Boxall & Edmiston O/U Game 20 bore
Vic Harker reviews two 20 bore over-unders from Boxall & Edmiston that he believes represent the future for the English gun trade.
The two most significant aspects of the Boxall & Edmiston over-under is that, firstly, it is manufactured entirely in the UK and, secondly, in relative terms, it is affordable. This is not to say it is cheap, but in comparison to other English over-unders, it is remarkable in terms of getting bang for your buck.
From the moment computer controlled engineering was introduced to the world of manufacturing with all its benefits of easily replicated precision, it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later the firearms industry would embrace it. So far as shotguns were concerned, it was the Italian volume producers who (for obvious reasons of scale) were the first to utilise such technology, but the much smaller artisan makers were not far behind.
As for the English gun trade, we can be sure that the benefits of CNC-produced components were adopted judiciously, but, with the exception of James Longthorne Stewart's one-piece barrel over-under, it is Boxall & Edmiston who have combined this modern technology most extensively into their range of guns that also mirror English gunmaking skills and aesthetics.
Boxall & Edmiston's first gun was a boxlock side-by-side, although, predictably, it was the introduction of their 12 bore over-under that has attracted the most interest. Introduced in 2013, there is now a 20 bore with a round-bodied action or the option of a square side-plated model, and I have been looking at both.
For me, the appeal of these guns lies in the integrity in every aspect of their design. The trigger plate lock-work is an example – its geometry is so designed as to maximise the power of its leaf springs behind the hammers' blow to the strikers. The use of leaf springs – always the choice of British makers because they release their power more efficiently than coil springs – creates crisp trigger pulls and a faster lock-time.
The Boxall & Edmiston over-under achieves its elegant low profile action by what has long been considered the best possible way.
A system of draws and wedges at the side of the barrel lumps, and integral to the walls of the action body, come together on closure of the gun. This arrangement is then secured by a bifurcated bolt moving forward on either side of the breech-face and engaging with bearing surfaces above the bottom barrel. These principles, first designed by James Woodward and incorporated into his highly successful over-under guns in the early 1900s, have become an orthodoxy so far as the best over-under guns are concerned.
The component parts of the barrel assembly are manufactured in-house by Boxall & Edmiston and then sent to one of two outside companies whose high standards of workmanship match their own. Great care is taken with the profiling of the tubes to produce an over-under with the right weight and balance. Proofing is done in Birmingham or, if requested, in London at no extra cost.
Gun fitting and the stocking of all Boxall & Edmiston guns is carried out in-house and a special team has been created for their over-under. The result of all of this is a range of guns that, in terms of specification and quality of manufacture, meet my perception of what an English shotgun should be. The over-under is no exception and the 20 bore, in weight, balance and conformation, also lives up to these high standards. As to my preference for the round or square-bodied action, it would be for the latter, although the difference in weight and balance between the two is only a matter of a few grams. With 30" barrels, both guns weigh about 6lbs 6oz and provide a light and handy 20 bore that is fitting with British tradition.
When I first shot this maker's 12 bore over-under, I found it a genuine pleasure. Weighing a little over 7lbs, it was suitably responsive without being too fast off the mark. At just over lb less in weight, the 20 bore with 30" barrels provided similar handling characteristics proportionate to its weight. Unfortunately, the test gun that I used belonged to a customer with very different requirements to me in terms of gunfit, with too long a stock and too much drop at the comb, and so I didn't shoot very well. Nevertheless, all the feel and balance of its 12 bore stablemate was very much in evidence and I hope to shoot this gun again in the near future with stock dimensions closer to what I am accustomed to.
I can remember when CNC production was first introduced by Italian makers, and I speculated with a colleague of mine in the firearms industry as to what impact it would have on English gunmaking. That was nearly 20 years ago and, to some degree, the British gun trade has availed itself of its benefits. But Boxall & Edmiston have picked up the ball and run with it. At first glance upon visiting their factory, their production bears little resemblance to what we expect of most English gunmakers. The guns they make, however, could in appearance have been put together with lampblack and file, retaining a fit and finish together with a gloss that previously only artisan hands could provide.
Boxall & Edmiston have with their efforts over the past few years created the future for the English gun trade – just as I had hoped for when I first saw what promised to be 21st-century gunmaking, two decades ago.
Maker: Boxall & Edmiston
Model: Over-under game
Bore size: 20
Barrels length: 30" or to order
Action: Trigger plate
Chokes: To order
Stock: Semi-pistol grip or to order
Weight: 6lbs 6oz
Price: From £27,000 inc VAT
Tel. 01743 762352