Michael Yardley has long admired this firm’s side-by-sides and is equally impressed the new William and Son over-and-under – a combination of modern design and London tradition
The William and Son over-and-under is our test gun. It’s a 12-bore with 30in barrels, a low-profile and hand-engraved action and weighs just over 7lb. It cleverly brings together modern design with London tradition, much to Michael Yardley’s approval.
WILLIAM AND SON OVER-AND-UNDER
I have admired and shot William and Son’s guns many times. The firm makes an elegant sidelock side-by-side and has also produced bench-made sidelock over-and-unders.
The mechanics of the William and Son over-and-under gun’s trigger-plate action are made by computer controlled machinery, as is now common, but it benefits from traditional London barrel work and regulation and hand-engraving by Peter Cusack as well as London finishing.
Paul West, William and Son’s gunmaker, initiated the project about two years ago. He was looking to create a new gun in association with another British maker with the necessary hi-tech machining facilities.
“The whole point was to get a well-specified, thoroughly English over-and-under in the London market at the right price [£39,500 plus VAT in 12- or 20- bore]. It is the individualism that absorbs the time… you can profoundly change the character of a gun – its performance and looks – with extra handwork by the right people,” he says.
Initial impressions of the William and Son over-and-under are good, and enhanced by the attractive deep scroll-work, itself shown off by a bright, polished action and well-figured stock wood. My only slight reservation regarding the aesthetics is the defined edge separating the belly area and sides of the action.
The form of the stock is both elegant and functionally efficient. Both the capped, three-quarter- pistol grip and rounded fore-end look and feel good. One dry mounts the William and Son over-and-under and feels in immediate control. The grip is one of the best that I have recently encountered: well proportioned and radiused. The gun feels pointable and lively thanks to just the right amount of weight forward in the Teague-choked, Mick Kelly-regulated, monobloc barrels with TIG-welded joints.
All the detailing of the William and Son over-and-under passes scrutiny. Double action fences, and the symmetrically scalloped rear of the action look well balanced. The fore-end iron, profusely engraved like the rest of the metalwork, is attractive and an indication of a model de luxe. The top lever is a pleasant shape, works well and has a particularly good thumbpiece. The trigger has a nicely shaped blade set in a simple guard with an extended tang. The safety and barrel selector also tick both aesthetic and functional boxes.
The inside of the action is distinguished by a floor plate over the cocking rods. The grip is quite rifle-like and better than those on many London over-and-unders because of it. It offers adequate depth throughout its length. The fore-end of the William and Son over-and-under is a near-ideal, rounded style that sits in the hand comfortably and seems to offer enhanced control. The Deeley-style release lever is well done and secure in action without being too stiff.
The “exhibition grade” stock wood shows rich figure in the butt. The standard of finish (by Colin Orchard) is up to the London mark, with hand- rubbed oil and hand-cut 22-line chequering. The dimensions for the shelf are 15in for length of pull with little cast (so the gun might be bent either way). Drop is 11⁄2in and 2in, so might easily be altered for most clients of normal build. A gold oval graces the belly of the stock. Comb profile, like the grip and fore-end shapes, is sound.
WILLIAM AND SON OVER-AND-UNDER: TECHNICAL DATA
The gun is built around a barrelled action supplied to William & Son “in the white”. I am acquainted with the original design and its development in which I had some significant involvement. Key features include bifurcated lumps/stud- pin hinging, twin cocking bars covered with a protective plate to prevent the ingress of dirt and foreign bodies, detachable draws and traditional V-springs set in a fixed lock mechanism.
Towards the rear of the low profile-action, the firing pins are set at less of an angle than on many over-and-unders (the angle of the pins to the central bore line is about 4 degrees whereas in some over-and-unders it may be as much as 25). Barrels are struck up by hand and have average wall thickness around 32 thou – they feel livelier than those on some machine-made guns. At the muzzles, Teague interchangeable chokes are fitted (five supplied).
WILLIAM AND SON OVER-AND-UNDER: SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS
Having shot a number of guns of similar design, and noting a good specification here with measurements and barrel length which suited, I was keen to get on range. The William and Son over-and-under had the right qualities and ticked all the important boxes – weight between the hands, good stock shapes offering plenty of purchase, a lively feel to the barrels. Felt recoil was modest for the weight. Trigger pulls were crisp. Pointability with the narrow-ribbed, hand-struck-up, barrels was excellent. As far as clay birds on a skeet layout were concerned, it was quite hard to miss. Aesthetically, the gun is attractive, too. As for the price, it’s not cheap but it is not outrageous. I anticipate William & Son will do well with this model. I would order one as tested if I were in the market: 30in barrels, 12-bore, three-quarter-pistol-grip stock and rounded fore-end.
William & Son price: £39,500 +VAT
Where to buy the William & Son over-and-under: www.williamandson.com
Call: 020 7493 8385