A 20-bore with 30in barrels is Michael Yardley’s preferred game gun. So how would this French-made over-and-under fare?
Michael Yardley prefers to use 20-bores with 30in barrels for game shooting, so was intrigued to try the new Chapuis C35 20-bore.
For more gun reviews, the Breda 12-bore Zenith L is well-made, offers value for money and is future-proof, too.
CHAPUIS C35 20-BORE
This month’s test looks at a Chapuis C35 20-bore imported into the UK by GMK of Fareham, better known for its Beretta and Benelli brands. Beretta has, however, now taken an interest in the long-established French gunmaker (as it has in GMK itself). Chapuis Armes, based near St Etienne, is a mid-sized firm that has adopted some modern methodology but retains an artisan approach. It produces both shotguns and rifles, and also owns the manufacturing rights for Manurhin revolvers.
The test gun weighs in at 7lb and boasts a non-selective mechanical single trigger – so, it is not dependent on recoil to activate the mechanism and multichokes. It sits in a range that includes similar guns with extra finish and sideplates. For example, the C135 model above the C35 shares a similar mechanical design, but has hand engraving and better wood. The test gun looks smart, nevertheless. Initial impressions are of an elegant, well-presented shotgun that is attractively but not ostentatiously decorated. The rounded action is especially low in profile. Its proportions as a 20-bore are appealing.
The engraving on the Chapuis – which looks like laser work – is unusually good. There are vignettes of gamebirds on the action walls (partridges to the left side, pheasants to the right, with woodcock on the belly) surrounded by tight scrollwork. I am not usually a fan of game scenes that are not hand cut but these are an exception. The scroll is most attractive, too (and an action covered with it alone would look good). Neither the game scenes nor the scrollwork looked thin, as is sometimes the case with mechanically applied engraving.
Moving on to the stock, the form of it was pleasing. The shape of the butt was well conceived, the comb had a proper taper, the grip was good, too, with a subtle right-hand palm swell (no impediment, but I would have preferred it to be absent). The shape and radius of the grip were fundamentally good, although I found myself reaching for the trigger slightly. It was not so much a case of the grip being too long but of the angle and position of the trigger blade needing slight modification. The fore-end was of rounded, but not bulbous, field pattern – one of the best that I have encountered recently.
The stock is attached to the action by means of a conventional stock bolt (almost universal in machine-made, over-and-unders now and an economic alternative to the vertical ‘breech-pin’ used in most bespoke shotguns). It may be revealed by removing a wooden butt sole plate. The fixing screws for the latter are slotted – much better than the ugly Phillips crossheads that are often used for this purpose. Stock measurements also impressed. The length of pull was 15in with a drop of 1⅜in forward and 2⅛in to the rear of the comb. These are ideal modern shelf measurements. My only criticism concerns the pronounced toe (½in extra as measured from the middle of the trigger) and the lack of shoulder support at the bump/heel of the stock. The measurement to heel was almost the same as the length to the middle of the butt plate. My preference as a standard measurement, meantime, would have been ¼in or ⅜in extra at the toe and ⅛in or 3/16in at heel – a little extra at heel prevents slipping in recoil.
The Chapuis’s barrels are monobloc, multichoked and fleur-de-lys proofed for steel with 3in (76mm) chambers. They were well presented inside and out with 15.9mm bores (wider than some) and mid-length forcing cones. The narrow, solid sight rib was particularly good and finished with a well-proportioned brass bead at the muzzles. Joining ribs were solid, save for the area beneath the fore-end. This is commonly encountered as a means to reduce frontal weight. Nevertheless, the point of balance of the C35 is about ¾in forward of the hinge pin so, consequently, it felt a little barrel heavy.
The low-profile action of the Chapuis is different from the mass-produced norm. The usual stud pins provide trunnion hinging for bifurcated barrel lumps machined into the sides of the monobloc, but the locking system is less conventional. Trianguloid, wedge-headed bolts come out from either side of the action face and engage small bites machined into the ejector extractors. Usually one sees such recesses cut directly into the rear of the monobloc or breech. The basic principle is similar but the location different, as is its arrow-like frontal form. The C35 has a supplementary locking system as well. A shallow rear lump on the monobloc beneath the bottom chamber engages to the rear of the action into a cavity that has a replaceable steel draw to its front. Flat cocking bars are positioned centrally. The action is powered by conventional helical springs. A non-selective safety catch is automatic.
I use 30in 20-bores for most of my game shooting, so I am always interested to compare them. The test gun was a good weight at 7lb but with this svelte style of round-bar gun a couple of ounces less might be welcome, especially from the barrels. The balance was slightly forward, but not grossly so. The C35 proved user friendly. Felt recoil was lower than average. The mechanical trigger functioned well and pulls were not too heavy. I liked the proportions and depth of the grip; the slight palm swell was not too off-putting. I found myself reaching for the trigger a bit; the blade would benefit from being set back slightly. The thumbpiece was small but the ramped safety was good and positive in action. I liked the narrow solid sighting rib, refined stock shapes and traditional finish. Overall, the Chapuis was comfortable to shoot and forgiving in use. A stylish gun, well presented and not overly expensive.
Chapuis C35 20-bore
♦ RRP: £3,995
♦ GMK, Bear House, Concorde Way, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 5RL
♦ 01489 579999