Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Eternal Debate

Is the handmade shotgun better than the machine made production gun?

I've read so much of this on both sides that my head has almost turned to mush! While I've never owned a Purdey or other London Best, like the Holland & Holland pictured here, my machine shop background tells me that in this day and age, the machine made gun can be better!
And here's why...
I don't believe that any appreticeship programs exist at all anymore in the European countries known for producing fine guns. Tradesmen are exceedingly hard to find, and command high prices. To keep prices competitive, which even the fine gunmakers need to do, some corners have to be cut. Less visible work and less demanding tasks can be assumed by less skilled workers.
Even Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, home of many of the great Masters, now employs many workers from Pakistan and points in the Far East.
Machines like today's super accurate CNCs do not suffer from bad days, blue Mondays, hangovers, shop jealousies, dislike of the boss, and irate feelings for not getting a raise that one felt was deserved. Nor do they need coffee and lunch breaks... They just go happily about their work.
They do not daydream about a girlfriend or the upcoming weekend. Precise machining from a human requires total concentration... the slightest lapse can, and does create scrap.
So, the gap between the hand made "Best", and the machine made, high quality production gun has narrowed considerably. Both are roughed in to a degree by machine, and both receive various amounts of hand fitting..

To further my point, read about the Holland & Holland here.

In my humble opinion, the arguement today is a moot point!

1 comment:

  1. Three observations:
    1) the bird doesn't care whether your gun was primarily handmade or machine-built.
    2) why do London-best guns still cost as though they were still built entirely by hand?
    3) you shoot the gun best that fits you the best (assuming that how a gun looks and therefore feels is also part of the psychological 'fit').

    Leaving aside aesthetics issues (because hand engraving time is what really hikes the price tag), where the computer can't quite achieve perfection is when it comes to organic material, ie. wood, which doesn't have consistent structure like a piece of aluminum. This is to say that when it comes to physically fitting a gun or tuning it for balance (to accommodate variations in wood density from gun to gun, for example), there is no substitute for a set of human hands.

    Happily you and I will make do with the guns we have -- and just take the time to adjust to them.

    Good shooting, Bill.