An interesting sporting gun found its way into Wallis & Wallis’s (17.5% buyer's premium) predominantly militaria sale in Lewes on June 12.
The Holland & Holland double-barrelled 10-bore big game
rifle, above, was a well-made weapon which showed every sign of
having seen plenty of service in the field, with a well-dented
stock, chequering worn smooth with use and a fracture at the wrist.
However the bores were in good condition and other defects could
easily be refreshed by a skilled gunsmith. It sold for £4400.
With relatively short barrels at 25in (63cm) and a recommended
charge of 8 drams of powder in a 3¼in cartridge, this is a rifle
that could as easily knock over its firer as it could an elephant -
hence the addition of a rubber recoil pad, now perished and
The approach to creating rifles with sufficient power to down
big game has evolved as more efficient gunpowders have become
available. When black powder was the only option, the natural thing
was to go for a really heavy projectile which would have
considerable knock-down power even at low velocity.
An extreme example of this was seen at Holt's (22.5% buyer's
premium) sale in London on June 21 where a 4-bore flintlock
sporting rifle by W. Turvey, London sold for £7000. This
surprisingly elegant monster weighed in at 19lbs and it is likely
that every ounce of that was required to absorb the recoil produced
by such a heavy ball.
Modern high-speed powders mean that today's big game guns are of
much more modest calibre and the ultimate safari weapon was to be
found at Bonhams' (25/20/12% buyer's premium) sporting gun sale on
July 25 when the highest price of the afternoon went to a cased
Purdey double-barrelled rifle.
This was designed to handle the complete range of game with two
sets of barrels - .375 Holland & Holland magnum for the big
game and .300 H & H magnum for the rest. Made in 1993 to
Purdey's high standards, this weighed in at a more manageable 11½lb
with the .375 barrels fitted. It sold for £40,000.
The pick of the lots offered at Southams' (15% buyer's premium)
1000-lot gun sale at Bedford Auction Centre on June 14 was this
62-bore double percussion rifle by Alexander Henry of Edinburgh.
This was a fine quality gun with platinum plugs, a brass-mounted
wooden ramrod, slide safety and fine engraving.
It was built c.1877 for the Earl of Warwick and was complete in
the maker's brass-mounted mahogany case with ebony handled tools,
cleaning rods, cap box and nickel plated cap dispenser with a
quantity of paper and wad attached bullets. The case also bore the
maker's trade label and details of powder, cap and bullet loads. It
went above top estimate at £7250.
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.