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James Woodward & Sons 12 gauge Sidelock Ejector, antique & exceptional English gunmaker.
James Woodward & Sons 12 gauge Sidelock Ejector, antique & exceptional English gunmaker.
If you’re a collector of the finest English shotguns in the world, you must include a Woodward alongside your Boss, Purdey and Holland & Holland. In fact, Woodward’s craftsmanship was so superior that this was the only gun manufacturer that James Purdey & Sons ever purchased. Purdey acquired Woodward in 1948, merging their famous skills and innovative patents such as Woodward’s over-under design, to become part of the Purdey legacy – a testament to Woodward’s quality.
This gun was completed in 1896 during the height of James Woodward’s production with his two sons James and Charles. What makes Woodward’s pedigree even more extraordinary is the fact that all shotgun manufacturing, engraving, fitting, etc., down to the thousandth of an inch, was hand-crafted without the assistance of automated machining, computer measurements, or electronic assistance. Absolute master craftsmen invested hundreds of hours into each shotgun they made by hand.
Noted British gun specialist Jack Rowe rates Woodward among the best in the English gun trade: “They made best-quality sidelocks, and I have not seen a bad one yet. All their guns have their signature ‘arcaded fences’.” George Caswell, an American expert on British guns, agrees, stating “Woodwards are among the very best. The workmanship is excellent-plus. Wodward guns are not common, and command a premium of 30 to 40 percent. The great interest in Woodwards lies with serious students of the gun. The occasional buyer knows little about Woodward, but automatically thinks ‘Purdey.’ Relatively few Woodwards were made, but they are one of the best.” Swiss-born gunmaker Edwin von Atzigen says Woodward guns have been consistently “the best guns I’ve ever seen. Better than Purdey, better than Holland & Holland.” Quite rarified company and accolades to be considered when searching for a unique addition to one’s collection.
In exceptionally handsome condition, the sidelocks are hand-engraved in ornate acanthus scrollwork with finely detailed highlights throughout the locks, trigger guard, floorplate, toplever and topstrap, with the maker’s name “J. WOODWARD & SONS” bolstering each lock in a cartouche. Top safety reads “SAFE” inlaid in gold, along with the number “2” inlaid in gold on the toplever. Woodward’s protruding cocking indicators on each sidelock are also inlaid in gold. Woodward’s famous scalloped fences are not only ornately engraved on the fences themselves, but highly detailed acanthus scrollwork are within each arcaded fence. The internal springs which retract the firing pins when cocked are both functioning well, and the face, flats and action are virtually spotless and include removable striker discs. The maker’s name “JAMES WOODWARD & SONS” is even finely engraved on the face itself. The double-bite action locks up tight with absolutely no play or looseness. Matching serial numbers 48xx are on the fore-end, trigger guard, and action flats. Strong ejectors function flawlessly.
This pre-1898 antique reflects the original “13/1” annotation on both barrel flats indicating antique bore measurements (.719 by modern measurements) when it was originally black powder proof, as well as the original antique black powder London proof marks, including the provisional proof mark lion rampant over intertwined letters “GP” on the barrel flats, faint definitive proof marks “GP” under a crown on the barrel flats, and faint view marks “V” under a crown on both the barrel flats and action flats. Maker’s initials “J. W&S” are on both chambers just ahead of the barrel flats. Chokes are fixed and measure approximately IC and ¼ choke for the right & left barrels respectively. The 28” barrels with brass sight bead have excellent measurements, and are marked at .719 for right and left bore diameters, and 35 thousandths for both the right and left wall thickness.
Contemporary Birmingham re-proof marks show that it has undergone British Nitro Proof (NP) re-testing with the “BNP” under crown on both the barrel flats and action flats, and crossed swords with inspector’s details on the barrel flats, indicating Birmingham Proof House re-proofing measurements and standard “NITRO PROOF” compliance at “3 TONS PER SQUARE INCH” pressure for 12 bore chambers (“12” over “C” in a diamond) and 2 & ½” shells. Barrels have been professionally & seamlessly sleeved and retain the maker’s gold-inlaid number “2” on the game rib, and are marked with the proof house “BNP” beneath a crown on each barrel. This improvement has increased the safety and function of this gun for the next 150+ years, and reflects a mastery of barrel making; exceptional strength with lightweight and responsive handling. With continued good care and cleaning after each shoot, this collector’s item should offer great future hunting well into the next century – a future family heirloom for generations to come.
As Terry Wieland highlights in his book “Vintage British Shotguns,” he states “If you buy an English gun… and the proof marks show it has been nitro proofed – that is, proven with smokeless powder – you know it’s safe to shoot with loads of the length and gauge marked.” The interior of the bores are mirrors, while the outer barrels have bluing with minimal faint wear and consistent patina between the barrels and game rib. No barrel marks, pitting or damage. Virtually spotless condition on the interior as well, with no pitting and zero powder marks on the breech, flats and face.
The figured stock has nice checkering throughout the hand and a handsome grain with only minor handling marks, with a brass oval on underside of the stock suitable for engraving. With the professionally-matched buttplate and recoil pad, the stock has an overall 16” length of pull. Nicely checkered splinter fore-end with a finely-detailed engraved base and tip with Anson plunger release, including a matching gold-inlaid number “2” inside the forend. Superb handling and responsiveness with an overall weight of only 6 lbs. 14 oz., the slightly longer barrels and stock offer well balanced shooting.
Because Woodward is now part of the Purdey legacy, it is appropriately housed in a contemporary Purdey guncase, with the Purdey maker’s decal, interior and exterior in fine condition. The canvas and leather case have leather straps with brass buckles, brass lock, and leather corner bumpers, while the interior is in green baize with brass snap-caps, chromed oil bottle and ebony cleaning rods.
In total, almost no cosmetic blemishes on the gun despite being a 125+ year old antique, other than a few light handling marks as mentioned above. Overall excellent, beautiful condition, with hand-made quality apparent throughout its manufacture. It’s also an investment-grade antique that can be taken into the field without the worry or expense of a large five or six figure outlay, offering the opportunity to purchase a fully functional antique masterpiece by one of the world’s finest gunmakers.
With the growing popularity of wildfowling using classic British shotguns, this is a great combination of beauty and function without absolutely breaking the bank or the worry of carrying the equivalent of a small mortgage in your hands when you take this showpiece to the field. Affordable luxury; ready for your next century of shooting! It has also been recently inspected & serviced by a gun expert in Essex, and is ready for the hunt.
This is a pre-1898 firearm and qualifies as an antique with direct shipment to the purchaser. We are a US military family stationed in the UK, and ship at an insured and flat rate of $125 because this package with the gun case is heavy; usually takes less than a month to arrive in the US. However, for purchases at or above listing price I will cover the cost of shipping. Online member since 2002 with 100% positive feedback. Payment via PayPal or certified bank check accepted. Please note I am not a dealer and not an expert, but a private collector, have tried to enter all the details I am aware of for this gun, and will try to answer any questions as best I can. I am downsizing my collection and hope to find other US enthusiasts of classic English shotguns to re-home a few of these pieces. Thanks for your interest. Key words: sxs shotgun, side by side, British, English, double barrel, 12 gauge, 12 ga, 12g, side lock, sidelock, shotgun, shot gun.
Serial Number: 48xx
Barrel Length: 28
Bore Info: 12 gauge
Chambers: 2 & 1/2
Metal Condition: blued
Bore Condition: mirror
Action: sidelock ejector
Stock: English straight-hand
Weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz.
Choke Left: 1/4
Choke Right: IC
Minimum Wall Thickness Left: 35,000
Minimum Wall Thickness Right: 35,000