Michael Yardley welcomes a new name to English gunmaking and, after a day with the company’s extra finish over-and-under, finds he was pleased to make its acquaintance
A new name to English gunmaking, Michael Yardley is delighted to find the Manor & Co over-and-under refined, aesthetically pleasing and excellent to handle.
For something rather different, the Holland & Holland Paradox is intended for both shot and special bullets.
MANOR & CO OVER-AND-UNDER
This month’s test gun is an extra finish 30in over-and-under by a new name in English gunmaking: Manor & Co. The company is owned by Gerry Coulter, an aviation engineer with a keen interest in shooting both rifles and shotguns (his particular passion is boar and he enjoys being a member of the British Sporting Rifle club at Bisley). Coulter wanted to use his knowledge of metallurgy and rebuilding obsolete Rolls-Royce jet engines to create a better, bespoke shotgun. He has recently, and ambitiously, launched a new range of shotguns and rifles. He is offering over-and-unders and side-by-sides, smooth bores, combination guns and dedicated rifles. He is sourcing parts in Europe.
The test gun combines German barrels with a well-known French action and is proofed in London by the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers. This model is assembled and finished in France but other new Manor & Co projects include work and sourcing from artisans in both Italy and Spain. “I go where I can find the best at reasonable cost,” notes Coulter. “I want to make a truly best-quality gun at a sensible, attainable price. I want every gun to be unique.”
First impressions of the test gun are sound. The side-plated action bar is rounded and coin finished. The lines are sleek. The aesthetics are good with a classical theme. The single, non-selective trigger is gold-plated.
The engraving – game scenes and scroll by Granger (probably France’s most famous name) and some subtle gold inlays – is well done and profuse. The Manor & Co name is in a rather bare panel on the belly of the action. I thought this might have benefited from more scroll work. But the overall effect of the engraving was pleasing. Scroll alone would have looked good, too, provided that the action was well covered.
The gun has some deluxe touches apart from inlays, including a hand-filed, narrow (6mm) top rib of solid pattern (my favourite on a game gun), an extended trigger guard and an engraved steel cap to the grip. The level of finish impressed, as did the magnificently figured stock. My only qualm was that the grain might have been too busy towards the head of the butt but this is often the case with exhibition or near-exhibition grade walnut (and one reason why grand old Purdeys and Hollands often had plain timber).
Bringing the test gun to the shoulder, one noted a good balance (marginally forward of the hinge pin) and substantial but not excessive overall weight – 7lb 15oz. Stock measurements were 1⅜in at the front, and 2¼in to the rear of the comb relative to the rib axis. This is academic to a degree as the gun is bespoke and may be ordered to the customer’s requirements. The grip has a little more radius than my normal preference and a subtle palm swell. I liked it nevertheless. The comb is of a full pattern, which was comfortable. The quality of stock finish, the oil and hand chequering, was first class (always a strength of deluxe guns emanating from French benches, in my experience).
Length of pull suited this tester at 14¾in as it would probably suit most of average 5ft 11in to 6ft build. Though, as noted, you may have exactly what you want on a newly ordered bespoke gun. The butt is finished off with a wooden plate (allowing for a stock bolt behind rather than breech pin attachment of wood to metal). This is fixed with traditional slotted screws.
The German tubed barrels on the test gun, subject of much consideration by Coulter, are monobloc and multichoked. The chokes, which are quite short, look similar to Beretta Mobil chokes. The quality of barrel making passes muster in all departments. Forcing cones are traditionally short suiting fibre. The gun is steel shot proofed for 3in cartridges and, as mentioned, bears recent London proof marks.
The Manor & Co gun is built around a side-plated French proprietary action, bench assembled with traditional smoke and oil methods. I have found that these traditional methods can reduce vibration (as was the case here). This gun has bifurcated lumps but there are not the usual replaceable studs for hinging à la Beretta or Perazzi. If the gun did come loose it would require traditional gunsmithing to bring onto the face. Some may prefer this approach; there are trunnions within the action walls.
The ejector work shows Italian influence. There are twin cocking bars in the base of the action that connect to the ejector work. Lock-up is achieved by square section bolts emerging from the action face and bearing down on protrusions to the rear of the monobloc just below the top chamber. There are, unusually, recesses in the extractors to allow for this at mid level. The single trigger mechanism is mechanical. The safety for the non-selective single trigger is automatic in operation with a relatively small top-strap thumb-piece.
I shot the gun at our usual test venue – Fennes shooting ground in Essex – accompanied by Gerry Coulter and my shooting pal and frequent co-tester, Paul Payne. The Manor & Co over-and-under was first class to shoot.
Felt and lower case recoil with a variety of Lyalvale Express loads was light. The trigger pulls were particularly crisp. The handling qualities were excellent. This did not feel or perform like a mass-produced gun. It felt refined with great stock shapes. I liked the rounded fore-end as well as the grip and comb. It all felt right without excessive weight forward. It shot naturally well without the need for too much ‘driving’. The only target I missed was the last one, when its great shooting qualities led me to be cocky on a long crosser.
The gun isn’t cheap, but it delivers.
MANOR & CO 30IN OVER-AND-UNDER
♦ RRP: £19,999
♦ Manor & Co, London.
♦ 020 7993 2222