I am often asked for my thoughts and advice on collecting guns, and where I see potential for investment.
My advice is always to buy the best examples that you can afford, but also to stick with the key gunmakers, who have unparalleled history.
Here are five of the best...
James Purdey & Sons
Established in 1814, Purdey is unique in having occupied a position right at the top of the trade for its entire history. As the successor to Joseph Manton, Purdey immediately inherited the best clientele and, more than two hundred years later, still retains them. Its South Audley Street premises are steeped in history, and owner Richemont is investing heavily in this prestigious brand to ensure the next 200 years are as successful as the first. Recently introduced innovations such as the new trigger plate over-and-under, and Damascus guns ensure that Purdey is as much at the cutting edge today as it has always been.
Boss & Co
Established in 1812, Boss remains the ‘gunmaker’s gunmaker’, specialising in producing absolutely the very best and almost entirely still by hand. Its levels of production have always been small compared to the other best London makers, but its resistance to mass production techniques in this modern age is much admired by the connoisseur. Concentrating on its legendary over-and-under gun (first built in 1909) and its single-trigger side-by-sides, recent investment by its owner has seen Boss visibly return to the top with some truly spectacular guns. The over-and-under currently enjoys a five-year delivery time, helping make ownership of a Boss a truly exclusive club.
Holland & Holland
Owned by Chanel since 1989, Holland & Holland has been at the forefront of London gunmaking since its success at The Field magazine’s gun and rifle trials in the 1880s. Achieving great success at these really cemented the brand’s future, and the introduction of its original Royal model of best shotgun in 1885 confirmed its place in sporting history. Since then, it has been a major maker of double barrelled and bolt action rifles, as well as best-quality sporting shotguns. Diversifying in to the world of fashion, the Holland & Holland brand has never been more visible and the guns it produces remain among the finest to come out of the capital.
John Dickson & Son
The future of Edinburgh’s most famous gunmaker looked uncertain recently when the firm closed its Edinburgh premises, but it now has a new owner and is looking to re-establish itself as Scotland’s premier maker. Renowned for its ‘round action’ side-by-side shotguns, long seen as the ideal gun for grouse shooting, there are new models in design and fresh investment to secure the future of this world-famous brand. Already the values of vintage examples has started to rise in anticipation of the return of this great gunmaker.
John Rigby & Co
Actually the oldest surviving gunmaker operating in the British Isles, John Rigby established his business in Dublin in 1775 and his sons moved the business to London in 1866. Specialising in sporting and military rifles, the business flourished, but it was in 1898 when Mauser introduced its revolutionary bolt-action rifle that business really took off. Rigby formed a partnership with Mauser, building its own rifles on this classic German action, and bolt-action classics like the famed Rigby .275 and the Rigby .350 were born. Favourites with several generations of hunters, the brand had fallen into obscurity until it was recently resurrected by L&O Holdings in 2013. Now firmly re-established in London, the firm is producing all of its classic models again, and vintage examples have rocketed in value as a result.
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