border, and the butt plate is molded hard rubber with the H&R logo. The forend, which is of equal quality, is nicely shaped with detailed relief contouring to a beautiful fluted hard rubber molded toe that embraces the fully engraved Deeley & Edge fastener.
The case color hardened frame remains 100 percent along with the delicate tapestry engraving based on stylized scrolls. The deep chisel work on the arcaded fences reflects the embellishments often seen on English “Best” guns.
Made with the modern precision manufacturing practices of its time, this beautiful H&R side-by-side 12-bore A grade shotgun in excellent condition reflects all the superb artisan finishing touches of the prestigious English side-by-side gun firms. In essence, it is a Westley Richard Anson & Deeley boxlock that was licensed to be made of components assembled in America. Unfortunately, it does not have a collector demand; if it did, it would be equal in value of the best-made American guns of its era. Today, with the original maker’s leather case, it should bring $6,000 to $10,000 from a shooter and much more to a collector.