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Quality without compromise: Arthur Demoulas, owner of Boss & Co gunmakers, talks to LLM

By LLM Reporters on 9th June 2019

Boss & Co, today, is London’s oldest Gunmaker and has been in continuous operation since 1812. From its inception, Boss has been known for ‘Builders of Best Guns Only’ and has long been renowned for producing the finest sporting guns in the world. We met with Boss & Co owner, Arthur Demoulas, to find out more.

Boss & Co is a British company with an illustrious history. Since you’re a passionate gun enthusiast yourself, what specific qualities about Boss & Co enticed you to become its new owner?

I’ve long admired Boss, an admiration that started long before I had any intention of buying the company. Boss has always been revered by those highly passionate for guns. Whenever you saw one in a line of guns it was always something very special, when one went through an auction it always caused a stir and fetched a high price. A Boss is something special, it has been since the 1800s and continues to be the same today.

For me it was the hand-crafted nature of a Boss that held so much appeal, and the fact they continued to make a gun largely as they did 100 years ago, or more. Gunmakers work on each part to fit and hand-finish to perfection, hand finishing to perfection. No distractions, no compromises. Boss remains a Gunmaker pure and simple, they don’t do anything else. That’s rare in this age and stands for something very special indeed.

The name Boss & Co is to guns what Rolls-Royce is to cars

Boss has a strapline ‘Builders of Best Guns Only’ and while this is one of the simplest straplines of any business, it remains so true. Boss only make the best and will never make a second-grade gun. How can anyone fail to be moved by that passion, and tradition?

To complement its one-of-a-like look, shooting a Boss is a absolute pleasure as it is perfectly balanced and lively.

Over the years I had collected a number of Boss guns, and decided that I wanted to order a new pair of OU Boss guns from their London store back in the mid-nineties.

It was that visit that inspired me to look into buying the company, but it was far from a simple process and took many years of hard work before I finally became the latest custodian of the brand.

Boss & Co values old school craftmanship above everything. How difficult is it for you to find craftsmen of stellar talent and ability, who meet your highest and most discerning standards? Tell us about your recruiting process in more detail, please.

You’re right. To be an outstanding gunmaker takes years and years of practice and learning and a person needs an element of natural skill and talent. When you make best guns only you need best gunmakers only, and we are proud to employ the best in the business as a part of the Boss family.

Boss has long been known as The Gunmakers Gunmaker, meaning it is the gun most gunmakers would choose to own if they had the means to do so. To create a Boss by hand, from the finest materials available, is not only an art it is also an honour for those that form them and provides a real sense of pride. That pride means many gunmakers stay with Boss for many, many years but even the most committed staff has to retire at some stage and that means we need to be prepared for the future.

Boss has taken on young skilled apprentices to train them in the art of gunmaking. Unlike some countries the UK does not offer Gunmaking classes in any college or university, whereas some countries continue to have specialist gunmaking schools. This means we have to take the initiative and recruit new blood. As said, it takes years to be a gunmaker, and to be a gunmaker at Boss takes longer than that. We have to plan ahead but are creating a culture where people want to work and feel they are a part of a family.

Boss & Co guns are hand-crafted to the highest quality

Please elaborate about your most popular models, which have stood the test of time, and why do you think they have retained their ageless popularity?

Boss has long been seen as a pioneer in the industry with inventions that remain popular to this day.

The famous O/U (over and under) shotgun was a design refined and launched to market by Boss. For many years a double-barrelled gun would feature two-triggers (one for each barrel). Boss invented the single-trigger in 1894, a reliable and refined mechanism that allowed both barrels to be fired with one trigger. Boss also trademarked the Boss ejector, a neat lightweight mechanism to expel spent cartridges. These innovations, attributed to Boss, remain popular today, and are an important element of the Boss DNA.

When you look at a Boss from the 20’s and 30’s they look like a Boss made today. They are ageless. Traditions continue and have stood the test of time. The finest exhibition grade Turkish walnut will always feature as the stock, and many still choose to have Boss’s traditional ‘rose and scroll’ engraving. The end result is timeless.

Boss has never produced in high volumes and has always been sought after. Like with any passion or sport, those involved aspire to own the best, the most beautiful, the most respected…when the time comes for a person to own a Boss, it often comes from a deep-seated desire, an ambition. It is hardly ever an impulse purchase.

Let’s be clear, Boss continues to innovate and strives to offer whatever bespoke features a client would want. We haven’t rested on our laurels, but neither do we invent for inventing’s sake.

I understand that the majority of your clients orders a matching pair of shotguns. Meeting the stellar handmade standards of identical twin guns is especially demanding … please explain why this is so?

A matched pair of guns is the best way to ensure you are constantly ready to shoot. While the shooter is aiming and firing, a loader is reloading the next gun ready to pass over to the shooter. It’s a never-ending cycle that provides efficiency on the drive. We have some clients that order a trio of guns and several who order a single.

As you say, with each gun being hand crafted, both guns need to be identical. That means obvious things like the shapes of the actions, the engraving, the barrels, the weight and balance, right down to the colours and stock dimensions, to ensure both guns fit the owner perfectly.

When you take delivery of a pair of Boss guns, they are presented beautifully. The standard of workmanship and artistry is clear to see, and we need to be certain they stand up to owner scrutiny. The fact a Boss is made by hand means no two guns will ever be 100% identical, but they are as close as a human can accomplish.

Boss employs only the best craftsmen to produce top-grade weapons

Every Boss gun is built to fit a shooter’s measurements. When a customer visits your shop, how do you go about making him / her comfortable and meeting their bespoke requests – what is the customer experience like?

We pride ourselves on customer care. Much like when you buy a high-end car, yacht or aircraft or when you order bespoke tailoring, the consultation process is extensive and hugely important. We need to understand the clients wishes, then we need to exceed them by suggesting options they may not have considered.

Many buyers arrive at Boss with a gun in mind, but often their final order is something quite different once they have seen all the possibilities open to them.

Bear in mind that after ordering, the build process will take some time, but we welcome owners to visit the factory often to see their guns in-build and we keep them regularly updated.

Much like a bespoke suit, when the piece is finished and the owner ‘wears’ it for the first time, the fit has to be perfect. The balance, feel and weight of the gun is spot on. To do that takes time, knowledge and experience, as well as having a good understanding of your customer.

Many of your guns attract high prices at auctions. How would you advise those, who are interested in purchasing second-hand guns of certain models made by your company, and please tell us more about your maintenance programs?

We service, maintain and care for Boss guns of all ages. As with a fine watch or vehicle, the manufacturer has the skills and experience to do things other specialists may not understand. Most owners will return a Boss to our London HQ as required, and that not only provides peace of mind when shooting it also adds to the value of the gun in the future.

Sometimes we have been asked to confirm the history of a Boss in an auction or to verify the provenance. Something we are always happy to do.

Boss & Co, today, is London’s oldest Gunmaker and has been in continuous operation since 1812

Do you know of any Boss & Co collectors in the UK or worldwide, who are obsessed with collecting every single (historical) model of your guns?

Yes, there are several people who are very passionate about our guns and continue to be so.

Just like a Patek Philippe watch is often passed on to a new generation, I understand the very same applies to a Boss gun. How does the future of Boss & Co look like – do you believe you’ll be able to maintain your old traditions, stellar quality, service and products?

You are quite right. A Boss can be passed through the generations from Great Grandfathers all the way down the line. Those guns still look spectacular and perform faultlessly today.

As the latest custodian of Boss it is my duty to preserve what we stand for, to innovate in traditional ways, to bring on new gunmaking talent and, crucially, to ensure Boss survives at least during my lifetime and several years thereafter staying true to the beliefs of our founders and the expectations of our customers.

The founders of Boss made the mission very clear ‘builders of best guns only’