The Greener Gunmakers  
  The first generation of Greener family gun makers was William Greener, who started his career as an apprentice to John Gardner in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  Later as a journeyman gun maker he worked for Joe Manton in London before marrying and setting up his own gun making business back in Newcastle.  However, he experienced difficulties in obtaining materials so in 1844 moved his business to Birmingham and in, or near that city, it has remained ever since.   
  William was an inventor who over his lifetime invented; the expansive bullet (1835), an electric light in 1846 (this was long before the modern 'Ediswan' lamp was patented in 1879), a device to open the four gates of a level crossing simultaneously, a self-righting lifeboat (1851) and modifications to the Miners Safety Lamp.  But first and foremost he was a gun maker and the quality of his guns soon attracted the rich and famous; amongst these was Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria.  At The Great Exhibition of 1851 he won two gold medals and a diploma "for guns and barrels, perfectly forged and finished" - the highest honour obtainable.  He went on to win two silver medals at the Paris Exposition of 1855 but throughout his life he made percussion muzzle loaders and was sceptical of the new breech loaders, then in their infancy.  William wrote three books, The Gun in 1834, The Science of Gunnery in 1846 and Gunnery in 1858 published in that year and he was instrumental in reforming the Gun Barrel Proof House in the Act of 1855.  
  After William's death on 1869 his second son William Wellington Greener continued to make high quality sporting and military guns.  Many of his inventions helped to shape the breech-loader which was developing into the modern sporting gun we know today.  Probably W W Greener's greatest contribution to gun making was perfecting the system of choke boring, which allowed him to win The Field Trials from 1875 to 1879 and led to most wing shots using Greener guns to win prizes and competitions throughout the world.  The perfection of choke boring and the famous cross-bolt (which he invented in 1873 to strengthen the action of breech loaders) were probably what he will be remembered for most.  By the turn of the century in 1900 he had the world's largest sporting gun factory employing over four hundred and fifty skilled craftsmen.  Like his father he wrote books the most famous of which The Gun and its Development was published in 1881.  This book like The Breechloader and how to use it published in 1892 ran to nine editions.  
  Harry and Charles took over the business from their father in 1910 and ten years later the firm was incorporated into a Limited Company.  Production was switched to military requirements during two world wars and during the intervening period demand for the very high quality sporting guns, which had been made between 1880 and 1914, diminished.  The company under the two brothers and later Leyton Greener, Harry's son, concentrated on well made, but less expensive 'Empire' models and the single barrel GP shotgun, developed from a riot control gun for the Egyptian police force, but the building of the inner ring road in Birmingham meant the factory complex fronting St Mary's Square had to go.  So in 1967 the company was sold, the old factory with its imposing Victorian edifice was pulled down and production for the company as a family run business ceased.  Webley's which acquired the gun making side of the business continued to make the single barrel GP for a few years but it was not until 1985 that the company was bought its present owners including Graham Greener, W W Greener's great grandson, David Dryhurst and Richard Tandy, two of the country's finest gunmakers and Ken Richardson.  
  In the next couple of years important decisions were made which resulted in a return to making best quality sporting guns once again.  To promote this in 1987 Graham Greener decided to build the 'New St George' 12 bore side-lock.  This design was chosen as the company was now making side-locks again and the lock plates provided a large area for some very special chiselled relief engraving of St George and the Dragon - it would link the past 'Show Gun', a Unique ejector 'St George' shotgun, made by Harry Greener in 1907, with the very best Presentation grade guns the company was now making.  Finished in 1992 and engraved by Alan and Paul Brown this gun led to many orders being placed for similar models, and sets of guns ranging from 28 to 12 bores in the years that followed.  To further extend the range the company has re-introduced limited edition guns based on the familiar 'Facile Princeps' model but instead of using the Baker or Southgate ejector-work a modified form of the Baker has been used which is much more reliable.  To commemorate the bicentennial of the largest real estate deal in history, when the United States of America purchased from France, all the land from the Mississippi river to the Rocky Mountains, and the pair of guns the company made for the centennial of that purchase - the St Louis World Fair of 1904 - another W W Greener 'Unique' ejector gun was made in 2004 with chiselled relief engraving and precious metal inlays.  This was followed by another St George 12 bore again using Unique ejectors and both guns, together with the New St George side-lock, a new Facile Princeps 20 bore and a new scroll engraved side lock were exhibited at the Safari Club International Convention and Exhibition in Reno last year.  They were all show stoppers.  One of the best London gun makers commented, "These are the best guns at the show," and one of the top European engravers added, "They are superb"  
  Today a new hammer gun with carved engraving is being made along with four .375 double barrel Facile Princeps rifles, Facile Princeps guns and side-locks.  A second trip to exhibit at Reno is planned for 2006 when visitors to SCI 2006 will have the opportunity to see some of the most spectacular new guns on display for the first time and the new hammer gun.  Plans for the immediate future include making a full range of shooting accessories available on their web site; and continuing to make exquisite examples of the very best shotguns and rifles.  
  But the Greener family were also authors and Graham was aware that no-one had written a book about the history of the company or its guns since 1910, when the last edition of The Gun and its Development appeared.  So along with organising the sales and administration of the reformed company he set about researching and writing The Greener Story published by Quiller Press in 2000.  For this work he was nominated for the Best Antiques Writer award by Bill Harriman, of The Antiques Road Show fame and Director of Firearms at BASC.  Short-listed, and then one of two runners up for this award it is nice that a book about guns and shooting can figure for prestigious awards, when so much publicity is against the sport.  Graham is planning a new book to follow upon the success of the first. It will not be a second edition but an entirely new book covering aspects of guns and gun making, with new information which has come to light since writing his first book.  However, copies of The Greener Story are still available from the company or via the web site at  

Graham N. Greener

W W Greener Ltd


The St George Side-lock



Game Scene Side Lock.


  Bicentennial St Louis Exposition 'G' Gun  

New Facile Princeps Exhibition Shot Gun


New Fine Scroll Side-lock