William Powell Country

Lock, Stock and Barrel Series
Article 6 Sidelock vs Boxlock


Article written by 13 December 2012


There is much discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of the Sidelock over the Boxlock. Is it all about snobbery? Sidelocks are far more expensive and tended to originate, in the main, from London’s West End Gunmakers. What are the myths and facts?

Since the depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s, the traditional English made boxlock didn’t increase much in price at all as the English Guntrade were experiencing their first serious competition from European Gunmakers, particularly the Belgium’s e.g. The “National” boxlock, as it was called, sold for below £5.00! English Sidelocks on the other hand had no competitors until much later on, indeed until the 1980’s. Yes the Spanish had been importing fine value for money Sidelock guns since the 1960’s with AYA being their flagship, but in truth they were no competition for the quality of our home bred Sidelocks. They did, however, make affordable what previously was unattainable by most English Sportsmen, so they did a fine job in educating the English Shot to the finery of the Sidelock who then might be persuaded to invest in a Second Hand English Sidelock as he could not afford to order a new one.

The gap in price between the Sidelock and Boxlock grew to huge proportions so the trade, if they were to continue with Boxlock production, had to hold their prices and their nerve, but this inevitably resulted in cutting corners in manufacture and therefore in quality. It took some time, but this eventually killed off all English boxlock production by the end of the last century. It is interesting to note that at William Powell’s when our best Sidelock was £100.00 our best Boxlock was £85.00 but by the time Boxlock production ceased our Sidelock gun was over £50,000.00 whereas the best grade Boxlock was in the £15,000.00 bracket! The Maths just didn’t stack up.

This, together with the haemorrhaging of Master Gunsmiths to the motor trade after World War II, was one of the biggest factors in the decline of the Provincial Guntrade in the U.K. The Boxlock was our bread and butter and without it many firms sadly closed down.

What are the merits of the two:

A Boxlock lasts as long as a Sidelock and some would argue that it is a lot more reliable. Due to it’s short ‘stubby’ action length, it tends to feel heavier when finished to the same weight as a Sidelock. The feel of the best gun is all about weight distribution and the Sidelock spreads it’s action and locks over almost twice the area of a Boxlock, hence it feels more alive in your hands.

A Boxlock











The Sidelock also has more expanse of steel on show which can be engraved to give it a truly magnificent appearance and they can become a work of art in themselves giving their owner such pleasure and pride of ownership. As the Sidelock commanded far higher prices, the Gunmaker could afford to use the best and most beautiful walnut and it is true to say that the Engraving and Wood on a gun are it’s main selling features. We are all drawn to these two areas first when examining a gun and then to the feel and handling qualities – the poor Boxlock stood little chance!

A sidelock



Peter Powell

I am the fifth generation of the William Powell Gunmaking Company which was founded by my great, great Grandfather in 1802. I started with the firm in 1968. I have been on the board of The Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House since 1974, bei.. Read more.

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