Buying guns at an international auction can seem daunting, but if you’re armed with the right knowledge about how the process works it can be highly gratifying and quite addictive. Plus, auction houses have an unparalleled variety of guns on offer and go to great lengths to discover the provenance of lots, which can often result in your gun cabinet filling with iron that sets you apart from your peers in the field.
Selena Barr asks Holt’s Auctioneers, which specialises in fine modern and antique guns, for 5 interesting lots being sold in their next auction (Thursday 30 June).
Lot 1600 and 1601
In February 2015, one of Britain’s great sporting heroes died. John Robert (Bob) Braithwaite was a legendary trap shooter who represented his country at two consecutive Olympics in the 1960s. His family has consigned the actual over-and-under 12-bore C Grade Browning shotgun that Bob used to beat 55 shooters from 34 nations and win a gold medal at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Holt’s Auctioneers is also selling a special edition D Grade Browning shotgun that was presented to Bob in recognition of his sporting achievements.
Both shotguns have an estimate of £7,000 – £9,000
A 12-bore ‘New Reign’ boxlock ejector shotgun made by T. Bland & Sons in 1955 (the model released three years prior to this example, and named in honour of the Queen’s Coronation). These days the boxlock guns, once the backbone of the British gun industry, are often overlooked in favour of the more glamourous sidelock. This is a great shame – and, depending on the depth of your pocket, possibly a big mistake.
The success of a gun (whilst of course doffing its cap to trends and fashion) depends on it being practical and effective – and there is good reason why the boxlock held such a key position in the market for so many years. A best quality English boxlock will not only be a sturdy and reliable companion in the shooting field, but will have a character and an individuality that makes it an after shoot conversation piece as well.
Estimate: £1,000 – £1,500
A 16-bore flintlock brass-barrelled blunderbuss made by Wilkinson of Edinburgh. A blunderbuss has to be a ‘bucket list’ item in the boys’ toys category. Beautifully made by best British makers and generally designed for coach drivers and gatehouse keepers, with its elegantly compact form and oversized muzzle (as much for effect as for ease of loading) it is the ultimate ‘persuader’ against miscreants and scoundrels. If Dirty Harry had been around 170 years previously, you could quite imagine the .44 Magnum would have been replaced with one of these.
Estimate: £1,000 – £1,500
A good .44 single-action percussion revolver, model ‘1860 Army’, made by iconic American brand Colt. Continuing the Clint Eastwood theme, who hasn’t secretly pictured themselves as the outlaw Josey Wales at some point in their boyhood? After his pair of Walkers, the Colt 1860 Army was his pistol of choice. Boyhood may fade in to the background, but it never quite disappears, and of course, the pocket money situation does improve over time…
Estimate: £1,200 – £1,600