By Gregg Elliott
Ever since Watson Bros. opened its doors, in 1885, the company has worked hard to set itself apart from other gunmakers in London and across the UK. A hundred years ago this led the firm to take a chance by focusing on smallbore shotguns. A century of success followed. Today Michael Louca, Watson’s current owner, has the same eye for opportunity and a willingness to be different. His firm’s fantastic new 12-bore hammergun is the result.
Inspired by a bar-in-wood Purdey that Louca shot for years, Watson’s new hammergun was built to bring down the ultra-high, cloud-skimming pheasants popular with today’s British driven shoots. With 30” barrels; a wide, file-cut rib; and low hammers, the gun has a clear, focused sight plane. Its pistol grip and beavertail forend give the shooter plenty of control. The action features a traditional toplever with a Purdey-style bolt as well as a third grip and sideclips, and the metalwork was engraved by Andy Miles in a traditional acanthus-leaf pattern.
The gun is hefty, coming in at more than 7½ pounds, which allows it to soak up the recoil from the heavy loads it was built to shoot. And while it does have ejectors, that’s the only upgrade that Louca made to the vintage design. Because the gun doesn’t have a safety or self-cocking action, it still feels as traditional as a pair of plus fours and elevenses. The first gun was built for a client, but similar bespoke versions start at £75,000 (or about $95,000).
Reflecting on the guns Watson Bros. builds, Louca said, “We take pride in the individuality and creativity that goes into each one.” Were you to order one of the firm’s new hammerguns, you would feel this same sense of pride every time you took your Watson into the field.