Outwardly traditional yet mechanically unconventional, the well-conceived, lightweight Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore would make most traditionally minded shots smile, says Michael Yardley

Product Overview


Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore review

This test features a Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore. Weighing a handy 6lb 5oz, it has 30in barrels, a single selective trigger, concave rib, multichokes and an open radius pistol grip (28in barrels are an option, as are a straight-hand stock and double trigger). With a laser scroll-engraved action that is scalloped to the rear, the proportions and decoration please. It is built on the same action as the Rizzini 20-bore (the firm uses three actions: .410/28-bore, 20-/16-bore and 12-bore). This keeps the weight down and contributes to graceful styling such as that seen in the Rizzini Artemis Light over-and-under, which weighed only 6lb 4oz with 30in barrels but in 12-bore with a sideplated alloy action.

It is easier to make a 20- or 16-bore look and feel right – the scale inspires gunmakers to create lighter machine-made guns resembling bespoke ones with less compromise. However, the mechanics of the Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore are impressively unconventional. The action is monolithic, with the forged steel action body made in one piece with top and bottom straps. Conceptually this is an over-and-under that has been turned on its side; internally it is much like a Rizzini over-and-under. It would not be properly called a boxlock, although it looks like one externally. In a true boxlock, the hammers and springs are contained within the body, or box, of the action (the term was coined for muzzleloaders before being applied to Anson & Deeley-style shotguns).

Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore

The barrels are also atypical, neither chopper lump nor monobloc but built on a platform system. Barrel tubes are braised to recesses in a platform that has the lumps machined into them. Beretta uses something similar in its 486 Parallelo. Multichokes are flush fitting, 70mm long, with their threaded section positioned about 20mm back from the muzzles.

A classically styled but evolved Rizzini stock gives enhanced purchase fore and aft, providing reassurance on mounting. It feels controllable in spite of the gun’s low weight. The splinter fore-end is deep enough to hold properly and the grip – an area of design Rizzini seems to have mastered – was perfectly suited to a lighter, single-trigger 16- or 20-bore. Its radius is fairly open, so there is no cocking of the wrist, and the grip has good depth, which allows it to be held securely. Too many grips lack depth forward and consequently can never be held securely. My one criticism of the stock is that the otherwise elegant comb is quite slim. Even with relatively high dimensions for drop (1¼in and 2⅛in) and average head size, I could lose the bead at elevation. Perhaps 2in at heel might serve better as a standard ‘shelf’ measurement. The butt plate, absent with upgrade to Grade 3 wood, facilitates assembly but is visually uninspiring. It does, however, make fitting lengthening pieces or recoil pads simpler.

What of the 16-bore itself? It became popular in Europe in the muzzleloading age because it was not a 12-bore (the military musket bore), which was often banned to civilians. In the breechloader era, it became ubiquitous for sporting use on the Continent, and popular in Britain as a lighter gun for older shots (far more popular than the 20-bore that was once, like the 28-bore, considered a lady’s gun). It developed a following in the USA as a ‘gentleman’s gun’ for quail and walked-up quarry. The 16-bore enjoys ballistic benefits because of a so-called ‘square load’ where the pellet column matches, or nearly matches, the nominal bore size. Cartridge availability has become an issue with the undeniably efficient 16-bore. Payloads from 25g to 32g are made in 65mm, 67.5mm and 70mm cases. Lyalvale and Eley offer steel loads (and Eley a bismuth one). There is more choice (including a 76mm/3in option) in 20-bore but that does not put off a happy rediscovering the ‘Sweet 16’.

Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore


Apart from Purdey-inspired double lump bolting, the BR550 action has a lot of over-and-under influence as noted. The stock is attached to the action using a horizontal bolt rather than a vertical screw as usually seen in English side-by-sides. The sears in the Rizzini’s action pivot off the top strap, the hammers – powered by helical springs with guide rods – off the bottom. There is a simple hammer-blocking mechanism in case the gun is dropped with the safety on. This is not an intercepting safety sear as seen in most sidelocks. It is dependent on the safety status. The hammers are cocked by means of rods running through either side of the action bar. The coil-sprung ejector work is reminiscent of the Baker system: a ‘dog’ at the knuckle works on a sliding bar to re-cock the ejector kickers when the gun is closed. Cams at the knuckle trip the ejectors on firing.

Shooting impressions

The Rizzini is a light, pretty gun. Pleasant balance (just forward of the hinge pin), superior grip shapes and a comfortable fore-end all inspire confidence. It points well. Shooting at skeet clays, nothing escaped. Recoil was noticeable but not unpleasant; grip purchase minimised the issue. The inertia trigger worked flawlessly (pulls breaking just under and just over 4lb). Gape could be a little wider to facilitate loading. A slim comb meant that the standard height might be raised slightly to good effect. I don’t want to damn with qualification, though: this is a well-conceived gun that would make most traditionally minded shots smile. It shoots instinctively, is mechanically sound and stylish. It would suit smaller driven days, walking-up or hide use. As far as comparison with a light 12-bore or a 20-bore is concerned, it is a tough call. Unless overcome with passion for 16-bores (as I am), the 20-bore version may make better sense because of easier cartridge sourcing.

Key Information for Rizzini BR550 side-by-side 16-bore

RRP: £4,299

Anglo Spanish Imports, Alliance House, Snape, Saxmundham, Suffolk IP17 1SW 

01728 688555