Edinburgh gunmaker John Dickson & Son closes after 200 years

A foreman at John Dickson & Son holds a shotgun.

A foreman at John Dickson & Son holds a shotgun.

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Historic gunmaker John Dickson & Son - which has counted poet Lord Byron among its customers - is to close its Edinburgh shop after almost 200 years in the capital.

The business, which makes bespoke sporting “round action” guns costing £38,000, will continue to manufacture firearms at its Dunkeld factory, but will have no retail presence after its Frederick Street store - where it has operated for 80 years - closes at the end of the month.

The building, which is branded “John Dickson and McNaughton” and has an iconic golden gun hanging above its sign, is shared with outdoor fashion brand Barbour, which will now take over the entire store.

The company said: “It is with regret that we announce the closure of John Dickson & Son. The business will close at the end of February ending 211 years of Dickson gunmaking in Edinburgh, 80 of these years at their present location.

“The firm will now operate out of its Dunkeld premises only.”

The original John Dickson was apprenticed, aged twelve, to gunmaker James Wallace, who operated from premises on Edinburgh’s High Street in 1806.

After the completion of his apprenticeship, he set up on his own in 1820, then in 1838 he began building guns and rifles under his own name at 60 Princes Street. The gunmaker moved to different premises on Princes Street ten years later and moved to the shop’s current location in 1928.

The sole gunmaker working in the shop to has been employed at the Frederick Street store since 1963, a total of fifty three years service. As well as making the iconic “round action” guns on commission, the shop also carries out repairs and sells other shooting equipment.

Donald Dallas, who two years ago wrote a history book about the business, titled “John Dickson: The Round Action Gun Maker” and also works in the Frederick Street store, said: “It is such a famous name - people know of John Dickson guns all over the world. It is very well-respected amongst gun makers and everyone is very sad that it is closing.”

John Dickson and Sons has incorporated a number of well-known Scottish gunmaking businesses over the years, including Thomas Mortimer and Dan’l Fraser.

The firm, which was family run until 1936, was bought by American investor Charles Palmer in 1999, bringing John Dickson & Son under the same ownership as historic rival James MacNaughton, with whom he had a patent dispute in the late 1880s.

Mr MacNaughton disputed claims to the trigger plate action, Mr MacNaughton having patented his in 1876 and Dickson his in 1880, with the courts eventually finding in favour of Mr Dickson.

As well as Lord Byron, John Dickson & Sons had another infamous customer, Charles Gordon, who bought so many guns from the firm between 1875 and 1906 that he almost bankrupted himself - forcing his family to take out a legal injunction to prevent him from continuing with his obsession.