Much like fishing with split cane, Michael Yardley finds there is a purity to shooting with a hammer gun – especially when it offers quality like this at an attainable price
Michael Yardley finds himself impressed with the Luciano Bosis hammer gun. There is a simplicity and elegance to shooting with a hammer gun, and this is quality at a very attainable price.
For more high quality guns at excellent prices, read Michael Yardley’s review of the Cogswell & Harrison 20-bore – an inexpensive way to discover the joys of a 20-bore.
LUCIANO BOSIS HAMMER GUN
This month’s test concerns a 12-bore, non-ejector, 6lb 12oz hammer gun with 27½in barrels. Nothing special, you might think, until you learn that the maker is Luciano Bosis, one of Italy’s finest. His family attelier in Travagliato, near Brescia, produces something not much over 20 bespoke guns a year. An ex-Perazzi man (he worked there in the 1970s), Bosis is perhaps best known now for his Michelangelo sidelock over-and-unders but he has made a number of side-by-sides, too (including 15 hammer guns). An Anson & Deeley boxlock has been a recent project and a titanium over-and under.
Luciano Bosis guns have a reputation for very fine finish. I have seen several proprietary, machine-made over-and-unders his daughter, Laura, has reworked. She once rounded (and exquisitely colour case hardened) the action of a Rizzini at the suggestion of my pal, Paul Roberts; the round-action Rizzini went on to become a popular and standard model (now based on a dedicated action). All the guns Laura Bosis finished were transformed, prompting the question: might the ultimate “using gun” combine machine manufacture with artisan finish?
The test gun, meanwhile, is secondhand but in as-new condition and virtually unfired. It comes from the stock of Chapman guns, which now imports Bosis into the UK (with Paul Roberts also importing the marque). It looks quite English, as many best Italian guns do, with a wonderfully proportioned, coin-finished, sidelock hammer action decorated with Purdey-style rose and scroll (immaculately executed by Italian master Diego Bonzi). The gun has a richly figured English straight-hand stock and a splinter fore-end. Expertly struck-up and blacked barrels are fitted with a semi-sunken rib.
The barrels feel quite light, however. I checked their wall thicknesses because of this and found that they were struck up to show a minimum of about 26 thou with a mean of about 30. The bore dimension was 18.4mm. The Bosis balanced about ¼in behind the hinge pin, so it felt lively. Chokes are fixed at half (right) and very full, 40 thou plus (left). The gun had probably been made like this anticipating regulation.
Close inspection reveals only quality. The action, though splendidly presented, is quite simple. It is a self cocker, non-ejector, of classic Birmingham form with one barrel finely fitted lump visible through the bottom of the action near the knuckle (London hammer guns are usually made so no lump is visible and this is also the case with some Bosis hammer guns). The action bar is well filed up with particularly elegant boltsers leading to no-less-elegant oval sculptured fences. The action is rounded towards the knuckle, fluted beads grace the bottom of the bar and the hammers are pleasingly shaped – far prettier than on some modern hammer guns.
The only thing that I did not like about the gun – noting that 27½in barrels would not be my normal preference – was the straight grip, which I thought a little deep. The quality of wood, oiling and chequering was excellent. Wood-to-metal fit was exemplary with the in-letting of locks into the stock near perfect. Jointing of barrels to action was first class, too, though I noted a very slight harmonic on closing.
Beauty of form apart, is a hammer gun a practical proposition in the field today? Well, the simple answer is of course it is, they were used happily for decades by some of our greatest driven shots. George V stipulated hammers as an aid to good shooting, I have enjoyed shooting hammer guns myself for 40 years. Nevertheless, there was a prejudice against hammer guns on driven shoots that has recently abated. Hammer guns can be made with safeties, ejectors and even self-cocking, which may overcome any blimpish prejudices. We tend to be a more tolerant lot today and the simplicity and elegance of the traditional hammer gun has its own attraction – like fishing with split cane.
Hammer guns are made to various patterns. The two seen most often are bar-action sidelocks and back-action guns, though the island lock (where the locks are set into the stock without fixing into the action bar or on plates abutting it) was popular with Purdey from the late 1860s. “Bar in wood” sidelock hammer guns may also be encountered. This gun is a bar action sidelock and it incorporates a variety of developments, including Purdey double lumps (now ubiquitous), a Scott spindle and top lever (ditto), and Stanton’s 1869 patent rebounding locks (seen on all modern hammer guns). Before this, hammer guns had a “half-cock” position and the hammers rested on the strikers if forward with potentially disastrous consequences if a loaded gun was dropped. Stanton guns are “rebounding”: the hammers cannot go fully forward unless the trigger is depressed. We now take for granted many of these developments, each a colossal step forward in its day.
I shot the Bosis at my usual test ground, a combined skeet, trap and sporting layout. The barrels were a little shorter than my preference but the birds broke well, the second barrel creating balls of smoke thanks to its tight constriction. Recoil was noticeable as one might expect in a sub-7lb gun but trigger pulls were crisp. I felt I might have had more control with slightly longer barrels and a different sighting rib, a semi-pistol or Prince of Wales grip might have suited, too. Overall, I was impressed with the attention to detail. The metal work and finish are exemplary. It is being offered fairly at £12,500 (Paul Roberts also has new .410 and 20-bore Bosis hammer guns at £20,000 and £16,000 respectively). For it’s quality, the gun is not expensive. If I were to buy it, I might be tempted to order longer barrels or keep it for walking-up and partridge. Quality like this does not usually come at such an attainable price.
LUCIANO BOSIS HAMMER GUN
♦ Price: £12,500
♦ Victor Chapman, London Road, Marks Tey, Essex CO6 1EB
♦ 01206 863537