Scotsman Grant Buchan Acquires McKay Brown, Keeping the Fabled Gunmaker on Scottish Soil
At 80 years old, it was no secret that David McKay Brown was ready to retire from his eponymous gunmaking company famous for its gorgeous round-action triggerplate shotguns and rifles. Certainly, there were tremors through the UK and Scotland that this Scottish treasure would end up in foreign hands.
Enter Scotsman Grant Buchan, owner of luxury-marque Buchan Guns, who saved the day by acquiring McKay Brown, allowing the boutique gun and rifle maker to preserve its Scottish provenance. The deal was finalized on July 16, 2021. Mr. McKay Brown will stay on as a consultant to his namesake company for an indefinite period of time.
Mr. Buchan and his father David formed a new company called the Buchan Group Holdings Scotland Ltd., with Grant Buchan as the sole owner, and both men serving as Directors. It was Buchan Group Holdings Scotland Ltd. that actually acquired McKay Brown and now also owns Buchan Guns.
“David McKay Brown and I are both very happy,” said Mr. Buchan.
In a prepared statement, Mr. McKay Brown said “Grant is deeply knowledgeable about deploying modern gunmaking processes to help make guns that are reliable, balanced beautifully and meet the demands of today’s shooting, including steel shot. Grant and I often chat until midnight exploring new ideas and processes, and I am truly delighted that he would continue my legacy of manufacturing beautiful guns that are sensibly priced that will not fail you in the field.”
Mr. Buchan’s statement read “I’m thrilled to have acquired the McKay Brown business, and also to have David onboard as our consultant. This will open a new chapter in Scottish gunmaking history.”
His comments elaborated that an annual output of 15-20 McKay Browns will have their actions and components made in Buchan’s Ugie Lodge facility and subsequently assembled in Buchan’s new Kilmarnock workshop “all in the traditional way.” It’s located near McKay Brown’s original workshop (now vacated) in the village of Bothwell, Lanarkshire, approximately eight miles south of Glasgow.
The Kilmarnock space conveniently keeps McKay Brown’s expert craftsmen close to home. Lockmaker Douglas Proctor has been with McKay Brown for more than 40 years. Robin Moir, the company’s actioneer, has logged 31 years of service. The Kilmarnock shop houses a milling machine, lathe and surface-grinder with the remainder of the finishing work accomplished by hand in the McKay Brown tradition. Afterwards, the guns are returned to Ugie Lodge for stocking and regulation. The guns will continue to be proofed in London.
Guy Bignell, former President of Griffin & Howe in Andover, New Jersey and currently their Fine Firearms Specialist, has solid relationships with both companies. Griffin & Howe is Buchan Guns’ exclusive American agent and has also been selling McKay Browns for decades.
Mr. Bignell and Mr. Buchan originally visited McKay Brown in February 2019 – opening the door for the conversations between Mr. McKay Brown and Mr. Buchan that led to the transaction.
Mr. Bignell thought the acquisition was a “great idea.” Looking ahead, he said “Griffin & Howe should continue representing David MacKay Brown in America as we have done for many decades, and will continue to represent Buchan Guns.”
Even prior to their initial meeting, Mr. Buchan and Mr. McKay Brown shared a common background of working as gunsmiths before establishing the gunmaking companies that would bear their names.
Mr. McKay Brown started out in 1967 repairing guns following a stint with another round-action Scottish gunmaker, John Dickson & Son. Mr. Buchan, meanwhile, owned one of the largest gun-repair operations in the UK.
Their deep immersion into the intricacies of fixing fine guns laid the groundwork required to eventually design and sell guns of their own design and appellation. Mr. McKay Brown’s round-actions came to market in 1974, while the younger Mr. Buchan showcased his Balmoral Sidelock in 12 and 28 gauge at the January 2019 Dallas Safari Club Convention in the Griffin & Howe booth. Now that the Balmoral Sidelocks are in production, they are available for viewing and testing with Griffin & Howe at Hudson Farm in Andover, New Jersey.
It took about 2½ years and a “huge amount of effort” from the planning stage to the first Balmoral Sidelock, Mr. Buchan explained. As a 100-percent Scottish-made gun, the Balmoral Sidelock was born as a $125,000 over/under tour de force engraved exclusively by the Italian Master, Stefano Pedretti. Production is limited to 8-10 guns per year.
Mr. McKay Brown’s creation of his round action triggerplate over/unders and side-by-sides is now the stuff of legend. After opening his doors for business in 1967, the initial McKay Brown round-action side-by-side, built to his own design, was the product of four years of development.
According to Mr. Buchan, Buchan Guns and McKay Brown will retain their own identities and workshops. In fact, the small-output companies really operate in two different markets. The Buchan Balmoral Sidelock is priced at nearly twice the McKay Browns. Buchan’s exclusivity is maintained through a very limited production run. Meanwhile, McKay Brown was making upwards of 30 guns per year.
“We won’t integrate the two brands,” Mr. Buchan noted. “They service different clientele.”
In wrapping up our phone call, Mr. Buchan said that “David McKay Brown is now 80. He has chosen our company for his commitment to gunmaking. We’ve got a huge commitment not only to craftsmanship but also innovation and modern gunmaking. McKay Browns will be made exactly the same way. Nothing will change.”
Irwin Greenstein is the publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at email@example.com.