A “Best” British Game Gun for the 21st Century

The beautiful over & under twenty bore, from Boxall & Edmiston

The beautiful over & under twenty bore, from Boxall & Edmiston

Gun-making was once the stronghold of the French but, during the 19th century “best” guns, produced by famous London makers surfaced; markedly superior in terms of build quality, looks and handling. The British trade however remained somewhat complacent (cue, a well-known British four wheel drive?) entrenched in building guns the traditional way and eventually only the best of the best were to survive. Dozens of provincial makers went out of business and the only entirely British made “best guns” appeared from London, Birmingham and Edinburgh houses and sadly, priced beyond the reach of the ordinary shooting man and woman.

Identifying this gap in the market and in order to cater for the demand for affordable guns, European manufacturers stepped in; tooled up and, with modern technology began mass producing a very appealing and reliable gun which filled the void the British trade did not foresee. There is no questioning the quality of production and capacity of European gun-makers, labour is cheaper, the product is well designed and built to last. These people are quick to recognise change and innovate, (multi-chokes, longer chambers as standard, steel proofed barrels) changing pace to meet demand. In short, British firms got left behind.

Any British company attempting to compete with such proficiency would be making a brave and very bold step indeed. However a new gap in the market was emerging, for a British built Game Gun to challenge the “best”; and half the price of a luxury car?

Recognising the efficiency of foreign makers, some British firms had joined forces, (using their design skills and combined with manufacturing facilities overseas), to produce a shotgun, mostly built abroad. Old household names now promote their offerings which are, in truth, a good and value for money product, but not truly British.

Enter Boxall and Edmiston, Gun-makers of Shrewsbury, England.

Peter Boxall is a past member of the Holland and Holland team and he knows how to build a gun. James Edmiston is a past MD of Sterling Armaments Company, known and highly respected in the gun trade; a coming together of two greats.

Establishing their business south of the town of Shrewsbury, they began by manufacturing side by side Game Guns, made entirely in Britain and marketed at roughly half the price of a basic London “Best”. Combining modern manufacturing techniques with proven engineering and gun-making skills has enabled the firm to produce an, all British gun in less than half the traditional waiting time too.

Now here we are, at the start of the 21st century and there is no doubting demand for the over and under gun has well overtaken that for the side by side. Old traditions die hard but, as one well known insurance company says, “change happens” and we are powerless to stop it. Peter Boxall set about designing and producing his over and under shotgun in twelve bore; it was received with much acclaim and demand.

The natural progression was of course to produce a twenty, interest in this smaller bore is bordering on the sensational and the first guns are being completed currently.

One very old established Italian gun-making house challenges the readers of our magazines with full page advertisement, “are you game for a twenty?” They need to sell guns and keep their company going. Throwing down this gauntlet has enticed many buyers, and these users have come to realise, and enjoy, the sheer delight of owning and shooting a smaller bore.

I am privileged to have been granted access to the evolving company of Boxall and Edmiston. Indeed one of my clients was one of the first to order a side by side twelve, and I provided the fitting. The gun is simply lovely and, it is all British, satisfying the demands of todays’ shooter, more affordable; there is little wonder the company is becoming well recognised and respected.

Earlier this month, (March 2014) I received an invitation to view the now completed twenty. I travelled to the Shrewsbury workshops and was met by Peter who, despite a recent, somewhat different rejointing operation, (his own hip!) was enthusing as ever, “spinning plates” and moving about the place with a jaunty gait.

For almost thirty years I have run my shooting school. The majority of my clients are Game shooters. The demand for an over and under game gun with the balance and handling characteristics of a best side by side is always present, and I, in common with many coaches know the gun, that up to now has filled this role; affordable, hand built and lovely to shoot… the Browning B25, Light-weight Game.

A Game Gun should be beautiful to the eye; we are influenced, indeed almost seduced, by appearances. Peter Boxall has left no stone unturned, his twenty bore gun sits balanced in the hands and upon mounting really feels an extension of your arms.

Design, proportion, the blend of wood with metal, it is flawless in appearance, from the muzzle to the butt of the stock, (more important than engraving or the use of choice walnut, the very line of a Game gun needs to be right), the Boxall and Edmiston twenty bore is truly, an exquisite work of modern gun-making art… it is right.

Now this article is not a shotgun “review”. I don’t write shotgun reviews; review journalists are hide-bound to report positively. I run a professional shooting school, day to day. We fit guns, teach and coach folk to shoot straight. Clients confide in me their desire for investment; I have to provide nothing but the most professional of advice, I am thrilled to have the B&E over and under shotgun in twenty bore to introduce to them.

It is my hope that, before too long, we will see the emergence of that most effectual of, “Game Getters”, the 28 bore. Designed by Peter and his team, my guess is that it will certainly have, “the look”; in fact it will probably be the shotgun comparable to Concorde, the most beautiful aircraft that ever took to the sky.

©Bob Valentine

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