The Browning C3 Trap gun that Bob Braithwaite used to win his Olympic gold medal at the 1968 Mexico Games is to be auctioned together with a specially engraved D5 presented to him by Fabrique Nationale. The auction is the be held by Holt’s at its London salesroom, Princess Louise House, Hammersmith Place, London W6 7DJ on 30 June from 10am.
The first question the avid clay target shooter will ask when the news of some other shooter’s success is announced is “what kind of gun was he using?” and often “what cartridges?” In the case of Bob Braithwaite, the first and only Briton to win an Olympic gold medal in OT, he used a Browning C3, loaded with Leiga Star cartridges. Over the years a certain mystique has grown around the gun with the suggestion that its unique qualities contributed to Braithwaite’s victory.
Having handled the C3 on a few occasions, the last time when Holt’s Auctioneers took it away together with the commemorative D5, it seemed rather light and tipped the scales at 7lb 4oz, which, by most people’s standards, is too light for a Trap. When Braithwaite first purchased it, his friend, the late Glynn Jones of Sealand Shooting Ground fame, agreed. Braithwaite was undeterred, however, and began practicing with it immediately, little more than a year before he would travel to Mexico and the Olympic Games.
Most of his practice was with a single trap on a piece of ground called Rough Lot, with the assistance of the local priest. Clearly Braithwaite found the C3’s fast-handling qualities to his liking. He also appreciated the stocks slim comb and half-pistol grip, still sometimes found on Browning Trap guns of that era. Speed was always of the essence to Braithwaite: “See it and shoot it,” was his mantra. There was, of course, a little more to it than that, and he would, as all good Trap shooters do, train himself to look for the target properly – good eyesight and fast reactions can take you a long way in Olympic Trap, that together with the ability to keep your nerve under pressure.
Braithwaite applied all these qualities in Mexico and he won. How much he owed to the C3 is open to debate, but the qualities of skill and courage Braithwaite displayed are not. Victory has its own reward, though Braithwaite, as a genuine amateur, gained little materially with the exception of the specially engraved D5.
Our photograph shows Brathwaite at the Salle de Conference at FN’s headquarters in Herstal, Belgium. Among those looking on include his companion on the trip, Glynn Jones. The D5 was engraved with a unique design, the drawings of which were destroyed afterwards.
A Browning more typical of the era than the C3, it was heavier weighing about 8lb and the woodwork comprised a full pistol grip stock and a rather larger beavertail forend. How much Braithwaite actually used it is not clear, but he liked to try other guns – what he was looking for he didn’t say.