Heritage Guns' History
Heritage Guns was established in 2000 by Toby Barclay. He had been restoring shotguns as part of his researches into the history of the gunmaker J Blanch & Son and was encouraged by friends within the British gun trade to start doing it commercially.
From these modest beginnings has grown
the successful business that you now see:
Purchasing project guns and cases throughout the UK;
Commissioning some of the very best craftsmen within the British gunmaking community to weave their magic;
Exhibiting at the foremost US antique gun shows;
Selling directly to private collectors and shooters in the UK and abroad.
In the early years Heritage Guns typically might have had a dozen guns under active restoration; now the figure is sometimes as high as 50!
This means that a huge range of types, styles, values and quality pass through the workshops. Given that the restoration is economically viable, they are as happy creating a new pin or reblacking a No Name12b BLNE to a full restoration on a gun by any of the most illustrious and historic names in British gunmaking.
What makes a Heritage Gun?
We scour the United Kingdom for guns that represent the best in late 19th and early 20th Century gunmaking. It matters not to us what name has been applied to action or top rib: if the condition and quality are there, we will take on the gun's restoration.
After the specialists have done what they do best, we carefully coax out the beauty of glowing walnut, warm damascus, blue-black steel and iridescent blued pins and screws, taking care not to lose the rare patina of many days in the field.
Although we do restore a large number of guns by the most well known gunmakers we are particularly interested in guns from provincial and lesser know London makers. These were often designed and built by the very same outworkers that supplied the makers of London Best guns and frequently exhibit interesting features and patents rarely seen in guns that carry more prestigious names.
A Heritage Gun will usually exhibit at least one, and often several, of the following attributes:
Particularly good condition for its age;
An interesting, significant or rare patent;
Unusually high quality, specification or finish;
A notable aesthetic feature, for example gold inlay or a superb stock.
A beautiful John Wilkes BLE that we restored several years back.
The Heritage Guns Restoration Process
Only when we are satisfied that the gun is a suitable candidate for restoration do our gunsmiths, stockers and engravers go to work. Painstakingly, we strip the gun down to its last pin and start the demanding task of repairing barrels and rejointing.
At this stage the gun is sent for proof testing at the London or Birmingham Proof House. We usually elect for 2 3/4" nitro proof as we feel this gives the purchaser maximum cartridge choice. However occasionally we retain the original chamber length or proof if the gun is of particular historical importance or its specification dictates it.
Providing all goes well with this essential test of gun soundness, we begin filing up new components, replacing damaged pins and then refinish the furniture and woodwork and commence browning or blacking barrels.
Meanwhile, if the gun's case has survived or a replacement case is required, our case maker begins his work. Most cases are carefully relined and fitted to makers' standards while others, if in particularly good condition, are carefully cleaned and given replacement fittings where necessary.
Often the case is equipped with appropriate accessories which may include brass and ebony cleaning tools, turnscrews, spare strikers, nipple keys, chrome or pewter oil bottle as appropriate and the original maker's label, if available, is affixed inside the lid.
We take great pride in our gun descriptions which can be found via the gun's individual entry on our stock page and, although we can not be held responsible for unintentional inaccuracies, we try very hard to ensure that the information is correct and up to date. A printed version of these (without photos) can be obtained on request by email and are available at all our exhibitions.