With Barrels Machined From a Single Billet of Steel, the Longthorne Hesketh Proves Itself as an Innovative Performer

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Innovation is a word not typically associated with today’s break-open sporting shotguns. In fact, for a sizeable community devoted to vintage upland shotguns, the concept of innovation might just as well have stopped in the 19thcentury with the creation of rose-and-scroll engraving.

But James Longthorne Stewart, an inveterate English engineer and toolmaker, has set tongues wagging since 2010 in the upland and clays circles with Longthorne Gunmakers’ breakthrough for machining shotgun barrels initially from a single billet of steel – and now from single billets of titanium as well as one-piece Damascus barrels milled from Damascus steel.

StewartsThe owners of Longthorne Gunmakers, the husband-and-wife team of James and Elaine Stewart.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on Longthorne for four, five years,” John Herkowitz, owner of Pacific Sporting Arms in Azusa, California and Walled Lake, Michigan, told me recently. Today, Pacific Sporting Arms is Longthorne’s exclusive American importer and dealer. “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.”

Enthusiasts of best guns learned of Longthorne Gunmakers with their Hesketh. It’s the company’s first model that introduced the sporting world to one-piece shotgun barrels, or as the company calls them, monolithic barrels.Monolithic barrels are not to be confused with monobloc barrels, which are the most cost-effective to produce. Monobloc assembly involves pressing the breach-end of barrels into a dual-chamber piece of steel that combines the lumps and chambers and then braising them together.

Longthorne’s Hesketh four-pin sidelock over/under was named after the country town of Hesketh Bank, where Longthorne originally set up shop (in 2015 Longthorne moved to a new 14,000 square-foot factory in Northhampton that has the capacity to build 100 guns per year). Longthorne’s Northhampton factory currently houses over 20 CNC machines that produce the components, which are subsequently finished by craftsmen, that comprise a 100-percent, English-made Longthorne gun.

Hesketh blackThe Longthorne Hesketh four-pin sidelock in black.

With their hot black finish, Longthorne’s barrels are nearly indistinguishable from conventional barrels – unless of course you look close enough for the monobloc joints and the soldering points on the rib that simply aren’t there. 

Historically, shotgun barrel manufacturing inflicts a lot of distress on the virgin steel tubes. You have hammer forging, reaming and drilling that all affect the tensile strength of the raw materials and, possibly, the barrels’ accuracy.

By comparison, Longthorne barrels are precision machined from a solid 59½-pound billet of high-specification steel on a $659,000 five-axis, computer-controlled lathe that, as the name implies, can hone five sections simultaneously. Everything in the barrels, except the ejectors, is fashioned from that single billet, including chokes, ribs and lumps. 

BilletLongthorne Gunmakers turns the single 59½-pound billet of high-specification steel into precision shotgun barrels.

After some 40 hours in a CNC lathe bathed in an oil wash, you have to a pair of converging tubes either stacked or side by side that have otherwise never been subject to impact. The rib is integrated into the barrels. The barrels can be machined with muzzle threads to accept chokes. They are proofed for steel shot. They have five-degree forcing cones. They are chambered for three-inch shells. 

And so the bottom line is that, lacking the extraneous welding, soldering or jointing you would see in conventional barrels (assembled from some seven components), there are no potential weak points in the Longthorne barrels that exploit heat distortion, or point-of-impact misalignments, that could degrade downrange results. A Longthorne may be the only shotgun on the market whose accuracy is akin to a rifle.

Longthorne’s Hesketh is the touchstone for subsequent models, such as the highly personalized sidelock Renaissance side by side and the entry-level boxlock Black, among others. 

Hesketh pairA matched pair of Longthorne Hesketh shotguns.

The Longthorne Hesketh is also available in 16, 20 and 28 gauge and multi-barrel sets. You can specify barrels lengths of 28, 30 and 32 inches. At 8¼ pounds, the Hesketh in my possession had 32-inch barrels topped by a trap-style rib, and fitted with Teague extended chokes. The slender forend was in the spirit of upland hunting. The selectable trigger is factory set at three pounds. A Monte Carlo stock featured an adjustable comb. From trigger shoe to recoil pad the length of pull measured 14½ inches. The wood-to-metal seams were impeccable. An ornamental scroll adorned the black receiver. The manual safety was easily accessible on the top strap. It relied on the Boss-style locking system.

Hasketh Deluxe The Longthorne Hesketh Deluxe.

Shortly after receiving the Longthorne Hesketh, I took it to Shotgun Life’s hometown clays facility, the Ranges at Oakfield in Thomasville, Georgia. The skeet and trap fields would be too predictable, and instead I opted for the challenging five stand replete with a rabbit flying over a berm, chandelle, high wobble outgoer, screaming fast quartering outgoer and a few quick close-in crossers in singles and pairs.

At the five stand, the Hesketh assembled with precision clicks of the receiver, barrels and forend. Shouldering the shotgun conveyed a sense of solid quality that instilled confidence. The shotgun felt like it would do everything you asked of it. Keep the barrels just below the line of the target and the swing proved even and balanced with no distractions in handling as you moved to the breakpoint. The trigger was especially lovely with short, smooth, predictable pulls. Using one-ounce loads rated at 1290 feet per second, the Hesketh produced zero felt recoil. Simply put, this $34,000 entry-level Longthorne Hesketh proved itself as one of those shotguns you could shoot all day without inflicting fatigue. I’m sure that a bespoke fitted Hesketh would be an absolute dream to shoot.

Irwin Greenstein is the publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Useful resources:

The Longthorne Gunmakers web site

The web site for Pacific Sporting Arms

Irwin Greenstein

Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to letters@shotgunlife.com.

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