Instinctive shooting is perfection in motion for the upland hunter. Hard focus on the flushed bird, an unwavering swing of your shotgun, and upon feeling the stock touch your cheek pull the trigger to experience the instant gratification of your downed quarry. In the end, instinctive refers to your innate ability to subconsciously calculate the forward allowance and essentially rely on the pull-trigger signal from your eyes without your mind performing the mathematical gymnastics that would normally muck up the shot.

Find any group of shooting men and women around a table and often the conversation will include “Chokes” and the vagaries of the mystic powers of choke.

The term “choke” applies to the inner bore diameter around the muzzle, which is generally smaller than the diameter at the breech. The difference in the diameters is typically measured in thousandths of an inch – ranging from 0.005 of an inch up to 0.040 of an inch.

Over our dinner at a private quail plantation in South Georgia, I talked with Arthur S. DeMoulas, the American owner of London best-gun maker Boss & Co., about the company’s gorgeous new 12-bore ambidextrous sidelever.

The new 12-bore sidelever over/under, called the “1812 Edition,” celebrates the company’s founding that year by Thomas Boss. It’s also a tip of the hat to Boss’s original sidelever side-by-sides popular with the Victorian gentry.

In American shotgun lore, the 16 gauge still possesses the sweet fragrance of nostalgia when, back in the day, upland hunting with a hardware store gun carried on the open range or along fence rows with your favorite dog produced explosive coveys. 

“OK, kid, go get my shotgun from the house and we’ll take Duke to see if we can find a covey of birds.”

Most of my hunting adventures with my grandfather began that way. I can still hear those words today when I search my memories of him. The simple act of writing this story brings a smile to my face as I recall the man who introduced me to both hunting and the outdoors.

Some people might call it a twinge of melancholy, especially with the arrival of autumn in the Northeast, but you begin to feel an obligation to tell a story about your life that few people have heard, with an eye on the distant horizon toward posterity. For me, this particular story is about my contribution to the most remarkable flight of British best guns ever made.

The first time I saw my father’s brand-new shotgun, he was using a small white towel to wipe down the twin barrels. The long blue metal stacked tubes glinted with the bouncing light off the room. The shotgun was less than a day old. He had saved his money for months. When the time had come, he went down to the local gun shop where he had first laid eyes on the Ruger Red Label.

In 2001, Margaret Wilfley finally put her foot down. She was no longer going to be a bystander after watching her husband Mike and friends during a week in England shooting driven birds. She would learn shotgunning.  Mike knew she meant it and years of marriage told him that he needed to find an excellent coach rather than try to teach her himself. Friends recommended Warren Watson. From the very first lesson, it was clear why.

Standing in between the edge rows in a field of standing corn, I loosely grasped the wooden forend of the mid-1970s-era shotgun. The shotgun felt strange in my hands. Unorthodox. Yet, the connection had been in the making for over 40 years. The same amount of time had passed for the slightly tight-fitting “brown duck” (think Carhartt) colored game vest I had donned that morning. Yellow shells sat loosely in the outstretched dark brown shell holders on the vest. Was I grasping at memories?

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