You might have seen a photo of this unique shotgun online somewhere and thought it was probably a photoshop job on a side-by-side, double-barrel—but it’s a real side-by-side-by-side shotgun, and the last of its kind will soon be up for sale to the public.
According to this story from shotgunlife.com, in the late 1890s, “Boss & Co. Proprietor John Robertson dedicated himself to perfecting the single trigger for sporting guns” instead of the double-trigger double-barrel shotguns that were preferred by well-to-do hunters and those in the London gun trade at the time.
What better proof that a single-triggered gun with multiple barrels was not only reliable, but preferred, than a shotgun sporting three barrels and only one trigger? That’s what Robertson was thinking, anyway, when he engineered the SxSxS shotgun.
“Although a marvel of ingenuity, the shotgun actually reveals the lengths that Robertson went in order to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of the single trigger to a skeptical marketplace,” the story says.
“Robertson certainly wasn’t the first gunmaker to experiment with a single trigger. Single-trigger sporting guns had been tinkered with by various gunmakers as far back as the late 17th century. An array of patents had been filed for them in England. Between 1893 and 1895, however, Robertson had applied for three single-trigger patents, each more sophisticated than the previous. By 1894, he had successfully demonstrated the single trigger on a side-by-side to the sporting press in London.
“Still, Robertson must have felt that he needed to do more in order to validate his single trigger. Thus, over a two-year period, he set about building a 12-bore prototype, triple-barrel, SxSxS shotgun that relied on the single trigger.”
The first prototype was built in 1898 and was sold to Herbert Lawton in 1922. Records show it was lost in a house fire while in Lawton’s possession, the story says.
In 1899, Boss & Co. was commissioned by Signor W. Baldi of Florence, Italy to build a 16 gauge SxSxS shotgun with the company’s famous single trigger, the story says.
The gun was finished in 1901 and had the serial number 4690. The two year delivery time is a testament to the complexity and expense of the build, the story says.
The left and right barrels are fired with conventional sidelocks with 2.5-inch chambers, but the center barrel has a trigger-plate action. The trigger is non-selective, meaning barrel 1 is fired first, and then barrel 2 and 3 in sequence, every time the action is opened and closed. The shotgun weights only 6 pounds, 14 ounces, despite an extra 28-inch steel barrel on board. The three barrels weigh 3 lbs., 7 oz. on their own and are about the width of a traditional SxS, the story says.
The shotgun’s engraving was done by John James Sumner. The story says four generations of the Sumner family have engraved for Boss & Co. over the years.
After that, the shotgun got around a bit, changing hands several times.
Eventually it landed in the hands of an unnamed southern collector who has owned it for the past 17 years, according to the story.
The shotgun is the only surviving example of the Boss & Co. Triple-Barrel shotgun. The custom American gun maker, Griffin & Howe, has been tasked with selling the 117-year-old scattergun, which has been priced at $333,333.33, the story says.
Range 365 will cover $3.33 of the cost if the buyer agrees to let us shoot it.
This one-of-a-kind shotgun differs from other multiple barrel configurations like a drilling gun, which normally consists of two matching shotgun barrels and a rifle barrel but covers a broad range of shapes and configurations including three matching shotguns barrels, which would be arranged in a triangle configuration and not set side-by-side in a row like the Boss gun.
A few years ago, Chiappa firearms revived the concept with it’s Triple Threat shotgun, which has three matching shotgun barrels arrange in a triangle and one trigger.
The Vierling is another type of multiple-barrel gun, usually consisting of two matching shotgun barrels, a 22 rimfire barrel, and a centerfire rifle barrel, though most of these were custom made and are quite rare.