Mike Yardley struggles to fault the gun on the practical front considering the price tag. He finds the EJ Churchill Coronet over-and-under shotgun is well designed and well decorated, shoots well and offers value for money.
The EJ Churchill Coronet over-and-under is a new addition to that firm’s Continental range, in this case made in association with the Italian company Zoli. Churchill also makes a stack-barrelled gun in association with Perazzi.
The basic form of the Coronet might be described as Perazzi-like although there are some significant differences to that marque as well as similarities. One thing this gun shares with the Perazzi MX8 is a detachable trigger lock (secured by means of an Allen key in the trigger guard rather than by a latch combined with the safety catch).
First impressions are generally positive. The gun looks a little chunky on first sight, the grip is quite large and the matt, silver-finished action is rather square but nevertheless it is attractive. The tight scroll and occasional rose engraving work well. Coverage is full though my inclination would be to extend the height of the side panels. The EJ Churchill name in a gold ribbon mid-action looks good and accentuates the tasteful and well-executed engraving (almost certainly the result of laserwork).
The barrels are monobloc. They have tight, full and full fixed chokes that can be regulated to requirements. The rib is an excellent 11mm to 7mm taper and vented (though a solid rib is an option). Joining ribs are vented, too. Chambers are 3in (76mm). Standard Italian proof marks are shown; with less choke, fleur-de-lis High Performance Proof is an option. (Steel shot is not advisable in any gun with more than 1⁄2 choke.) The internal measurement of the barrels is .726in (18.45mm) – on the tight side these days for a nominal 12-bore but a typical Italian measurement.
I have encountered Zoli guns intended for target-shooting marked at 18.6mm (.732in) but the slightly tighter bore size on this model could be an advantage for a game gun that may be used on cold days with fibre-wadded cartridges, when the issue of maintaining a good gas seal becomes more important.
I have been using Zoli guns for some while, not least because one of my shooting pals has a 32in sporting version and we have put a significant number of cartridges through it. This one, a dedicated game gun with 291⁄2in barrels, hits the scales at 7lb 15oz; the 32in game model may weigh a couple of ounces more. That might sound heavy but many shooters are moving towards longer, heavier guns, especially if using them on high birds as well as spring and summer clays.
The Coronet’s stock was made from good, quite-light walnut, well chequered and finished in oil. There was a full, wide-radius, pistol grip without a palm swell. The grip was well angled for me – I don’t like too tight a radius on a gun that is to be held up at the ready because I feel it places too much strain on the wrist. The standard stock dimensions were on the money (as I have come to expect from Churchills). Length of pull was a relatively long but sensible 151⁄4in; drop at comb just a whisker under 13⁄8in and drop at heel the industry average of 21⁄8in. All these are shelf measurements that I might have specified myself.
The action of the Coronet appears Perazzi-inspired but there are no draws and wedges on the inside of the action walls. The locking mechanism to the rear is similar to a Perazzi or Boss, though with two radiused projections protruding from the sides of the bottom chamber mouth meeting corresponding recesses in action. The gun is locked down by bolts that act on the almost square-cut bites created at the top of the projections. It’s a strong arrangement, combined with stud pin hinging and the usual bifurcated lumps.
The trigger unit detaches by means of an Allen key in a hole to the rear of the trigger guard. Workmanship within the action assembly as, indeed, throughout the gun, was well up to standard with clean machining and tight fitting in evidence. The trigger blade is well shaped. On the safety thumb-piece there is a barrel selector for the inertia-operated single trigger. This has been combined with a detachable lock mechanism. The safety itself is automatic, as it should be on a game gun.
I shot the Coronet at the EJ Churchill shooting ground near High Wycombe. I was pleasantly surprised. The gun felt solid in my hands and when shot.
I could not say it was exceptionally pointable with the 291⁄2in barrels but it was exceptionally forgiving to use. Felt recoil was low; function was faultless. It had neutral handling and no significant vices. It was a gun I found myself wanting to shoot more. Trigger pulls were especially crisp for a helical-springed gun. I would struggle to fault the gun on the practical front considering the price tag. It is well designed and well decorated, shoots well and offers value for money.
Price from £6,500 incl VAT
From EJ Churchill Park Lane, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP14 3NS
tel 01494 883227