Q:My father found a shotgun near a horse trough on a ranch in Southern California when he was 13 years old. It’s a double-barrel 12-ga. shotgun with external hammers and fancy engraving. The left side of the receiver is stamped “I HOLLIS & SONS.”
It has the number 51XXX stamped on the inside of the fore-end, on the underside of the right barrel and inside the receiver. On the stock’s underside, a small brass plate contains unrecognizable markings. The number 40XX is stamped on the right side of the stock. Can you help identify this shotgun?
A:The shotgun found by your father was made by Isaac Hollis & Sons in Birmingham, England, sometime before 1904. The proofmarks were in use from 1813 until 1904 when they were changed. They indicate blackpowder proof and that the barrels were choked.
Because of the top lever, I would suspect this gun was made sometime after 1870. As to precisely when it was made, it is impossible to determine as Hollis’ workbooks have not survived. I’m not sure of the significance of the numbers stamped on the buttstock, but they were not from Wells Fargo, whose guns are well-documented.
It could have been a guard gun, but do not ascribe any particular value to this gun. Hollis made guns primarily for the South African market along with inexpensive guns imported by Sears, Roebuck & Co., among others. This is a nice wall hanger that recalls a different age in America.