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The Intercepting Sears

The intercepting sear is a term banded around a lot within the shooting fraternity when discussing the prowess of ones firearm, yes the old “mine is bigger or better than yours” codswallop. I still maintain to the Wife it is what you do with it that matters, but that is a different story and no she didn’t listen and that’s why she is now the ex.

However, I doubt many people actually know what an intercepting sear is and many people just go along with the conversation so they don’t look stupid. Then you have the know it all shooter who tests everyone and thinks he is Magnus Magnusson in a mastermind episode.

Anyway, I’ve started so I’ll finish. So what is an intercepting sear?

First of all a sear is meant to hold the hammer back when the firearm is cocked, so an intercepting sear is basically a second sear, poised just behind a second notch in the hammer that as the name suggests intercepts the hammer from firing if the firearm is dropped or sharply jarred. A single sear gun could jump out of its notch and the hammer could fall, firing the gun accidentally. On a gun with intercepting sears, only by pulling the trigger are both sears moved out of the way simultaneously, allowing the gun to fire. So it is a safety mechanism.

It can be associated with sidelock guns of reasonable to good quality although it is relatively easy to execute in gunsmithing terms in this format. However in a boxlock (not a trigger plate) action it is a very difficult to execute, so I would argue a top quality boxlock with intercepting sears is as good as any mid range sidelock without doubt.

The pictures above show two different sidelock mechanisms that both incorporate intercepting sears, so it can be executed in a variety of ways. Top picture is a variation of the Holland patent and the bottom a Purdey/Beesley patent.

W Horton & Sons retail Grulla that are a great alternative to an AYA, throughout the Grulla range they incorporate intercepting sears on the Holland & Holland patent.


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  • Alec Swan says:

    The Intercepting Safety Sear (ISS) was and remains, an interesting development and it’s primary function was to prevent the accidental discharge of the second barrel, in a double barrelled gun – or perhaps either barrel being discharged should the sear jump out of bent, were the gun dropped – as we all know.
    It’s my own potted theory that along with many other of the ‘inventions’ at the turn of the century, they were really little more than attempts at gaining marketing advantage.
    One curious aspect is that many guns so fitted had them disconnected should a single trigger also be fitted. I have a Boss gun with a factory S/T and that has ISS. I’ve also just sold an 1895 Purdey which had a S/T fitted by Boss & Co. and to get it to work, they disconnected the ISS.
    I recently saw a Horton Boxlock gun of beautiful quality – that had ISS and a S/T and they all functioned. I have a B/L gun here with a Baker S/T and that has functioning ISS which is released by a traditional second and near parallel sear – – and another, again with a Baker S/T and that has the ISS removed.
    I must admit that I like the idea of them, but if I’m honest, that’s mostly because of the complexities of the work involved!

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