The Classicist: London's Williams Evans & the "Affordable" Bespoke Shotgun
Bespoke shotguns have been part of the wealthy British gentleman's essential sporting kit since the turn of the last century. They're as much a part of the English country house persona as tweeds, wellington boots and Range Rovers. Such guns are often passed down from father to son and are cared for like the precious objects they most certainly are. All these things they have long been, but up until now they have never been what one would call "affordable". Now William Evans (above), a top-drawer London gunmaker since 1883, is aiming to change all that with a new line of lower-priced bespoke shotguns that still deliver the quality one expects from a well-established London gunsmith.
William Evans first learnt his craft by working for famed gunsmiths James Purdey & Son and Holland & Holland. In 1883 he founded his own gunmaking business near Buckingham Palace and by 1888 his reputation had grown enough for him to move to more prestigious premises in Pall Mall, opposite St. James's Palace. By this time the core of William Evans' client list was firmly established, notably with military officers in the Guards Regiments who ordered sporting guns and rifles before being posted to various parts of the Empire. The move to St. James's, the heart of London's gentlemen's club district, further strengthened his client list and the company attracted the patronage of members of several prestigious clubs such as White's, Boodles and Brooks.
Gallery: William Evans Gunsmith
Being close to the Houses of Parliament, the company soon found members of both the House of Lords and House of Commons frequenting its premises as well. The company was also proud to list among its distinguished clients HRH The Duke of Connaught and HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught. Fast forward to the present day and straitened economic circumstances have made bespoke guns unaffordable for all but the wealthiest sportsmen. Hence Evans' firm's decision to introduce the new lower priced "Pall Mall" gun.
The side-by-side shotgun is a about third of the price of the firm's trademark "best London" bespoke guns and takes much less time to make. Evans was able to reduce the price by having the new guns assembled in Spain and then applying the finishing touches, such as hand engraving and stock fitting, in London. While snobs may turn their noses up, the savings in cost and time – about $23,000 and four months per shotgun as opposed to $70,000 and two years – will no doubt ensure plenty of orders. In addition to guns William Evans also carries an extensive and attractive collection of clothing, shooting accessories and sporting gifts.