I just purchased a used gun from a Gunbroker listing, and had a couple of questions.
The gun is a Watkins double made in Banbury, between London and Oxford. I have searched extensively and there is little info available for the maker. I found a helpful writeup about pinfires on this board about the founding of the company, which goes back to an early date and started under this name with a T J Watkins. I have found scattered pinfires and single barrel large bore fowling pieces listed on auctions which sold well but only one listing ever for a hammerless double. The one I bought is marked simply "Watkins" on the action sides and "Watkins Banbury" on the rib. The proof marks would indicate a date between 1875 and 1896. It is a boxlock, very well grained wood, 30" 12 gauge, 1-1/2" DAC, 2-1/4" DAH, 2-1/2" chambers, 14-3/8" LOP, and a total weight of 6# 4 oz. Buttplate is Buffalo horn just staring to show a little chipping. Engraving is floral, decent coverage , is sharp and crisp. Barrels are 3 crolle Damascus that have gone brown but still show the pattern well. The left barrel is marked 14 over 1 and has a a bore of .700, as is the choke. The right barrel is marked 13 over 1 with a .722 bore with .700 choke. I believe these are original since the right barrel is marked CHOKE and the left is unmarked and would be correct for that period and configuration. The bores are smooth and shining. I suspect it has been polished at some point but not honed. The wall thickness in both barrels is .035-.04 behind the chokes, .05 in the fore end area,and .14 in front of the chambers. The action closes very easily and snaps shut almost by itself, much like an LC Smith.
Overall, the gun looks in excellent condition with good wood fit and finish, quite a bit of case color left (completely intact under the forearm), and good barrel finish with no corrosion, wear or dents. Unless the stock has been given a fresh oil rub, I believe it is original and about as "like new" as you will see in a gun 125 years old.
The odd thing was that the listing made you strongly suspect that the barrels were bad. It was listed as a 12/28 gauge because it came with a set of 28 gauge inserts, which sounded like they were permanent, and the weight was listed at 7-1/2#. There were a lot of bids, but they were low. The gun just looked too clean and in too good a shape to have horrible barrels, so I bid and got the gun at barely over $700. When it arrived, I tried knocking the tubes out and they popped right out. You can't believe my joy at seeing the shiny bores, or my next reaction when I saw the tubes were a new looking set of $695 Briley 28 gauge companion tubes. Barrel measurements sealed the deal.
The question I have is does anyone have information on the later Watkins company? I have to assume it might have been the son of T J. I found only one listing on a UK gunlist. It was exactly the same model as this gun, as near as I can tell, but was in nowhere near the condition of this gun. It was listed at about $1200 US. Is this a known maker, what is the reputation and what is their percieved quality? I have a 16 gauge Parker DH on an O frame that weighs exactly the same and to me seems identical to the Watkins in handling feel. I can't imagine it won't make an excellent game gun.
Last edited by AGS; 02/03/22 04:24 PM.