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Rebuilding a 1903 Jeffery Farquharson Rifle from a Cigar Box full of Parts

by Josh Wolfe (10/12/12).

This Jeffery Farquharson rifle was built in 1903 in London before eventually ending up in the hands of Sid Johnson of New Zealand. (Photo courtesy Gulf Breeze Firearms)

It was September of 2005 when Sid Johnson went to the Selous reserve in Tanzania for Cape buffalo and other plains game. On his safari he carried a Jeffery Farquharson rifle–one of only 15 in the world.

Among the many features of this Jeffery Farquharson rifle was how it eventually ended up in the hands of Johnson in New Zealand. The gun had been built by W. J. Jeffery & Co. of London, assembled by Thomas Turner, and then shipped to Calcutta, India, in 1903. Turner’s unique design for the forend and barrel contour is what set this gun apart from other Farquharson rifles.

Johnson’s guide spotted nine buffalo bulls in the distance, so they parked the vehicle to set out on foot. Johnson unsheathed his single-shot rifle, chambered in 450/400 3-inch round and followed. They tracked the bulls for nearly two hours under the African sun before the animals entered tall grass. Johnson and his guide cautiously followed for about 200 yards before finally reemerging onto the plains.

Stepping from the grass, the hunters spotted the bulls feeding a mere 15 yards away. The buffalo immediately turned broadside to better investigate the intruders. Not having time to set up the shooting sticks, the PH whispered for Johnson to shoot the third bull from the right. Johnson’s offhand shot dropped the big bull in its tracks; however, they were forced to wait as the other eight came back to “guard” their fallen friend.

That was the only time Johnson used the rifle, which must have been a special occasion considering the undertaking needed to restore the gun. As Johnson told L.D. McCaa of Gulf Breeze Firearms, the rifle was in bad shape when it was acquired some years back. The previous owner, also of New Zealand, found the barrel and a cigar box full of damaged parts. Because it was a Farquaharson, he decided it was well-worth the effort to rebuild it. Over the next several years Johnson would seek the expertise of several men to bring the gun back to its original from.

Frederick Courteney Selous was a British explorer, officer, hunter, and conservationist, famous for his exploits in south and east of Africa. Selous used a .461 Gibbs Farquharson for much of his African hunting.

John Farquharson, of Scotland, patented this single-shot hammerless rifle with a falling block action—in which there is lever under the trigger guard (like a lever-action rifle) that you push down to insert the bullet—in 1872. In 1875 George Gibbs, a gunmaker from Bristol, became a co-owner of the patent. At the time, he was the only maker in the world making the Farquharson rifle until the patent expired. Fewer than 1,000 of these rifles were made, making them extremely expensive if they ever surface on the gun market. Frederick Courteney Selous, one of the most famous hunters and explorers of south and east Africa, always used a .461 Gibbs Farquharson.

The rifle Johnson commissioned to rebuild was made by Jeffrey, which is a little less rare; however, it is still considered a collector’s piece and they are rarely used. Jeffrey began developing this gun in 1895, then expanded in 1904 when he made the .600 Nitro Express. In 1912, these guns became “made to order,” essentially making them history. Since 1967, Ruger has been developing its No.1 single-shot, which is its proprietary falling block action loosely based off of the Farquharson.

Johnson began by acquiring a new action from Don Allen, then the owner of Dakota Arms. Johnson then contracted Al Lind, a stock-maker with 40 years of experience, to rebuild the stock. It was Lind who suggested a metal-smith named Roger Farrell to rebuild the action. Farrell also owned an original Jeffery Farquharson.

“Roger Farrell is a most meticulous craftsman, and he either fixed the original parts or crafted replacements for them from measurements from his own original Farquharson,” Johnson said.

The breechlock was in bad shape, so Farrell had to weld, grind and file it to its original condition by truing up and polishing the exterior of the action. While the work was slow using only a file and an abrasive cloth, there was satisfaction in seeing an old action lose its dings, scratches and rounded edges. The action was essentially transformed back to new.

Lind then started to work on the stock using a book that showed the Thomas Turner style for reference. Even though flat-top checkering was the norm when the rifle was built more than 100 years ago, they decided to use point checkering with the Turner style.

Finally, it was time for the engraving. Johnson employed Bob Evans for the task and instead of using basic scrollwork, had him replicate the Jeffery scroll and Jeffery crescent. According to Johnson, he did this to perfection.

This rifle is now for sale and comes with a Huey Custom Gun Case, ammunition, bullets and brass. For more information on this rare gun, contact L.D. McCaa at Gulf Breeze Firearms, 850.932.4867, or visit its website.

Josh Wolfe is the assistant editor at Sporting Classics Magazine. His main objective is quarterbacking the online publication, Sporting Classics Daily, which will maintain the authenticity and integrity of the magazine.

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