Sunday, 9 September 2012

Gun Trading

Trading is a great way to do business, no money exchanges hands and (hopefully) everyone gets what they want. The problem is finding someone who has what you want and is willing to pass it on and that same someone must want something you have and that you are willing to give up.

W. R. Sidley, 20 GA British boxlock  with 30" barrels and chambered for 2 1/2" shells. 
Recently, Stephen Bodio and I have been corresponding about guns, hunting and life in general. Our mutual friend Gerry (who introduced us to one another) knows that I've been looking to replace my 20 GA Citori Superlight with a SxS boxlock (preferably British) and he also happened to believe that Steve might be interested in thinning his battery.   Steve recently acquired a gun that makes his 20 GA British boxlock redundant in his own battery.  Bodio got this very interesting shotgun in a trade a few years ago. He wrote about it on his blog under the heading Gun Deal.

British 10 GA - Steve's ideal in a sitting turkey gun.
 Based on Gerry's suggestion, I suggested to Steve that he might have a gun that I might be interested in. Steve quickly constructed a rather interesting trade.  He was willing to trade his light weight 20 GA boxlock (with elegantly long 30" barrels and beautiful wood ) for a 10 GA Damascus barrelled gun that he sees himself using for turkeys. Of course the glitch is that I don't own a 10 GA, Damascus barrelled or otherwise, so how are we to trade?  Steve had his eye on a 10 GA that he wanted and quoted me the price.  I sent him the funds for the 10 GA (plus the cost of shipping the twenty to me) and before I knew it the Sidley boxlock was at N. L. Heineke's shop in Laramie.

The Sidley arrived in Laramie - on the leather covered counter at N.L. Heineke.

Nathan Heineke in his shop - a former bank building - looking for some 2 1/2" 20 GA shells.

Steve's twenty (now mine) is indeed a very elegant and light gun. When I first picked it up I was astounded by how light it was and good it felt in the hand.  Light guns are not necessarily favourites of experienced gunners - that's because they tend to not have enough inertia through a swing,  The 30" barrels make up for that on this gun.  In one email regarding the gun Steve wrote: 
You will rarely see any 28 as slim and elegant as this 20 -- if you are not used to good English shotguns its lines will amaze you, and the smallness of the action.  I wanted it the moment I saw it, and all romantic analogies apply!  Good Brit 20's compare in looks with US 28's and 410's and pattern better.
It really is a light gun, I believe Nate's scale read 5 lbs 2 oz.  He went over the gun carefully and declared it sound.  The gun shows more wear on the outside than it does inside with the locks in near new condition and it's had some work done on it to try to mitigate that difference.  It was reproofed in London in 2002 and, based on barrel wall thickness measurements, it is still in proof. The right choke is a "bell" or "trumpet" choke (-.005") and the left barrel is what Nate called a tight quarter choke at (.009") - others would call it Improved Cylinder.  We patterned the gun and it shoots to point of aim.  I thought the gun balanced perfectly - Nate says it could loose 2 ounces from the butt end and be better balanced.  To prove it to me he taped 2 ounces to the barrels about 14 inches north of the triggers.  I have to admit that there was a subtle but noticeable difference.  This is one of those ineffable things.  You can't specify the point on the gun (say 4" in front of the trigger guard) where it should balance, it should feel balanced when you naturally hold it in your hands.

A twenty  chambered for 2 1/2" shells is essentially the British equivalent of a modern twenty-eight. The standard load in a 2 1/2" twenty gauge shell is 7/8 oz of shot while modern 28 gauge shells carry 3/4 ounce - an eighth of an ounce less.   So a light weight 2 1/2" twenty is a lot like a twenty-eight carrying 16% more shot.  You can find 7/8 ounce loads for the twenty-eight (Fiocchi makes them) and you can find 2 1/2" 20 GA shells loaded with a hair less than an ounce of shot (Gamebore makes them).   In fact, I was able to buy a few boxes of these at Jax in Fort Collins so I do have some shells - if not grouse loads.  These heavy loads are pushing the limits. The standard loads for my gun are made by RST and they sell them by the flat (250 shells per) reasonably priced and in every possible configuration you might like.

*                           *                           *

In the end I'd say this was a perfectly constructed trade.  Thank you Steve!  He'll get what he wants and I'm very happy with what I got - even if it may have seemed to Steve at some point that I was dragging my feet.  I took the gun out chasing Blue grouse for a few hours yesterday and although we did not flush even one bird (unlike the day before) I did get to spent a few hours in the field with the new gun and am even happier with it than I was before.  I'm hoping it will turn out to be a magic grouse wand.


  1. I am delighted you like it!

    You might add that one big reason I am willing to give it up is that Fieldsport contracted to have AyA in Spain make me a bespoke sidelock 20 that mimics the dimensions, measurements, and balance etc of the Sidley but proofed for 2 3/4 inch steel shot loads.

    As more and more of my accessible hunting requires non- toxic shot, including all of the the Rio Grande valley, even quail, it was forcing me to either give up shooting the gun or buy English bismuth at $70 a box! The AyA too will knock your eyes out-- will blog soon...

    Good shooting Jim!

    1. Hope to see the AyA on your blog SOON. Off to the grouse coverts for the afternoon today.

  2. Beautiful gun!! Going to take it out for Blues in the Med Bow? Hope you have better luck than I did today!!