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Jonny Carter (TGS Outdoors) is oen of the first in the UK to get his mitts on the new Longthorne Boxlock Trigger Plate; and he’s in love!
When I first started shooting, as a young man, I thought rather naively that my Sporting over-and-under gun was actually an English brand as the name may have indicated. It broke my heart a little when, at 14, I was told that although English guns did exist, to buy a new one would likely cost more than a house!
As I grew older and the side-by-side market crashed, fine English side-by-sides came well within reach, and so I now own a few – it would be rude not to! However, being a millennial, an over-and-under really is my gun of choice!
When I first heard of Longthorne Gunmakers, a modern English gunmaker producing guns that I could actually afford, I had to learn more. On a tour of the factory with James Stewart, the owner, I saw a mixture of cutting-edge technology and old-world handiwork, took a few shots at the range and fell in love!
Fast forward a year or so, and, when I heard of a new model, the Longthorne Boxlock, I simply had to take a look.
For the pedants
I am aware, as is Longthorne, that this gun is not a boxlock. It is in fact a trigger-plate action, with all of the firing mechanism attached to the tigger plate, rather than housed inside the ‘box’ of the action. This mechanism is in place in many of the market-leading guns of today due to its reliability and hardiness. The name ‘Boxlock’ is just a working title that has stuck around; it may fade away, but if it doesn’t it won’t keep me up at night!
I had high hopes and expectations for the Longthorne Boxlock, but it had big shoes to fill. At £11,995, this gun is well priced and built to compete with top-end continental competition guns.
When James, the brains, heart and hands behind the gun’s development, stood across the room with three gunslips, my heart began to beat a little faster. First came the blacked action gun. The next slip opened and out came the plain silver gun. Out of some sort of politeness, I resisted picking it up! The third and final bag opened and out came the side-plated game scene version. I couldn’t contain my passion any longer and I started to go over these epic machines!
A truly English gun
Made completely by Longthorne in their Northampton factory, here are some of the gun’s features...
The barrels are made from one piece of steel. While other makers either make the break block and stick two tubes in (called a monobloc), Longthorne make the barrel and block in two halves and stick them together (called chopper lump or demi block barrels). This allows for a solder-free barrel that is significantly lighter and should be more durable than those made using other construction methods.
Longthorne’s barrels are so strong that you can stand on them without them bending – and hit them without the chance of denting. I have even seen pictures of a Range Rover parked on a set of barrels. I will be the first to say that ‘durability does not a good gun make’, but the durability is just an aside to barrels that handle and pattern exceptionally.
The trigger plate model’s barrels are available with a choice of different ribs – tapered, parallel, game and a slotted (vented) step-up rib, and all feature a single bead sight. The standard guns will be available with 30” and 32” barrels, featuring 3” chambers, proofed for steel, and will be multi-choked, with fixed chokes available as a special order.
One of my favourite little features is that the flats of the barrels are not jewelled but laser-engraved with a pattern specifically designed to hold oil and grease, ensuring your gun opens, closes and ejects perfectly.
The low-profile action is made entirely in-house, as is the new trigger plate and all its inner workings. Internally, there are similarities to many of the other great trigger plate designs. I see this as a good thing – this gun has enough innovation going on to not be trialling a new style of mechanism. Most buyers won’t care what is going on anyway, as long as it works and the trigger pulls are good.
Interestingly, a barrel selector is not fitted to the gun. It comes, as standard, firing the bottom barrel first, but can be changed after the fact relatively easily, or just ordered to fire top barrel first if you prefer. The trigger is fully adjustable with enough travel to satisfy all potential users and is housed in a low-profile trigger guard that complements the looks of the action. Trigger pulls feel market-leading, with crisp breaks at 2½ lb and 27/8 lb.
The plain guns look great both in silver and black, with just enough action detail to give character and make it stand out in a rack filled with plain actions from other marques. The side-plated gun was stunning, featuring a high-quality laser engraving across its canvas. The pictures do all the explaining I could ever do.
All of the stocks I saw were of a very satisfactory grade of wood, and are made to a standard measurement of 14¾” or 15” length of pull, depending on the pad. These recoil pads are made in-house, featuring a Union Jack motif and the Longthorne branding, but, instead of bonding rubber to a plastic plate, the rubber pad is bonded to a wooden plate that is then hand fitted to the gun. I love details like this!
The stocks are stylishly crafted, with full pistol grips and a slight palm swell, and are oil-finished. One can opt to have an adjustable comb fitted, the hardware for which is made entirely
in-house. There is also the option to have a stock made to your measurements for an extra £1,200. There is a choice of different fore-ends: slim rounded, rounded, beavertail and tapered.
Operation, balance and handling
When closing the gun up, you notice that it tightens as you close. This is because the draws and wedges on this gun are vital to the lockup of the action, taking all stress off the hinge pins. What this creates is a vast load-bearing surface that will keep the action tight and safe, even after years of use.
The gun has been designed to bring the trigger further under the gun, bringing weight back and between the hands and counteracting the small bit of added weight that the multi choke has added over the generally fixed choke sidelock.
The 30” gun handles over the hinge pin and the 32” gun balanced ½” in front. When mounted in the shoulder, both guns come alive, are easy to point, move and swing, and give excellent feedback. This new model is everything you would expect from a top-level shotgun and with careful specification will make the owner feel godlike.
All too often a new gun comes out and has a list of features as long as your arm, most of which are usually not that ground-breaking or useful. This gun is different.
You can tell the amount of thought that has gone into this gun. Making it perfect in every way has become an obsession for Longthorne, and this shows in every technical and aesthetic aspect.
Yes, I am a patriot and I accept that my view may be a little rose-tinted because of the country of origin of the gun, but if you get the opportunity to see one, feel one and shoot one, I’m confident you will be a convert too!
With prices from £11,995, this gun is priced to go up against some serious contenders. I have been fortunate enough to handle and shoot some truly fantastic examples from Italy and Germany, so when I say I can see this gun becoming the next big thing in the clay and game field, I do not do so lightly.
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