This new Brescian shotgun, inspired by the Perazzi MX8, could be used for game or clays, says Michael Yardley, who is impressed with its refined finish and well-presented barrels
Inspired by the Perazzi MX8, the Piotti 32in over-and-under is a bespoke gun, and Michael Yardley finds himself impressed.
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PIOTTI 32IN OVER-AND-UNDER
This month’s test looks at a Piotti 32in over-and-under supplied by Tony Kennedy, the well-known West Country dealer based near Launceston in Cornwall. Kennedy, a keen and competent game shot himself, was the man who first brought Kemens into the UK in a big way. He has much experience with high-end over-and-unders and, as well as Piotti and Kemen, has imported the best by Desenzani, Bertuzzi, Bosis and Fabbri.
Some years ago, I was his guest in Italy, visiting several of the high-end Brescian makers, including Piotti. The latter firm much impressed with its combination of classic bench-work with some – but not too much – modern methodology. My abiding impression was of careful work and skilful engineering by a dedicated team of artisan gunmakers with a passion for quality and beautiful shapes. (I can’t help wondering what will happen now to these top-end, low-volume, Brescian family firms post COVID-19; their region was especially ravaged.)
First impressions of the test Piotti, meanwhile, are of a particularly well-finished, quite long, quite heavy (8lb 5oz) gun with well-figured wood and big stock shapes (although buyers may chose stock style and dimensions to their own preference). The well-presented 32in, bifurcated lump, monobloc barrels are fixed choke (quarter and half), their ventilated sighting rib is an excellent tapered (10mm-7mm) design. Joining ribs are vented as usually seen in competition guns. At the muzzle end, a well-proportioned, small brass bead is fitted.
The action shapes here are also attractive – arguably better than some rivals – with elegant sculpting to the walls and fences, as well as stylish beading to the belly of the action body. There is partial scroll engraving to the sides and top of the coin-finished action (colour-case hardening is another option and one at which Piotti excels). The engraving here is quite sparse (save to the bottom of the action, which is more profuse). What there is to the top and sides is good – tight rose and scroll in Purdey style.
As Piotti is a bespoke maker, and this is a bespoke gun, there are all sorts of other options available at extra cost (there is no extra for bespoke stock dimensions, style or rib type). The price of the gun as tested would be just under £20,000. Side-plated and more elaborately engraved models run to £30,000 or more. Other bore sizes on dedicated actions are available (with a .410 being developed).
This gun is clearly inspired by the Perazzi MX8 and its many near clones, including those by Kemen, Perugini & Visini, Gamba and Purdey (not to mention some lesser imitators made many years ago in the Basque country by firms such as Kromson). The MX8, originally conceived by Ivo Fabbri and Daniel Perazzi for the Mexico Olympics of 1968, has become a generic design now, much like the Holland & Holland Royal sidelock and the Browning Superposed over-and-under. Imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery and most of the MX8-type guns mentioned have their own special features (some arguably improving on the original but none beating it in terms of sales or proven competition performance).
I campaigned for many years with 32in Perazzis and Kemens. I am a fan of this style of ‘Long Tom’ because I think they work both for serious driven work and for clay-pigeon shooting. When they first arrived on the scene in the 1980s they were almost an unfair advantage in competition – pointable, steady, with brilliant trigger pulls. Quite quickly, they came to be used for game shooting, too, especially for high-bird work. I still use such guns and revel in their further refinement. My ideal weight for a multi-use – game and clay – 32 of this style would be about 8lb with barrels just under 3½lb (say 1550-1570 grammes). Stock form must be right, too – more Browning than Brescia.
The Piotti has a detachable triggerlock à la Perazzi MX8 or Perugini & Visini. Indeed, the low-profile, thick-walled action looks much like that on those marks mentioned, with trunnion hinging and Boss-style draws, wedges and bolting. All parts are made inhouse. V-springs power the locks. Some guns of similar pattern have a swivel assembly on the arm of the mainsprings rather than the small rollers used here, which run up the back of a concave in the hammers. The Piotti has a simple, well-conceived release mechanism for its detachable trigger unit, removed by bringing the top tang sliding safety back against spring pressure beyond its normal rear ‘on’ position (unlike a Perazzi, which you move forward). It is positive without being too easy. The barrels are exceptionally well put together – nicely struck up and straight (I liked the full-length joining ribs). Bores had medium diameters of 18.5mm and fairly short forcing cones – both well suited to fibre wads.
The integrity and build quality of the Piotti were evident from initial handling. Unfortunately, there was a trigger issue and I had to proceed with one barrel. Looking past this (it was probably a small matter of regulation), the Piotti was a quality, bench-made gun. The barrels especially impressed, their presentation excellent and weight distribution near ideal (although overall weight a little more than my preference). I liked their reduced mass forward. Metal and woodwork were excellent. Stock dimensions were high and the stock and palm-swell grip quite big (often the case with Italian guns). Once I corrected for a high comb, I connected consistently. The Piotti impressed in its styling and material quality; disappointingly I couldn’t explore its potential properly.
PIOTTI 32IN OVER-AND-UNDER
♦ RRP: £20,000
♦ Tony Kennedy Gunmakers, 22 Church Street, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 8AR
♦ 01566 86535