By Mike Yardley of The Field
Monday, 07 April 2008
Mike Yardley tries an Italian pair made for the British market and finds them to have truly excellent shooting qualities.
This month we are looking at a pair of Rizzini EM over-and-unders imported by and specially made for J Roberts & Son of London’s Vauxhall (a company run by the hugely experienced shooting man, Paul Roberts).
The guns have 30in barrels and round-bodied actions. The latter are colour case-hardened and scroll engraved. First impressions are good.
The guns are not flashy but they do have neat lines and competent finish. The traditional colour case-hardening, well-figured walnut and excellent stock shapes are all positives. The engraving is a little thin but it is in good taste and well executed (by some mechanical process).
On the handling front, these Rizzinis – a true pair – feel significantly better than average when brought to face and shoulder. The 30in barrels seem to suit them well. The guns are pointable but steady. They hit the scales at 7lb 3oz, which is near ideal for a modern 12-bore over-and-under game-gun with longer barrels. Weight is fairly evenly distributed throughout the length of the gun, rather than concentrated in the middle. Grip, comb and fore-end all felt comfortable. The refined stock shapes will suit the tastes of the British market well; there is not the evidence of the trap-shooting experience that sometimes has had excessive influence on the form of Italian sporting and field guns.
The test Rizzinis are not the normal factory output and have various custom features as specified by Paul Roberts, who has several distinct advantages in dealing with Italian gunmakers. He is of Italian stock and therefore fluent in the language and he is a great gunmaker in his own right (a former holder of the Royal Warrant, specialising in rifles but with 40 or more years of experience of shotguns as well). And, not least important, he is an extraordinarily keen and competent shot. Indeed, I know of no one who has shot more game – pachyderms or partridges. He knows what practical qualities are important in a gun. He also has the eye of a premier-league London gunmaker.
As a consequence, the test guns have interesting features which distinguish them from the mass-produced pack. First, there’s the round-bodied actions. This was a project that Paul – as respected in Italy as he is here – encouraged initially. He persuaded Bosis, whose guns he also imports, to file up one of the old-style Rizzini actions to give it more attractive lines. The experiment worked: a rounded action bar has now become a standard feature on Rizzini’s more upmarket products. The modification definitely improves the looks of the basic gun and works especially well in small bores too.
The test guns have semi-pistol grip stocks. This grip is probably the most efficient on the market today, ergonomically speaking, and a near-perfect design for a single-trigger game-gun in my opinion. Many pistol grips are not especially efficient – they do not allow you to hold the gun as well as you might. Often, they are too tightly radiused or, as bad, not even in depth, allowing the hand to slip forward in recoil. This excellent grip – which reminds me of the grip on some London muzzle-loading duelling pistols – suffers neither deficiency and looks elegant as well.
The sighting ribs on the Rizzinis are solid. This is a feature that more gunmakers might emulate. A solid rib is much better suited to a game-gun than a ventilated type because it is less prone to denting in the field. Many game-guns these days are equipped with 6mm vented ribs and these are almost guaranteed to get damaged if you use the guns a lot. I am also fond of the aesthetics of the solid rib (which appears solid externally but is, in fact, hollowed to save weight). To my eye, it is less fussy than a ventilated rib and contributes to clean lines on a gun.
Paul specifies automatic safeties, a sensible feature on any field gun. Paul also orders extra-long stocks which may be cut down to accommodate most length of pull requirements (those on the test gun were close to 15½in). Knowing the tastes of shooting men, Paul also pays a supplement to Battista Rizzini for upgraded walnut and silver ovals. This is sound commercially as well as aesthetically; I have lost count of how many glassy-eyed gun owners have thrust stocks at me with comments along the lines of: “look at the wood on this…”
Finally, Paul adds two more stylistic touches to his package – long trigger-guard tangs, which look more elegant (the short-tang guards are the mark of a machine-made gun and are a particular bête noire of his), and gold serial numbers inlaid on the elongated tangs.
The latter is not only a quality touch but a useful feature if you are travelling with guns and need to confirm the serial number quickly (as one does when passing through airports). Paul has even made sure that the numbers are large enough for middle-aged eyes to read without strain!
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