This new, round-bar, 16-bore over-and under – part of Powell’s Continental range – has been made with Rizzini of Brescia. Michael Yardley finds the good balance and weight suit him
16-bores have been enjoying something of a comeback, with a growing following of sportsmen. Michael Yardley is impressed by the new William Powell Phoenix.
For more on 16-bores, read Michael Yardley’s review of the Boxall and Edmiston 16-bore over and under.
WILLIAM POWELL PHOENIX
This month, with the game season in full swing, we are looking at a William Powell 16-bore “Phoenix” model over-and-under. It is a round-body gun made in association with B Rizzini, the well-known Italian manufacturer based in Brescia. The Phoenix, meanwhile, is part of Powell’s “Continental range” – a collection of guns specified and finally regulated in England but made with associates abroad (in the case of Powell, Rizzini and Arrieta). I have shot a number of Powell Continentals before and been impressed with them. They were more than merely re-badged “Euro-guns”; considerable effort had gone into the specifications (drawing on the long gunmaking expertise of the famous old British firm). The finish was a cut above the average and the prices were not unreasonable for the quality offered.
Turning the spotlight on the Phoenix, this is a fixed-choke, single-trigger gun with 30in mono-bloc barrels; it hits the scales at 7lb – a handy weight for a 30in over-and-under. The RRP is £6,495, including a leather-covered travel case and professional gun-fitting. First impressions are good. The scale and form of the gun immediately appeal (as, indeed, does its bore size). The gun presents well. It balances on the hinge-pin. The wood is pleasingly figured and competently finished in oil with hand-cut checkering. The stock shapes are well conceived. There is a black, horn-capped pistol grip that is not too full or big – reminiscent of those one used to see on London rifles – and a nicely proportioned, rounded fore-end. The action is well engineered, well finished and attractively engraved with acanthus scrollwork. The form of the action is particularly elegant with the round bar that suits the smaller scale of the 16 well. The 8mm to 6mm tapered, solid rib could not be bettered, either. Overall, the gun rates high both for specification and finish.
The 16 has been enjoying something of a comeback in recent years, with several makers offering 16-bore models. Traditionally, the 16 was the older man’s lighter gun. They have, however, a growing following of sportsmen who just like the way they handle. Like a 20, the 16 allows for an over-and-under gun to be made at a very good weight, though it may be predominantly machine made. The only issue, and it is not that significant, is that ammunition may be hard to come by. There is not the range of loads that you find in 12 or 20. Usually four options on offer: 25g, 26g/26.5g, 28g and 30g, with 26g and 28g predominating on dealers’ shelves. Eley abandoned the 32g Alphamax 16 a while back. In the US, a 3in 16-bore has been developed (Purdey made a gun for this cartridge recently).
Happy sufferers of “ballistic thrombosis” may tell you that the 16, when throwing 15oz/16oz of shot (26.5oz), offers the near-perfect “square load”. In the past, I have used 25g, 26g/26.5g and 28g loads with good results, both competitively and for game shooting. The bulk of my experience is with my own Holland & Holland side-by-side, usually fed with Lyalvale Express cartridges. This firm, at the moment, offers 25 “Supreme Game” in 6 shot only with a fibre wad, 28g fibre in 5, 6, 7 shot and 30g in 5 and 6. They also have a plastic wadded 28g in 6 shot only.
The sensible weight of the test gun would allow one to shoot any commonly available 16-bore load with comfort and confidence. The good stock form and balance would also promote happy shooting. The style of grip should be seen more often – frequently full grips are too bulky. This style and the semi-pistol are those I believe to be best suited to a single-trigger over-and-under field gun. I would also give a thumbs-up to the longer-than-average shelf-dimension for the butt – the length of pull here is 15¼in (with drop of 1½in at comb 2in at heel – also excellent).
The basic mechanical design here is used by several makers in Brescia and offered at a variety of qualities and levels of finish. The refined, round-bar version, as seen in the Phoenix, came about when Paul Roberts asked Laura Bosis to file the bar on a conventional, square-bar Rizzini 20-bore over-and-under. The finished shape was pleasing and several guns were modified until a dedicated, round-body receiver was created to facilitate the look (and strengthen the rounded action bar). The action is powered by helical springs with a single selective, inertia-operated trigger. Like a Beretta, it has trunnion hinging with stud pins mounted near the knuckle. Unlike a Beretta, the action locks-up by means of a flat, Browning-style bolt engaging a slot beneath the bottom chamber. There are twin cocking rods that operate side by side in a channel in the bottom of the action well. All combined with a simple, efficient ejector system.
I liked the feel and balance of the gun instantly. The weight at 7lb is ideal for a 16-bore over-and-under game gun and would also be close to my ideal for a 30in side-by-side or 32in 20-bore over-and-under. It offers enough mass to tame recoil and promote control but not so much weight as to hinder good, fast handling qualities. This Powell also offers efficient and aesthetically pleasing stock shapes. You can hold on to it and direct it well. The trigger pulls were crisp (witness to careful internal work). Only a couple of birds slipped away with close misses in front, which I think would have been avoided had it not been for the tight three-quarter and three-quarter choking. There was not the opportunity to plate. It was clear that patterns using 26g loads were efficient, causing many clays shot to evaporate. Sometimes you test guns that are models “deluxe” but don’t feel especially refined compared to cheaper, mechanically similar, peers. This one felt superior in all departments.
WILLIAM POWELL PHOENIX
♦ Price: £6,495
♦ Carrs House, 1 Tramway, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 5TD
♦ 01295 701701