That encounter simmered over the years, fueling Mr. Buchan’s ingenuity to bring that true Scottish shotgun to market. “I kept thinking about that encounter and the gun I would like to make,” he said, “but we got extremely busy in our shop and it took a couple of years before I could reach a point of actually building the gun I’d been dreaming about.”
Mr. Buchan’s ambitions and the practical task of manufacturing his Scottish gun became a daily mind meld at the bench of his gunsmithing operation. The work-a-day routine of taking apart a lovely European shotgun for repair was a river of fresh ideas that he could incorporate or hone in his quest to build an extraordinary Scottish field gun.
“Being in this business, I have been influenced by the best,” he asserted.
Finally, as a collaborative effort with his team, Mr. Buchan’s company Buchan Guns Ltd. of Longside introduced the Balmoral Sidelock – a $125,000 over/under tour de force engraved exclusively by the Italian Master, Stefano Pedretti.
During the shotgun’s soft launch at the January 2019 Dallas Safari Club Convention, Mr. Buchan maintained a low profile. Griffin & Howe, who now exclusively imports and sells Buchan shotguns in the U.S., had let him use their stand as a base of operations. Griffin & Howe would make introductions, or Mr. Buchan wearing his tweed flat caps would range out on the convention floor to collect strategic intelligence. It was in Dallas where I met him and first laid eyes on an early Balmoral Sidelock in addition to their even stealthier prototype, the Firelock over/under, which was concealed under a table.
In retrospect, the making of a Buchan gun seems like a natural evolution of Mr. Buchan himself. He recalled that on his way home from high school he liked to stop at the local gunsmith to watch them ply their craft. By the time he had finished college studying mechanical engineering, he had already developed a passion for fine gun mechanisms.
By the early 2000s, his business had amassed an inventory of about 250 shotguns and rifles. To expand and complement his business, Mr. Buchan approached the gunsmith who he had visited since high school and asked if he would join his team. The enterprise grew into servicing many European and British best guns.
“We worked on large numbers of best guns per year,” Mr. Buchan said. “By this point, we knew inside out how to build a best gun. We knew their design flaws and figured out how to bypass them during the design of our own guns.”
Mr. Buchan “spent a fortune,” he said, on new machines and software. Adhering to his dream of a true Scottish gun, he was committed to making all the components except the barrels – including the springs, action body, trigger plate, accessories plus hand-made cases of Italian leather and tweed.
It took about 2½ years and a “huge amount of effort” from the planning stage to the first Balmoral Sidelock, he explained. “Right now, we’re planning on producing eight guns per year, maybe ten. We’re going after a very exclusive VIP market. Buchan guns are all bespoke. It takes a year to make one without the engraving, and it could take up to 15 months with the Pedretti engraving.”
Guy Bignell, former president of Griffin & Howe and their premium gun sales specialist, had been in conversations with Mr. Buchan and flew to Scotland in February 2018 to confirm that, indeed, the guns are made entirely on-site.
“We identified a young maker who visited Griffin & Howe at Hudson Farm,” Mr. Bignell said. “He showed us the guns that he had made, and claimed they were one-hundred-percent made in his own facility apart from the barrels. I visited his factory and sure enough every single piece of machinery was there to make everything in-house, so the quality was extraordinary.”
Mr. Bignell cited Buchan’s competitors as inhabiting the rarified universe of Fabbri, Purdey, Boss, Holland & Holland and William & Son.
Mr. Buchan is entering that blue-chip ensemble with his Balmoral Sidelock, both in 12 gauge or 28 gauge, with single or double triggers. The Balmoral Sidelock will embody “a classic look with coin-finished sideplates and the Pedretti engraving in any style. On request, we can also offer color case hardening,” Mr. Buchan said.
In fact, just before Christmas, Griffin & Howe received their first delivery of Balmoral Sidelock demonstration guns that Mr. Bignell noted “are available for review and test firing.” The 12 gauge weighs about 7.9 pounds and the 28 gauge comes in at 6.1 pounds. Both have 30-inch barrels.
He also expects delivery of the Buchan Firelock.
At the Safari Club Convention, after we finished talking about the Balmoral Sidelocks, Mr. Buchan flipped open a gun case to reveal the Firelock prototype. Compared to the Balmoral Sidelock, the Firelock packed an inertia trigger plate group with a Boss-style locking and action mechanisms. The forend had a full-length chassis completely surrounding the woodwork for strength that also incorporated an adjustable tension to maintain that like-new feel over the years.
He described the Firelock’s internal bore of the barrels as having “a natural shape” of dead true and concentric bores that accommodate fixed constrictions or screw-in chokes.
“Our forcing cone and choke design are our own, which we believe will produce good shot groups and less felt recoil,” said Mr. Buchan.
When I caught up with Mr. Bignell, I asked why Griffin & Howe had decided to import and sell the Buchan guns. “I think that whenever we find a fledgling gunmaker who can make a first-class product, they should be given the opportunity to flourish,” he answered.
Time will tell if Buchan Guns will ever reach the celebrated heights of Scottish gunmaking legends such as John Dickson and Sons, David McKay Brown, James MacNaughton, Alex Martin and Daniel Fraser.
For the time being, though, you’ll have to judge for yourself.
“Buchan guns will be on display at Hudson Farm in New Jersey and available to shoot,” said Mr. Bignell. “We’ll be offering them to all our top tier clients—the normal way we market Purdeys, Bosses and other best guns. Buchan is not a high-volume product but a very special bespoke firearm.”
It appears that Mr. Buchan is well on his way to showing that British gun sales manager (and the world) a thing or two when it comes to bringing alive his dream of a best Scottish gun.