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SOLD - James MacNaughton and Sons New 'Skeleton'

20 Gauge, triggerplate action, side-by-side shotgun

Since 1879 James MacNaughton has delivered less than 150 triggerplate Edinburgh 'Skeleton' guns and of these, only seven are in 20 gauge.  


A handmade 20 bore bar-in-wood ”Skeleton" gun with a dark, rich stock shown off by the shape of the action. The exquisite engraving executed by Peter Cusack with the MacNaughton trademark best vine-leaf pattern. The gun comes beautifully presented in a full oak & leather case complete with a canvas cover and a full complement of accessories made by the late Mike Marsh.

  • New Price: £75,000 + VAT (Accessories and case an optional extra)
  • Gauge: 20
  • Barrel Length: 29in
  • Chambers: 2 3/4in
  • Proof: London Nitro Proof
  • Chokes: 3/8 (R) & 5/8 (L)
  • Stock Dimensions: 1 5/8in at Comb, 2 1/8in at Heel, 15 3/8in to Heel, 15 1/4in to Centre, 15 9/16in to Toe
  • Weight: 6lb
  • Location: Dunkeld

James MacNaughton

  • James MacNaughton was born in Edinburgh in 1838 and at the age of 14 years old was apprenticed to John Dickson. Once his apprenticeship was completed in 1859, he stayed on as a journeyman gunmaker until opening his own business in 1864 at 33 George Street, Edinburgh. On 5 July 1867 he patented a sliding drop-down breech action with three interlocking lumps which he called the "Lock Fast Breechloader" (patent No. 1971).
  • In 1869, he moved to 26 Hanover Street South where MacNaughton made Field patent falling block rifles, but on 17 April 1872, together with A. R. Duncan, their patent No. 1137 covered their own falling block action.
  • On 12th July 1879 MacNaughton patented a lever cocking falling-block action and his famous trigger-plate action which was the first 'Round-Action' gun. Unfortunately, the falling block action infringed Alexander Henry's patent and he was forced to discontinue manufacture, but his trigger-plate action “The Edinburgh", the locks cocked by a long pierced top lever for increased leverage, became famous. The first of it's kind was shown at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1881 and the Great Edinburgh Exhibition of 1886, where it won gold medals for its design at both events.
  • On 23 August 1886 James MacNaughton registered patent No. 10750 for an improved sliding bolt mechanism for rifles with tubular magazines. In 1887 the falling block patent was varied to remove the falling block mechanism and change the cocking from top lever to barrel drop-down.
  • MacNaughton would introduce a variant, the bar-in-wood or 'Skeleton' action. With a reduction in the metal surface of the action instead being covered with extending the stock over the action which showcases the beautiful wood, making for a very graceful and sleek looking action for which the gun has now become very sought after by enthusiasts and collectors.
  • On 19 April 1890 James MacNaughton registered patent No. 7759 for an ejector mechanism on a slide in the fore-end and by the mid-1890s top lever cocking actions had been superseded by cocking-slide actions, perhaps an idea copied from the Dickson Patent.
  • In 1894 MacNaughton bought the business of David Crockart Gunmakers at 44 George Street, Perth. James’ third son Alan, who was a journeyman gunmaker under his father, moved to Perth to manage this branch until it closed in 1909.
  • On 15 June 1899 James MacNaughton registered patent No. 12464 for his ‘Dual’ double rifle on which the ribs, apart from a short rib to hold the rear sight, were replaced by sleeves over the two "separate" barrels at the breech and the muzzle. Approximately nine of these ‘Dual’ rifles were built, including a double .600 in 1905. This patent also covered a fore-sight cover and rotating striker block for falling block rifles. On 26 June 1901 J MacNaughton registered patent No. 13005 for a rifle backsight.
  • On 17 May 1905 James MacNaughton died (aged 66) and the firm moved to 36 Hanover Street. At the same time, the name of the firm was changed to James MacNaughton & Sons. The Edinburgh and Perth business’s being run by his sons who had served their apprenticeships with their father.
  • In 1947 the company was acquired by John Dickson and Son, who still continue to build the Skeleton MacNaughton to this day.