London’s oldest name is now owned by an Irish company and its shotguns made in Italy using the latest CNC technology. However, it is an inexpensive way to discover the joys of a 20-bore, says Michael Yardley
London’s oldest name now has an Irish owner and is made in Italy, but the Cogswell & Harrison 20-bore is a pleasant gun to shoot. And it’s an inexpensive way to discover the joys of a modern 20-bore, says Michael Yardley.
For more on 20-bores, the MK60 Miroku 20-bores are quite the bargain in today’s market.
COGSWELL & HARRISON 20-BORE
This test, which concerns the new 30in Cogswell & Harrison 20-bore “Windsor” over-and-under, came about because I had recently shot its 12-bore sibling. In spite of its pedestrian looks, the gun shot well and offered mechanical integrity and value with a price point around £1,000 (something few makers seem able to achieve now). For those new to shooting, or those in need of a workhorse, the basic Italian machine-made over-and-unders seem to offer a good deal.
Our 20-bore test gun (RRP £1,125) is branded as a Cogswell & Harrison. This famous name, London’s oldest, is now owned by Irish shooting industry entrepreneur David Brennan of Ardee sports, who is based in County Lough. He bought it as a means to reach a wider market (his firm is already the biggest gun retailer and distributor in the Republic of Ireland). The Windsor, one of a new Cogswell & Harrison range, has been manufactured to specification by FAIR (Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini) in Italy. Some will think it sad that an old English name is attached to a predominantly Italian product; others, will note that no-one in these isles could produce anything similar for 10 times the price. If only they could. (Happily, some best-quality guns have recently been made in England under the Cogswell name, too.)
Cutting back to our chase, first impressions of the test gun are adequate; it’s not flashy but you would not expect it to be at the price point. The silver action has some shallow engraving upon it (light scroll and gamebirds) and stippling at the fences. There is the usual safety-cum-barrel selector and a top lever with a perforated thumbpiece. Wood is plain figured. General fit and finish are above average. The stock has a slim, full-pistol grip that is not too acutely angled and well chequered (by laser). The fore-end is of the usual schnabel type with a sliding fastener amidships.
The 30in monobloc, multichoked barrels boast a ventilated sighting rib well suited to the gun. It is flat, 6mm wide and nicely laid. There is a traditional metal bead front sight. Joining ribs are solid. The gun bears Italian steel proof for 3in (75mm) chambers. The bores are well finished and the blacking shows good preparation and lustre. The fit and finish of the ejector-work is neat, too, with decorative engine turning on the monobloc walls.
The wood grain on the test gun may be average but wood-to-metal fit was impeccable – a welcome result of CNC manufacture – and the stock finish was good (semi-matt oil). Stock dimensions were sensible as well. Length of pull was 14⅝in, which was, arguably, a tad short. Drop dimensions were 1⅜in at comb and almost 2¼in at heel, which is possibly a whisker low. The pleasantly shaped comb is quite thin; as a result, youngsters or women using the gun might need a comb raiser.
As a chap of 5ft 11in and average build, I found I could sometimes lose the bead when the gun was elevated and normal cheek pressure applied (⅛in less drop
would solve this problem). There was a bit of right-handed cast but not quite enough for my frame (I would add an ⅛in here as well). The general design of butt and fore-end was sound. A semi-pistol grip would suit the gun admirably in 20-bore and I would dispense with the lip to the fore-end so those who choose to might extend the hand.
My experience of these less-expensive, Italian-made guns has been generally positive. I have tended to prefer the 20-bore models to the 12s. The weight being similar – 6¼lb in this case – they handle much like a best 12 but with a bit more pointability if 30in-barrelled. The action profile is ideal in 20-bore, moreover – arguably a little high in 12 compared to guns that dispense with under lugs for locking.
FAIR has been around since the 1970s, Cogswell & Harrison since 1770. Cogswell was perhaps best known for making less-expensive guns to London design, some on the interchangeable principle. FAIR has been using machine technology since its inception. CNC now plays a huge part in well-priced Italian products. It is evident here in the action, monobloc machining and laser-applied engraving and chequering. London’s finest have long since imported the Continental technology – few guns at any price point are made without significant computer machining now. This gun is based on a simple trigger-plate design created for ease of manufacture. Half-a-dozen Gardonne makers have adopted it, most with connections to the Rizzini dynasty. Like a Beretta or Perazzi (or Woodward) there is no full-width hinge pin; instead, stud pins are mounted in the action walls near the knuckle. There is a full-width bolt that engages with a bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth in the Browning manner. It’s a well-proven and reliable arrangement.
I liked the way the little Coggy handled. Balancing a little forward of the hinge pin, it felt “right” as these 30in, machine-made 20-bores often do. I took it straight onto the towers at Atkin, Grant & Lang and it shot well. The 30in tubes suited its relative light weight perfectly and I did not need to slow down my swing. Using standard Lyalvale Express 24g test loads, felt recoil was comfortable. This might be put down to a good cartridge as well as good stock shapes and a not overly tight bore (15.9mm). Bottom line? You are unlikely to impress any parvenu friends but this is a pleasant gun to shoot. It would work well in the hands of a young shooter or lady shot, too (with the addition of a comb raiser). It is an inexpensive way to discover the joys of a well-sorted modern 20-bore.
Cogswell & Harrison 20-bore Windsor
♦ Price: £1,125
♦ Stable Yard, Hatfield Park, Hatfield, Herts AL9 5NQ (UK office)
♦ +353 41 6853711