Impressed by its pointability and controllability, Michael Yardley comes close to awarding this unusual new side-by-side – made in Spain to imaginative British specification – full marks
The EJ Churchill 32in Crown Continental is an interesting gun, made in Spain to imaginative British specification, but Michael Yardley comes close to awarding it dix points.
For another gun from EJ Churchill that proves difficult to fault, read Michael Yardley’s review of the EJ Churchill Coronet over-and-under.
EJ CHURCHILL 32IN CROWN CONTINENTAL
This test gun immediately commands one’s interest. It is a 32in barrelled, single-trigger sidelock offered by EJ Churchill in association with the respected and long-established Spanish maker Arrieta. Weighing in at a hefty (but well balanced) 8lb 5oz, it might be useful for high-pheasant work or serious side-by-side clay shooting. It is a type of gun that has become noticeably more popular in recent years. William Powell now offers its “Linhope” high-birder (also made by Arrieta) and ASI has a high-bird specification AyA No.2 (and the new Rizzini “Exmoor” over-and-under, which will appear in these pages soon).
The Churchill Arrieta is built around a modified Holland & Holland-style sidelock action and has side-clips, as are often seen on pigeon guns. The square bar action is not
the broader pigeon style but typical in dimension of a normal game gun. It is probable that a standard bar has been employed to keep the price within reasonable limits – the gun has an RRP of £10,500, including VAT – and also to keep the weight down. With more weight amidships, a Long Tom might become too heavy.
The new gun is particularly well specified as far as its intended market is concerned. It is equipped with a flat, tapered (8mm-5mm) rib, an open-radius pistol grip and subtle beaver-tail fore-end. These are all thing that I might have chosen myself. When you first mount the gun, there is a near-ideal rib picture; the taper is especially good, leading the eye forward to focus at the target, the muzzle end is fine enough to offer precision in some circumstances. The larger-than-average but not bulky side-by-side grip provides enhanced purchase and control. The beaver-tail fore-end, reminiscent of some Purdeys for the US market, was an effective aid to muzzle control. There was plenty to hold onto and the front hand was kept away from potentially hot barrels. However, the fore-end was still slim enough and the hand close enough to the barrels not to impede natural pointing.
The chopper-lump, 70mm steel, proof barrels have fixed chokes – both full. Although I am a fan of tight chokes in serious side-by-sides intended for long-range work or clays, I would not put steel shot through them though, technically, the gun appears to be passed to do so. The barrels are well blacked and generally well presented. Putting them up to the light, they were straight internally and well struck. Forcing cones were of medium length and the internal bore-dimension was 18.5 – a good size for a gun that may use fibre-wad cartridges.
How did the EJ Churchill 32in Crown Continental come about? I asked Chris Cloke, the EJ Churchill gunroom manager. “What changed was Arrieta, with which we have had a long relationship, was able to offer 32in barrels and an improved, more reliable, mechanical single trigger – something we have hitherto shied away from. We decided to add a pigeon rib, too, side clips, beaver-tail fore-end, an open pistol grip. The first gun arrived in the summer. Everyone who picks it up loves it. It’s heavy but all seem to say: “I could shoot this.”
When I first mounted the EJ Churchill 32in Crown Continental, I was immediately impressed by its “pointability” – in weight and handling it felt much like one of my favourite over-and-unders. The stock shapes were also good and the “shelf” dimensions sensible. As tested, the stock drop was 1⅜in and 2in. The length of pull was a whisker over 15in and the cast was ¼in at heel and ⅜in at toe. All of these are on the money; I also liked the slightly higher than average comb, although bespoke measurements are available at no extra cost if required. The aesthetics of the gun are good, too, although my own preference would have been for colour case hardening over the competent rose-and-scroll engraving.
The action, as noted, is Holland & Holland inspired with fixed side-locks and cocking indicators. Disc-set strikers and the (automatic) safety is of the Purdey button style. The hinge pin is replaceable and there is a beaded edge to the trigger guard. I did not remove the locks but Arrietas are usually equipped with intercepting safety sears powered by tiny coil springs. The actioning is well done. I liked the form of the trigger, the positive action of the button safety and the full-sized thumbpiece on the top lever. One can also rest easy with the Southgate pattern ejector work – like the action, this is one of the most reliable systems ever devised.
The EJ Churchill 32in Crown Continental was an outstanding gun to use. I had no problem connecting with close “grouse”, even with 8lb-plus of mass and 32in barrels. Long birds were engaged with confidence and consistently smashed with the tight chokes. The single trigger offered good pulls and functioned flawlessly. Felt recoil was a little more than anticipated but I may have noticed this more than usual as the sharp rear edge of the right-hand drop point was impacting the soft skin at the base of my trigger finger. The barrels, which weigh 1,560 grams, felt as good as any yet tested. Overall, this is an excellent, well-conceived, modern side-by-side and it shot splendidly. It did, however, have a flaw: the right-hand side-clip was polished so well that it had what was in effect a razor’s edge to it. This has since been put right but resulted in a couple of cuts to my hand early in the test, which was distracting. I would order one without the thin, sharp, projections if possible and I would also specify that the drop-points were either absent or smoothed. Without the sharp edges, the EJ Churchill 32in Crown Continental would be getting close to dix points as few side-by-sides shoot this well. It would suit those used to over-and-unders, too.
EJ CHURCHILL 32IN CROWN CONTINENTAL
♦ Price: £10,500
♦ EJ Churchill, Park Lane, Lane End, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP14 3NS
♦ 01494 883227