Friday, November 26, 2010

gun trades and good kharma

I know Steve is going to blog about this some, but here's a story of everything somehow being connected. Folks who follow this blog know I spent July out in Arizona, but I don't remember if I mentioned that part of my journey featured stops in to see Libby + Steve in Magdalena. (Steve was kind enough to celebrate my passing-through here.)

Steve and I share an interest in a number of things -- Central Asia and fine shotguns being two of them. And I had brought my little 20ga out with me to Arizona and, of course, showed it to Steve. Who in turn showed me his own small arsenal. My little gun, incidentally, was a W & C Scott Model 300 private labelled for, probably, an ironmonger's shop -- but unusual in that it had long 30" barrels, open chokes (roughly Cyl and IC), and a very light weight (5lbs even). It was a wonderful upland gun that could be carried all day -- but was still capable of taking birds at decent distances with the right ammunition.

The past tense should signal that, in fact, Steve and I have traded guns. Steve will doubtlessly share what his motivations were, but when he offered me his 12ga Grant sidelever hammer gun, there was little need for deliberation. I can credit my love for fine side-by-side shotguns to my good friend, Paul Hermann, a true craftsman in his own right, who was kind enough to let me shoot trap with his 1926 Purdey -- although just once. From Paul, I came to appreciate that, especially when working with well-mannered pointing dogs, nothing need be rushed -- and the solemnity of the moment-to-happen marked with a certain grace. Taking the time to cock the hammers on your shotgun is another reminder of that.

The Grant is all original, as it was when it was built in 1879 -- heel and toe clips on the buttstock, 31" barrels, and traces of the original case color behind the hammers. The real treat is when you take it apart. I don't know if Steve ever had the locks off during its tenure with him, but the interior of the locks retain their full case color and the springs are still so strong that my gunsmith (who is easily 6' 2" and 220lbs and no weakling) had to order a special spring vise to compress them to reassemble the gun. As folks can see, the gun has Damascus barrels, although these too have a lot of wall thickness left in them -- some 0.037" at the thinnest spot way out towards the muzzle. Folks have mixed opinions about shooting Damascus barrels -- for me, even though it is chambered for 2 3/4" shells, I am going to shoot 2 1/2" RSTs and wear a filet glove on my left hand under a shooting glove.

At 7lbs 6oz this gun will not be my regular walk-up gun -- I have a 2 1/2" chambered 6lb 7oz Holloway & Naughton for that -- but I have a few schemes in mind to keep this gun in service. And I did shoot some training birds with it on Wednesday to give the boys some retrieve practice. It does fit me remarkably well. And it is beautiful. When you realise that all of these curves were molded and shaped by hand with files and sandpaper, something as utilitarian as a shotgun really does become a work of art. Even my wife thinks it is lovely.

Steve was also kind enough to send me a copy of Cyril Adams & Robert Braden's Lock, Stock, and Barrel (Safari Press, 1996) which contains the following immortal quote: "The preferred double has external hammers, double triggers, and no ejectors. After all, it is reliably reputed that God shoots a Grant sidelever hammer gun with 30" Damascus barrels made around 1890." (p. 177) Sadly, once you've gone sidelever, I have a feeling you never go back.


Mike Spies said...

Andrew, the Grant sidelever gun is one of (if not THE) finest arms ever made. They embody elegance like no other gun. Congratulations!

Can't imagine what possessed Steve...

Luisa said...

Wonderful post, and my nominee for best time-sink of Thanksgiving weekend 2010... link led to link and I wound up fantasizing about a hunt in Spain [with side visits to some of the Spanish mastiffs Cat has written about over at Steve's]. Grant sidelever dreams on a Marlin .22 budget ;~)

Steve Bodio said...

Mike-- my rationale here. I cannot afford to hang a gun on the wall, and Parkinson's however "at bay" demands something I can carry. I already knew Andrew's gun fit my specs, and that he would appreciate the Grant more than a collector would have.

Or as I wrote to Tom McGuane, who has had London guns MADE (probably for more than my house cost), "it is pleasant to be old enough to trust your own judgment".

Luisa: the budget is entirely Marlin .22-- I have just been wheeling and dealing for enough years that I have two shotguns and one rifle a bit above my "natural" level!

Mike Spies said...

Steve -- I understand the rationale for owning a lightweight sub-gauge gun - I shoot a pair of 16 gauge graded Fox guns (5/12 and 5/15) NS Lindner Daly 20 that is 5-1/2 lbs.

These lightweight guns take a little learning to shoot well, but are definitely worth the trouble.

No disrespect meant at all, I am just a little jealous, since I have long admired Grant sidelever guns.

Anonymous said...

What an elegant trade. A trade made for all the right reasons. My time for such endenvors is fast approaching and hope to find as good a home for my bests as Steve has found. A story with a ring of Dr Norris to be sure. And to think I might have played a small role in all this is a delight for sure...Bests to all...RM

Obsessed with Doubles said...

Please let me know if you ever want to sell that Grant.

The check is already written, just tell me the amount.



Andrew Campbell said...

@ Gregg: thanks for the compliment! It is a lovely gun and if I actually took the time to practice with it could probably actually shoot it well. In much the same way that true objective logic didn't really apply in my and Steve's exchange, I find it hard to imagine that I would ever sell this lovely thing. And hopefully, if similar circumstance arose for me, I would have the generosity and self-confidence to pass it along to another who might not otherwise have such a fine gun in his collection.

Nice blog, too, by the way!


Gregg said...

How's that Grant treating you? Tired of it yet?

Hope you have a great hunting season.


Andrew Campbell said...


I came awful close to selling the Grant this spring after being offered what turned out to be a BS chunk of change. When the deal fell through, I was grateful. I didn't come into ownership of this gun through normal means and, while briefly tempted, it has proven itself as a phenomenal shooting gun.

All best