Here is a fine early hammerless gun – Gibbs and Pitt of Bristol took out patent 284 in 1873, two years after the first hammerless patent by Murcott No 1003 in 1871. The 284 patent describes two versions, one with the action built on the triggerplate, and one with sideplate action – this is the triggerplate version. It has an underlever that follows the outline of the triggerguard and hinges down and forward. As it goes forward it withdraws a sprung loaded bolt that goes into the barrel lump to secure the barrels in the closed position, allowing the barrels to fall open. The underlever closes by a flat spring which forms part of the underside of the action bar – when the barrels are lifted the bolt snaps into the forward lump and locks the barrels in position. The bolt acts on two lumps, the one nearest the hinge has the ramp that does the snap action, the one near the breechface is just a lock. I guess the technical description of the gun is a double 12 bore hammerless non ejector underlever double bite snap action gun on a triggerplate action ! (triggerplate means that the works of the action – triggers, sears, tumblers and springs are mounted on the triggerplate that comes out with the triggers on it – on guns of earlier generations the actions were mainly mounted on the side locks, as they are on quality guns now – modern guns mostly have boxlock actions – the bits mounted in the action box as the name says! The barrels are a beautiful plum brown colour and I can’t see if there is any twist beneath the browning – they have obviously been struck off at some time – they could be Whitworth pressed fluid steel at that date, or twist. The barrels appear to have an original set of Birmingham proof marks and a set from re-proofing after the 1955 proof stamp changes and carries an NP mark for London – it also has 12 in a diamond and 2 1/2″ and 3 TONS stamped under the barrel and .740. The barrels forward of the flats have 13 stamped on them and the original Birmingham view and proof marks. The maker’s name on the barrel is faintly traceable but there is no trace of any Whitworth designation as is usual on steel barrels of this date. The bores are very clean and have plenty of wall thickness in them.
There is a mystery with this gun – the engraved oval on the broad backstrap that says Gibbs and Pitt Patent Bristol has the patent as No 204 whereas Crudington and Baker list it as 284 , and say it was his only patent – did the engraver get it wrong, its quite clear and no room for doubt.
The gun serial number is C 395 – the C indicates that it was one of Gibbs and Pitts second grade guns, made up in the Birmingham trade and finished and regulated by Gibbs, but it is a second grade from a first rate maker. This became a popular action and sold well once hammerless guns were accepted.
Part of the triggerplate action sticks down into the triggerguard area – making these guns instantly recognisable!