Joined: 14 Oct 2011
Location: Southern Oregon
Thought I'd share my journey with the forum about a Fox restoration that was recently completed. The narrative takes place over about 4.5 years, over which time I learned a lot about guns, craftsmen, shooting and myself. I really cherish the end product but as I reflect on it, the journey was equally rewarding.
Back in the spring of 2013, I started learning about double shotguns and began to research buying one. I honestly new nothing about buying a used gun; from inspecting it mechanically to buying a older gun that would fit and everything in between. As luck would have it, I settled on buying a Fox Sterlingworth. I read the sub gauges handled well, and thought a 16 gauge would be a great gauge between a 12 and a 20. Little did I know the affliction that set in with that decision!
After several months of searching, I found a 1934 Sterlingworth Field at Cabelas in another state. I negotiated on the price and purchased the gun. I ended up with a nice Sterlingworth. What was nice about it? Well, I learned thereafter that inspecting used guns before purchase, or purchasing with an inspection period is generally a prudent move. Despite the finish of the gun showing the gun's age, there were no dings, dents or rust on the gun and honestly the barrels were mirror perfect.
And so it began....
At this point I really began to learn about gun fit and the evolution of shotgun ammunition. I started shooting the gun at the local skeet and trap club, with the idea that I could practice low gun for the bird hunting season. Well, I will tell you that fine old girl was shooting a lot of sky, with very few clays getting in the way. It was frustrating. At this point I figured I could at least give myself a better chance at Skeet by opening up the M/F chokes to IC/M. At the same time, I had not yet started reloading and was learning about chamber and forcing cone length. The only fact is that opinions abound on this topic so I made sure to put the gun in the hands of a qualified smith: Mike Orlen. I sent the barrels to Mike and he did a nice job, returning them to me in just over a week.
I spent the next couple months shooting the gun and learning about gunfit. Another topic filled with anatomical facts and personal preferences. Like most Sterlingworths, the gun had quite a bit of drop and I found myself engraining a nasty habit: Lifting my head to see down the barrels. As most know, that is a recipe for consistent inconsistency and my trips to the range were a bit deflating.
At this point I began second guessing my decision to buy an older gun but stubborn as I am, I thought I might at least look into getting the gun restocked. Well, that research process was certainly eye opening, not to mention the cost of building a stock from scratch. After another couple months of research, I decided to restock the gun, but opted for a less expensive approach using a gunstock duplicator.
In the summer, I sent the gun to Macon Gunstocks. Prior to sending the gun Bryan at Macon worked with me and provided some thoughts about gun dimensions and wood choices. Vicki worked on providing me a nice option of American Fancy Grade Walnut, something nice that fit within a budget. I also purchased a slim butt pad from CSMC and sent it to Macon. The gun came back after about two months and I was impressed with the quality of the woods and the dimensions. The fit of the stock to the receiver was good, but not perfect on one side, with a ever so slight gap between wood and metal. I chalked it up to the process and continued shooting the gun. The gun balance is excellent, which makes it a great gun in my book.
Over the next couple years, I continued to shoot clays periodically and hunted with the gun. Really enjoy it.
During this time, I continued to learn a great deal about guns (yes, I spend way too much time on this site and doublegunshop reading) and began reloading. Somewhere along the line I convinced myself of the notion to buy another fox and send it on the journey for a custom upgrade. At the time I stumbled upon a 1912 16 gauge fox, just under 6lbs, in rough shape. I researched gunsmiths and engravers, and sent many emails around asking questions and figuring out what I wanted to accomplish. During this process, I came across Dan Rossiter at Custom Stocks and Steel. I have never met Dan in person, but I must say he is a high quality guy. We corresponded via phone and email about the gun, and eventually I ended up sending it to him for the metalwork to start the project.
Well, Dan is a guy in high demand, and I am sure my project was in line with others to get his precious attention. After a year of waiting, I starting thinking about the resources necessary to complete this vision and the timeframe to completion. I normally consider myself a fairly patient person, but this was not one of those times. I talked with Dan and he very graciously came up with a compromise. First, he strip cleaned the project gun and sent it back to me (I later sold it.) With the remaining funds from my down payment, I sent Dan the Fox. Dan did three things to the gun: First he glassbedded the stock and refined the inletting. This really improved the fit/finish on the gunstock. He then rust blued the barrels and trigger guard. The gun returned and I was really impressed with his work and appreciative of his flexibility.
As you might imagine, the story is not quite finished (Yes, this is a very long post, but I almost erased it and just posted a picture or two. Go figure.) The final piece of the picture was the receiver. The Fox collectors site and other places have a couple of blogs about case coloring. What method was factory original, what was not. I looked around and saw some outfits that case color, but wasn't really sure if I would send the gun away for work anymore. Then I happened to stumble upon the website of Justin Julian of Classic Case Colors. Justin is located in Idaho, and I reached out to him to discuss his work process and experience with A.H. Fox Shotguns. Justin does Bone and Charcoal Case Coloring, and asked me for examples of the type of coloring I was hoping to receive. I have always like the muted tones of some of the Foxes I have seen, and sent him a picture of an original Fox with 90+% case colors for reference. I sent Justin the gun and he took a couple of weeks. He was very meticulous, evening ensuring the screw on the floorplate was timed well. I appreciate his attention to detail.
So there you have it. I never really intended to embark on this journey, but it was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I now have a nicely restored Fox and really appreciate shooting it. I think I am the only guy at the shotgun range with a double, so keeping up the traditions here in Southern Oregon. Heckuva gun, I hope one of my kids takes a shining to it so I can pass it on one day.
Joined: 07 Mar 2010
Location: South Eastern PA
First of all congratulations on a fine gun. I hope you shoot it well now that the dimensions fit you better. It looks great!
I am on a similar journey that started 4 years ago in June.
Same type gun, a 16 Sterlingworth, same craftsman, Dan Rossiter. I upped the ante with a second set of barrels and forend.
I stuck with it and am anticipating getting my gun ready for the engraver in September.
I also had to learn patience. This is not a process for someone who has to have things yesterday. I originally thought I was going to get a simple XE upgrade. In the interim I bought one so now I am going to go with a full custom job and I am starting to have major indecision on what way to go.
I told Dan that I have changed my mind at least 5 times in what to do in terms of the engraving and now that I actually may have to make the decision I am having a mind melt. One thing I am set on is that I will have it finished in French Grey. I want the engraving to pop and not be muted by case coloring.
I envy you that you have your gun for this season. It looks like it turned out great. I hope that I will have mine for next season. I should figure it all out by then.
Last edited by ROMAC on Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
It was the restoration of a family gun, a Fox A grade 12, that had been in my family since new, that ignited my SxS acquisition fever. I had hunted for close to 30 years and got by just fine with my Wingmaster 12 gauge and M12 16 gauge.
For reasons still unknown to me, my brother and I decided to pull out the old SxS in my father's basement and have it restored as a gift to him. It had been bought new by his grandfather in 1910. But as long as I had been alive at that point (45 years) my father had never used it. Always said it doubled and there aren't a lot of good SxS smiths in the area he lives. My dad had managed to get his share of ducks and geese with his M12 16 gauge. The classic one gun man.
I can remember clear as a bell the moment I saw the restored shotgun. Something just clicked in my head and I just had to get more of them and learn all about them. 20 guns and 15 year later, no diminishment in my enthusiasm. Finding 16 gauge guns is harder but extra rewarding.
I'm currently the custodian of my great grandfather's Fox A Grade, as my father gave it to me a couple years ago (he's 90 now and no longer shooting). (My brother got the Win M94 SRC in .32Win that had been owned by my father's other grandfather and had been bought new in 1903.) I try to take a turkey once a year with it. Most years it's successful! And I'm looking forward to the day my son takes possession of his great great grandfather's shotgun and gets to use it in the field.
Like you Montana, it has been the journey of finding a gun and having it brought back to life after some number of year of (hopefully benign) neglect that has really taught me about doubles and the craftsmen who made and now maintain them. I have little interest, it seems, in guns that are all good when I first see them. I'm drawn to guns that have good bones (the barrels) and that need help. And it's gratifying to me to end up with a gun that was on it's way, however slowly, to the scrap heap that now has it's problems correctly solved and it's finishes refreshed and to know it's ready for another 100 years of service.
BTW, this is NOT a money making enterprise, in any way, shape or form! LOL
I try to use them all. I am not a collector of "collector condition" guns. That's a different obsession. But I hope, when it's time for me to dispose of them, that I will be able to find an assortment of young hunters who are equally enthusiastic about these old guns and who would appreciate getting a "leg up" in being able to own, care for and use the classics.
_________________ "The world cries out for such:he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia"
Fox Sterlingworth 16
2 x Pieper Boxlock 16
Heym Boxlock 16
I can relate . Dan has completed four A Grade restorations for me to date . One 16 and three 20's . He has three more to go . He does exceptional work . Yes , like the OP , this has been a learning experience as I have had a few other guns completed by other smiths and have been disappointed .
There's just something special about a FOX .
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