“The gun trade tends to squander talent on filing and fitting,” says James. He believes talent is better spent designing, while the machines take the strain of the work – the factory is kitted out with spark eroders and lathes that enable components to be made efficiently, and in number. Of course, the final hand-finishing work is all-important, and there are several staff in-house tasked with producing perfection.
Drew’s dog Monty sits nearby, cocks his head and looks at us patiently, as if he’s heard it all before. This cute fella is a combination of Jack Russell and Staffordshire bull terrier, looking like the former after an intensive course of protein shakes and steroids. If you were going to design a dog with the best bits of both, he’d be it – that’s pretty much what Boxall & Edmiston have done with their over-and-unders. Owing something to Woodward, and something to Boss, the most noticeable aspect of the gun’s action is its exquisitely shallow profile. I am a big fan of shallow-actioned over-and-unders – the stability of the gun during the shot is to be lauded, and perceived recoil is low.
The firm puts out its barrel production, but the action, sideplates, componentry and wood spring almost miraculously from the various machines on the shop floor. The over-and-unders are made on a monobloc design rather than chopper lump, though any tell-tale engraving on the barrels just ahead of the chamber is missing, as a smooth surface is achieved through laser-welding. With a large surface area brazed into the tube, and the convergence angle of the barrels adjusted in the monobloc via spark erosion before brazing, this makes for a solid barrel-set. The bites are as about as high as you can get without impinging on the extractors, and together with the side lumps, or draws, it all makes for a strong action. Unusually, the draws are removable, and hence replaceable – if they wear after years of use, it will be a simple matter to replace them, without any jiggery-pokery with the cross-pin to tighten the action.
Well-figured walnut featured on our test gun, and a trip to the West Midlands Shooting Ground a week or so before the Benelli Sp’Auto enabled us to shoot clays with it. The 30” gun I used was elegant, perfectly balanced and smooth in action, both in terms of maintaining swing and perceived recoil. I shot far better with it than I expected.
The over-and-under has a classic trigger-plate lockwork system, which gives responsive and crisp action times. The engraving, though elegant, is achieved through a laser-engraving machine – and before anyone gets too snooty about it, I’d say, to the casual observer, it would pass for hand-engraving.
The days of one-size-fits-all have pretty much gone – and many aspects of the gun are bespoke. Customers can specify action shape; side plates; barrel length; engraving; wood grade; and weight, as well as myriad minor options. The firm now offers a version of its over-and-under specifically tailored for clays, with configuration and stocking specification by Clay Shooting contributor Michael Yardley.