The modern sporting gun auction scene has exploded in recent years. No longer the watering hole for just dealers seeking a bargain or a restoration project, serious names of the gunmaking world – we’re talking the Holy Trinity, guns with real provenance and a story to tell – can be found gracing the pages of the catalogue.
Every thirst is slaked, from a £100 rusty banger to sit in the Land Rover passenger seat to a pair of £100,000 Purdeys that will venture to the likes of Drumlanrig and Linhope. The choice is truly astonishing.
“If you’re a newcomer, we strongly advise you talk to a specialist at the auction house about the condition of the gun you’re interested in to ensure you’re spending your money wisely,” recommends Patrick Hawes, head of modern sporting guns at Bonhams. It’s wise advice – believe me – as once sat in front of an ebullient auctioneer, one can all too easily be swept into the intoxicating flow and find your arms flailing into the air as if on a dance floor at an 80s rave.
“Choice varies hugely depending on what it is you are after from a gun and its intended use,” continues Patrick. “For example, are you after a clay gun, game gun, a wildfowling gun or an all-rounder? Are you looking to re-sell the gun further down the line in the hope of making a tidy profit? Or do you want a gun that you can use for years to come and perhaps pass on to a son or daughter? Either way, such is the depth of range at our auctions, you’ll more than likely find what you’re after.”
There are many pluses. As with cars, second-hand guns can be bought at a fraction of the price of new ones and don’t suffer the initial surge of depreciation. However, as Patrick warns, if an estimate seems too good to be true, it most likely is – guideline prices can soon disintegrate like paper in the rain given the right crowd.
One thing is for sure, though: whether you are looking to get involved with the bidding buzz, or merely wanting to dive into a gargantuan arsenal and meet likeminded people, sporting auctions are true museums for shooting enthusiasts.
Here are 3 exciting lots going under the hammer at the next Bonhams auction on December 2:
A 7.65MM (.32ACP) ‘MODEL 1913’ SELF-LOADING PISTOL BY WEBLEY & SCOTT
Much blued finish, the left side of the slide stamped Webley & Scott Ltd, London & Birmingham, 7.65mm & .32 Automatic Pistol, the butt with diamond pattern ebonite grips. This pistol comes from the private collection of Sir Winston Churchill MP, KB whose collection also included a presentation Sten Mk III sub-machine gun with which he was famously photographed during World War II.
Estimate: £2,000 – £3,000
A PAIR OF 12-BORE SINGLE-TRIGGER EASY-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR GUNS BY BOSS & CO.
The toplevers, ribs and forends numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ in gold, gold-inlaid cocking-indicators, best bouquet and foliate-scroll engraving, much hardening-colour, rolled-edge trigger-guards, highly-figured stocks with semi-pistolgrips and recoil-pads, the chopper-lump barrels with game-ribs engraved Boss & Co. 13 Dover Street, Picadilly, London, W.
Estimate: £30,000 – £40,000
A FINE OF 12-BORE ROUND-ACTION EJECTOR GUNS BY DAVID MCKAY BROWN
Toplevers, ribs and forend-tips numbered ‘1’ and ‘2’ in gold, best bold foliate-scroll engraving, full hardening-colour, highly-figured stocks, the chopper-lump barrels with game-ribs engraved David McKay Brown (Gunmakers) Ltd., 32 Hamilton Road, Bothwell and scroll engraved breech-ends.
Estimate: £25,000 – £30,000
See the full catalogue here.