User: Grumpy

Date: 25 Jan 2005 at 03:49

Following my recent statement that I doubted that anyone would ever get to see a tapered bore 12/20 I`ve found one that everyone can see ! British Sporting Arms Ltd. of Millbrook, NY have a Joseph Lang and Sons 12/20 for sale. If you`re interested go to and scroll down until you find it. I note that the gun has two sets of barrels - the 27" set by Westley Richards being conventional 12 bore barrels ( - and I`ll bet they got a lot more use than the tapered bore barrels ! )

User: Small Bore

Date: 25 Jan 2005 at 10:45

The term 12/20 relates to the Baker patent backlock action that was retailed by Charles Lancaster as the 'Twelve -Twenty' this was a marketing trademark. Other makers also sold the gun but under different names. The barrels were normal 12 bore barrels.

The confusion is likely to be with the tapering of barrels from 12 bore chambers to 20 bore muzzle dimensions - known as the 'Vena Contracta'. This has nothing to do with the Twelve-Twenty.

One does come accross the vena-contraca systenm occasionally and it does apparently pattern better than one would expect.

I have looked at the site and the illustration does not appear to be the Baker action: The gun illustrated is not stocked to the fences and the lock pins ae very differently positioned. In my opinion this is a gun probably made on the vena contracta principle and subsequently re-barrelled.

[ This message was edited by: Small Bore on 2005-01-25 10:58 ]

User: mehulkamdar

Date: 25 Jan 2005 at 17:48

Grumpy and Smallbore,

Did the 12/20 and similar guns use the 2 1/2 inch or 2 inch 12 bore cartridges or the more usual 2 3/4 inch? I have an article on the subject by Whiteface in Gun Digest many years ago but cannot remember what the guns were chambered for.

Thanks for sharing.

User: Small Bore

Date: 25 Jan 2005 at 20:53

The 12/20 was chambered for the standard
2 1/2" cartridge.

There is no reason that a 2" gun could not be specified by a customer however.

I have seen otherwise normal Purdey sidelocks and Holland & Holland 'Dominion' models chambered for the 2".

User: Grumpy

Date: 25 Jan 2005 at 20:54

Small bore. Yup, agreed and no problem - I thought that had all been covered before in the previous discussion.
Mehul. The Lang that I shot was chambered for 2 1/2" cartridges. I can`t comment as to it`s patterning ability but do know that it `kicked like a mule` !

User: Tiger

Date: 26 Jan 2005 at 09:58

Help !! I'm not clear about this 12/20 business at all! The database on Baker says: "In 1906 his most famous patent No. 26903 was for a back action sidelock action; not being a bar action meant that this was significantly (about a pound) lighter than usual and it was adopted by many top gun makers, in particular by Charles Lancaster who promoted it as the 12/20, Stephen Grant called his version the "Lightweight."

Is this right?

User: Small Bore

Date: 26 Jan 2005 at 11:28

Yes- correct.

The key is the action, with everything boxed up in the rear of the lock plate.

They can be problematic, as a lot of strain is involved in a localised area. But they are neat, strong and very lively, well made guns.

The Vena Contracta barrel taper has nothing to do with the 12/20 action.

The Baker action was retailed by a number of other gunmakers - William Powell for one.

User: Tuomo

Date: 27 Jan 2005 at 11:32

Here is for sale few 12/20s:

User: Grumpy

Date: 29 Jan 2005 at 08:05

The term 12/20 can be found applied to guns made by many of the companies and/or partnerships that were at one time or another members of what is now Atkin, Grant and Lang. The guns that William Powell has for sale are a pair by Stephen Grant ( dated c.1937 ) and a single by Harrison & Hussey ( dated c.1923. ) Atkin, Grant and Lang currently have two singles ( coincidentally both by Charles Lancaster ) for sale and invariably have two or three, by various makers, available. The Joseph Lang that is for sale in the USA is the only one that has the `Vena Contracta` system ( so far as I know. ) Atkin, Grant and Lang are a company whose history is almost nightmarishly convoluted. Although Harrison & Hussey were not directly involved with Atkin, Grant and Lang, H.J.Hussey was briefly in partnership with one of the Langs ( James I believe )( and a good while before 1923.) As individual concerns were absorbed into what is now A,G & L, names that were previously used to describe their guns ( I`d like to say `trademarks` but it is obvious that these `names` could not have been trademarked ) were used by other makers within the partnership/s. In the same way, the `Imperial` - originally an H.J.Hussey gun - was a `name` applied to guns made by various members of the A, G & L partnership/s - it would seem that Joseph Lang & Sons felt that they were entitled to use the name via the brief partnership with Hussey and this continued after they were absorbed by Stephen Grant.....and so on. It would seem that Harrison and Hussey decided that `tit for tat` applied and so used the 12/20 name.
I now believe that the confusion between 12/20 and the Vena Contracta system arose because Charles Lancaster ( who, I believe, in some form or another were absorbed by A, G & L ) used both the 12/20 name and the tapered bore system - but not ( necessarily ) on the same guns. The same I suppose can be said of Joseph Lang.
I have to say that I wish I`d kept my mouth shut in the first place concerning this topic because I`m thoroughly fed-up with it now. I still think that I was right though - the greater majority of 12/20s ( whether the term was applied correctly or otherwise to the tapered bore system ) were not guns with a tapered bore.
Tiger, you`re confused ? You have every right to be - I`m confused as dickens now !
Lord my head aches - I`m going to bed !

User: teflon

Date: 29 Jan 2005 at 18:04

12/20 - a gun which basically has 12 gauge barrels and an action sized more like that of a twenty (light, balanced, easy handling guns).

As grumpy quite rightly points out tapered barrels are something completely different, essentially a 12 gauge at the breech and a twenty gauge at the muzzle (and lots of recoil).

User: Small Bore

Date: 23 Feb 2005 at 10:40

A pair of Powell guns built on the Baker '12/20' action are for sale in the next Holts auction - estimate around £6000.

User: Small Bore

Date: 23 Feb 2005 at 13:34

WILLIAM POWELL & SON - A PAIR OF LIGHTWEIGHT 12-BORE ASSISTED-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTORS, serial no. 14672 / 3, 27 1/2in. nitro chopperlump barrels, 2 1/2in. chambers, bored approx. 1/4 and 1/2 choke, W. Baker patent '1 2/20' actions, border and partial scroll engraving, retaining virtually full colour-hardening and finish, 15 1/4in. figured stocks including 3/4in. rubber recoil pads, weight 6lb. 6oz.
See illustration on page 111 £7000-9000