Special Guns Episode 6 W&C-Q&Arev

Special Guns with Roger Rule

Episode 6 – W&C Scott & Son Hammer Side-by-side


PART 1 {Roger and Virginia sitting at table; gun in Lucite holders }

VIRGINIA: My name is Virginia Hall and I’m here today to introduce you to Roger Rule, author of The Rifleman’s Rifle, and host of this series of episodes, Special Guns with Roger Rule.

ROGER: Thank you, Virginia, and welcome, and welcome viewers to my 6th Episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.

VIRGINIA: Roger, let me ask you first, what is your definition for Special Guns?

ROGER: For this series, special guns are simply guns that a gun enthusiast may have heard of, but never encountered. And for my selection, I narrow this down to arms that hold an evolutionary or revolutionary place in the world of modern sporting arms over the last two centuries and have since become classic guns in some way because of it.

VIRGINIA: What do you have for us today?

ROGER: The gun I want to cover today is a gun with a very special place in history.  It is a W & C Scott & Son side-by-side shotgun, built with a bar-action, when exposed hammers were still popular. You’ll understand its significance after we talk about who the gunmaker W & C Scott & Son was and how the company fits into the history of guns.  And, I have chosen this gun specifically because of its evolutionary place in modern shotguns, as a key predecessor to our next gun which will be in Episode 7 next week on Special Guns with Roger Rule.

But first, let me share some comments about W & C Scott & Son from an indisputable expert, Geoffrey Bootroyd, in his fine book, Sidelocks & Boxlocks, and I quote:

“…it is no exaggeration that Scott could lay claim to being the best known British shotgun manufacturer… This was not based simply on volume of output, considerable though this was, but on the practical contribution to gunmaking and the high standard of the guns made…” (close quote)

VIRGINIA: Do we have some history about this gun maker?

ROGER:  Yes, and when we examine the company’s history, it will become clear why Geoffrey Boothroyd bestowed such great praise on this company.

PART 2 {Audio begins}***********************************************

William Scott started the company in 1834 located in Birmingham England. His brother, Charles, joined him in the business 5 years later.  In early years, the company gained a reputation for the production of high quality double guns.

In 1858, William’s son, William Middleditch Scott, joined the company and the name was changed to W & C Scott & Son.  There was a younger son, named James C., who had little interest in guns in his youth, however was artistic and subsequently became an outstanding engraver. His older brother, however, was not only interested in guns, but also as it turned out, was an innovator and inventor of patents with a list that remains amazing today.

One of the most enduring is Patent No. 2752, awarded on Oct. 25, 1865, for the famous “Scott Spindle”  which is the mechanism that created the top lever opening for break-open actions, the same device used on nearly all shotguns today.  The great company Purdey immediately recognized its value for their guns and paid a royalty to Scott to use it. And get this, that same patent also created cocking indicators, spring loaded pins above the strikers that protrude through the top of the action body to indicate whether or not the gun is cocked.  This system also is used by many guns today.  But the Scott spindle has become the standard opening mechanism for nearly all double barreled guns.

The gun we are going to look at today is an early one with exposed hammers, made by Scott, and has the Scott spindle opening mechanism.

William M. Scott (the son) went on to design and patent many other innovations, with one more biggy to come as we plow through their history.

In 1866, the second son and engraver, James C., became a partner.

In 1869, William Scott (the father) retired, leaving the company in the capable hands of his eldest son, William M.  The early partner and uncle to the sons, Charles, had either died or retired about a decade before.

From this point forward, William M. went on to design and patent many innovations:  He took out twenty more patents from 1871 to 1884 including his famous hammerless lock (Patent No. 761 in 1878) that was used by Holland & Holland, Cogswell & Harrison and others.

PART 3 {Roger and Virginia sitting at table}********************************

This 1878 patent made William M. Scott the first man to design and patent the first sidelock shotgun, a credit hardly ever mentioned in books and articles.  I once asked, we know who made the first boxlock as its inventors have been showered with credit, but who made the first hammerless sidelock?  It took much research for me to find the answer.  It was William Middleditch Scott of W&C Scott & Son.

Although that was a great accomplishment, it has been watered down because of all the improvements and new innovations to sidelocks made by many different gunmakers through the years.  Like most patents, the significance of this patent by William M Scott has somehow been lost.

However, William M’s most enduring patent, undoubtedly, is the Scott spindle because it is still in use today on nearly all double guns, which has made its impact worldwide.

But how lucky was that?  Think about it!  Here’s a guy, William M. Scott, who was born into this family whose father was already a renowned gunmaker and he, the son, was able to explore his passion in this field that came so natural to him. He must have had a fun life!  Lucky for him and lucky for us that his innovations have lived on today surviving him for generations and probably many more to come.  In the world of shotguns, the importance of the Scott spindle hasn’t diminished, and has kept William M. Scott’s name up there with the best for that one most important innovation. Yet, I believe it should be up there with the best for the first hammerless sidelock shotgun as well.

VIRGINIA: Sounds like you have a good point.

PART 4 {Audio only}****************************************************

Company records showed that the company was selling guns under their name in the United States from about 1881 to 1887.

William M. (the son) retired from the firm in 1894 and his brother, James, continued managing the company for three more years until, in 1897, the company was absorbed in an amalgamation of three companies. It became Webley & Scott Revolver and Arms Co, Ltd.  However, because of the great W&C Scott name, the new combined company would continue to market their high-end shotguns under the W.& C. Scott brand.

In 1985, they were purchased by Holland & Holland who continued building the high-end shotguns under the W.&C Scott name until 1991. At that time, H&H ceased production under the W.&C Scott brand.  It is important to point out, as information for a later episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule, that up until H&H stopped production, there was a high-end best made shotgun being produced under the W.& C. Scott brand, called the Chatsworth model.

PART 5 {Roger and Virginia sitting at table, Roger is going to stand up}

ROGER: For a complete history of the company, W & C Scott & Son, a book that is usually recommended is History of W & C Scott, Gunmaker by Crawford and Whatley.

VIRGINIA:  That William M. Scott must have been a clever guy.

ROGER:  I’d say so, with over twenty patents and many of them enduring.

Now let’s look at our gun for the day.  This is a W & C Scott & Son Bar-action Hammer gun.  You can readily see the exposed hammers.  I want to point out the opening top lever first – this operates with the Scott spindle mechanism.  And if you are familiar at all with hammer guns from before the 20th Century, most of them do not have the top opener Scott spindle.  Scott had been using it since they invented it in 1865.  Most of the others used other types of openers that have not lasted through the years.  One of the more common was the Jones underlever.  There were also popular side lever openers.

{Roger stands up, demonstrates the top lever, check to see unloaded; continue holding gun}

VIRGINIA:  Is this a 12 gauge?


ROGER: Yes, this is a 12 gauge.  It has 30” barrels, which are the preferred length for live pigeon shooting so popular in the Edwardian period.  According to Crawford & Whatley’s book, the serial number 42909 was built in late 1887.  The barrel rib is inscribed “W & C Scott & Son, London” because it was sold out of their London showroom at 7 Dorset Place, Pall Mall; although, the gun was made in Birmingham.

Looking at the wood first, you can see that this has no pistol grip.  This is a traditional stock design very popular in England and is called an English grip, or a straight hand grip.  From our gun choices of my previous episodes, there is no cheekpiece here, which is also the traditional style for most double shotguns, excluding many German and Austrian makes.

The forearm is not a wide beavertail shape like we saw on the Chapuis double rifle last episode, but here it’s what is normally called, a splinter forearm, because it is so small like a splinter of wood.

The butt of the stock does not have a recoil pad or a metal buttplate, but instead, is simply finished wood with a hand-checkered pattern.  This style of butt is normally found only on high-end guns.

Speaking of checkering, the hand-checkering on this gun is extremely fine, meaning very small diamonds about 28 lines per inch.  And it is also fine in the way that it is executed flawlessly and is elegant in the design of its patterns, called wrap-around checkering on both the forearm and the stock.  On the stock, this wrap-around effect has the left panel meeting the right panel in two wrap around junctures, one over the wrist and one along the toe line just below the very elegant inlaid lower trigger guard tang – more about that in a minute.

There are five masterful inlays in the wood besides those needed for the action.  Over the wrist the top receiver tang ends in a bulbous configuration and is inlayed perfectly in the wood. On the underside, there is an inlaid silver oval for the owner’s initials, here GJR, and the aforementioned trigger guard tang ends with a cascaded spear point, which is in itself a best gun feature.  The last two of the extra inlays are in the forearm, the escutcheon for the Anson and Deeley release, and the very Victorian-style metal forearm tip with its fancy shape.  Incidentally, this A&D release was patented in 1873 by the gunmaker, Westley Richards – more about that later.

But overall, the most pronounced feature of the wood is probably the near exhibition quality of the marble-cake figure and warm rich streaky color, very well matched between stock and forearm.

VIRGINIA: Look at the grain in that wood!

ROGER: The wood finish is a French polished oil finish with many coats, which enhances the fancy figure of the English walnut.

Bringing the shotgun to the shoulder…

{Lift gun to shoulder, continue holding gun}

…it comes to point well and fits me perfectly with a 14 5/8” length of pull.  However, I am here to tell you that my experience shooting one of these with a wooden butt and a low comb was very memorable.  While I normally shoot 100 rounds of 12 gauge in one outing with my Beretta over and under with its recoil pad; with a gun like this, I’m lucky to get in one round of 25 shots at a trap range without a bruised shoulder.  The last time I shot one 50 rounds, for the last ten rounds I put a makeshift padding between my shoulder and the butt and the recoil was still very much felt.

As to the metal work, the 30” barrels are blued steel and are choked: Right .005 which is about Skeet; and Left .015 or about Light Modified.

Here I want to mention, these guns built this way were like two guns in one.  You have the double barrel, two locks with two hammers, and two triggers.  If one side breaks down, the other side is still independent and operable.

This mechanical feature of the gun is common to a sidelock shotgun.  We’ll get into sidelocks next episode, but while I have this gun here in front of us, let me oversimplify the concept by saying if you were to remove the hammers with their locks, and replace them with hammerless sidelocks, the guns would function similarly.  For the beginner to easily grasp this, a sidelock is like this gun without hammers… in that it still has two locks (one on each side), two barrels and most have two triggers.  Each barrel, lock and trigger work independent of the other barrel, lock, and trigger.

VIRGINIA: So a sidelock is also like two guns in one!

ROGER:  Yep, you got it.  Now back to our review of the metal work on this gun, we see that it has a wavy-matted concave rib, where the maker’s inscription is, and terminates in a dolls head. The hammers have stylized reverse C shapes that gives away the gun’s Victorian origin.

Overall, the metal has nearly full engraving of very fine scroll and rose that can be seen on the dolls head, the sides of the hammers, the top lever, the sides of the lock plates, the trigger guard and lower tang, the upper tang extending from the action body, the top of the action body, the action sides surrounding the lock plates, the underside of the action, the two protruding lugs, the Anson & Deeley forearm release, and the forearm tip.  All of these parts are engraved.

As to metal finish, the receiver, sidelocks, top lever, forearm iron, and forearm tip are color-case hardened (we covered that in Episode 3), showing only a bit of the original colors. The blued components are the A&D release, the trigger guard, the lower tang, and the barrels. For this era of gun, blued parts are sometimes referred to as “blackened.”

{Open gun}

Opening the gun, we see it locks up with two Purdey underllugs and the doll’s head that fits into the Scott spindle type lever.  So let me emphasize:  Here we have this old shotgun with hammers, and yet is has the locking system designed by James Purdey, which is a fastening system in which a spring-driven sliding underbolt engages two bites in the barrel underlugs or chopper lumps, together with the Scott spindle top opener — two features still found on most shotguns today.

When the barrels fall open, the shell extractors set back, allowing fired cases or unfired loaded ammo to be removed by hand.  To fire the gun after it’s loaded, pull back the hammer to the cocked position.  The right hammer is controlled by the front trigger; the left hammer, by the rear trigger.  Incidentally, there is no safety on this gun, so it is dangerous when loaded even with the hammers at rest because a blow on the hammer could drive it into the firing pin causing a discharge.

Now, let’s field disassemble it into its main three components.

{Demonstrate disassembly}

First, remove the forearm by pulling out the lever on the Anson & Deeley release lever. Then, turn the top lever to the right and with your free hand, the barrel assembly is released to remove from the action.

Now, let’s move to the sideboard and examine the components with a closer view.

PART 6 {Gun components in case, Roger off camera}

Here we have the W&C Scott & Son 12 gauge hammer shotgun disassembled with its major components compartmentalized in it fitted case.

The case looks to be original. It is old and even though it has a bit of restoration, I would say its age matches the gun.  In the case are accessories: an oil bottle, two nickel snap caps, and a two-piece wooden bore rod. The two compartment lids appear to be restored which is very normal for a case this old, as those would shrink as their wood aged and often fall out and get lost.

{Pick up the forearm}

Looking at the forearm, notice the delicate edges of the wood that come up to the contour of the barrels.  Also notice the serial number, 42909, marked inside on the forearm iron. The forearm iron is the metal end of the forearm that joins the action and is visible when assembled. Consequently, it is engraved. Likewise, the Anson & Deeley release and its escutcheon on the underside of the forearm are engraved.  Anson & Deeley were granted patents for this for Westley Richards & Co.  In previous episodes, I mentioned that a mark of a best gun is to have any screws that are in a line, to be indexed, meaning the slots in their screws are in the same orientation.  Looking in this forearm, we see four screws and they are indexed.

{Set forearm down, pick up barrels}

Examining the barrels, the first thing we see at the chambers, is a cone-shaped extension of rib that shows a slot through it horizontally.  This is called a dolls head extension and is a third form of lock, a top lock, also designed originally by Westley Richards & Co.  Under the dolls head extension are the extractors.  Under the extractors are two lugs, called chopper lumps, that have two square cutouts on their action side.  These cutouts fit the locking bolt in the receiver and were invented by the House of Purdey in 1863.  The front of the front lug has a semi-circular cutout which fits around the action hinge pin.  Both of these lugs fit through the receiver and are visible when the shotgun is assembled, and because of that, are engraved and blued. These visible finished lugs are called platform lugs. About five inches forward of the front lug is the locking lug for the forearm release.

On the barrels, the flat part around the lugs is called the barrel flat.  Here, we usually find markings. On the barrel flats, right and left, we see .732,” the measured diameter of the boring at proofing, the number 12 in a diamond indicating the gauge, the fractional number 2 ¾” meaning the chamber length, another inscription, 3 ¼ Tons, meaning the proof test for modern ammunition, and the word, “SLEEVED” which is why this 1887 gun can shoot modern ammunition.  The term Sleeved barrels is reserved for a procedure of cutting off the old barrels and adding brand new barrels.  When the new barrels were proofed, they measured .732.” We see Birmingham proof marks on the barrels flat.  And we see them again in four places on the underside of the barrels, proofed on both sides of the sleeved joint.  There has been much discussion about sleeved barrels, but when done correctly and so proofed, are as strong as the original barrels; and if in new modern steel, as in this case, stronger than the original barrels.  Most likely, based on the guns age, the original barrels would have been 2 ½’ chambers proofed at 3 Tons, not 3 ¼ as these new ones are here.

{Set barrels down, pick up stock and receiver}

Now looking at the receiver, the flat portion that mates up against the barrel flat is called the water table. The vertical portion is the breech face.  First off, notice when I move the top lever to the right, we see the Purdey underbolt move, which will lock up with the square cutouts on the double underlugs.  We also see the top lock move that will lock up with the dolls head extension.  When the action is re-assembled, the top lever automatically moves to the right until the dolls head is firmly in place. Then the top lever, under spring tension, will move left moving back to center, and locking through the groove in the dolls head extension.  The two underlugs are considered two locks so this dolls head extension is referred to as a 3rd lock.

With hammers, the pins that hit the primer of the shotgun shells, are usually called firing pins. On a hammerless gun, they are called strikers.

Looking at the water table, again we see W.& C. Scott’s serial number, 42909 .  Also, there is a description that reads: “W. & C. Scott & Son Makers” There are two sets of Birmingham proof marks on each side of the water table indicating that one set is for the original barrels and a new, second set is for the new barrels.

Several sources give us a list of the different British proof marks showing when and where (Birmingham or London) they were used. The Blue Book of Gun Values is one reference.

One final thing about this particular gun, one of its owners along the way, sent the barrels off to Briley’s of Texas and had 28 gauge inserts made.

PART 7 { Roger and Virginia sitting at table, gun assembled in holders}********

VIRGINIA: Roger, thank you for this session, I had never heard of W& C Scott and had no idea of their importance in gun history.

ROGER:  Thank you, Virginia, and I hope some of our viewers agree with you.

Just summing up, let me say, this is a great gun to start our series of the evolution of the modern shotgun.  As a beginning, it still shows its age with its near percussion-age exposed hammers and yet it is modernized with both the Purdey double underbite locking system and the Scott spindle.  And aside from the purpose of our subject, it is a great example in and of itself, as it is one beautiful old gun brought back to life in superb condition with near-exhibition grade English walnut.  It was built by a maker who made heavy contributions to the evolution of the shotgun and was at the top of the game when this gun was made.  It is still as sound as a rock, and represents an era when conservative tastes were the norm. And while fully engraved, the engraving is so subtle that it complements the owner’s good tastes in not being braggadocios, but by quietly displaying that it could have been built for royalty.

That’s it for today, thank you Virginia, and thank you viewers for watching, and if you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and share with others.  And, I hope you join us next week for another episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule. We will be featuring a comparable Holland & Holland Royal shotgun.