Our gun bears London proofmarks struck in 2004 – some indication of how long it can take to make a best gun. Chambers are 23⁄4in (70mm) and it is proofed at 950BAR. The bore diameters are marked at 15.6mm which is a traditional measurement, but quite tight by modern standards. The barrels are made, as noted, on the chopper lump plan, the favourite of the London trade. Striking up, internal finish and chambering are first class – the work of Mick Kelly.
The sidelock action (made by John Craven and Mark Sullivan) is of essentially best London mechanical style with intercepting safety sears and an automatic safety catch. Pinheads are polished and there are goldline cocking indicators. There are no disc set strikers fitted, giving the action a clean face. The ejector work is of reliable Southgate pattern.
There are one or two interesting variations on a familiar theme, however. On the mechanical front the noses of the cocking limbs – which act on rods to compress the main springs and also trip the ejectors – are longer than the average. This increases leverage, making cocking of the assisted-opening gun easier.
This was an excellent, crisp gun to shoot. For me, crispness is the quality that sets apart a best gun, especially a small-bore. The fine trigger pulls were most noticeable (there was no creep at all) but the way the gun closes and opens, the function of the safety catch and top lever also impressed. Add to this exceptional handling qualities brought about by attention to balance and, in particular, a reduction in barrel weight – made possible by traditional hand striking-up and lapping – and the wonderful aesthetics (this is one of the prettiest 20-bores we have tested), and you have something that justifies its price.
Let me leave the last to Paul West: “We can assure the client of a unique gun built in the old style. Whatever the customer wishes, we’ll do. “