By Michael Yardley of The Field
Friday, 15 July 2011
Aim for Gunmaker's Row at Blenheim, the guns available at the CLA Game Fair this year are a group not to be missed.
One can go "gun blind" in Gun-makers' Row, spoilt for so much choice that decision anxiety sets in. Take it steady, don't be too quick to part with your cash and, if possible, try any gun that interests you. Use the CLA Game Fair as a chance to identify what appeals to you and as a means of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
There's lots on offer. GMK will have two new premium models which it is keeping very hush-hush about, and also the usual range of Beretta, Benelli, Tikka and Sako hardware.
The latest, first-class, budget Silver Pigeon I deserves its success (RRP £1,495, Field; £1,580, Sport). The SV10 chassis is available in game version as the Perennia and competition (or high-bird) guise as the Prevail. Prices start at £1,935. My preference is the 30in game-gun.
One Beretta likely to attract attention is the GunPod-equipped A400 semi-automatic. The gismo counts the number of cartridges shot and records velocity and temperature. Less sexy, but nevertheless good, are the GMK Arrieta side-by-sides, the Crown and Viscount. They offer good value for traditionalists, with prices from just £2,695. GMK will also have the well-priced Tikka rifles (which start from £995) and the much-improved Sako 85. This has a better magazine and feed system than the older 75. In wood-stocked Hunter form, it starts at £1,565, and is an inexpensive way to acquire a good big-bore bolt gun as well as a classically styled stalking rifle.
The Browning stand has interesting and affordable guns as well. The mid-priced gun that really caught my attention this year -because it is truly outstanding for the money - is the new, back-bored and barrel-lightened 525. The sporter is my favourite for either game or clays, although there is a narrower-ribbed game version. Prices begin at a modest £1,630. As a pigeon- or bunny-basher or, indeed, for wildfowling, the Maxus semi-automatic offers no frills but good shooting qualities. And, it is noticeably soft in recoil (from £1,133). The Heritage sideplated, 20-bore over-and-under (£5,500) is better looking than its angular 12-bore sibling and already doing well. The X-bolt rifles are impressive and well priced (from £888 with a stainless, fluted barrel). There are also new T-bolt .22s and .17s (from £470). B25 shotguns from the Custom Shop will be on display as well (from about £11,500).
ASI will unveil two new side-by-sides. One is the AyA No 2 deluxe, based on the elegant and successful No 2, with better finish, priced around £8,500. It comes in all bore sizes and has laser-etched engraving - ritzy looks without the added cost of hand engraving. ASI also shows the Artemis square-bar, sideplated over-and-under gun made by Batista Rizzini. It has bold acanthus engraving and a starting price of £4,080. The popular round-bodied guns, which start from £3,388 and go to beyond £5,000 for the EL (Extra Lusso) model, will be there, too.
EJ Churchill has done very well with its Continental range of Arrieta-made side-by-sides, which continue in Crown, Regal and Hercules form. The Crown is £4,250 for a 12-bore and £4,750 for 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410 versions (all of which can be made to measure at no extra cost and come cased). The Regal, a round-bar gun, is £6,595 in 12-bore and £7,150 for other sizes, and the Hercules - a traditional square-bar classic deluxe best with assisted opening on the Holland pattern - is £12,375 (£13,550 in smaller bores).
The big news from Churchill, though, is a new range of over-and-unders, also available as Crown, Regal and Hercules. The Crown is built by Perazzi and costs £9,995 with 30in or 32in barrels. The Regal is made in association with the French firm Damas and costs about £15,000. The very pretty and super-shooting Hercules is a whopping £21,000. There is no difference in price for 12- and 20-bores with any of these guns. The Regal and Hercules over-and-unders come with an accessory - a Damascus-bladed penknife with a serial number that matches the gun's and grips of the same wood. The final Churchill product is a new, English-made, Imperial over-and-under at £36,000. It
is built on a non-detachable trigger-plate action and has deep-scroll engraving on the sideplates.
Guerini UK has now evolved into Anglo Italian Arms (AIA) which will distribute both Guerini and Fabarm shotguns exclusively within the UK and the Republic of Ireland from now on. It will launch this enterprise at the Game Fair. Guns to watch out for include the new Guerini 12-bore round-action game-gun with a solid narrow rib at £3,855; there will be a slightly heavier sporter version with a vented rib. There is also the new Challenger Sporter, heavily engraved, no sideplates, and available with 30in and 32in barrels at a highly competitive RRP of £2,475.
AIA will use this opportunity to launch a Fabarm round-bodied over-and-under - the name is yet to be decided but it will be priced at £1,875, making it the lowest-priced round-bodied over-and-under on the British market. There will be other guns from the Fabarm range, which offer Tribore back-bored barrels; these in-clude chokes specially designed to use tight constrictions with steel shot.
William Powell's big news is the Marquis, a Spanish-made, English-specified, side-by-side sidelock ejector, available in all bore sizes in 28in and 30in. The 12-bore is a very reasonable £2,975 with scroll engraving on colour case-hardened action; the 20-bore costs 10% more. Also on show is Mark Osborne's baby, the new Juvenis, a full sidelock available in all bore sizes; the .410 is a good-shooting, relatively affordable side-by-side for young shots. It is an ejector with 26in barrels and 14in stock and costs £2,995 at the Game Fair. The line includes the Monarch, a square-bar sidelock with bouquet-and-scroll engraving in a compact canvas and leather case for £4,500.
The Eclipse is a round-bodied sidelock ejector engraved in open scroll and comes in a lightweight leather case at £6,250. The Linhope aims to replicate an old pigeon or wildfowl gun. It is a sidelock with capped full-pistol grip, flat, file-cut rib, best bouquet-and-scroll and weighs about 8lb - a heavyweight intended for high birds or the marsh. Cost in a leather case is £7,495. The top-of-the-range side-by-side is the Zenith assisted opener with deep-cut acanthus engraving and a traditional, lightweight, leather case at £11,500. Most are available in 12- and 20-bore, many in 16- and 28-bore, too, with options of colour case-hardening, coin finish, steel shot proof, single triggers, and so on. Bespoke costs no more and Powells offers a photographic library of actual walnut blanks at the factory.
Powells offers two over-and-unders: the Phoenix round body, which has deep acanthus engraving and comes in a leather-covered ABS case with velvet lining at £5,450; and the Pegasus sideplated, square bar. It looks like a traditional Powell, with fine bouquet-and-scroll engraving. Game scene is an option at no extra cost. It's priced at £10,750 either way.
William Evans will be showing its highly successful and elegant St James 12- and 20-bore over-and-under with house engraving. It costs £12,000 and is made in association with Guerini. Also on show will be the new Pall Mall sidelock made by Grulla at £15,000. Evans is now the sole UK agent for Grulla and offers a range of these respected Spanish guns from £6,000 to £20,000.
Anderson Wheeler, the new kid on the London gunmaking block, will be exhibiting over-and-under shotguns and rifles. Its new field-grade, sideplated over-and-under based on an Italian action is similar to some of the others I've mentioned but, for its level of finish, is well priced at £11,400. Its field-grade side-by-side, built on an AyA-made barrelled action, costs £13,200 and shoots very well. Both of these guns bear London proof marks only. Anderson Wheeler also offers a best-quality London-made shotgun from only £27,500 as well as bespoke bolt and double rifles. Stuart Anderson Wheeler is an experienced professional hunter and naturalist. He is putting great effort into getting his company on the gunmaking (and fishing) map.
Edgar Brothers will have its usual wide range of well-priced shotguns and rifles, including a new Huglu .410 over-and-under for £800 (RRP). There are also bigger-bore guns and semi-autos from Huglu, Hatsan (with new wildfowling 3in and 31⁄2in guns that are extremely good value), and, at the other end of the market, the excellent Dakota bolt rifle from the US (an improved Mauser '98, priced from £5,500). Edgars is taking over as the Zoli importer and will also show the interesting, new Nosler 48 rifle (£5,000) as well as Brno over-and-under rifles. It continues to import Remington which, besides producing the popular 700 rifle, is offering a new Versmax semi-automatic shotgun operating on a novel gas system.
Viking Arms is also bringing in new semi-automatic shotguns, notably the budget Armsan from Turkey (£499). But, for traditionalists there is the Merkel 50 "British" side-by-side, sideplated, with an RRP of £9,500, and the 202E over-and-under at £9,500. This is available with a single trigger and semi-pistol grip. Merkel also has a new Helix model bolt rifle at £3,500. And, as Edgars continues with the popular Remington rifles, Viking does likewise with the popular Ruger. The 10-22 .22 is a best seller. The Mauser 98-style Hawkeye centrefire (from £990) - a development of the 77 - is also worth consideration.
Alan Rhone offers Krieghoff shotguns and rifles. The sliding action K80 shotgun - an evolution of the Remington 32 - starts at £9,500. Krieghoff non-ejector double rifles start at £4,400 (£6,100 for the big calibres). You can get an over-and-under double rifle for a very modest £3,500. The firm will display the new Lynx range of straight-pull rifles for the first time, priced from about £3,750.
Open Season will be displaying Blaser shotguns and rifles as well as Mauser. Guns
to seek out include the new F3 Professional over-and-under (which arrives in a 34in version for the first time), the R8 straight-pull rifle and the elegant Mauser 03, a conventional bolt with some interesting features, which is now available in both an English model and a big bore for Africa.
RUAG will be displaying its full Perazzi range, including MX8 and MX12 guns, which start from £6,800. This represents especially good value for a potentially bespoke gun.
The grand old firm of Holland & Holland will show its Centenary .375 bolt-action rifle which has a top tang like a double rifle; it extends to the nose of the butt. Prices start at £31,000; Exhibition grade costs £47,000.
Westley Richards, another grand old firm, will be showing its superbly crafted, bespoke shotguns and rifles including its traditional fixed and detachable lock boxlocks (from £35,000), a new sidelock shotgun (from £46,500 in 12-bore) and a new sidelock double rifle (£69,000), which incorporates a Westley top lever (unlike the new sidelock shotgun). You can still get a .500 nitro express double, boxlock rifle from Westley Richards for £35,000, which is good value when one explores the cost of these specialist rifles.
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