Born out of a passion for the eccentric, this 10-bore side-by-side delivered a thumping performance to remember for Michael Yardley
This month’s test gun is splendidly different – a Manor & Co 10-bore side-by- side weighing in at 9½lb even with its relatively short 26in barrels. I’ve used the word ‘beast’ to apply to some 12-bores in the past, and it certainly applies here. When you bring the relatively compact, 31/2in-chambered and steel shot- proofed gun up to the shoulder, it requires surprising effort – more than its actual weight (no greater than some 32in 12-bore competition guns) might suggest. The shapes are excellent, though. The large Holland & Holland-style diamond grip is especially good. The balance is on the hinge pin, although this gun might well benefit from longer barrels with a more forward balance.
MANOR & CO 10-BORE SIDE-BY-SIDE
The Manor 10 has been built in Spain within the AyA factory to the specification of Gerald Coulter, the founder of Manor & Co, and using parts supplied by him from another now defunct Eibar maker. We have looked at other guns of his in these pages. Coulter, an aviation engineer by trade, has a passion for the eccentric. As well as this project, and another to manufacture ammunition for it (now difficult to obtain in Britain even in conventional lead loads), he is determined to repopularise the 16-bore and make improved steel loads available for that and smaller bores (which, save for the 20-bore, are poorly served at the moment). You have to admire his pluck. I should also declare that I have recently accepted a commission from him to help with the load development. It’s good to see our trade still experimenting and taking risks. No one with too much of an eye to the bottom line would take this on; it is more for passion than profit in the current climate.
First impressions of the Manor & Co 10-bore side-by-side are positive. It appears to be finished to a high standard and is based on a large Anson & Deeley action. It is well scaled, so you would be hard-pressed to tell the bore of the gun from the photographs presented here. The fixed-choke barrels (1/4 and 1/2) are topped with a cross-hatched and tapered (11mm to 8mm) rib that is exceptionally well done. The action body, fore-end iron, top-lever and trigger-guard are hand engraved with Purdey-style rose and scroll. The action is traditionally bonemeal colour hardened. All good.
The gun is well stocked in a decent piece of Turkish walnut, with straight grain going through the large but elegant grip and a pleasantly figured butt. The dimensions of this demonstrator were 1½in and 2in for drop and 151/4in for length, including a short black ‘rubber’ pad. There was an extra ¼in at heel and ⅜in at toe – all very sensible. The classical stock shapes were excellent. The grip was particularly good for a large straighthand design (semi and full patterns are options), but it would have been hard to improve on the comb shapes too.
Coulter told me: “The gun is entirely bespoke – you can have whatever stock type and grip, barrel length and ribbing you want within reason. All the guns are future-proofed for steel. The 10- and 16-bores that I am having built at the moment – the latter as sidelock ejectors – will represent the end of an era. We are building a new 10 at the moment with ‘demasiado’ gold-inlay work on a black action. We had to bring a man out of retirement to do this.”
What of the 10-bore cartridge? It was once almost as popular as the 12-bore in the USA and had a strong following among wildfowlers here. The 10-bore side-by-side has been made with 25/8in, 2¾in, 27/8in, 3in, 3¼in and 3½in chambers. The 27/8in cartridges were the standard until 3½in (86mm and 89mm) became predominant (John Olin of Winchester was the father of the 3½in load, which dates, surprisingly, to 1932). The 31/2in lead loads may go up to 21/2oz.
The Anson & Deeley (A&D) was the first commercially successful hammerless design. It was called a boxlock because the hammers and mainsprings were contained within the action body (distinguishing it from sidelock and trigger-plate guns – the former carrying hammers and springs on its side-mounted locks, the latter on a plate screwed to the action). Initially, the A&D boxlock was made with a single barrel lump, but this was soon changed to the now ubiquitous Purdey double lumps. The A&D design made the hammergun obsolete. It was patented by two Westley Richards employees in 1875 (five years before the equally famous sidelock designed by Frederick Beesley and licensed to his sometime employer James Purdey). Choke would be popularised in the same era, with ejectors perfected in the 1880s and 1890s as well. The modern shotgun was complete in concept.
Olly Searl had kindly offered the use of his excellent shooting ground at Fyfield, but the test was hindered by the fact that only 2oz payload cartridges could be sourced. Two targets were used: a going-away bird and a crosser. I missed the first but barely noticed because I found myself pushed almost out of the ‘cage’ on firing. This was a thumper – recoil is considerable. I got the measure of it, leaned in and targets evaporated. It was an experience to remember. The gun has a quality feel, the shapes are excellent. It could be very different with better-tailored loads. As it is, you might put iron sights on the rib and use it with rifled slugs for boar or big game at close range. It wouldn’t be first choice for geese, but it’s still a wonderful project, and I take my hat off to Coulter for commissioning something so marvellously different.
MANOR & CO 10-BORE SIDE-BY-SIDE INFORMATION
♦ RRP: from £16,000
♦ Manor & Co, London
♦ 020 7993 2222