Gun finishing - more than just delivery
Gun finishing - the "crescendo of craftsmen"
The "finishing" of a gun is a term so often misconstrued. As with most gun terminology it is quite literal as the term encompasses the final processes necessary to craft a quality British gun.
The final processes are in many respects the most important. They are the culmination of every other craftsmen's work; from the gun designer and engineer, through to the actioner, stocker, engraver and chequerer. All these processes are brought together by the finisher and their skill sets encompass each discipline.
There are two (broadly speaking) main processes involved in finishing, the timings and regulation of a gun and the aesthetics such as applying oil to the stock and polishing the metalwork.
The timing and regulation ensure the gun works as the shooter has grown accustomed. When the finisher receives the gun it has been left tight by the actioner, this tightness is important to ensure the finisher has material to remove when giving the gun it's "feel" when functioning.
Timings include regulation of the extractors. The barrels must expel the cartridge when the gun is fully open and only if the cartridge has been fired.
Trigger pulls are another important feature instilled by the finisher. Traditionally they must be between 3 1/2 and 4lb's but most importantly must be crisp.
When finishing a stock the aim is to have an even protective layer covering the outward surface. Every gunmaker has their own secret methods for finishing and many of the world's best finishers keep their methods and formulas a tightly guarded secret.
After several processes to ensure the stock is ready for oiling the finisher applies layer upon layer of oil until the stock has an even coating. Each layer is applied by hand, first and foremost it is the easiest tool to reach every part of the stock furthermore, the heat of the hand helps the oil settle. The stock is then left to dry before more layers are applied.
Coats of oil are applied until the stock stops drawing the oil in and an even coating is achieved. This process can take anywhere from one week to two months depending on the stock blank.
Tony White from TR White and Co gunmakers is one of the finest finishers in Britain. Having worked with Tony for many years we were fortunate enough to be given some tips for this article:
"Think of the gun in two ways, as a piece of art and from the clients perspective. Small changes make a big difference to both the look and feel of a gun. The top lever must be seated correctly on the strap of the action, it should float but not levitate. The gap between the trigger and guard should be proportioned. A gun should not be too stiff but allow for natural bedding in whilst test firing and during the guns early life. A final test when finishing a gun is to run your hand over all its surfaces to ensure nothing protrudes, the gun should be smooth."