Watson Bros. High Pheasant Guns
During the shooting season I spend many days, as a loader, in the glorious surroundings of some extremely prestigious game shoots. Many of the gentlemen I load for are now familiar faces and I know what guns I’m going to be handling during the day even before I take them out of the slips. On the occasions when I’m introduced to someone new there’s always a feeling of anticipation of what I’m going to find when I reach into the slip and take the guns out for the first time, and I’ve seen it all from vintage to brand new and from immaculate to, let’s say, unloved.
As I’m pulling the first gun from its slip there’s always that thought running through my head “please let it be something special, something stunning and beautiful”. In many instances this is exactly the case and sometimes I’m lucky enough to reveal a gun from one of the fine English gunmakers.
As an independent gunmaker Watson Bros. design and build their guns the way they like them and there are a number of signature features that make their guns instantly recognisable.
Originally, Watson Bros. made a light weight over and under 12 bore, which is ideal for those smaller pheasant and partridge days, maybe 150–200 birds, but because they make a light weight gun they can also make a “heavy gun” and it was these that Michael showed me – the Watson Bros. High Pheasant o/u and side by side shotguns.
The over and under High pheasant gun has 32” barrels with full choke. The gun at the show was quite a rare example because it was left-hand opening. It’s built specifically for taking heavier loads in order to bring down those soaring 50–60 yard birds. Basically, Watson Bros, build their guns very much specific for different types of purposes and they find that clients order different pairs for different types of days. So, you find that a client will take their High Pheasant o/u’s when shooting on those tall Devon days; a pair of heavy side by sides when they’re on the grouse and then, as mentioned previously a pair of light weight o/u’s for those smaller pheasant and partridge days.
The side by side that Michael had on the stand was also a “heavy gun”. It was a side by side pigeon gun with double triggers, 31” barrels and a very wide beaver tail forend. Both the o/u and side by side are very similar and are both designed to do the same job, but some people have a preference for an over and under shotgun where others prefer the more traditional style of a side by side.
Michael shoots both guns, but told me that he prefers the side by side because it actually feels like an over and under. The reason for this is because the sight plain is a big, wide flat top rib. The over and under also has a similar type of thing with a wide elevated ventilated rib. On both guns the rib is matted by hand to eliminate glare when shooting.
When you turn the gun over you see that it has a round body with the signature coffin taper on the back of the action, which is quite an important signature feature on a Watson Bros. gun.
Throughout my conversation with Michael we were continually moving back and forth from the light weight and heavy guns, so what is the actual difference in weight? Watson Bros. made their mark with their original o/u game shotgun, weighing 6.8 lb. Their High Pheasant “heavy guns” come in at 8.6 lb, meaning that Watson Bros. are able to cover all your game day and shooting requirements.