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The Edinburgh 28

January 2021
The Edinburgh 28

James MacNaughton was the real inventor of the 'Round-Action' but there are many unanswered questions on how MacNaughton became the most successful 28 bore retailer in Edinburgh in the form of his flagship 'Edinburgh' gun.

We present this beautiful early ejector 'Edinburgh' gun for sale to help us tell the story.

The 'Edinburgh' action arrived in 1879 in the shape of a triggerplate action gun designed by James MacNaughton. It is common knowledge that 'locks on the triggerplate' gun was not necessarily MacNaughton's own idea but he was certainly the first one across the line in Edinburgh with a patent. One of his competitors, only a few streets away, in the shape of John Dickson & Son, would not release his similar design until the following year.

Contrary to much rumour and myth stirred up between these two gunmakers and their patents within a year of each other, there was no legal dispute between them over the patents and one could assume that there was a mutual respect between Dickson and MacNaughton, MacNaughton having served his apprenticeship with Dickson and become a fine gunmaker in his own right.

The Triggerplate Design

With the locks now mounted centrally on the triggerplate, this allowed for a solid-body action providing great strength and could be 'rounded' off to create a very slender, elegant action. With the aid of a long top lever acting as a cocking lever this avoided any mechanism in the fore-end and the fore-end could now be allowed to continue the rounded and svelte shape through the gun. With no interruption in the knuckle of the gun for a cocking mechanism, the gun could open very wide and the extractor could lift the cartridges further out, both merits aiding with the loading and removing of cartridges.

In order to keep the stack height of the action and barrels as low as possible, MacNaughton very cleverly put the strikers through the top strap. The strikers themselves supported for their full length in the top strap, long and oversized with no step-change in shape making for strikers that were easy to make and very strong in design. Incorporated into the action was a crystal window inspection port - a detachable cover plate with a window into the lockwork to see the tumblers cocked or fired. Also allowing space for the top of the tumblers to hit the strikers and providing easy accessing to the strikers if replacement or inspection was required without having to disassemble the whole gun. From a practical gunmakers perspective, this area would also be the access point for vertically drilling the striker holes through the strap to the breach face and to the centre of the cartridges.

MacNaughton now had a flagship hammerless gun that had racy looks and forward thinking in design, dispensing with the square edges of a bar-action sidelock or the bulk of an Anson & Deeley gun and it would be light weight for any gauge built. He named it the 'Edinburgh' gun and to promote its arrival, engraved it's name  right across the top of the detonators of the action for all to see. 

The Edinburgh 28

Research in the MacNaughton records suggests that under 50 Edinburgh guns were made in 28 bore - a mixture of lever-cocking and barrel-cocking, ejector or non-ejector guns. This is quite a feat on two counts - firstly, comparable to any other maker in Edinburgh it is the highest number of 28 gauge guns built on a makers flagship action (note that Dickson has never built a 28 gauge Round-Action). Secondly, this figure is 10% of the total ‘Edinburgh’ model gun production and more than the 20 and 16 bore numbers combined together.

A black gun

Oddly, every 28 bore Edinburgh gun that has been encountered so far is completely black in colour. The action, triggerplate, furniture and fore-end iron having been charcoal blued, providing a deep glossy black finish to harden the surface of the metal. One can only speculate that the reason behind this may be the fact that MacNaughton’s batch of 28 bore actions were all made of steel and (marked STEEL on the action bar) and it is known that these early steel actions did not accept colour hardening very well.

Any barrel length as long as its 2ft

Mystery surrounds why nearly of these early guns were built with barrels very close to 24in length and how MacNaughton convinced the customer that they should take delivery of a gun with 24in barrels. MacNaughton folklore suggests that with his batch of steel 28 bore size actions, he intended to build small calibre black powder express double rifles and had a stock of 24in barrels on hand to use up. The contradiction here is MacNaughton never built a double rifle in a calibre small enough to warrant using this action size and the barrels were always greater than 24in. Even MacNaughton’s smallest Edinburgh double rifle, the Marsupial Express, was made in .400 and so used a 20 bore sized action and came with 26in barrels.

The MacNaughton Ejector

MacNaughton introduced his patent ejector in 1890 to compliment the design of his Edinburgh gun. It was a complicated box system utilising coil springs and a number of small interlocking parts but was slender enough to fit in the narrow and shallow fore-end of an Edinburgh gun. Interestingly, the extractor legs are held by the ejector system in the fore-end only when the gun is assembled, this system allowing the extractors to extend far out of the gun. This setup is unique to MacNaughton, every other manufacturer using an extractor stop pin in or between the lumps of the gun. The only challenge being not to drop the extractor’s out of the barrels when assembling the gun.

This gun dates from around 1891 and is the perfect example of an Edinburgh 28. It is a lever-cocking gun with a crystal inspection window but does not have the pierced long-lever of similar guns of its age.  

What makes this gun very special is that it is the earliest MacNaughton patent ejector gun we have encountered, marked as No. 15, being the 15th use of his ejector system for his Edinburgh action. The gun benefits from new 27in steel barrels fitted by the maker in 1983 and is fitted with a beautiful stock.

This gun is now available for sale and a great opportunity to acquire a rare and highly sought after Edinburgh 28 Ejector.

To view further details on this gun, please click here