“I’ve been keeping an eye on Longthorne for four, five years,” said Mr. Herkowitz. “I travel a lot, dealing with English and Italian gunmakers, and I initially heard of Longthorne through the grapevine. Their shotguns are one of the new ideas to come out of England in the past 100 years.”
The Stewarts and Mr. Herkowitz met at the 2019 IWA Classics in Nuremberg Germany in March.
“I introduced myself after following them on social media and keeping an eye on their progress,” recalled Mr. Herkowitz. “We order their guns at IWA, and sold our demo on the first day.”
Longthorne Gunmakers, in Northampton has been on tear recently. Under the leadership of owners James and Elaine Stewart, Longthorne has been capitalizing on their monolithic barrel manufacturing, affordability, bespoke-grade quality and classic aesthetics. With their recent investment in state-of-the-art CNC manufacturing at their expanded 14,000-square-foot facility, Longthorne reached a tipping point where they could parlay their mastery of the single-billet, over/under barrels into side-by-sides – while also lowering the entry price into the Longthorne marque with a new boxlock that’s a departure from their sidelock originals. To date, pricing or model names of the new shotguns have not been finalized.
“By next year, we’ll be making 150 guns per year, including our new boxlock,” said Ms. Stewart.
After six years of development, Longthorne Gunmakers has perfected the manufacturing of a side by side that uses the same patented monolithic barrel manufacturing as the over/unders that created a buzz in the U.K.
Longthorne barrels are precision machined from a solid 59½-pound billet of high-specification steel on a $659,000 five-axis, computer-controlled lathe. The Stewarts call them “monolithic-barrels.” Everything in the barrels, except the ejectors, is fashioned from that single billet, including chokes, ribs and lumps.
By comparison, traditional double-barrel shotguns generally consist of about seven separate components that are welded and soldered together. Standard barrel manufacturing inflicts a good deal of trauma on the raw steel tubes through drilling, reaming, forging and hammering.
As Longthorne details, they employ a so-called “hot” process to blacken the barrels because there are no soldered ribs and consequently no “seepage” of chemicals that can cause premature rusting of soldered joins. This hot process, they say, is more resilient than cold blacking while leaving a richer barrel sheen.
At the breech, Longthorne’s barrels are extremely close together, ensuring a consistent point of aim and breakpoint. But Mr. Herkowitz also discovered that the aeronautical-grade barrel alignment paid off with lower felt recoil over conventional barrels.
He related that Jordon Hirschi, General Manager of Pacific Sporting Arms West, had shot the Longthorne Hesketh Deluxe demo gun using heavy three-dram, 1300-fps 12-gauge shells and reported that it “shot soft. The barrels are perfectly straight and that helps tame recoil.”
Mr. Herkowitz went on to elaborate that “Everybody was shocked at how soft the gun shot and how light the barrels were.”
It didn’t take long for Mr. Herkowitz to sell that demo Hesketh Deluxe, with more Longthornes on their way, including the new boxlock that he thinks will make a wonderful sporting clays gun.
“We’ll do a few of the boxlocks with a different stock for sporting and with heavier barrels that will bring the gun up to 8¼ or 8½ pounds” he said. Pacific Sporting Arms expects the sidelock Longthorne models to start at approximately $20,000. By comparison, he forecast that the boxlock sporter “will be in the mid-teens.” First delivery of the boxlocks should be “in spring or early summer.” Most of them will arrive with 32-inch barrels.
We visited Longthorne in December 2019. At the time, Ms. Stewart anticipated two grades of the boxlock and three different variations of the side by side.
The addition of the boxlock and side by side gives Longthorne a wider selection to compete against the pricier British best. The value advantage, in part, stems from Longthorne’s dedication to making a complete in-house British shotgun with the rare distinction of house-made barrels. The only outsourced component would an engraver requested by the customer.
Of all the Longthorne shotguns that Pacific Sporting Arms will import, Mr. Herkowitz was particularly enthusiastic about the 20/28 gauge two-barrel set on a 20-gauge frame that he described as “very small. It’s a very cool thing.”