Stock shapes – Do you know a round knob from a Prince of Wales

I’ve meaning to write this post for a number of weeks, however we’ve been very busy with the opening of the Merkel gallery.

Following the theme of our blog in regard to whether an individual should/can shoot a side by side vs an over an under. Apart from the barrel configuration on a side by side, the other main difference is the stock shape/format. The traditional English side by side shotgun (of which Grulla and AYA replicate very well) commonly have a straight stock or what is referred to as ‘English straight hand’ (pictured below). If a customer has only used a full pistol grip on a modern over and under, a straight hand stock will feel completely alien initially. Even more Alien if the customer has been using a sporting over and under with palm swell from makers like Browning, Beretta et al. The benefits of an English straight hand go well beyond what we believe is the most elegant stock shape on any shotgun. It reduces the weight of a gun and if you opt for double triggers an English straight hand stock allows sufficient movement in the hand to effortlessly move between either the front or rear triggers.

High grade English straight stock

Many customers have a desire to shoot a side by side, although the classic set-up as described above is just a step too far for many a modern shot. So will the classic configuration die out? We think not. When a customer is used to the configuration there is little to compare to the pleasure of shooting a classic side by side when game shooting. This is particularly true when using smaller gauges such as 20, 28 and .410. No you won’t hit everything but even missing is a pleasure if done well. 🙂

So what are the alternatives? There are essentially 4 different options (all termed slightly differently), all of which can be adapted to suit an individual for; length of hand, position of comb, angle of hand, thickness of grip etc. Confusion for most people comes with the difference between the Prince of Wales and Woodward type grips, these are both very similar with the difference being the angle of the pistol grip cap, a parallel finish on the Woodward and angled on the Prince of Wales. Also a lot of customers incorrectly refer to the rounded semi pistol as a Prince of Wales.

There are no particular rules as far as choosing what grip works best, I think it is a matter of what works best for each individual. For a side by side shotgun the straight hand and either POW or Woodward grips look best and people choosing a single trigger will often opt for POW, Semi or Woodward style as hand position remains static. The full pistol grip is normally only seen on Over Under guns but occasionally you see them on live pigeon side by sides.

The Woodward which many confuse with a Prince of Wales. A POW will have the cap at an angle similar to a semi pistol pictured below.

A rounded half or semi pistol grip, or in Browning parlance a round knob. Also Pommel in France.

The semi pistol grip or again in Browning terms a ‘Flat Knob’. Despite picture, normally associated with a single trigger.

If we then turn attention to forend wood which again are termed differently. As with the stock format, a customer used to grasping a large rounded forend as you’ll find on any over and under will initially struggle with the classic splinter forend you will with have undoubtedly seen on classic English guns (picture below of Grulla 216 shotgun in coin finish). The main purpose of the forend is to hold the barrels to the action. Either a glove or barrel sleeve is normally required as the barrels can get very hot.

Grulla 216 Shotgun with splinter forend and straight stock. The 216 features Purdey style rose and scroll engraving.

If a customer is used to handling an over and under, the full beavertail forend will feel more natural in the hands opposed to a splinter forend. Pictured below is another Grulla 216 with case colour hardening and the full beavertail forend.

Grulla 216 with beavertail forend

Conclusion: If you are an over and under shot looking to purchase a classic side by side then a semi pistol stock mated with a full beavertail and single trigger may well be the way to go. Especially if you select another type of rib to give you a single sight plain, see our blog post on side by side rib types. If the Grulla 216 built on the Holland & Holland action isn’t your cup of tea, there are many types of engraving styles in the Grulla shotgun range.

With W Horton & Sons, each Grulla shotgun comes with free gun fitting and consultation to get you your perfect gun. As do all side by sides from Rizzini, Chapuis and Merkel. You can watch a short video on how Grulla shotguns are made on the homepage.

Any questions get in touch using the contact page. Feel free to comment on this or other Grulla blog posts.


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  • Daniel says:

    This is a really interesting piece, thanks Horton’s. Personally I agree that the most elegant and functional stock configuration for a side by side is the English straight hand stock, which offers improved speed of mount and as you say, vastly lighter weight of the weapon, essential for partridge and of course, grouse. This is the main quarry that these guns were built for in days gone by.

    Modern heavy ‘ego’ loads as used to prick and wounds so many birds these days do demand heavy guns and I would suggest that the pistol, Prince of Wales and similar such grips do improve recoil handling. I suppose this does lead us into the discussion of loads and gun weight and of course, purpose.

    I agree with you that the traditional English straight hand stock is what is without a doubt the most elegant and functional configuration and we ask ourselves, why did this evolve to predominate the majority of fine English guns and become so copied by the top Spanish makers such as Grulla and AYA – because it is the best for the purpose of a side by side.

  • Jeff Kibble says:

    As a committed side-by-side user I think your article has summed up the pros and cons of stock design, and as I always use double triggers I much prefer the straight-hand configuration. I’ve always wondered why the Greener “rational” stock is not used more widely, I’ve never used one, but the thinking behind it makes sense to me.

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