Greener Creates ‘Wrought Steel Indestructible By Gun Powder’

William Wellington Greener’s work in fine shotguns is still visible though his “Facile Princeps” line of fowling pieces.

It is hard to over emphasize the impact William Wellington Greener had on firearms, namely shotguns, and their design and construction. Making his first hammerless breech-loading gun sometime in the 1860s, Greener would remain at the forefront of gunmaking for his whole career.

Not only was he the first gunmaker to understand and perfect choke bores in shotguns, Mr. Greener’s method of choke boring is the dominate type of choke still used in shotgun manufacturing. In addition, his other patents and contributions to gun design, like the Greener cross-bolt and sliding side safety, are still very much in use today—a testament to their design.

Greener was also an accomplished author, penning many books like “Choke-Bore Guns” in 1877 and “The Gun and its Development” in 1881, considered by students of the trade to be mandatory additions to their libraries.

This Greener G70 Imperial features the iconic side safety.

This Greener G70 Imperial features the iconic side safety.

One of my favorite Greener contributions was his Treble Wedge-Fast Lock boxlock shotgun he called the Facile Princeps, which in Latin roughly translates into “Easily First.” This was a breech-loading, hammerless shotgun design, in which Greener combined the double holding-down bolts on the bottom with his now famous cross-bolt that slid through the rib extension (hence the name “Treble Wedge-Fast”). It is considered by most as one of the strongest actions ever designed.

The Facile Princeps has a quite a history of its own. Greener was one of the few firms in the late 1800s licensed to make Westley Richards’ Anson & Deeley boxlock, for which they paid Westley’s 15 shillings per gun. However, among its many unique features, the ejector spring for the Facile Princeps was located inside the belly of the action and contributed to its distinct “perch belly” shape.


Greener designed a cocking rod, located in the barrel lump, to cock the locks of his gun. Westley Richards lost a suit they brought against Greener for patent infringement, due to the fact the locks of the Facile Princeps could be cocked without the forend attached.

In 1881 he registered patent No. 2003 for a self-acting ejector.

This Greener features the telltale golden scepter on its lever.

This Greener features the telltale golden scepter on its lever.

W.W. Greener & Co. offered the Facile Princeps in several grades and configurations; no doubt the flag ship of the firm was the Imperial Grade, and while no two were alike, they were all “Best” quality guns in every respect.

Pictured here is a remarkable, original example of Mr. Greener’s Treble Wedge-Fast design, representing features that made the Facile Princeps so desirable in the first place and exhibiting so many signature characteristics of this venerable firm.

Serial number 45xxx was produced sometime between 1895 and 1902, with Greener’s famous Wrought Steel 30-inch barrels and matted concave rib so cleverly marked “… Wrought Steel Indestructible By Gun Powder,” with engraved wedges of small English scroll at the breeches.

Among the Birmingham proofs on the barrel flats, we find the gun marked with the Greener hallmark “elephant” proof and “W.W G” stamp on the tubes. Furthermore, the barrel flats are stamped “CHOKE,” noting the light modified and modified constrictions of Greener’s famous design.

Among the photos, one can see the complex cocking rod on the forward lump that made the Facile Princeps so unique.

“Wrought Steel Indestructible By Gunpowder.”

“Wrought Steel Indestructible By Gunpowder.”

The action of this Model G70 Imperial Grade has the distinctive scroll back (scalloped action) and is very well engraved in fine English scroll surrounding multiple game scenes—all topped by carved fences in the iconic “sea shell” pattern; the gold scepter on the top lever being the most recognizable adornments on the metal. To maintain the beauty of the fences, the cross-bolt is “hidden” and does not protrude from the left side of the action ball, leaving one to wonder how the bolt got in there at all.

The stock is of highly figured European walnut with Greener’s patented manual side safety, very well executed borderless flat top checkering matching the checkered horn butt plate, and complex “spear point” horn inlays in the wrist.

The original case colors are vivid, the engraving is sharp, and the original black on the barrels and varnish on the stock is outstanding. Not only for its high condition but for the sum of the parts and its extreme rarity, I believe this to be the finest Imperial Grade Facile Princeps on the market today.

Duke McCaa and his son Duke “L.D.” McCaa II have owned and operated Gulf Breeze Firearms since 1986 in the panhandle of Florida. They are purveyors of fine sporting and investment grade firearms.

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