While photographing the Anson & Deeley action for my September/October column, I realized that I had never seen good photos of the inletting of an Anson & Deeley boxlock shotgun stock. Few folks get to see this work besides stockmakers and gunsmiths. The photos here show the amount and form of wood removed and give an idea of how the interior mechanism fits into the stock. Although there are various mechanisms for automatic safeties, these photos show a fairly typical arrangement and illustrate the notion of how opening the gun with the toplever actuates the safety button.
One of the least understood yet vitally important parts of stock inletting is the trigger box, as it provides the primary force in attaching and securing the action to the stock. When considering how two vertical screws—or pins in the British vernacular—hold the action to the stock, most folks see how they essentially pull together the two tangs, top and bottom, against the stock. Less obvious and perhaps more difficult to envision is how the vertical screws pull the action back into the stock without a through- or drawbolt from butt to action. The angled face of the trigger box on the triggerplate provides the leverage to mate the wood and metal as a solid unit.
As with so many design aspects now considered time-tested in guns, we have to look back to the muzzleloading era to understand the natural development and how it affected later guns. Early muzzleloading guns had a simple flat triggerplate with a screw going from the top tang through the stock and threading into the triggerplate on the bottom. Later came a thicker boss at the front of the triggerplate with an angled inletting bevel for a stronger anchor. When it became necessary to secure the newly developed action of breechloading guns to the stock, the boss grew to become a larger trigger box that also held the trigger pivot.
When the gun’s metal parts are inlet—the archaic term being “to let-in”—the metal is fit to the wood by chiseling out a hollow in the exact shape of the various gun parts. All stockers know that to achieve a near-perfect fit, the edges of the metal must be beveled so that when the wood is inlet with chisels, any gaps between the metal and wood will disappear as the metal wedges deeper into the stock. If the metal edge were perpendicular to the surface, gaps at the start of the inletting would remain at the finish. The beveled, or drafted, edge also secures the metal to prevent it from shifting in the stock during and after installation.
Photo No. 1 clearly shows the inletting bevel of the triggerplate (a) as angles at each end. The trigger box (b) is also steeply beveled front and back, and it wedges into the stock inlet as shown in Photo No. 2. When making the stock, the stockmaker first inlets the top tang and the back of the action into the wood blank, and this interface is called the “head” of the stock.
When the head inletting is completed, the action is held tightly to the stock as the triggerplate is inlet; while chiseling the mortise for the trigger box, the stockmaker slightly favors the back of the box, using the angled front of the trigger box to tightly wedge the triggerplate back into the wood. When the “main pin,” or forward tang screw, is installed and tightened, it pulls the angle of the trigger box against the stock mortise, both securing the action rearward and pulling the tangs together. The hand pin, or rear tang screw, mainly holds the tangs in the proper relationship to allow the triggers and safety to function properly. The main pin goes top to bottom and the hand pin bottom to top, usually under the trigger-guard tang.
Photo No. 2 also shows the relatively complicated inletting of the triggerplate and its various elements. Some think a machine-duplicated stock makes stocking easy, but notice all of the square corners and remember that all stock-carving machines use circular cutters, leaving flat bottoms but round corners. Looking at this inletting, one can imagine that each of these corners must be chiseled square with hand tools to properly fit the metal parts. Nor can the duplicating machine provide the tight inletting necessary to fit the trigger-box angle to ensure a perfect fit between the action and the stock.
I’m guessing that this Austrian boxlock is about 100 years old. The wood shows some oil soaking but remains strong, sturdy and functional.
The triggerplate inletting shown is very similar to that on most sidelock shotgun stocks other than the location of the lock parts. Most sidelocks employ the same type of triggerplate, trigger box, auto-safety mechanism, safety button and trigger-guard installation.
The average gun owner seldom gets to look inside and appreciate how the simple exterior of a boxlock shotgun supports a complicated and finely designed and crafted interior.
Autographed copies of Steven Dodd Hughes’s books, Fine Gunmaking: Double Shotguns and Double Guns and Custom Gunsmithing, are available for $50 each postpaid from the author, PO Box 545, Livingston, MT 59047
- By: Steven Dodd Hughes