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Roscoe Stephenson


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George Gibbs Double Rifle .450 Nitro Express Boxlock Ejector


An English gentleman hailing from Bristol stopped in this week (March, 2006), and he doesn’t seem inclined to leave any time soon. He’s been on his journey for quite some time; and though he looks much younger, he came into this world when Theodore Roosevelt was our president. In fact, he’s 101 years old! He won’t really say how or when he came to these American shores. It’s simply irrelevant to his way of thinking. America is a land of immigrants, and he counts himself as one.

Distinguished in his appearance, he’s of stout English lineage; a scion of the well known George Gibbs of 39 Corn Street, Bristol. His features also show close kinship to the Webley family. Perhaps his mother was of that stock.

He told me he was originally intended for Africa or India, but he really won’t say whether his wanderings took him there. I suspect he was there on brief occasions. Conceived as a .450 Nitro Express, his birthright engraved in the steel of his barrels proudly declares, “GEORGE GIBBS 39 CORN STREET, BRISTOL .450-3 1/4” STRAIGHT TAPER SOLID METAL CASE 70 GRS CORDITE, 480 GRS NICKEL COATED BULLET.” Yes he was made for what may have been the preeminent choice of the newfangled cordite cartridges in 1905, the year of his birth.

His calling for Africa and India fell to politics. It so happened that about the time of this gentleman’s birth there were simultaneous rebellions in India and the Sudan. The rebels armed themselves with stolen 577/450 Martini-Henrys. In an effort to deny the rebels any access to ammunition, the British Foreign Office forbade the use of all .458 caliber rifles in those areas. So my visitor was stymied in his youth, when otherwise so much opportunity lay at his feet. Sadly, he was relegated to retirement just when his brothers and cousins born a few years later and of slightly different caliber came to the forefront. Then, as he grew older, rifles of his kind appeared less frequently in the hunting fields. Wars and mass production turned hunters toward the bolt action of Peter Paul Mauser. Fine English double rifles were just too costly for the modern age. For a long time there was no ammunition for this sporting gent, not because the ban continued, but because of simple disuse. On the brighter side, his early retirement and light use contributed so much to his good health as he passes the first century of life. He now is as fit and able as he was a hundred years ago!

This fellow occupied a position near the middle of the British double rifle social strata. Let me explain.

The pinnacle was held by the London sidelocks. Those surnames were and are Purdey, Holland & Holland, and Woodward. A different breed altogether; indeed, a different species of rifle. Only the wealthiest could own one.

At the bottom were plainly made boxlocks, mostly of Birmingham. These were “working guns” and work they did! We now see these after their many years of toil. They are worn, sometimes loose, and completely unadorned. Worse yet, these working guns are often “restored” by some hack who slicks them up with all sorts of shiny finish and mechanical remedies.

The middle ground is occupied by gents like my visitor. They are boxlocks, but of extreme high quality. Not plain working guns, these were adorned with fine engraving and nice wood. They were crafted with care commiserate with a London sidelock; but being of simpler design, they required perhaps half the labor. Though not inexpensive, they were affordable to a wider clientele. Well-born Englishmen bought rifles of this class also.

I’ll tell you more about my visitor. George Gibbs double rifle #19555, a .450-3¼” Nitro Express, was finished in 1905. It is a stout 11 lbs., 2½ oz. It has 28 inch tubes in the tradition of its black powder forebears. A later rifle would likely have barrels of 24 to 26 inches. The barrels are chopper lump and topped by a full length swamped rib with machine-cut transverse striations. There is no inscription on the rib. I have already mentioned the inscriptions engraved on the barrels themselves. The sights are traditional shallow “V” platinum lined express sights with one standing and two folding leaves at the rear and a 3/32” bead on the front. There are two spare front sights in the trapdoor grip cap. The bores are virtually perfect condition.

The action is a Webley A&W C – the “Screw Grip.” It is adorned with full coverage fine English scroll and retains all of its original color hardening. The bottom plate is blackened, and its finish has faded to resemble the color hardening. The word, “SAFE” is inlaid in gold on the top tang. The trigger guard, also fully scroll engraved, has a long tang extending to the steel trapdoor grip cap. The trigger guard retains most of its original black. The grip cap is fully scroll engraved and color hardened. The barrels remain perfectly tight on the face.

The forend latch is a rotating lever. Its metal is color hardened and scroll engraved. It is fit with Southgate ejectors.

This rifle is wooded with very dense quarter sawn English walnut having moderate figure. The pistol grip buttstock is paneled behind the action, ending in drop points. Its length of pull is 14 ¾” over a 1" pigskin covered pad. It sports a blank gold oval. The stock and forend are very nicely checkered in a point pattern. The rifle is equipped with sling eyes.

Yes this gent appears to be content here in western Virginia. I think he’ll stay for a long time. I'll make him comfortable here. We are becoming close friends.

Not currently offered.

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Welcome to Guns-n-Rods. Rifles for Sale. Shotguns for Sale. Fishing Tackle for Sale. Various Other Items for Sale. About Guns-n-Rods.