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The Horton guns and the Whimsical girl

You have to take your hat off to the marketing prowess of makers such as Purdey, Boss, Holland & Holland and Westley Richards who have manufactured guns continuously from inception. Guns from these makers are made to the highest quality of craftsmanship and I marvel at guns such as the Boss over and under shotgun which is a thing of sheer engineering brilliance and delight to handle and honour to own.

When it comes to our own output, many customers are unaware of actually how good our best guns are and how some of the Horton patents have been instrumental in the development of sporting guns available today. Obviously the majority of our guns were made in Birmingham and mostly boxlocks, quality made, but made to a price, like so many guns that came from Birmingham makers. However when you focus in on our best quality guns, they have an understated brilliance all of their own.

The Horton ‘Imperial’ boxlock featured two unique patents that many of the finest quality guns feature today;

The ‘Polygrip’ top lever was the first pinless top lever and actually bolted from underneath the action. This wasn’t just for aesthetic reasons but it makes perfect sense in a boxlock shotgun where the lock plate to the underside is removed when servicing the gun, whilst there you can adjust the top lever if needed and remove without damaging the finish of the gun. So next time you pick up a modern over and under where the top lever has no pin (screw) holding it in place you know that is down to a now expired Horton patent.

The adjustable trigger which adjusted not just for length of pull but also weight of trigger pull is also an expired Horton patent. At the time considered a gimmick, however if you purchased a high end sporting shotgun from makers such as Perazzi, Zoli, Krieghoff et al today, you’d expect nothing less than this feature now.

The Horton ‘Monarch’ droplock is as rare as hens teeth a valuable investment if you ever see one and similar to the Westley Richards droplock as pictured above. However the ‘Monarch’ had the added advantage of the lockplate being hinged behind the knuckle of the action, so the triggers could also be detached with the locks, in essence being the first ever drop out trigger set. Only 3 were ever made in 1903, all in 12 gauge. The only one I have seen on the market was some 20 years ago in the US advertised for $25,000.

So what is the Whimsical Girl and why? William was a patron of the Kelvingrove Museum and art gallery in Glasgow; he had a particular interest in Italian Renaissance artists. His passion was such that he personally funded the loan of the famous Botticelli painting ‘The Birth of Venus’ for the opening of the Gallery in 1901. From that point on, all Horton ‘best’ guns adorned the Whimsical Girl (normally on the top lever) intended to represent Zephyr (God of the wind) and Venus herself.

With such innovation and skill to execute such superb guns, I often wonder if William had ventured south to London where affluent clientele were more willing to part with their brass, would the Horton name be more widely known within the gun trade of today?


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