William Powell is an old firm with a well-established reputation. This month we look at the new Marquis model from its Continental range. It is a Spanish-made (Arrieta) side-by-side that sells for £2,975 including VAT. This is a highly competitive price by modern standards for a new sidelock ejector, and cheaper than most of its rivals (though the GMK Viscount – also Arrieta – is on offer for slightly less).
William Powell has been working with Arrieta since the mid Eighties, and has a longer history than many when it comes to bringing in guns from the Basque region.
It is notable that the managing director, Mark Osborne, was formerly a partner at EJ Churchill, which has been successful with this sort of enterprise (and also offers a Continental range of guns). Powells under Osborne’s ownership, and retaining Peter Powell as a consultant, has considerably and imaginatively expanded its foreign-built line. It now sells a variety of Arietta side-by-side guns in all bore sizes (12, 16, 20, 28 and .410) as well as offering its in-house-built No 1 model, and some attractive over-and-unders from Italy (introduced in 2008).
I have been impressed both by the specification and levels of finish achieved in the latest Powell range with which I have had some familiarity since its inception. The firm seems to have a particular eye for quality control (explained, perhaps, by its hands-on gunmaking heritage and 30-plus years’ experience of specifying and ordering Arietta guns for the British market).
Besides the Marquis, there are two other particularly intriguing side-by-sides – the Juvenis (a youth model built on a sidelock action), and the well-finished, heavy, 3in-chambered, Linhope high-bird gun (based on a flat-ribbed pigeon-gun). As well as these, there are Monarch, Eclipse and Zenith models with ascending levels of finish, all made by Arietta which produces only 450 guns a year.
First impressions of the test gun, which has 28in barrels (with a 30in option), a concave rib and weighs 6lb 14oz, are reasonable considering the price. It looks like a typical Spanish sidelock made to British pattern.
This is not an unattractive gun, though. It is well presented and competently finished. The engraving is hand cut if a little sparse; and the action body is colour hardened (coin finish is a no-cost option).
The gun comes up quite well. Balance is adequate. There is some weight between the hands, and not too much forward. The oil-finished and well-chequered stock has a straight grip and a traditional splinter fore-end. The standard measurements are all sensible. The length of pull is 15in with 1⁄8in extra at heel and 1⁄2 in (a little more than the modern norm) at toe. Drop is 11⁄2in at the nose of the comb and 21⁄8in at heel. There is 1⁄8in of cast-off at heel and a fraction more at toe. These are pretty standard shelf dimensions (save the slightly extended toe) and may be adapted to suit most users. Individually specified measurements are available for £295 extra.
The 23⁄4in (70mm) proofed barrels are chopper lump and well presented with 18.5mm bores and fixed chokes (quarter and three-quarter). Barrels, flats and lumps are neatly finished and bear Spanish proof marks. The action is of Holland & Holland pattern – usually the inspiration for Spanish makers – with the customary Southgate ejector work. The gun has twin triggers (the front articulated), disc-set strikers and the normal intercepting safety sears (a necessity in a sidelock). The action body is well proportioned and the scroll engraving reasonable if not inspiring. There are cocking indicators. The striking-up and blacking of the barrels is workmanlike, as is metal-to-metal and the wood-to-metal fit.
I have watched similar guns being made in the Arietta factory and it always amazes me the speed at which the artisans (of whom there are about 20) work. The Spanish firms use some machines, and have common suppliers now for certain parts such as barrels, but most work is still traditionally executed by hand at the bench with chisels, files and smoke-lamp. The standards achieved are extraordinary considering the speed of manufacture compared to our own less-hurried approach.
The Marquis has integrity of manufacture, is well conceived and priced, and shoots predictably. It shot as well as some more expensive guns if not quite as well as its more upmarket and heavier stablemate the Linhope, with which I had a brief but satisfying outing a few weeks back. Now, we get to the nub. A significant number of traditionally minded sportsmen are in need of a new side-by-side gun or pair of guns that can cope with modern cartridges and hard use and that won’t break the bank. This gun fills that niche. There is a 30in Marquis 20-bore on the way, too, with a narrow, flat rib. Now, that sounds quite exciting. Meanwhile, the 12-bore version will get the job done.
Price from £2,975
Maker William Powell, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 5TD
Tel 01295 661031
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