The best shotguns in the world on one definitive list. Does your favourite make the grade? English or Continental? Side-by-side or over-and -under?

THIS FEATURE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2007

The best shotguns in the world – what makes them? Personal taste, artisan craftsmanship, expense? A favoured and ancient AYA might shoot like a dream and knock the highest of birds of out of the sky, but it won’t make the top spot according to the next man, who wouldn’t swap a Beretta 692 for its weight in gold.

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Anyone who has an interest in the sport will hold their own opinion as to what makes the best gun. The shooting world is packed to the gunnels with people who all share the thrill of the sport but have very different criteria for the shotguns they use.

However, when it comes to the best shotguns in the world there are some sure fire shotguns that even the most cantankerous would agree on. The Field has sifted through the myriad option to reveal the definitive list of the world’s 20 best shotguns. These best shotguns are at the apex of the gun world.

It is an onerous task to choose the world’s best 20 shotguns. There is the inevitable difficulty of judging old against new, form against beauty, value for money over performance.

CRITERIA

Design excellence, aesthetic quality, overall form, reliability, decorative detail, integrity of materials, value for money and shooting performance might all be considered. Practically speaking, any gun listed must remain in production, too.

There are certain other questions: what has been especially significant or innovative? What cannot be left out? What really ‘sings’ when you shoot it?

The experience of using the guns detailed (with a couple of exceptions), and the overall impression that they have left with regard to shooting characteristics and manufacturing quality have been of paramount importance in compiling the list.

THE BEST SHOTGUNS IN THE WORLD

Purdey side-by-side self-opening sidelock

The Purdey sidelock is made at the firm’s Hammersmith factory by a combination of craft skills and high technology (both being used wherever an advantage in the quality of the finished product can be achieved). Traditional action decoration includes classic hand-cut Purdey rose-and-scroll engraving, but other options are possible at greater cost.

From the technical perspective, the Purdey gun is possibly the greatest side-by-side ever made. It cocks on closing (unlike the Holland & Holland Royal, which became its great rival), so the springs are at rest when the gun is disassembled. Another clever feature of the design, created by Frederick Beesley and sold to Purdey for £55 in the late-Victorian era, is that one limb of the V-type mainspring is used to power the tumbler (hammer) in each lock and the other the self-opening feature.

The refined ‘WEM’ ejector mechanism is a modification of the Southgate over-centre type (long the favourite of the gun trade) but requires finer adjustment than others of similar principle. The Purdey’s work is also singular and rarely copied because of its complexity (it should be noted, however, that the gun was first offered as a non-ejector in the 1880s). Finally, the Purdey is as famous for balance as its impeccable design, fit and build quality. It has always tended to be a little heavier than some of its competitors and many experienced shots would say it shoots the better for it. Prices start at about £57,000 including VAT.

My choice would be either a 29in barrelled 16- or 20-bore game-gun with standard rose-and-scroll or a similarly decorated heavy, side-clipped action 30in or 31in barrelled pigeon-gun – which might be just as well set up for high birds and sporting clay-pigeons. I am especially fond of the generously proportioned, bowed stock on Purdey pigeon-guns.

Holland & Holland Royal side-by-side

Renowned for its reliability and more copied than any other sidelock action, the Holland & Holland Royal is the other great sidelock side-by-side design. It is a rebounding lock-bar action sidelock (although some early Royals had non-rebounding locks). As with the Purdey, the Holland incorporates intercepting safety sears, which prevent the tumblers from hitting the striker unless the trigger has been pulled. It also incorporates a Southgate-type ejector system.The Royal has been in constant production since the 1890s in more or less its modern form. I am especially fond of its handling qualities.

The Holland ‘diamond’ straight grip is both elegant and efficient. The aesthetics are generally good and Holland’s distinctive, deep scroll is both beautiful and practical (although, as with most other bespoke makers, other engraving options may be specified). In its latest 12-bore guise the Royal is my favourite shooting side-by-side game-gun. It costs £49,530 excluding VAT in 12-, 16- and 20-bore. The .410 and 28-bore versions start at £52,500 excluding VAT. I would order the standard gun with 28in or 29in barrels with a coin-finished action. It is an outstanding classic gun that will not disappoint ? a very safe bet if you are investing in a new best gun.

Boss sidelock side-by-side

Like the modern Holland, the Boss is a non-rebounding bar-lock gun that is cocked by the fall of its barrels. Like the Purdey and the Holland, it features intercepting safety sears to block the fall of the tumbler if it should fall without the trigger being pulled. Where the Boss differs from both the Purdey and the Holland is in its coil-spring ejector system. These are housed in the fore-end and operate slides, which press on rods acting on the ejector legs on the conventional split extractors.

One advantage of the coil spring over the more common V-spring is the fact that even when broken the spring will usually activate the ejector until a replacement can be procured. The Boss has a number of other useful features. The extractor legs raise the unfired shells to the same degree as that of an ejected shell, just more slowly and in a smoothly graduated manner rather than with the sharp kick applied to the fired shell. The extractors rise at the speed at which the gun is opened and, because the shells are held well proud of the breech, insertion and extraction of unfired shells is easy with cold or gloved fingers. It costs £55,000 plus VAT for an exhibition-grade 12-, 16- or 20-bore gun (the firm?s only grade). It’s more for 28-bores: £60,000 plus VAT; and .410s cost £65,000.

My ideal Boss would have a round bar and the firm’s famous single trigger. I would also specify that the wrist be made a little larger than normal to ensure good purchase. As far as bore is concerned, I would opt for a 29in 12-bore or a 30in 16-bore. Weight should be something around 6lb 6oz for the 16-bore and 6lb 8oz or 6lb 10oz (just a little heavier than the old London norm) for the 12-bore.

Round action side-by-side as made by David McKay Brown and Dickson & MacNaughton

Although it is understated in external form, this is an especially elegant gun. Dickson & Murray patented the round action in 1882. It is the strongest of all side-by-side designs because less metal is cut out of the action bar. The lock work is mounted on a trigger plate and can be removed in one piece from the underside of the action. The round action side-by-side is cocked by the fall of the barrels and its great merit is that while the action bar is strong it doesn’t weaken the hand of the stock. Consequently, the Dickson-style gun can be very light yet robust, with weight centred in the forward part of the action around the hinge-pin. This creates liveliness and makes it very pleasant to shoot.

The mechanical efficiency is great in respect of cocking of the locks as well. The round action is, in effect, an easy opener without the need for extra spring assistance. A properly weighted 12-bore (about 6lb 8oz) will, when broken in, usually cock itself with the fall of the barrels. The gun is also easy to close because of its good design. I have found the 12-bore McKay Brown version performs well with excellent practical shooting qualities. Cost is £26,000 excluding VAT and engraving (classic Scottish scroll adding about £2,050 to the price).

Remanufactured Stephen Grant side lever 12-bore

I have always thought the Grant side lever one of the most beautiful guns ever made. My uncle had a pair in his gunroom and they left an impression on me at an early age. Now, thanks to the new remanufacturing service offered by Atkin, Grant & Lang, one may acquire what is effectively a new Grant.

Atkin, Grant & Lang, under the direction of Ken Duglan, has developed a service where it takes a vintage gun in suitable condition (with a structurally sound, crisply engraved action), and uses it as the base for the creation of a new gun. This is not a restoration service as such, although the action will be vacuum annealed by a hi-tech process and re-hardened. New barrels and woodwork will be made to customers’ requirements. All springs and swivels will be replaced (and disc set strikers if fitted). The gun will be presented in a new, fitted case with accessories. The cost is £15,000, which is excellent value considering that one ends up with what is in effect a new London gun.

I have not shot a remanufactured Grant yet but I have shot a remanufactured Lang extensively and it was first class in all departments – not only as good as new with regard to looks but especially good to shoot, with new barrels by Bill Blacker, a beautifully shaped and finished stock by Stephane Dupille and action work by Gary Hibbert – all modern masters.

Boss over-and-under (patented 1909)

With the low-profile bifurcated lump, Boss established the over-and-under configuration in England (though the stack-barrelled concept is very old and predates the side-by-side). In-stead of the barrels turning on a hinge-pin, they locate into tapering slots in bushes near the knuckle of the action. These turn in the action body as the gun is opened or closed (a feature not much copied because of its complexity though Bertuzzi, the Italian best gunmaker, has made Boss-style guns and Beretta made one in the early Thirties).

The Boss dispenses with the traditional side-by-side arrangement of placing lumps on the underside of the barrels. On an over-and-under such protrusions, still seen in some designs, necessitate a deeper action. Robertson, the design genius of Boss, took the lumps and placed one on either side of the lower barrel, solving the problem of action height. Under-barrel bolting/locking was replaced by small, square section pegs coming out of the breech face, which engaged with bites on each side of the bottom chamber mouth.

The action of the Boss also has draws and wedges, whereby a concave face on the rear bifurcated lump engages a corresponding convex face on the inner-action walls. The ejectors on the Boss over-and-under are of the coil-spring type used on Boss side-by-side guns. The success of the gun lies with its combination of ease of use and light weight (until recently, about 6½lb in 12-bore was the norm). It was also one of the first English guns avail-able with a truly reliable single trigger. The 12- 16- and 20-bore cost £75,000 plus VAT while 28-bore and .410 cost £85,000 plus VAT. I’d be tempted by a 12-bore, but I would not have it made too light – no less than 6lb 12oz.

Purdey Woodward over-and-under

In 1913, Woodward patented a similar low-profile over-and-under action to Boss. However, it incorporated a tongue-and-groove system, which locked the barrels to the side of the action walls and used a different hinging arrangement whereby the full-width hinge of the traditional side-by-side and earlier over-and-unders was replaced with stud-pins at the knuckle instead of rotating bushes, as in the Boss. The Woodward arrangement has since been adopted by Beretta, Perazzi and others.

Purdey acquired Woodward and its famous over-and-under design in 1948 when Charles Woodward retired. Woodward?s take on the over-and-under mirrored the Boss one in the utilisation of bifurcated lumps on either side of the under barrel rather than the traditional Purdey under-bolts employed on side-by-sides. This strategy enables the gun to be made with a reduced depth of action and gives it a more streamlined appearance.

The ejectors adopted by Woodward are of the over-centre type, but they are of a complex design. To be successful, the many interlocking faces require the best workmanship. The Woodward is also notable for its good gape, which makes loading easier than in some over-and-under designs. Prices start at £67,500 including VAT. My recommendation would be a double-trigger 20-bore with 30in barrels, colour case-hardened action and house scroll.

Browning Superposed over-and-under

The Browning Superposed, also known as the B25, was invented by John Moses Browning in around 1920 and was first marketed in 1930. Unlike the more complex Boss and Woodward over-and-under designs, the Browning – conceived with mass production in mind – reverts to the conventional side-by-side system of lumps positioned beneath the barrel and hence makes use of a full-width hinge-pin (necessitating a deeper-action profile but offering good bearing surfaces).

With regard to locking, the Superposed has a wide, flat bolt which engages slot bites beneath the bottom chamber mouth (copied in the Winchester 101 and other simplified versions). The ejector system involves spring-powered hammers in the knuckle end of the fore-end iron. This is a simple and most efficient system. The butt and grip shape on the B25 are typically good too, provided that the flutes at the nose of the comb are not too exaggerated. The Browning stock has served as a pattern for other manufacturers.

The Superposed is a design icon and has proved itself for more than 75 years in the field. It is still made by traditional methods in Belgium with prices starting at about £8,500 depending on embellishment. Cheaper but no less rugged models are also being produced in Japan by Miroku with prices from around £1,200. The Japanese-made gun is slightly simplified and involves less handwork but offers excellent value (and the similar Miroku model 60s and 70s are some of the best buys on the market). I would go for a non-side plated Belgium-made gun with simple scroll and 30in barrels.

Beretta 68 series over-and-under

Beretta makes some of the most popular game- and competition guns in the world (with its production of over-and-unders exceeding 50,000 per annum). The 68 series guns are famously reliable and made, even in cheaper grades, from first-class materials; Beretta is one of the few manufacturers to maintain a sophisticated metallurgical laboratory on site and pays a great deal of attention to production consistency.

All 68 series guns have bifurcated lumps, stud-pins at the knuckle and are locked by conical bolts that emerge from the breech face as the gun is closed and set in small round sockets either side of the top chamber mouth. This system is an especially clever feature of the design and, like the hinge-pins, may be replaced by over-size parts to allow for wear. The guns also have shoulder pieces on the barrels (replaceable in some competition models) which set in corresponding recesses in the top rear of the action wall.

Beretta 68 series guns in 12- and 20-bore are among the most popular game-guns in Britain, with good reason. Recent models are available with improved stock shapes and a chemically achieved decorative effect mimicking traditional colour case-hardening. My favourite game model, however, is the side-plated EELL in 20- or 28-bore. It’s a gun that will not disgrace itself in any company and costs under £4,115, a great deal of gun for the money. However, the plainer Silver Pigeons in 12- or 20-bore at around £1,500 are probably the best buys of all.

Perazzi over-and-under

The Boss and Woodward influenced low-profile action, seen in both drop- and fixed lock form, is admired within the gun trade and has been much copied by Kemen and Perugini & Visini among many others. The generic style also forms the basis of the new Purdey Sporter. The Perazzi action, like the Woodward and Beretta, dispenses with a full-width hinge-pin and replaces it with stud-pins at the knuckle. The action and barrel monobloc incorporate Boss-style draws and wedges and the bolting system is Boss-inspired as well.

Perazzis are renowned for their excellent trigger pulls and their barrel quality, and the company for its innovative approach to manufacturing. I have always found Perazzi barrels to be well regulated with regard to choke and point of impact. Indeed, I find them to be more consistent in this respect than those of any other firm (with the possible exception of Fabbri).

Perazzis appear to be especially good value at the moment, with prices beginning at about £4,500 regardless of bore. The price is the same for 12- or 20-bore models with fixed or detachable triggers and there is no extra charge for bespoke gunmaking. For game-shooting, my choice would be a longer barrelled 20-bore, though a 29½in 12-bore fixed lock MX12 would also tempt for field use.

Kemen

The Kemen is very similar to the Perazzi droplock gun. The action is of low profile like the Perazzi, with similar hinging and bolting, and also shares an ancestral debt to Boss and Woodward, who developed the bifurcated-lump system at the beginning of the last century. Kemens achieved great success when they were first launched not so much because of their build quality (the Perazzi was in some ways a better-engineered gun), but because of their outstanding handling relating to barrel weight and good stock shapes. They are light-for-length and most popular in 32in form.

Recently, the guns have not only improved with regard to manufacturing consistency but have been redesigned to reduce the width of the action at rear and thus allow for a stronger stock. This is a very significant development and makes the Kemen not only one of the world’s best-handling long guns but also more reliable with less risk of stocks cracking.

Briley chokes are an option on Kemens, but most UK buyers opt for a muzzle-light, quick-reacting, fixed-choke gun (although a significant number approach Nigel Teague for retro-fitting of his thin wall precision chokes that allow choke constriction choice without any weight penalty). A 32in Kemen with barrels weighing around 1,550g is one of the finest high-bird guns in existence and also an awesome tool for sporting clays. I use one myself much of the time (as well as several other Continental guns).

David McKay Brown round action over-and-under

This is an over-and-under gun of imaginative and patented design similar to the classic Scottish round action side-by-side mechanism but applied to a stack-barrelled configuration. It incorporates a bow-springed trigger-plate lock, as proven in the round action side-by-side. It has bifurcated barrel lumps and Boss-style draws and wedges within the barrel seat. Ejectors are not unlike those on a Perazzi, although David has made significant modifications. I have shot several 20-bore and 12-bore versions of this gun and they all performed well.

The basic gun costs £34,000 plus VAT and engraving (a cut-away floral scroll with a game scene costs £2,850). David’s latest projects include dedicated high-bird guns with long barrels and choke borings regulated for extreme range. He is also working on a 16-bore version. My choice, however, would be a 29in 12-bore with Celtic engraving and a coin-finished action.

Fabbri over-and-under

The firm of Fabbri, developed by design genius Ivo Fabbri (who also had a hand in the development of the Perazzi gun), and now run by his son Tulio, has the distinction of producing one of the world?s most expensive and admired guns (prices begin at around £80,000 without engraving). Fabbri is a great innovator when it comes to hi-tech manufacture and makes no secret of the fact that its very pricey wares are predominantly machine-made. But it has turned the use of machinery into an art in itself (as Purdey is now doing). Fabbri is especially popular in the US, where the firm has become famous not only for game- but for its pigeon-shooting guns as well.

Fabbri produces some shotguns entirely fabricated of stainless steel; titanium also features in a few of its fabulous creations. The firm has made a few side-by-sides but it is best known for exquisitely machined over-and-unders. These incorporate many innovations, such as diamond-coated sears in the locks and barrels that are superbly true and brought together with minimum stress by non-traditional methods. In mechanical function principle, though, they resemble London over-and-under guns (as do those of most other premier league Italian makers such as Piotti, Desenzani, Bosis and Bertuzzi). The second-hand value of Fabbris remains high and the firm’s order books are full. Unlike some very expensive guns, Fabbris have a reputation for reliability, with many guns made 30 or more years ago still in regular hard use.

I have no great experience of these guns so I will not suggest a potential specification, but many of the people whose opinion I value tell me that Fabbris are truly extraordinary, a gunmaking triumph. My decorative preference, I suspect, would probably be for the very tightest scroll that is on offer at the Creative Arts studio, the engraving firm in Gardone that most top Italian makers use (under the direction of Cesare Giovannelli, it has also been responsible for developing the machine- and laser-engraving processes adopted by middle-market manufacturers).

Holland & Holland Royal over-and-under

The first Royal model over-and-unders were seen before the Second World War but were of a very different design to modern guns and somewhat clumsy by comparison. In the early Nineties Holland completely redesigned the Royal over-and-under. The modern gun has bifurcated lumps and back-action locks. The ejectors are powered by leaf springs in the fore-end and the gun is available with either a traditional double trigger or an inertia-operated single trigger.

The Royal over-and-under is available in just about any conceivable specification: 12, 16- and 20-bore with barrels, rib and stock dimensions and configuration to customer requirements. Prices begin at £60,375 plus VAT; 28-bore and .410 guns cost £63,525. My favourite over-and-under game-gun bar none (and the one I would buy with the Royal side-by-side and a Purdey pigeon-gun if my Lottery numbers came up) is the 29in 20-bore weighing in at around 6lb 4oz. It is a superb tool, not flashy, with the traditional Holland & Holland scroll, but beautiful and a wonderful gun to use. One can find more obsessively finished guns but none that shoot better.

Bosis side-by-side

Bosis side-by-side guns are imported into the UK by both Paul Roberts (020 7622 1131) and Victor Chapman (01206 213068). The guns offer excellent design, flexibility of specification and good value. The side-by-side is currently known as the Queen model (and there is a Woodward-style over-and-under called the Michael Angelo). The side-by-sides are of a non self-opening Holland & Holland Royal pattern like so many others, with intercepting safety sears in conventional bar-action locks.

Bosis guns exhibit excellent design and good workmanship in all departments. The lock work, in particular, impresses when disassembled. Pricing, typically, is about half of a best London gun at about £23,000 including VAT. It is also interesting to note that recently Bosis has been undertaking action and lock work for the English trade. If I ordered one, it would be a 29in barrelled side-by-side with a flat, pigeon-style rib weighing about 6lb 10oz – a gun that I would use with 1oz payload cartridges as an all-round game-gun. The Bosis side-by-side offers especially good value at the moment.

AyA No 1 Deluxe – English finish

For the first half of the 20th century, Spain’s reputation as a gunmaking country was somewhat sullied by the production of thousands of cheap guns. In the Sixties, though, enterprising firms such as ASI (the importers of AyA) discovered that Spanish craftsmen were still making better quality sporting guns by traditional methods for home consumption. These were often modelled (sometimes with peculiarities) on those of the famous British makers such as Holland & Holland and Purdey.

ASI guided AyA into making both sidelocks and boxlocks to precisely British specifications and achieved great success. The recent AyA No 2 Model round bodied gun is attractive, but hardly bears comparison to the superb No 1 Deluxe, now available with English engraving and finish. The Holland & Holland-style engraving is usually executed by Geoff Moore and prices begin at £13,750 including VAT (with reasonable supplements applying to extras such as single triggers, self-opening and unusual stock specifications).

I have shot the gun in both 12- and 20-bore versions. Both look very good but the latter is especially sweet to shoot and represents excellent value by modern standards. Only an expert eye would distinguish it from a best English gun on cursory inspection. The AyA No 2 sidelock, though it may not bear aesthetic comparison to the extra finish gun, might be noted as an extraordinarily reliable shooting tool (like most AyA guns).

William & Son side-by-side sidelock

William & Son makes a variety of side-by-side and over-and-under sporting guns (about 12 annually). My favourite is the 12-bore Holland & Holland-style self-opening double-trigger sidelock ejector gun. This, like the Holland & Holland Royal that was the inspiration for it, is not especially innovative but is beautifully made and finished, maintaining the highest standards of the London gun trade.

The gun, which is usually built a little narrower than the Holland Royal and has similar Southgate ejectors, is entirely bespoke and would be presented with exhibition-grade walnut and deep-scroll engraving (or anything else at the client’s request). A typical 28in 20-bore would weigh in at 6lb 4oz and cost from £36,500 plus VAT; 28-bore and .410 models are available at the same price. For the quality offered, the guns represent good value.

Caesar Guerini side-plated over-and-under

Caesar Guerini guns are made with advanced technology in Italy. They offer sound design, style and great value. The side-plated models, which typically cost between £1,595 and £4,250 are, in my opinion, one of the best over-and-under buys on the market. Guerinis are available in various models with and without side-plates, but the latter are especially attractive and have proved a great hit with both gun dealers and buyers.

The guns, produced in a recently purpose-built factory, are innovative with regard to their method of manufacture but not especially radical in their design. The specification includes bifurcated lumps, a Browning-style bolting system and monobloc barrels. The hammers are powered by coil springs. With regard to shooting qualities, the 20-bore with 30in barrels and semi-pistol grip would be my recommendation. If you cannot quite afford a Beretta EELL this excellent modern gun is a good second choice.

Blaser F3 over-and-under

The Blaser is a radical new design with an exceptionally low-profile, fast-lock time and back bored barrels equipped with first-class Briley extended chokes (cylinder, skeet, modified, improved modified and full). The inline hammers and firing pins make the most efficient use of kinetic energy and offer some theoretical advantages. The twin safety mechanisms include the usual trigger block and clever intercepting safety sears.

The Blaser F3 shotgun combines computer controlled manufacturing techniques with traditional handfitting where required. In its plainer grades, the F3 is also surprisingly inexpensive for a quality German product. Prices start at around £2,700, inclusive of VAT, for the basic game-gun and can rise to somewhere over £10,000 for the side-plated Royal model.

The external form of the new F3 gun is incredibly elegant. The action has clean lines and, in its basic form, an attractive and practical stone-grey finish. My favourite model is the 30in, narrow-ribbed game-gun. This specification is, in my opinion, the best handling in the range. It has proved to be effective in the field and also ideal for the occasional foray on to the clay-pigeon layout.

The Cynergy is a radical new design made in Japan for Browning by Miroku. The gun is built around a new low-profile ‘Monolock’ over-and-under action. Instead of having barrels that pivot on a full-width hinge-pin like most Brownings or stud-pins like a Beretta or Perazzi, the Cynergy has massive bearing surfaces machined into its monobloc. These engage matching surfaces inside the walls of the action body. The Monolock is clever and innovative and results in a very low action profile – one of the lowest I’ve seen in a 12-bore.

It has several other interesting features included in its basic specification: back-bored barrels, interchangeable chokes, chrome-lined chambers for better rust resistance and a mechanical single trigger (preferable in a game-gun where a variety of cartridge payloads may be employed).

The butt is a modern, ergonomically efficient hog’s back design and the fore-end is angular but efficient. The Cynergy came out initially with an effective but sticky ‘Inflex’ recoil pad. Now it is available in more conventional form. In 20-bore with 28in or 30in barrels it handles especially well – light and lively but with great pointability and low perceived recoil. This is a gun for the modernist and costs around £2,000 in 12- or 20-bore. My favourite in the field is the 30in 20-bore.

The list above is not perfect, nor could it be. I suspect that the top Italian guns might have had more mention although, frankly, my experience of some of them is that they look great and are impeccably engineered but that they do not always shoot quite as well as their thoroughbred looks might suggest. The stock shapes and configuration sometimes let the beautifully finished metalwork down.

My observations are made through British eyes, of course. They are the eyes of a gunfitter, game- and pigeon-shooter and competitive clay-shot. To me, function always comes first.

What is the best shotgun in the world?

I shall fudge the answer by putting it in the context of price. If I had up to £1,500 to spend my choice would be a plain grade Beretta Silver Pigeon 12- or 20-bore. If I had between £3,000 and £4,000 to spend, I’d buy a Beretta EELL or side-plated Caesar Guerini. With £5,000 or so in the bank, I would opt for a Perazzi or Kemen (the latter being an exceptional high-bird gun as noted). Remanufactured vintage guns from Atkin, Grant & Lang represent excellent value and allow for the confident everyday use of a hundred-year-old gun built to your exact requirements. Bosis side-by-sides also represent excellent value when one begins to consider capital expenditure.

With unlimited funds, I would go for a new Holland Royal side-by-side or over-and-under in 12- and 20-bore respectively, or a Purdey pigeon-gun. If I were Italian, though, it might well have been a Fabbri. One gun on a desert island for the next 20 years? To use the vernacular, that’s a no-brainer: the plain Jane

Beretta Silver Pigeon

simply could not be bettered. It offers the most reliable bang for the least buck. I would have a 28in-barrelled 20-bore if cartridges were available (because the handling qualities mimic those of a much more expensive gun), or a 12-bore if they were not.