For a shooting man or woman, perhaps the ultimate experience of ownership is the commissioning of a Best London Gun.
This fully bespoke process will result not only in an object of great beauty but also it will be a highly proficient tool that you, and generations following you, will enjoy using long after the cost has been forgotten. Although everyone tends to remember with great fondness the first gun they used, there is nothing that hits the mark like having a gun built to your own specification.
Building a Best Gun requires top craftsmanship and materials that cannot be bettered – by definition, these guns are the best a manufacturer can build. Historically, a William Evans Best Gun has always represented exceptional value for money, a fact that remains true today. We employ the skills of the country’s premier Master Gunsmiths, each being specialists in their individual craft. We are able to produce best quality guns at by far the keenest price in London by managing and monitoring the build process through every step. It is William Evans’s gunroom team that controls costs and timings, they who select each craftsman on merit and they who draw each element of the build, testing and quality supervision together - in short, we oversee the commission from start to final delivery. The savings made for our clients by working in this way are dramatic and the net result is a Best London gun that proudly bears the William Evans name.
The process starts, naturally enough, with a conversation in which we will discuss the type of shooting you envisage doing, the usual quarry and who will be shooting the gun – if not yourself. In order to advise you on all aspects of your gun from the length and orientation of barrels, choke sizes and overall weight, and shape of stock, we will need to take accurate measurements at a designated gun-fitting session with one of our instructors. As with any form of bespoke commission, the minutiae of your own requirements, matched with the measurements provided by gun fitting and a visual assessment of the way in which you shoot, provide the DNA credentials we design and build into your gun.
At the point when you confirm that you wish to proceed, you will be invited to the St James’s Street gunroom to be allocated a gun number that will be entered into the historic gun register with your name and details beside it. It is worthwhile savouring this moment with a glance through the company’s gun registers. Here you will see that you are joining the many crowned heads, maharajahs and top shots that have trodden the same path to our door in the past and thus confirming you are amongst those of certain discerning taste.
You will be invited to choose the wood for your stock from a selection of blanks in our collection. William Evans stock blanks are usually Turkish walnut, selected for its figure, colouring, tensile strength and weight. We look for wood taken close to the base of the tree trunk at the point where roots and soil mix. This is where nature creates the most elaborate swirling figure most desired at the shoulder (or butt) end of the stock. Importantly, it is the combination of beauty with strength as found in the straight grain just above the root bowl that is most sought after in a gun stock. The straight grain in wood just above ground level provides the strength required at the ‘neck’ of the stock where it will take the full force of the action steel to be embedded within it.
There is time now for you to sit back and dream of shooting days to come while the Barrel-Maker, Actioner and Stocker set to work. They start on raw forgings, first shaving off great chunks of unwanted metal or wood with bulldog tenacity, and then gradually replacing brute force with the sensitivity of a fine artist sculptor as the materials in their hands take on a more familiar shape.
Some say a Barrel-Maker’s art is mostly ‘smoke and mirrors’ and to an extent as with many forms of connoisseurship, this is true. It is impossible for the layman to fully grasp what it is to create the perfect shotgun or rifle barrel. Suffice to say when his work is done there will be a pair of barrels ‘in the white’ with chokes in place, ribbed and tinned ready to be married at the breech to the action body and forend. Your barrels will now be sent to the London Proof House where they will be shot and stamped on the flat surfaces of the action body and barrels to certify passing proof.
Meanwhile, the Actioner will transform the raw, machined forgings, honing them to create the internal workings that form the William Evans traditional square-bodied sidelock mechanism, self-ejectors, triggers and forend. The main parts; springs, pins, tumblers, sears, bolts, spindle and safety slides are assembled by our actioners to conform to a William Evans template, giving the finished gun the differentiating factors that separate ours from other manufacturer’s work. Our actions are built to the Holland & Holland patented system, with ejectors integral to the barrels. When complete, the action and forend are passed to the Stocker for fitting.
The Stocker’s initial job is to form the basic shapes of the stock and forend. A Best Gun stock will incorporate the exact bespoke requirements expressed at the original fitting and therefore any cast, on or off, the height or drop of the comb, type of grip and overall length of the stock is fashioned into the wood. Having created the rough form, the Stocker then ‘works through the papers’ from the coarsest sandpaper to the finest gauge leaving the stock at the point where it is ready for polishing and embellishment. The detail of the Stocker’s task is then to precisely carve out the action end of the stock to snugly cradle the locks and action body, tang and strap into the wood. Using a time-honoured fitting method involving blacking the metal parts in burning oil smoke, every tiny piece of the lock mechanism is perfectly housed in wood.
Your choice of engraving of course, has no bearing on your ability to shoot straight but if well considered, it will be a pleasure to behold every time you lay eyes upon it. Engraving style and pattern is entirely your choice and we have many samples to help guide your decision. Whatever your choice, it is only limited by the time, and therefore the cost, such artworks will add to the final price of your gun.
With the main components, lock, stock and barrels in working order, and having been fired, proofed and regulated, all that’s left is ‘finishing’. While an engraver chisels the artwork of your choice onto metal parts, the Finisher applies his skill in case-hardening all the metal parts, blacking the barrels and polishing and cross-chequeuring the neck of the stock, butt and forend. Throughout this finishing process your gun will visibly change into an object of considerable desire: barrels that were cold, steel grey will take on a dark lustrous shine and the wood that was smooth to the touch though still dull in its final shape will be transformed by much repeated oiling and hand buffing to a bright, warm and beautiful polish that will have sealed it against rain and damp and drawn out the full beauty of the wood.
There is then only your choice of inscribed oval to agree and a decision on the style of guncase to order. It is usual for William Evans to invite customers to ‘test’ their guns near to the end of the commission, so that we can immediately address any concerns on the spot. Apart from being a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, we like to use this opportunity to make completely sure that when you take away your prized new gun there are no surprises in store, that the gun works perfectly and that you are entirely happy with your purchase.
Thereafter, we look forward very much to seeing you in the gunroom, not only to let us know how much you are enjoying using your gun but also so that we can ensure it is in excellent working order season after season for many years to come.
Over & Under
‘Best’ 12, 16, 20 bore from £71,000 + VAT
‘Best’ 28, .410 bore from £79,000 + VAT
Side by Side
‘Best’ 12, 16, 20 bore from £57,500 + VAT
‘Best’ 28, .410 bore from £59,500 + VAT
Bolt rifle from £18,500 + VAT
Double barreled rifle up to .500 cal. from £85,000 + VAT
.577 & .600 from £90,000 + VAT
(Upon export to non EU countries, VAT is not applicable)