Michael Yardley shows how you can get a bang for less bucks with his rundown of the top ten guns for less than £5000
Guns for less than £5000 do not have to be budget. Rather, you can get a great deal on best guns and plenty of bang for far fewer bucks. While everyone loves exquisite engraving and exhibition walnut, the old mantra of “handsome is as handsome does” is the determining factor for many shots when choosing a gun. We all need our workhorses that will go bang when required, eject properly, handle prettily and absorb the recoil from modern cartridges. Here, Michael Yardley highlights 10 guns for less than £5000 that fulfil the criteria (all prices include VAT).
Another way to enjoy classic best guns at an attainable price is by scouting them out on the second-hand market, but there are critical things to look out for before buying. Michael Yardley advises in vintage Purdey side-by-sides.
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: THE WILLIAM POWELL MARQUIS SIDE-BY-SIDE
The first of the best guns for less than £5000 is the William Powell Marquis side-by-side. The Marquis is made for William Powell in association with renowned Basque maker Arrieta. It is the least expensive side-by-side in the Powell Continental range (which includes the Perseus over-and-under made in association with Rizzini from less than £1,600, the side-plated Perdix at £2,995 and round body Phoenix, which comes in above our limit). The Marquis sidelock ejector is a no-nonsense Holland & Holland Royal-inspired gun featuring five-pin rebounding locks, intercepting safety sears, an automatic safety, double triggers and fixed chokes (but no easy-opening feature). The rib is concave and the barrels are chopper lump. It is one of the best-priced Spanish sidelock side-by-sides now available on the British market. The stock, traditional of form, is Turkish walnut with a 15¼in length of pull off the shelf and standard drop dimensions of 1½in and 2in. The fore-end is a classic splinter pattern with Anson push-rod fastener. The Marquis is available in 12- and 20-bore with 28in or 30in barrels. Personal measurements can be applied from £310. The gun can also be personalised with a choice of silver or gold stock oval (an extra £195 and £310 respectively) and teague chokes would add another £595. There is also a mid-grade William Powell Monarch sidelock side-by-side that comes in just above our limit.
Prices start from £3,750
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BLASER F3
German firm Blaser launched the F3 more than a decade ago and it remains innovative and interesting. My favourite is the 30in Professional model but it is not one of the guns for less than £5000. All F3s are notable for modernistic but attractive styling, an exceptionally low-action profile and fast lock times, the result of a most unusual inline hammer system. There is also an intriguing mechanical trigger created by Russian gunsmith and designer Sergei Popikov (which utilises an inertia block and a pendulum). The back-bored barrels are three-inch chambered for steel shot and have long forcing cones and interchangeable chokes.
Guns are available in most barrel lengths (I’d go for 30in for general shooting) and benefit from a clever balancing system involving weights threaded onto an extension of the stock bolt. Barrel construction is monobloc and the guns are built on a modular system that makes most major components (including barrels) interchangeable. As I write, a new Blaser F16 has been introduced. This has similar styling to the F3 but a different action with conventionally hinged hammers. Brief experience suggests it offers quality and good shooting qualities at a price (£2,550) that will appeal to a broader market.
Prices start from £4,830
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BERETTA SILVER PIGEON
Based on the 600 series action introduced circa 1980, the Silver Pigeon is one of the most successful over-and-under shotguns of all time with more than 30,000 units manufactured a year. A development of the older 50 series (models 55, 56, 57 and 58), the evolved 600 chassis was the basis for the 686 and 687 game models, the 680 competition gun and, more recently, the Silver Pigeon I – Beretta’s outstanding and well-priced entry-level gun (rrp £1,600).
The main difference between the modern 600 and the original 50s, cosmetics apart, is that the 50 series guns employed different mechanics for cocking (barrels are not interchangeable between 50 and 600 series as a consequence) and, on early specimens, leaf springs were used to power the action rather than the coil springs that have become the modern norm. Economy models were also produced as non-ejectors.
The “bullet-proof” mechanics of the 600/Silver Pigeon gun are its main selling point. It has (replaceable) stud pins for hinging, a clever rotary bolt locking system, a reliable inertia-operated trigger, coil spring-powered action and ejectors, and a low-action profile. The Silver Pigeon still sets a standard though Beretta is beginning to replace deluxe models with the newer 690/692. If the gun has any vice, it is that the monobloc barrels can be a little heavy. Nevertheless, this is ones of the best guns for less than £5000 and highly recommended for general use in 12- or 20-bore, 28in or 30in form (a 32in field model 20-bore is also available).
Prices start from £1,600
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BERETTA 690 III
This is the famous firm’s new, well-specified, mid-market field model. Introduced in 2014, it is priced just above the Silver Pigeon; there is a similar 692 competition gun, launched in 2012. Both are developments of the SV10 chassis that first appeared on the Perennia and Prevail. Barrels and mechanism are similar to SV10 guns (barrels may be swapped with simple gunsmithing) but the external action look is rather different.
They achieve the near impossible: they may be even better than the old 600s (Beretta is committed to continue Silver Pigeon I manufacture for the moment). I was lucky enough to win the launch competition in Tuscany with one of the first 690 IIIs and have been enamoured of the gun and model ever since. Regardless of cost, I think it one of the best Berettas yet, especially in 28in field form (the 30in guns are forgiving to shoot but a little front heavy).
Notable differences to the Silver Pigeon include double-action fences and an aluminium fore-end iron. The 692 has “Steelium Plus” barrels, the 690 has opti-choke HP tubes and different internal barrel geometry. Both have new, larger barrel shoulders. The 692 dispenses with ribs under the fore-end; they are present on the 690. The 690 also boasts a stock design similar to the Silver Pigeon but weighted to the rear like the 692 and with an excellent round-pattern fore-end.
Beretta will be launching a new, well-priced 690 I Field as you read this…
Price £2,500 with multi-chokes and £2,325 with fixed constrictions
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BERETTA 486 PARALLELO SIDE-BY-SIDE
Available as a 12-, 20- and 28-bore, the rather snazzy Parallelo replaces the 471/470 and is, frankly, a better gun. I shot the 12-bore 486 when it first arrived in 2013 and liked it. The 20-bore did not impress me quite as much in its practical shooting qualities but it looked pretty. I have not yet shot the 28-bore. The Parellelo is a different looking gun to the 471 (the action bar is rounded and more elegant) but, more critically, the mechanics are distinctly different.
Like the 471/470, the Parallelo is of trigger-plate action type but of improved design with hammers powered, a happy surprise, by traditional V-springs, which improve lock time (the 471, like most mass-produced Berettas, had coil springs). The ejectors retain coil-spring power and may be switched off if desired. There is a single-selective trigger, using an inertia-block mechanism, and an automatic safety. Barrels, which are not monobloc, are built on a system in which tubes rest on a machined platform recessed for them that incorporates the lumps, the whole assembly being laser welded (so no visible seams). Chokes are Mobil HP multi or fixed in the 12-bore 28in gun, the 30in 12-bore is fixed only and smaller bores are all Optima HP multi-choked. Various stock configurations are available: straight hand with splinter fore-end or semi-pistol with efficient, slimmer-than-average beaver-tail. The gun is also available in side-plated form as the 486EL but the price falls outside our limit.
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BROWNING 725 32IN 20-BORE
The Browning “UK Premium” B725 Hunter is an excellent 32in 20-bore with semi-pistol grip and (non-schnabel) “parallel” game fore-end. One of the best buys on the UK market, in my opinion, it is an outstanding, light-for-length, pointable shooting tool. It is based on the relatively new 725-style action, a clever reworking of the classic Super-posed, retaining similar hinging and bolting but with sleeker and lower external form.
The 725 features new DS (Double Seal) chokes (which incorporate a copper band for gas sealing) and an Inflex II “directional” recoil pad that relieves the face in recoil by directing energy down as the pad compresses. The trigger is, unusually, mechanical (a bonus on a smaller-bore game gun). The barrels have a new svelte profile (in the 30in 12-bore this shaves some 100g from the overall weight). As with all Brownings, there is a 10-year warranty on the action body and three years on the wood.
Also worth consideration is the Black Gold model (rrp £2,279), just announced in 12- as well as 20-bore. Gold inlays on a black action make it distinct (it also features upgraded wood and a semi-pistol grip stock with “parallel” fore-end). In 30in, 20-bore form this impressed as particularly well sorted although it is different in character to the 32in 20 (faster and lighter). For those who prefer a 12, there is the smart “Black edition” sporter (rrp £2,549) with plain black action and extended DS chokes. Well-priced standard model “Hunter Premium” and “sporters” are also available. Don’t let a sporter designation put you off; being typically steadier they are often my preference for British driven shooting – Continental “game” or “field” guns are designed usually for walking dog work.
Price from £2,000
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: BROWNING 525
The 12- and 20-bore 30in Sporter represents terrific value. It is one of the best all-round guns on the market (and a little steadier than the dedicated game gun). Like a Silver Pigeon I, it is a model that can be recommended with confidence. This 525 would be at home in a pigeon hide, on a marsh (where steel-shot proof is a bonus), breaking clays or shooting driven game. Because of its general form, and having the weight and proof for heavier loads, it’s a useful budget high-bird gun, too.
The specification includes back-bored barrels, a sensible stock design, adjustable trigger and scroll engraving. The sighting rib is a 10mm parallel design (the field model offers a 6mm rib and consequently lighter barrels and a little more muzzle flip). As noted, don’t worry about designation: the 30in sporter ticks most boxes. Its handling qualities are impeccable, neither too light or heavy and, aesthetically, its scroll engraving is pleasant. The stock design is especially good (there is no palm-swell on any of the 525s) and both sporter and game models feature the effective Inflex II interchangeable recoil pad. The single-trigger mechanism is the usual, reliable, recoil-activated, inertia-block type. Chokes are Invector Plus and the barrels are back-bored at 18.8. There is a side-plated Heritage model technically crossing our line but still worth a mention at rrp £5,789 (12 or 20) and the 30in field 20-bore (with new engraving and a reduced price) is also excellent.
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: RIZZINI RB EL OVER-AND-UNDER
This well-established Italian firm retains a capacity for custom work. The elegant RB EL is available in all sorts of bores, barrel lengths and grades of finish. It is rounded- bar design and available in 12-, 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410. It is one of very few guns on offer with a dedicated 16-bore action (another is made by FAIR). The general recommendation would be for the 30in 20; I have also enjoyed shooting the 30in 28-bore. The gun is trunnion hinged with Browning-style bolting but clever design keeps the action low (like the new 725). There are twin cocking bars, an inertia trigger and coil spring-powered ejectors.
Rizzini also offers the side-plated Artemis (£2,850 in 12, 16 and 20 and £3,200 for 28 and .410) and, recently back to the British market, the BR552 side-by-side. I have only shot it once (in a 20-bore with 30in tubes and in higher grade) but it impressed. The model has a single trigger and various stock options. Unusually, barrels from 28in-31in are on offer and the rib may be specified as “game” (concave) or flat (at no extra cost). The pricing is competitive with an rrp of £3,000 in 12 or 20 (small bores a little more). The gun is based on a modified Anson & Deeley action with Southgate ejectors. Multi-chokes (five) may be added for £166. I would go for a flat-ribbed 31in 20 or 28 with semi-pistol grip.
Price £4,075, 12-, 16- and 20-bore, and £4,575 in 28 and ,410
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: GUERINI MAXUM
Guerini has not been around long but has gained a reputation for attractive, well-priced guns. The side-plated, multi-choked Maxum has been around since the firm’s entry into the UK market and remains a strong seller. My favourite version is the 32in 20-bore, which I have shot a lot and it has proved durable in the field. The mechanical specification is not revolutionary or especially refined but generally reliable. The gun will stand in almost any company aesthetically with its attractive, laser-applied, deep-scroll engraving and will not break the bank. More importantly, it shoots extremely well with an especially good semi-pistol-grip stock. The grip shape, typically a half-pistol with round knob, is similar to that seen on some other mass-produced Italian guns of similar action type. The fore-end is of schnabel pattern (though a rounded fore-end is a no-cost option); it contributes to exceptional handling qualities. This steady but willing gun is forward balanced but pointable in 32in 20-bore guise. There are other more deluxe models – the Apex (£4,250) and Forum (over limit) – but the Maxum has to be the call for value combined with excellent shooting qualities.
If I were not going for the 32in 20, the 30in version in 20-bore has much to recommend it as an all-rounder. The same comment would apply to the 30in 12. All the guns come cased with five multi-chokes. For typical British partridge- and pheasant-shooting it would be hard to think of a gun that offered more bang and bling for the buck than the Maxum.
Price from £3,295
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: MIROKU MK60 GRADE V
This interesting model was conceived by Browning-Miroku’s UK team, who identified a gap in the market for a specialist high-pheasant gun. Weighing 7¾lb in 32in form and 7½lb with 30in barrels, it’s especially well balanced thanks to fixed chokes (full and three-quarters) and an 8mm ventilated rib (referred to inhouse as a “universal rib”).
The stock shapes are particularly good, too, with a grip offering better than average purchase and a full comb (which might be made even better with a little more taper). Traditionally, the stock dimensions on a Miroku are lower than a Browning but, in this case, to improve target acquisition the comb has been raised to match Browning’s standard 36mm-56mm (13⁄8 in-2 3⁄16in) drop. A Bakelite butt pad has been retained to avoid snagging in the mount. The wood, Grade V American walnut, is well figured and traditionally oiled, and the grip and fore-end are hand chequered. Attractive scroll engraving is outlined by laser and hand finished.
The MK60 is also available in a plainer, Grade I version for £1,600 and there is a similar, multi-choked MK70 beginning at only £1,475. The 30in and 32in MK38 12-bore competition gun (often pressed into service as a high-bird gun before the advent of the new MK60) starts with a bottom line of £1,625 (Grade I) and £2,812 (Grade V). It is available with extended Teague chokes or with fixed chokes.
The price is £2,699 for the 30in and 32in “High Pheasant” in 12 and 20 (and a highly competitive £5,800 for a gold-numbered pair in a leather case)
GUNS FOR LESS THAN £5000: ARCHIVED CONTENT FROM 2011
Guns for less than £5000: Beretta
The emphasis here is on more expensive guns. At the top end of our £5,000 budget, a discounted Beretta EELL (RRP £5,700) might just squeeze in. I have always thought these especially good game-guns, not because of the added embellishment of their sideplates, but because in my view they handle a little better than the standard models, with more weight between the hands and subtly superior stock shapes. My 30in 28-bore has given me great service, and I have also had 20- and 12-bore versions. You would have to go a long way to find a better game-gun for hard use than a 30in EELL in 12- or 20-bore. They’re solidly made, shoot well and hold their value. There’s also a 10-year mechanical warranty for all Berettas bought before the end of the year.
Other Berettas that might be considered include the Silver Pigeon III (£2,300 in .410, 28-, 20- or 12-bore). It is a sound gun without excessive embellishment. Berettas on the new SV10 action platform might also be looked at. The asymmetric styling of the new action is distinct, and the engineering is impeccable. The SV10 guns seem to handle and shoot a little better on average than the indestructible 68 series guns (perhaps because of their new barrel profiles). The SV10 Perennia 1 is available in 12-bore only at RRP £1,825 with a conventional stock or £2,025 with a Kick-Off hydraulic recoil reducer. My preference for game would be the simple gun. The Perennia 3 is available in 12- or 20-bore for RRP £2,530 (£2,730 with Kick-Off). There is a slight difference in action finish between the 1 and 3: the 1 does not offer a detachable trigger mechanism or “Q system” detachable stock.
Guns for less than £5000: Browning miroku
Looking at the extensive Browning-Miroku range, there are many options as well. There is a Grade V bold scroll-engraved Miroku MK 60 in 28in and 30in form at £2,489. The Grade V multi-choked MK70 is £2,612. And one of my favourite guns, the MK 38 Grade V 32 (a 30in version is also on offer), is one of the best buys available anywhere at £2,554. If you are in the market for a high-pheasant gun that can do double duty on clays look no further. When you consider that these guns are impeccably hand finished, beautifully engraved, and regulated the old-fashioned way at the plates, they appear a particularly good buy.
Browning also offers the sideplated, square-bar Heritage model. This is available with 28in and 30in Invector choked barrels at just under £5,000 RRP. It has been extremely popular as a hybrid game- and clay-gun because of its looks and no-compromise build quality. It is a bit chunky to my eye, though, and feels a little heavy, too. The same comments cannot, however, be levelled against the new rounded-bar 20-bore. It has not been priced officially yet but will come in just under our magic figure and is offered with 28in or 30in tubes. Browning also has the Hunter Prestige without sideplates, a high-grade, modified Superposed-style gun with deep scroll and game-scene engraving, teardrops on the stock and a silver oval. All Browning guns come with a 10-year general warranty, and, uniquely, a three-year warranty on their wood.
Guns for less than £5000: Guerini
Guerini offers well-priced and well-finished over-and-under guns, especially competitively priced for their levels of finish. For £2,045 you can get a sideplated Magnus game-scene-engraved model with a coin-finished action, excellent semi-pistol grip and Schnabel fore-end. It is available in 12-, 20- and 28-bore and .410 with barrels from 28in to 32in. My preference, though, is for the Essex and Maxum models. The Essex comes in at £2,845, and has fine rose-and-scroll engraving of Purdey style on a coin-finished action. There is a new English-style Prince of Wales grip and a rounded fore-end (my preference over the Schnabel). The Maxum, RRP £2,965, has a silver action with bold scroll engraving. It also has a rounded fore-end. This gun would be another one of my best buys – great looking and fantastic to shoot in either 30in or 32in form. For an RRP of £3,775 you can have the extra finish Apex gun, sideplated, with heavy scroll and an almost Celtic-style oval embellishment to the rear of the sideplates. This gun has an extended trigger guard which goes all the way back to a steel grip gap on its not-too-full pistol grip.
Guerini has a new range of round-action guns. The least expensive is the Ellipse Limited (RRP £2,775) which has a colour case-hardened action body and border engraving. It is available in 20- and 28-bore (soon in .410 and 12-bore). Barrel options are 28in and 30in; 30in works extremely well in 28- or 20-bore. The Ellipse EVO, RRP £3,775, gets my vote for looks, value and performance. It would be hard to imagine a prettier gun, and its handling qualities and stock design (combining an open-radius semi-pistol grip with a rounded fore-end) are excellent. It is on offer with 28in, 30in and 32in barrels in 28- and 20-bore (and will be available as a .410 and 12-bore). The sighting rib is of a solid, tapered design.
Guns for less than £5000: Asi/Rizzini
ASI offers several guns that fit our bill. On the side-by-side front, the square-bar AyA No 2 comes in at £4,900. It is one of the country’s most popular guns for driven game, predom-inantly bench made, and well proven. The AyA best boxlock, a gun for which ASI managing director Edward King has an especially soft spot, also meets our price and quality re-quirements at £4,490 (12-bore) and £4,716 in 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410. ASI is involved in a new project with the B Rizzini brand. Batista Rizzini has been one of the movers and shakers of the Italian gun industry in recent years and now has a very substantial production facility. Rizzini guns are far better than they once were, and the round action – first filed up by Laura Bosis on the suggestion of Paul Roberts (see below) – is especially appealing. The RB (Round Body) Classic is available as a 12-, 16- or 20-bore for £3,318, and as a 28-bore for £3,772. Again, I have found the 30in version works especially well in 28- and 20-bore – pointable but controllable. The stock shapes are first class. If you don’t want to spend quite as much there is the square-bar Aurum at £2,192 in 12-, 16- and 20-bore and £2,620 in 28-bore. Paul Roberts of J Roberts in Vauxhall offers Rizzinis to his own specification. He has been bringing Rizzinis into this country for many years and understands the guns and needs of British game-shooters. He does a nice but plain Artemis model which costs £2,400 and boasts a plain colour case-hardened action with sideplates. I think it is one of the smartest guns Rizzini offers – simple elegance. Paul also has the London model (RRP £4,500) and London Model Deluxe (RRP £4,950). The main difference between them is the extent of engraving – the former has fairly light coverage, the latter profuse, deep acanthus scroll. All the guns are available with fixed or multichokes, solid or vented ribs, and with any stock configuration – straight-hand, semi, or full pistol grip.
Guns for less than £5000: Arrieta
Arrieta-named side-by-sides are brought into the UK exclusively by GMK (which has handled the make for 35 years). The Crown round-action sidelock model, which is not unlike an AyA no 2, costs £3,960 with double triggers and scroll engraving in 12-bore, 28in or 30in, ¼ and 1⁄2 fixed chokes. The 20-bore costs £4,360. A Viscount with a square bar and some scroll engraving is available in 28in only at £2,455. Arrieta makes guns for EJ Churchill and William Powell, too. The Churchill Continental Crown is £3,900, made to measure at no extra cost in any gauge with 28in or 30in barrels. The Powell Monarch, a bouquet-and-scroll engraved sidelock (with non-detachable locks), falls within our remit, too, at £4,100 in 12-bore (10% more for 16-, 20- and 28-bore and .410). The guns are well finished and shoot well.
Guns for less than £5000: Blaser
Blaser’s F3 is an impressive, modern over-and-under of un-usual design with an inline hammer action perfected by Russian designer Sergei Popikov. It’s a severely elegant design and very low in profile, the basic model costs £3,882 with grade 2 upgraded wood and a choice of ribs and stocks. The “Professional Game” costs £4,900, comes in a smart ABS case, boasts “grade 5” wood and has a clever system that allows you to adjust the balance of the gun to your needs.
Guns for less than £5000: Fabarm and Merkel
Viking Arms brings in both Fabarm and Merkel ranges. Fabarm offers some strongly built side-by-sides with an unusual four-lump action and a reliable single-trigger mechanism. The de luxe, sideplated Classis Grade IV has an RRP of £4,286 (though Fabarm side-by-sides start from £2,370 and are notable because they handle rather like over-and-unders). The Merkel 40E (RRP £3,459) is a strongly built side-by-side with a Greener-style top extension and double triggers (there is a single option). Merkel also offers the 2000C over-and-under at £4,800 with single or double triggers. Finally, I might mention that Fausti makes some very nice small-bore boxlock side-by-sides and round- and square-bar over-and-unders priced under £5,000. These are special order items from the Sportsman Gun Centre.
Guns for less than £5000: Second-hand bargains
Buying new is not your only option. You can buy second hand, possibly, at auction and – if you are careful – get some great deals. On the retail front, guns such as the EELL Berettas, Belgian-made Browning B25s, Perazzis and Kemens, can offer quality and value “pre-owned”. You can buy an excellent gun, which has done most of its depreciation, for far less than the price new. Good and best-quality boxlock side-by-sides are a particular bargain. The best deals are on guns that have less than trendy specifications – shorter barrels, for example. And there are all sorts of options. Diggory Hadoke of Atkin Grant & Lang (recently combined with vintageguns.co.uk) says, “With £5,000 you can buy a best-quality sidelock ejector with invisibly sleeved barrels… with the quality of modern sleeving, you can end up with a best quality London sidelock which looks and performs like a gun costing three times as much.”
Patrick Hawes of Bonhams thinks £5,000, “a reasonable budget for buying a good gun at auction. [Once acquired] it will, as likely as not, still be worth about the same, or possibly more, even after a few seasons’ use. Sidelock ejectors by makers such as Holland & Holland, Purdey, Boss and Woodward would have to be early specimens and possibly in poorer condition, but other famous makers produced guns of very high quality that can be bought within budget.”
Chris Beaumont of Holt’s adds, “If you are looking to follow the traditional line, then it is definitely worth considering auctions. You’ll be hard pressed to find such a diverse selection of classic and vintage English and European guns under one roof. If a sidelock is the order of the day, £5,000 can buy you a gun by a provincial maker which can be heart-stoppingly beautiful, while £2,000 to £4,000 will secure a boxlock of the very highest grade in virtually unused condition. And don’t discount auctions for modern guns – they are there in abundance and can be bought at good prices.” Prices were available at time of going to press. Obviously, different dealers will vary in what they offer.