List of every guns ever made
Purdey Side-by-Side Game Gun
Established in 1814, James Purdey and Sons of London builds one grade of double, "best, " which costs as much as a small house. The Purdey doesn't earn the top spot because it's expensive; it's here because it epitomizes the British game gun, which represents the Platonic ideal of a shotgun. Start with wood and steel and cut away everything that's not a gun, and you're left with a game gun. Slim, light, ergonomically perfect and fitted to the owner, it comes as close as any firearm can to becoming part of the shooter. Given $100, 000 to spend on a house or a gun, I'll take living indoors every time, but I'm glad that Purdeys exist to show us what a shotgun aspires to be.
Shown: A 1979 Extra Finish 12-gauge, No. 2 of a matched pair
If you think of a gun as nothing but a tool, then the 870 is the greatest shotgun ever made. It is the Gun That Works, and if it doesn't, it disassembles to the molecular level in a few minutes, and whatever ails it can quickly be put right. With its stamped parts and pressed checkering, the 870 sold for much less than the Winchester Model 12, the Ithaca 37, and the Model 31 it replaced. Though inexpensive, the 870 is every bit as reliable and durable as its costlier competitors. It has gone on to become the best-selling shotgun of all time.
John Browning spent his life inventing guns that shot more and faster than others, but his last creation was the elegant Superposed. The Superposed survived the death of its inventor (Browning's son Val completed the design), the Great Depression, and the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Reintroduced in 1948, it became the affordable fine gun of an affluent postwar generation of shotgunners in the '50s and '60s. If you want to nitpick, the Superposed is overweight and too tall in the action, but more than any other model, it established the over/under as the glamour gun of American wingshooting.
Italy's finest shotguns equal London's best, and bulino engravers turn them into works of art. Rather than drive a chisel with a hammer, they use a handheld tool called a burin to draw on the steel, enabling them to create works of astonishing detail. Engraver Mario Abbiatico deserves much of the credit for popularizing bulino engraving in the mid 1960s, and the Abbiatico & Salvinelli guns made by Famars are, to this day, the standard against which others are measured.
Remington Model 1100
Debuting in 1963, the 1100 wasn't the first gas-operated autoloader, but it was the first reliable one. The 1100 worked and it didn't kick. Expanding gas that bled from the barrel drove the action and had the very pleasant side effect of turning "kick" into "shove." Target shooters, dove hunters, waterfowlers-anyone who dealt with a lot of or repeated recoil-loved the 1100. It's my favorite gun for introducing new shooters to the sport. The 1100 also fits almost everyone. The secret is the slender comb, which makes it a gun anyone can "get down" on.
Produced by Browning: 1903-1998. Produced as the Remington Model 11: 1905-1949
So forward thinking was John Browning's long-recoil autoloader that it took 50 years for any other American maker to come up with another autoloading design. In the A-5's long recoil action, the entire barrel moved back with the bolt, giving this gun a unique, shuffling kick. It worked in all conditions-the only way I ever made my A-5 stop was by dunking it in wet snow on a day cold enough to freeze the action shut. An A-5 made in Belgium was the prestige gun among waterfowlers for most of the 20th century.
Winchester Model 12
Over 2 million Model 12s rolled out of the Winchester plant between 1912 and 1980. The Y-Series, with some stamped parts, was made from 1964 to 1980, but the pre-1964 Winchester was milled and machined to a glorious slickness. Upland hunters, waterfowlers, and target shooters alike loved the Model 12 and for good reason: It pointed beautifully, was graceful to look at, and lasted forever. I used to borrow my cousin's 30-inch-barreled, Full-choked Model 12, which was lethal to turkeys out to 40 yards and greatly enhanced my elegance afield, even after I covered it with camo tape. Shown: A near mint-condition 1956 20-gauge
Beretta AL390 Produced: 1992-1999. Reintroduced as the 3901: 2002-present
As the gas guns of choice for high-volume shooting, Berettas redefined autoloading reliability. Like the 303 before it, the 390 could withstand 1, 500-round days in South American dove fields, and the gas action helped shooters hold up almost as well. The 390 was the first Beretta auto that could shoot 23/4- and 3-inch shells with no adjustment. On the downside, the nooks and crannies of its gas system are a little tricky to clean. The good news: All these guns perk along happily for 1, 500-2, 000 rounds between serious cleanings, which makes them my kind of gun.
Westley Richards & Co. Droplock
Based in Birmingham, England, maker Westley Richards has never had the cachet of a London shop, but its guns are so good the company has remained in business for 195 years. Patented in 1875, Westley Richards' Anson and Deeley boxlock had internal hammers that were cocked by the opening of the barrels; doubles as we know them wouldn't be possible without this capability. Today, WR builds the ultimate refinement of the boxlock: the droplock, which features a hinged plate on the bottom of the frame that gives access to the lockwork.
Produced: 1866-1934 By Remington: 1934-1942
America's iconic double sprang from humble beginnings: The first Parker shotguns were crude breechloaders made from parts left over from a Civil War rifle contract. Recognizable by a distinctive recessed, slotted hinge-pin, the Parkers of the early 20th century came in more gauges, grades, and frame sizes than any other American double. Foxes and Smiths are equally good guns, but the Parker beats them for mystique. Czar Nicholas II ordered an A-1; Carole Lombard gave Clark Gable a DHE. The priceless, missing Parker Invincible is the Maltese Falcon of fine guns.
Benelli Super Black Eagle
Today it possesses the duck-blind status that A-5 Magnums did in the days of lead. Back in 1991, however, the Super Black Eagle-a high-priced gun with a dumb name from a little-known maker and chambered for a new load-was a gamble. Benelli hit the jackpot. The SBE's combination of reliability, sweet handling, and long-range capability won over American waterfowlers, who discovered the unique Benelli inertia action to be a model of simplicity. Great as it is, the SBE has a single flaw: It's too light a gun for most people to shoot 3 1/2-inch magnums out of comfortably.
Produced: 1903-1930 By Savage Arms: 1930-1942 By Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co.: 1993-present
Inventor Ansley Fox's automobile is long forgotten; his self-lighting cigarette never dented the marketplace. But his shotgun is arguably the simplest, strongest, and possibly the best of the classic American doubles. Teddy Roosevelt called it "the finest gun made." The Fox was a well-designed gun that hardly ever broke down; its receiver was beautifully sculpted and it closed with the quiet strength and precision of a Swiss bank vault. Some of the American doubles in the lower grades look cheap, but not the Fox.