How Frederick Beesley changed the way shotguns are made forever

Just a year after establishing his own business, Frederick Beesley’s engineering prowess and talent for innovation came to the fore when he redesigned the shotgun changing the way side-by-sides were made forever.

At this point in gunmaking history, the side-by-side shotgun was dominant. In fact, no gunmaker made an effective over-and-under until the early years of the 20th century.

Showing himself to be a true inventor, Beesley lodged patent No.31 inventing a spring-cocked hammerless gun in 1880.

Beesley utilised the power of the mainspring to ease the opening of the gun and cock the tumblers. In addition, he produced a very neat and graceful external appearance that complemented the existing styles of a Purdey.

With many of the hammerless actions from this period being anything but elegant, Beesley successfully combined technological advances and feats of engineering with a style that was aesthetically pleasing.

Beesley sold the patent for the grand sum of £35 to his former employer James Purdey & Sons and his invention still forms the basis of the guns Purdey make today with the company practically excluding all other types of hammerless action.

Despite selling the original patent, Beesley actually made improvements to his initial design and made another improved version.

Renowned craftsmen have examined an example of this mechanism, and consider it to be an even better design than the standard system used by Purdey. What’s not known is why the design was not adopted by Beesley or sold to other gunmakers.

Indeed, Patent 31 has earned the Purdey-Beesley side-by-side hammerless self-opener the status of often being referred to as the most iconic shotgun of all. In fact, the gun made today by Purdey is virtually unchanged from Beesley’s original design.

To view The Field’s magazine article detailing the most expensive shotguns, click here.