Ten years ago, investing in the right sort of firearm had the potential to offer rather a good return.
As the markets struggled, there were a smug few who bought beautiful shotguns and rifles, both modern and old, whose purchase appreciated in value over the course of just a few years.
The same is rarely true today though, of course, exceptions remain in the form of the rarest of antique collector’s pieces, or the one-off pieces.
There is one exciting benefit to this change in the market – buying a stunning shotgun or rifle now no longer means that it must be kept hidden away, never to see action in the field for fear of leaving a mark on it.
Instead, buying a gun is an investment in your shooting.
We look at some of the best guns on the market today, from the perfect starter’s gun to those manufacturers crafting the finest one-off pieces.
Best for: Standing out in the field
Few gunmakers can claim to manufacture such a diverse range of guns and rifles as Westley Richards. Founded in 1812, the company produces around 30 guns per year, each handmade to order, of deluxe or exhibition quality and built solely in their Birmingham factory. The famous hand detachable lock action, developed in 1897, is still in use today and allows the removal, inspection and cleaning of the lock work in a matter of seconds, something which is totally unique to Westley Richards. Built to the very highest standards, admired the world over and a fraction of the price of its London competitors.
Boss & Co coined a strapline many years ago that describes what they do perfectly: Boss & Co, ‘Makers of Best Guns Only’. Often described as the ‘gunmakers’ gunmaker’, owing to the fact they are the gun most professional gunmakers would choose to buy if they could, Boss continues to make handcrafted guns in much the same way as it did in the 1800s. Indeed, Boss is the longest continuous London gunmaker, remaining in private ownership since 1812. The .375 side by side, round-bodied, double rifle with Boss & Co traditional rose and scroll engraving, double triggers and exhibition-grade Turkish walnut is a particularly fine example. Pictured above with a Swarovski scope – because if you’re going to buy a rifle this good, you’ll want to match it with the best scope in the business.
William & Son’s side-by-side 28-bore self-opening sidelock ejector gun is fast-handling, light and visually stunning. With perfect balance and pointability, it is the absolutely perfect companion when you need speed and snap reactions. Early season partridges, as they come whizzing over hedges, hugging the contours of the land, require just that, and this lightweight shotgun will be the ideal partner. Each of these beauties takes 1,000 hours to make, which is why they remain a much envied and rather rare sight in the field.
The Beretta Silver Pigeon is one of the most commonly used shotguns by shooting schools, so if you are just starting out, it could be the ideal choice, as you’ll have had the chance to use one before to get to know it. With a few flourishes, including an oil finished walnut stock and floral scroll or game scene engraving, the Silver Pigeon is a tough, uncomplicated over-and-under that will last for years. There are plenty of options available from .410 to 12-bore, with varying barrel lengths, so it’s also a great starting point for a young shot.
Purdey is one of the most respected gunmakers in history. A gun that arguably represents a blend of its heritage and innovation at its best is a stunning Damascus-barrelled over-and-under. Being forged from a blend of Damascene steel gives the barrels and action a stunning appearance, and the history of the technique is fascinating: when James Purdey began his apprenticeship in 1798, gunmakers forged these barrels from old horseshoes and nails. While the over-and-under barrels offer a more modern touch, a highly figured stock, along with gold inlay take the 12-bore to the next level.
Treading in the footsteps of the famed hunters of the 19th and early 20th centuries is something every stalker dreams of, and what better way to honour our hunting forefathers than to emulate their choice of rifle? Rigby recently launched its Highland Stalker, a rifle that has taken inspiration from those of famed hunters Karamojo Bell and Jim Corbett. A traditional deerstalking rifle, the Highland Stalker is built on a Mauser 98 action, and, with its slim lines and lightweight frame is perfect for hill stalking, while the stunning grade-five walnut keeps the appearance traditional.
After 90 years, the famous Browning B25 is now the inspiration for the B15, an over-and-under shotgun designed as part of the John M Browning Collection. Hand-finished in Belgium, the B15 holds true to the ethos of the B25, and is renowned for reliability. Perfect for gameshooting and clayshooting, the B15 comes with a variety of finishes, from Grade B to Grade E stock, a variety of engraving and the B25 locking system, and is available in 12 and 20-bore.
Today, EJ Churchill may be best known for its hugely popular shooting grounds in Buckinghamshire, but the company was started in 1891 in London as a gunmaking workshop and remains the largest gunmaker in British hands. The Hercules is built by the company’s Spanish partners, but has all the attributes of a traditional bespoke English shotgun, from the technical gun fit to delivery and the first day you use it in the field. Gauge, stock length, choke, barrel lengths and many other options are decided by the buyer, giving that personal touch to the final, cased side-by-side shotgun.
With women taking up game and clay shooting in their droves, Italian gunmaker Zoli took note and has produced a stunning shotgun, the Zoli Z-Bella, for women. Many of the lady shots today will have started by using a man’s gun, probably a 20-bore, but the female anatomy simply doesn’t suit the longer stock and trigger pull that these guns offer. The Z-Bella took two years to develop and every detail is aimed at the female form, from the pistol grip to the pitch and cast, while the design offers a touch of glamour, with subtle Swarovski crystal embellishment. The Z-Bella is available in 12-bore, and can be custom fitted with a variety of ribs as well as custom stocks.