Gunmakers at the turn of the 20th century had been working and reworking designs creating some incredible version of the side-by-side which were still in use 100 years later. However, producing the very best quality guns meant customers were less likely to replace their guns quite so often. The gunmakers turned their attention to something new to whet the appetites of their clients and began to refine the over-and-under design.
Designing a practical and elegant over-and-under which worked well had been a huge hurdle which gunmakers didn’t achieve until just before the First World War.
Beesley was among those to develop an over-and-under and he applied all his engineering excellence and ability to think out of the box. In 1912, he designed his first over-and-under shotgun, known as the Shotover.
Gunmaking historians and enthusiasts mostly describe Beesley’s design as an incredible accomplishment although one of its criticisms is that it was perhaps over-engineered.
Very few Shotovers were made, and Beasley continued to modify the design so those that were produced are often slightly different.
Beesley’s reputation as a genuine inventor came to the fore in the Shotover which was designed to self-open once it had been fired, ie. when it was most required. This feature was unusual in itself and not found on designs from other gunmakers.
The lock on the ‘under’ barrel was fired upside down to obtain the best angle and to avoid the extremely sharp angle of strike from the lower barrel often found with other designs.
Although the Shotover had the feel of being a very solid gun, it was also relatively lightweight making it easier to carry and manage. The 12-bore weighed just 6lb 10oz. Beesley also made a 16-bore and a lightweight 20-bore of just 5lb 10oz.
However, the Beesley did not sell in the volumes of the more popular Boss or Woodward over-and-unders which appeared around the same time.
Gun enthusiasts and historians argue the Beesley lacked their grace as well as being more expensive to make.
Made in such low numbers and with production ceasing after World War II, few examples of the Shotover survive. As a result, today, these guns are highly sought after adding to the prestige and value of the versions in existence.