Army & Navy 12-bore SxS sidelock non-ejector shotgun Barrel length: 28"; Chambers: 2 1/2"; Chokes: R 8 L 34; Material: steel; Rib: game; Locks: back action sidelock; Operating lever: top-lever; Stock length: 14 1/2"; Grip type: straight; Weight: 6lb 10oz. SN 18543.
This Webley-built back-action sidelock has border engraving, a brushed bright finish and replacement barrels by the makers. Choked approximately Improved Cylinder and Full; this is a typical Army & Navy model, well-made but without embellishment. The action is the very successful Rodgers' patent sidelock, which became the trade standard for second quality guns in the first quarter of the 20th century.
The straight-grained straight-hand stock and splinter forend provide a classic English sidelock game gun profile.
Other Notes: Army & Navy was a co-operative society established in Victoria Street in 1871 by a group of British armed services officers. Trade was by way of catalogue as well as personal visit to the store. The mail-order business was very successful and the first of its type in the world.
Membership was limited to officers and non-commissioned officers and the stores opened a gun department in 1873 at 105 Victoria Street. This moved to 8 Howick place in 1888, then to 117 Victoria Street. In 1890 a branch was opened in Bombay by Thomas Lawrence (ex Purdey), followed by a branch in Calcutta (managed from 1901 by Archie Leeson, son of W. R. Leeson of Ashford, Kent, and London, and brother of Reg Leeson of R. B. Rodda of Calcutta). By 1901 other branches in Delhi and Karachi had been opened and agents had been appointed in South Africa (in Cape Town and Durban).
The Society never made guns; their guns and rifles were bought mainly from Birmingham, bearing either the Army & Navy name or the name of the actual maker; Philip Webley, W & C Scott (later Webley & Scott), Westley Richards and W. W. Greener all supplied the company with shotguns and double rifles. Army & Navy guns were supplied in all qualities, including 'best' but they are widely known for providing good quality sporting guns for overseas use. For this reason a lot of plainly finished guns with excellent workmanship are found bearing the firm's name. However, one encounters very fine guns more often than the public perception realizes.
The company had a shooting ground at Greenford, just outside London. In 1934 the Society changed its name to Army & Navy Stores Ltd, and it opened its doors to the general public.
Founded to serve an empire, the Army & Navy CSL saw the end of its natural life with the British withdrawal from India in 1947 and subsequently from the African colonies. It did not sell shotguns after WW2 and, although it struggled on as a department store until 1973, the best days were well behind it and it was absorbed into the House of Frazer.