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Webleymkv
September 3, 2005, 10:06 PM
Anyone ever heard of one of these before? An acquantence found one in a deceased relative's closet. It's an old 12 gauge double barrel marked "Nitro Proof" and also stamped "Birmingham." Would that be England or Alabama? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

HunterTRW
September 3, 2005, 11:51 PM
Samuel Marson & Company was a manufacturer (founded circa 1840) of sporting and military firearms, and was based in Birmingham, England. Birmingham was one of the cradles of the British-best gun trade.

Author Michael McIntosh had this to say, in part, about Birmingham in his book titled Best Guns:

"With iron ore and coal deposits nearby, Birmingham has been a manufacturing center since the Middle Ages. The earliest record of guns--"musquets," actually--being built there dates to the 1640s, and Birmingham makers were supplying weapons to the armies of William and Mary by 1693. By 1770, the Birmingham trade comprised thirty-eight gun and pistol makers, six gunlock-makers, and five barrel-makers. During the Napoleonic Wars, between 1804 and 1815, Birmingham turned out 1,827,889 finished arms, 3,037,644 barrels, and 2,879,203 locks.

"Taking its cue from American industry in the 1850, the Birmingham trade was the first in England to adopt the techniques of mass-production and interchangeable parts. More than 4,000,000 military gun barrels were made and proofed in Birmingham between 1854 and 1864, a period that includes both the Crimean War and the American Civil War. From October 1861 through 1864, the Birmingham trade contributed 733,403 weapons to the American conflict, supplying, as we've seen, both the Union and Confederate armies.

"By the turn of the nineteenth century, most of the components used throughout the English gun trade came from Birmingham--locks, barrels, furniture, and all."

He notes that Parliment officially established the Birmingham Proof House in 1813, and later states,

"Besides military arms, the Birmingham trade offered well-built, inexpensive sporting arms--certainly inexpensive by London standards--and the London makers had long been resentful of the competition. So long as the London Proof House was the only one in England, they felt relatively secure, but when the Birmingham trade gained co-equal power of law, the Londoners waxed testy indeed. Momentarily losing its collective head, the Gunmakers' Company backed a bill in the House of Commons to require that no one but the actual manufacturer could put his name on a gun. This was meant to stop the fairly common practice in which entrepreneurs stamped their own names and London addresses on Birmingham-built guns. The Birmingham contingent countered by pointing out that it would then become illegal for bona-fide London makers to put their names on guns made from Birmingham components. Since virtually all of the London makers did exactly that, they dropped the matter like a hot rock."

As a courtesy to your acquaintance, please urge him or her to have this gun evaluated by a gunsmithing firm (ala Griffin & Howe) familiar with British-best firearms for both mechanical soundness and value. The former for safety's sake, particularly before any attempt is made to fire it; the latter for the sake of the pocketbook as it might possibly be valuable.

Good luck, and good shooting!

Webleymkv
September 6, 2005, 10:52 AM
Thanks, this guy and another friend of mine had googled this for hours and come up with nothing. I knew this was the right place to ask.

K80Geoff
September 6, 2005, 05:09 PM
A good source of info about double guns:

http://www.gunshop.com/