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Straight Lines and Phantom Curves. A look at stock makeoffs. By David Brown.

Boss & Co 12g Over and Under.

Little things: Ever wonder why some guns just look racy and keen laying on the bench?

Or, upon picking up certain guns you know they are really right before even getting them
to your shoulder?

Ever watch a real gunmaker pick up a gun for the first time and look directly
at you while checking out things by feel?

A goodly share of all this is a direct result of very subtile things in the makeoff or shaping of
the stock. Most of the makers have a particular style or look. Some of the differences are readily apparent and some require real effort to distinguish between looking and really seeing.

The diamond shaped hand and lines of Holland & Holland are there for all to see. Boss guns generally have ruler straight lines front to back with one often overlooked exception: Put a straightedge on a Boss stock from just behind the trigger bow to the toe of the stock and, likely as not, you will note just a little relief between that straightedge and the trigger guard on straight hand stocks. That little relief is in no small part responsible for the perfect feel of most Boss guns before before you even mount one.

Westley Richards, Used Guns, James Purdey pairSuperb pair of Vintage 12g J. Purdey guns.

Put that same straightedge on a Purdey stock from from the rear of the hand along the side to the centre of the butt and you may discover that midway the stock is just a tiny bit fat.
An interesting thing about this is that it is not not limited to Purdey makeoffs. This same slight midway enlargement can be found on the columns of the Parthenon and on Rolls Royce grills.
Known as "entasis" to early Greeks and modern architects, it is, at least in part, responsible for for the softer, lovely, classic look Purdey guns posess. Some stocker at some time almost certainly knew the secret of the Greek columns and applied it to his trade.

While none of this is of any great importance, it might be interesting for some to look again at various examples of the stockmaker's craft.

After all, it's those little things that make best guns what the name implies.

Westley Richards, Making Off a stock, stocker, shotgunsWestley Richards stocker Keith Haynes making off a 4g droplock shotgun.

Westley Richards, Double Rifle Westley Richards, Bolt Action, ProfileThe profiles of Westley Richards rifle stocks.


  • M Ward on November 24, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Beautiful bolt action rifle. That would be my dream rifle in .275 Rigby caliber. I have a question: Would that be styled a "stalking" rifle or an "express" rifle?

    • Simon Clode on November 24, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      It would be a stalking rifle, built on an intermediate size Mauser action which will allow for a slimmer stock profile and lighter rifle. It is a great calibre and the one I chose to take to Africa on my first Safari years ago, that and a 470 detachable lock.

      • M Ward on November 25, 2014 at 8:44 am

        Thanks, Simon. Would you tell me, then, the difference between a "stalking" rifle and "express" rifle?

        Thanks again.


        • Simon Clode on November 25, 2014 at 4:43 pm

          wiki has a pretty good description under Express (weaponry)....the meaning of express has shifted in modern usage, and refers to high velocity, large bore rifles and ammunition, typically used for hunting large or dangerous game at close range.
          I would consider a stalking rifle a light rifle in a light calibre like the 275, 270, 30.06. One you would crawl around the Scottish highlands with!

          • M Ward on November 26, 2014 at 6:10 am

            Thanks, Simon. I appreciate it.

  • Vic Venters on November 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Very nice, Mr Brown and a good topic.The subtleties of best-gunmaking are fascinating and almost endless.

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