In 1789, a fresh-faced 23-year-old by the name of Joseph Manton strolled into Mayfair bidding to make a name for himself in the world of gunmaking. It was a daunting task, to say the least, for someone so young with relatively little knowledge of such an intricate industry.
But his impact was to be unprecedented. He would go on to register twice as many patents as any other gunmaker, play a large part in developing the flintlock and the double-barreled sporting shotgun as we know it today, and train the pedigree names of contemporary gunmaking – Thomas Boss, Charles Lancaster and James Purdey.
By the time of his death in 1835, after two spells of debt induced by gambling and court cases, the man widely reputed as the godfather of British gunmaking had left a humbling legacy – a legacy that has remained largely dormant until recent years.
170 years on, the fabled name of Joseph Manton has burst back onto the scene, due to the lively injection of time, money and passion from three fanatics: Geoff Walker, Ian Spencer and Dick Castleton.
Since 2010, the triad has been on a relentless pursuit to bring the revered name out of the shadows, and by Jove have they done just that, with a four-gun range that harks back to the beauty and precision sought by Old Joe himself. To fill the shoes of such an instrumental pioneer within the industry is an ambitious feat, but one glimpse of their pièce de résistance, a triple-barreled 20 bore called The Tribute, shows that they have more than risen to the challenge.
Featuring classic engraving and dark-rippled stock figuring, this gun is every bit as striking as Manton flintlocks of old. Despite the additional barrel, the balance has not had to pay the price – it weighs 7.75lbs, similar to regular 12 bores – and it handles beautifully, the added weight provoking a smooth and controlled swing. It is a textbook example of the marriage between engineering and beauty, form and function.
The other 3 guns in the range consist of a side-by-side (the Legend), a bar-in-wood design (the Signature, pictured above) and an over-under currently in the final stages of development (the Legacy) – each a work of art that will be perfectly at home out in the field.
Joseph Manton, a man renowned for his unrelenting pursuit of precision and perfection, would certainly be proud.
THE TRIBUTE SPECS:
Gauge: Three 20 bore barrels
Barrel length: 28″ as standard, or to order
Choke: To order
Lock/Trigger: Two sidelocks and one triggerplate (also available in single triggerplate configuration)
Stock: Straight hand or semi-pistol grip
Production time: 21 months
Price: From £69,300 (ex. VAT)