XE Grade Fox Double Shotgun
My late grandfather — the one who manned a tank in WWII — gunned Pennsylvania red- and gray-phase ruffed grouse with the same Fox Sterlingworth I now carry afield.
This is how a double gun acquires history and meaning from one generation to the next (and what the anti-gun people don’t understand). Hunts add seasoned character to game-scene engraving and walnut stocks. Guys like us get warm and fuzzy feelings about such stuff.
Double guns, put simply, are shotguns with two barrels. Side-by-sides (not to be confused with the four-wheeled types that take us places), and over/unders (nothing to do with Vegas sports betting, mind you) qualify. The classy part has everything to do with what editor Kevin Michalowski calls: “Expensive stuff . . . stuff that makes people say . . . hey, nice!”
This wow factor rules.
Some double guns win you over at first look and shoulder mount. The qualifier: Does it look good, feel sweet in your hands, and kill birds dead? That’s a classy double gun.
Fox Double Guns
As the story goes, President Theodore Roosevelt travelled to Africa in March 1909, shortly after leaving office. The A.H. Fox Company had presented him with an FE grade, 12-gauge double. In a letter to Mr. Fox following the gun’s arrival, Roosevelt described it as “the most beautiful gun I have ever seen.” No doubt functional too as he used it as part of the mammal-collecting safari for the Smithsonian Museum (160 species all told, observed and taken by the Colonel and his group of naturalist/collectors).
Unlike Roosevelt, I have yet to wingshoot Africa.
I doubt that my English setter Radar cares what I carry afield, especially when he’s all business and locked up on a ground-crouching woodcock in a painted New England cover, but I do. That timberdoodle, like others before it, often rises, planes out. Boom. Dead bird, we hope. My setter boy does seem to care a little when I miss, flashing me that glaring WTF look (ask your text-messaging kid to translate that acronym for you). I think my shooting improves dramatically if the shotgun looks and feels good in my hands. Truth is, I know it does.
As mentioned at the start, my Fox Sterlingworth came to me through a family line of bird hunters — it killed a PA grouse on the first shot, fitting perfectly on my shooting shoulder. By fortune or circumstance, I also married into an A-grade Fox double. My wife’s great-grandfather, a.k.a “The Boss,” once appeared in an issue of Field & Stream back in the 1930s. Pictured there, a brace of Pennsylvania grouse held by the man himself, his nosed-minded English pointer nosing them, with The Boss, cooing “good dog” words as the photographer did his work. Absent: the Fox double, having done its job.
I can feel history when I hold it.
After a lengthy hiatus, the Fox shotgun was reborn in the late 20th Century. In 1992 Connecticut Shotgun commenced to resurrecting the honorable line, building the Fox in a manner identical to original offerings. They feel, look and function the same way, since old patents are faithfully followed. Serial numbers resumed from when Savage — who entered into an agreement with Connecticut Shotgun — discontinued the A.H. Fox line a handful of years after my paternal grandfather stopped driving that tank. Engraving patterns are also replicated.
A quick history: Fox doubles originated back in 1905. In 1929, Savage Arms bought the company, dropping the line in 1948. Why? Hand labor cost was to blame. As with woodworking and even gardening, all classy doubles require copious amounts of TLC in the form of time and money. Pricey stuff. Fast forward to now.
Picking up where Savage left off, the Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company has continued to produce higher grades of the original A.H Fox line since that 1992 rebirth. Precision machining and operators, plus craftsmen who complete all polishing, rust bluing, engraving, stock checkering, and fitting, make the past present; as Connecticut Shotgun enthuses: “Today’s A.H. Fox guns are the same excellent value as those purchased by your grandfather.”
Find them at: www.connecticutshotgun.com.
AyA: Here to Stay
A show of hands out there if you have: (1) Lovingly handled a buddy’s AyA double gun with envy as he looked on with parental pride, or (2) Own an AyA and have had “discussions” with your wife about it (indefinite pronoun translation: the price tag). Neither? You need to put something from the AyA line on your gun guy bucket list.
AyA double guns have drop-dead-gorgeous eye appeal, timeworn word-of-mouth publicity, and earned character in the hands of hardcore wingshooters. Hey, if you were born in 1915 and still had all-day staying power in the 21st Century, we’d brag about you too.
First things first: You say “A-Why-A” not “Eye-A”. Wouldn’t want you stumbling into an Orvis-endorsed wingshooting lodge invitation and have you get off on the wrong foot during conversation at the buffet table.
That said, each AyA double — bearing the features of traditional English guns — is handmade. Built in AyA’s Eibar factory (the birthplace of Spain’s gunmaking industry) the birthing process is detailed. Gunmakers smoke the steel. Parts are fitted. Metal is removed, one file stroke at a time. The forend, trigger guard, frame and barrels must marry with careful effort. Master stockers shape the walnut forend and stock. Engraving follows, and if you’re like me, it’s the first aspect that catches your eye. They’re works of art.
Here’s the skinny on one of the more affordable, and easily the most famous and popular sidelock AyA doubles out there, the No. 2: Introduced in the late 1950s, the ubiquitous AyA No. 2 — straight-hand stocked with standard walnut and with simpler engraving than other more expensive options — is found in many a gun safes in the United States and around the world (“tens of thousands” have been sold since then, says the company).
Let’s spec it out. The No. 2 Round Action is an easy-to-carry 6 ¾ pounds in 12-bore, while 16, 20, 28 and .410 options are also available. Barrels run 28 inches (other lengths can be ordered). Standard features in this side-by-side hammerless sidelock shotgun include the round-action frame of course, plus chopper-lump steel barrels, forged steel action with a double locking mechanism and gas vents, hardened steel intercepting safety sears, a double trigger with a hinged front trigger, and an optional selective or non-selective single trigger.
Would added visual details close the deal? English scroll engraving, with color hardened or old silver finish, and gold-lined cocking indicators — an automatic safety and concave rib as well —add up to one classy double.
Look for them online at: www.aya-fineguns.com.
Nope, it’s not an oxymoron. Here’s the deal: Remington took the reins of Parker Gun Works back in June 1934. A handful of years ago, Remington chose to release the new Parker, freeing the brand from its dormancy.
As Remington enthuses in a recent press release, “For nearly a century and a half the Parker Gun has been a fixture on the landscape of American firearms. Considered one of the finest sporting arms ever made, Remington acquired Parker Gun Works operations in 1934. In 2006, Remington, along with Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing, engineered the comeback of this masterpiece. Today’s Parker AAHE 28-gauge combines sophisticated gun making technology with exceptional hand checkering and engraving, making it one of the most elegant examples of craftsmanship in history.”
Are you sitting comfortably in your man cave? Good. Prices will knock you down if not. Hunters and collectors can find some upland seasoned Parker double guns on auction for a mere $10K (even less in the “not mint, but cared for” realm), while some specification-built 28 gauges in this line run to $49,000. Or more. Still, you can’t take it with you, and all that. Online forums are full of these finds. Then again, why opt for less? Why buy a double-wide trailer when you can have one of these custom made?
The Parker Gun: www.parkergunmakers.com.
What can I say guys? Elena, Giovanna and Barbara, daughters of Cavaliere Ufficiale Fausti Stefano — builder of the brand — are married, so you’re out of luck. The company is in their capable hands. All share degrees in accounting. They’re all fluent in several languages, and Barbara has a black belt. All look perfectly comfortable handling a side-by-side or over-and-under.
I’ve handled their classy double guns at the SHOT Show over the years, and marveled at the detailing and feel. Whether you’re a hunter, shooter, collector, or all three, you would too.
As their catalogue goes, some technical sheets on their side-by-sides include 12-, 16-, 20-, 24-, 28-, 36- and .410 bores, while other models are more limited. English stocks are select walnut. Engraving is hand-made with gold borders signed by the artist. Some chokes are fixed; some interchangeable. All please the eye. The flying gold woodcock engraved on a number of models (becasse to French gunners in their traditional covers) won me over at first look.
These are fine Italian shotguns indeed. As double guns go, the Fausti Stefano product line also includes over-and-under game and sporting, plus competition options. A range of accessories are also available.
First making history in the mid-1940s in the rifle cartridge and production domain, Weatherby quickly established a reputation for quality. Founder Roy Weatherby’s son, Ed, has run the company since 1983. During the transition both side-by-side and over/under shotguns have been introduced.
Their Athena D’Italia SBS would look like this in your hands: An engraved trigger guard with roll-formed edges punctuated with the familiar Weatherby “Flying W” (gold-filled in this instance). Double triggers as part of the English design. A hand-selected, oil-finished walnut stock with a straight grip design finishing with a lean forend. This Weatherby side-by-side has a functional feel, while the engraved English scroll with ribbons — the work of the Cesare Giovanelli Studio — adds a nice touch to the user-friendly firearm.
They are online at: www.weatherby.com.
This is but a smattering of the fine shotguns available today. Space does not allow us to cover everything you might see on gun racks around the country. But with guns like these, your fowling piece can match the beauty of your favorite hunting grounds. You hunt feathered game in gorgeous places. Whether you pursue grouse and woodcock in alder bottoms under October’s towering blue skies, or wander in grasslands, on crop edges and shelter belts for late-season pheasants, classy double guns fit nicely into the picture.
This article appeared in the May 24, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
More classy double gun makers and dealers:
British Sporting Arms: www.bsaltd.com
Fausti Stephano: www.faustistefanoarms.com
Holloway & Naughton: www.hollowaynaughton.co.uk
Westley Richards & Co.: www.westleyrichards.co.uk
William Larkin Moore: www.williamlarkinmoore.com