Arrieta Churchill Continental Crown Side-by-side, double triggers, very similar to an AYA No. 2
By Michael Yardley of The Field
Thursday, 10 February 2011
With less than £5000 to spend you can buy an excellent sporting shotgun
Let's start from the premise that you have up to £5,000 to spend on a new gun. Great-aunt Agatha may have remembered you, a bonus could have come through or perhaps you just want to spoil yourself. How much gun can you get for this sort of money? The choice is vast. So wide, in fact, that some parameters must be set. It is not the intention to consider budget guns, though, en passant, we might note that some very good over-and-unders are available at just over the £1,000 mark today, not least the new Beretta 686 Universal and Silver Pigeon I (both with an RRP around £1,400). The first has fixed chokes, the second, multis. The Miroku MK60 and 70 (RRP £1,300 and £1,360 respectively with similar choke options) also offer excellent value and classic design, as does the Browning 525 Hunter (RRP £1,460). I also like the Guerini Woodcock and Tempio (RRP £1,658) - recommended in 30in 20-bore form - guns that handle and shoot beautifully at reasonable cost.
The emphasis here is on more expensive guns. At the top end of our £5,000 budget, a discounted Beretta EELL (RRP £5,700) might just squeeze in. I have always thought these especially good game-guns, not because of the added embellishment of their sideplates, but because in my view they handle a little better than the standard models, with more weight between the hands and subtly superior stock shapes. My 30in 28-bore has given me great service, and I have also had 20- and 12-bore versions. You would have to go a long way to find a better game-gun for hard use than a 30in EELL in 12- or 20-bore. They're solidly made, shoot well and hold their value. There's also a 10-year mechanical warranty for all Berettas bought before the end of the year.
Other Berettas that might be considered include the Silver Pigeon III (£2,300 in .410, 28-, 20- or 12-bore). It is a sound gun without excessive embellishment. Berettas on the new SV10 action platform might also be looked at. The asymmetric styling of the new action is distinct, and the engineering is impeccable. The SV10 guns seem to handle and shoot a little better on average than the indestructible 68 series guns (perhaps because of their new barrel profiles). The SV10 Perennia 1 is available in 12-bore only at RRP £1,825 with a conventional stock or £2,025 with a Kick-Off hydraulic recoil reducer. My preference for game would be the simple gun. The Perennia 3 is available in 12- or 20-bore for RRP £2,530 (£2,730 with Kick-Off). There is a slight difference in action finish between the 1 and 3: the 1 does not offer a detachable trigger mechanism or "Q system" detachable stock.
Looking at the extensive Browning-Miroku range, there are many options as well. There is a Grade V bold scroll-engraved Miroku MK 60 in 28in and 30in form at £2,489. The Grade V multi-choked MK70 is £2,612. And one of my favourite guns, the MK 38 Grade V 32 (a 30in version is also on offer), is one of the best buys available anywhere at £2,554. If you are in the market for a high-pheasant gun that can do double duty on clays look no further. When you consider that these guns are impeccably hand finished, beautifully engraved, and regulated the old-fashioned way at the plates, they appear a particularly good buy.
Browning also offers the sideplated, square-bar Heritage model. This is available with 28in and 30in Invector choked barrels at just under £5,000 RRP. It has been extremely popular as a hybrid game- and clay-gun because of its looks and no-compromise build quality. It is a bit chunky to my eye, though, and feels a little heavy, too. The same comments cannot, however, be levelled against the new rounded-bar 20-bore. It has not been priced officially yet but will come in just under our magic figure and is offered with 28in or 30in tubes. Browning also has the Hunter Prestige without sideplates, a high-grade, modified Superposed-style gun with deep scroll and game-scene engraving, teardrops on the stock and a silver oval. All Browning guns come with a 10-year general warranty, and, uniquely, a three-year warranty on their wood.
Guerini offers well-priced and well-finished over-and-under guns, especially competitively priced for their levels of finish. For £2,045 you can get a sideplated Magnus game-scene-engraved model with a coin-finished action, excellent semi-pistol grip and Schnabel fore-end. It is available in 12-, 20- and 28-bore and .410 with barrels from 28in to 32in. My preference, though, is for the Essex and Maxum models. The Essex comes in at £2,845, and has fine rose-and-scroll engraving of Purdey style on a coin-finished action. There is a new English-style Prince of Wales grip and a rounded fore-end (my preference over the Schnabel). The Maxum, RRP £2,965, has a silver action with bold scroll engraving. It also has a rounded fore-end. This gun would be another one of my best buys - great looking and fantastic to shoot in either 30in or 32in form. For an RRP of £3,775 you can have the extra finish Apex gun, sideplated, with heavy scroll and an almost Celtic-style oval embellishment to the rear of the sideplates. This gun has an extended trigger guard which goes all the way back to a steel grip gap on its not-too-full pistol grip.
Guerini has a new range of round-action guns. The least expensive is the Ellipse Limited (RRP £2,775) which has a colour case-hardened action body and border engraving. It is available in 20- and 28-bore (soon in .410 and 12-bore). Barrel options are 28in and 30in; 30in works extremely well in 28- or 20-bore. The Ellipse EVO, RRP £3,775, gets my vote for looks, value and performance. It would be hard to imagine a prettier gun, and its handling qualities and stock design (combining an open-radius semi-pistol grip with a rounded fore-end) are excellent. It is on offer with 28in, 30in and 32in barrels in 28- and 20-bore (and will be available as a .410 and 12-bore). The sighting rib is of a solid, tapered design.
ASI offers several guns that fit our bill. On the side-by-side front, the square-bar AyA No 2 comes in at £4,900. It is one of the country's most popular guns for driven game, predom-inantly bench made, and well proven. The AyA best boxlock, a gun for which ASI managing director Edward King has an especially soft spot, also meets our price and quality re-quirements at £4,490 (12-bore) and £4,716 in 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410. ASI is involved in a new project with the B Rizzini brand. Batista Rizzini has been one of the movers and shakers of the Italian gun industry in recent years and now has a very substantial production facility. Rizzini guns are far better than they once were, and the round action - first filed up by Laura Bosis on the suggestion of Paul Roberts (see below) - is especially appealing. The RB (Round Body) Classic is available as a 12-, 16- or 20-bore for £3,318, and as a 28-bore for £3,772. Again, I have found the 30in version works especially well in 28- and 20-bore - pointable but controllable. The stock shapes are first class. If you don't want to spend quite as much there is the square-bar Aurum at £2,192 in 12-, 16- and 20-bore and £2,620 in 28-bore. Paul Roberts of J Roberts in Vauxhall offers Rizzinis to his own specification. He has been bringing Rizzinis into this country for many years and understands the guns and needs of British game-shooters. He does a nice but plain Artemis model which costs £2,400 and boasts a plain colour case-hardened action with sideplates. I think it is one of the smartest guns Rizzini offers - simple elegance. Paul also has the London model (RRP £4,500) and London Model Deluxe (RRP £4,950). The main difference between them is the extent of engraving - the former has fairly light coverage, the latter profuse, deep acanthus scroll. All the guns are available with fixed or multichokes, solid or vented ribs, and with any stock configuration - straight-hand, semi, or full pistol grip.
Arrieta-named side-by-sides are brought into the UK exclusively by GMK (which has handled the make for 35 years). The Crown round-action sidelock model, which is not unlike an AyA no 2, costs £3,960 with double triggers and scroll engraving in 12-bore, 28in or 30in, ¼ and 1⁄2 fixed chokes. The 20-bore costs £4,360. A Viscount with a square bar and some scroll engraving is available in 28in only at £2,455. Arrieta makes guns for EJ Churchill and William Powell, too. The Churchill Continental Crown is £3,900, made to measure at no extra cost in any gauge with 28in or 30in barrels. The Powell Monarch, a bouquet-and-scroll engraved sidelock (with non-detachable locks), falls within our remit, too, at £4,100 in 12-bore (10% more for 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410). The guns are well finished and shoot well.
Blaser's F3 is an impressive, modern over-and-under of un-usual design with an inline hammer action perfected by Russian designer Sergei Popikov. It's a severely elegant design and very low in profile, the basic model costs £3,882 with grade 2 upgraded wood and a choice of ribs and stocks. The "Professional Game" costs £4,900, comes in a smart ABS case, boasts "grade 5" wood and has a clever system that allows you to adjust the balance of the gun to your needs.
Fabarm and merkel
Viking Arms brings in both Fabarm and Merkel ranges. Fabarm offers some strongly built side-by-sides with an unusual four-lump action and a reliable single-trigger mechanism. The de luxe, sideplated Classis Grade IV has an RRP of £4,286 (though Fabarm side-by-sides start from £2,370 and are notable because they handle rather like over-and-unders). The Merkel 40E (RRP £3,459) is a strongly built side-by-side with a Greener-style top extension and double triggers (there is a single option). Merkel also offers the 2000C over-and-under at £4,800 with single or double triggers. Finally, I might mention that Fausti makes some very nice small-bore boxlock side-by-sides and round- and square-bar over-and-unders priced under £5,000. These are special order items from the Sportsman Gun Centre.
Buying new is not your only option. You can buy second hand, possibly, at auction and - if you are careful - get some great deals. On the retail front, guns such as the EELL Berettas, Belgian-made Browning B25s, Perazzis and Kemens, can offer quality and value "pre-owned". You can buy an excellent gun, which has done most of its depreciation, for far less than the price new. Good and best-quality boxlock side-by-sides are a particular bargain. The best deals are on guns that have less than trendy specifications - shorter barrels, for example. And there are all sorts of options. Diggory Hadoke of Atkin Grant & Lang (recently combined with vintageguns.co.uk) says, "With £5,000 you can buy a best-quality sidelock ejector with invisibly sleeved barrels... with the quality of modern sleeving, you can end up with a best quality London sidelock which looks and performs like a gun costing three times as much."
Patrick Hawes of Bonhams thinks £5,000, "a reasonable budget for buying a good gun at auction. [Once acquired] it will, as likely as not, still be worth about the same, or possibly more, even after a few seasons' use. Sidelock ejectors by makers such as Holland & Holland, Purdey, Boss and Woodward would have to be early specimens and possibly in poorer condition, but other famous makers produced guns of very high quality that can be bought within budget."
Chris Beaumont of Holt's adds, "If you are looking to follow the traditional line, then it is definitely worth considering auctions. You'll be hard pressed to find such a diverse selection of classic and vintage English and European guns under one roof. If a sidelock is the order of the day, £5,000 can buy you a gun by a provincial maker which can be heart-stoppingly beautiful, while £2,000 to £4,000 will secure a boxlock of the very highest grade in virtually unused condition. And don't discount auctions for modern guns - they are there in abundance and can be bought at good prices." Prices were available at time of going to press. Obviously, different dealers will vary in what they offer.
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