Gavin Gardiner, sporting gun auctioneer, tells of the great and unusual guns which have inspired his career.
The business of auctions has long been part of my life. I spent my childhood visiting gunmakers and auctions with my father, who was a consultant to Sotheby’s. Sotheby’s established the Gleneagles gun auction in 1967. I have been personally involved in every sale since 1987 and have made many great friends as well as fantastic memories here.
“The auction at the Gleneagles Hotel is held every August, two weeks into the grouse shooting season and has set more world record prices for guns at auction than any other”
The auction at the Gleneagles Hotel is held every August, two weeks into the grouse shooting season and has set more World Record prices for guns at auction than any other.
I spend a greater part of June and August each year north of the border engaged in activities related to the sale and have developed a great affection for Scotland and its legendary gunmakers as a result. I take great pride and enjoyment travelling around the world in search of great guns with fascinating stories to sell at auction, but I am at my happiest when I make these discoveries in Scotland.
When considering famous gunmakers, the achievements of makers from north of the border are sometimes overlooked. With so much talk of the famous London gunmaking names, many new buyers are unaware of Scotland’s fine gunmaking heritage. Turn the clock back a hundred years however and you’ll find that Edinburgh and Glasgow were rich gunmaking cities, easily the equal to London and Birmingham. Scotland not only had some of the finest shooting on offer but also some of the finest gunmakers as well.
Alex Martin, W. Horton, Joseph Harkhom, Daniel Fraser, J.D. Dougall, Alex Henry and James MacNaughton are all fine Scottish names with one thing in common – they were among Edinburgh and Glasgow’s finest gunmakers. Responsible for many of the subtle improvements and refinements to the sporting gun and rifle as we know it, they brought their unique identities to the guns they built. These guns have stood the test of time and many are still in use in the field today.
Most famous of all of the Scottish gunmakers has to be John Dickson and Son. Established in 1830, John Dickson soon became Edinburgh’s best and most respected gunmaker and was ideally placed at a time when rapid change was sweeping the gun trade. As flintlock gave way to percussion and by 1860 the first central fire, breech loading guns made all that had preceded them obsolete overnight, Dickson adapting to the times was at the forefront of each of these new innovations. It will however be the timeless “round action”, hammerless guns that Dickson will be forever identified with. The first of these was built and patented in 1880. Built on a ‘trigger plate’ action, the working parts are mounted to allow for a very slim and lightweight gun. Skilfully rounded to give a slender and shapely look, it moves and handles like no other, while retaining all the strength and grace required for hard use in the field. Renowned as the ideal gun for grouse, there have been subtle refinements to this gun over the years and limited production continues to this day.