The gun in this review is a Perazzi SC3 20-bore supplied from stock by Chris Potter Country Sports of Tunbridge Wells. One of a pair, it is an over-and-under with 30in barrels, a single selective trigger and a game-scene engraved action. It is a de luxe model – also available in 12-bore form – and costs about £8,500. Plain guns start at around £5,000.
First impressions are good. This is a well-proportioned and attractive sporting piece. Wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit are precise. The game scenes on the action body are well executed. The wood shows good figure. The fixed-choke barrels are well presented and fitted with a narrow, ventilated rib.
By traditional standards, the gun is quite heavy for a 20-bore at 7lb 2oz. (Its untested twin is a couple of ounces heavier.) It is well balanced, though, with a centre of gravity almost exactly on the hinge-pin. As a consequence, it did not feel heavy (properly balanced guns rarely do). This SC3 also had a reassuringly solid quality. There was significant weight between the hands but no sense of too much or too little mass to either front or rear. The 30in tubes combined with a 6mm, parallel and flat rib made for pointability and controllability. The Perazzi action design puts more metal in the middle; the fixed-choke barrels keep the muzzles relatively light. It’s a good combination.
The trend in small bores over the last decade has been towards longer barrels and
increased all-up weight. This has proved effective. Many older guns, including some very expensive ones, are too light to shoot consistently; they are fast-handling, but their recoil control and pointing qualities are poor. The modern 20-bore is different to the typical gun of a generation or two back. Usually over-and-under in configuration, heavier and longer, the new 20 will do just about anything a 12 can. Versatility has also been much improved by the greater range of cartridges available: 21g or 24g can be used for practice, 24g, 28g, 30g or even 32g for live quarry.
Why use a 20-bore? The aesthetics and handling qualities appeal. Even when built a little heavier, 20-bores seem to be more reactive than bigger bores. I have noted before that one may get very similar handling qualities in a mass- or semi-mass produced 20 as in a best bespoke 12. A well-balanced, 30in-barrelled 20 weighing in around 7lb works: it is a much better gun for most adult men than the 6lb or 6¼lb, shorter-barrelled 20-bore of old . This does not mean that a longer, heavier, 20 is right for everyone. The 12 is generally more forgiving if open-choked (and my advice to those who just want to put as many average birds in the bag as possible would be to go for an open-choked mid-weight 28in 12-bore over-and-under). The light 20 still has its place for walking-up.
Putting the test SC3 under the spotlight reveals no significant flaws. The monobloc barrels – which bear Italian proof marks
for 2¾in (70mm) shells – are well made; internally and externally, they make the grade. Blacking is good. The narrow sighting rib is nicely scaled and contributes to sound pointing qualities. The plain metal bead is practical as well. The chokes both show a constriction of about 20 (half and half approximately). The barrel bore diameter is marked 15.9mm top and bottom – about average. Forcing cones are quite short, too.
The SC3 has solid side ribs which extend back as far as the fore-end. Removing the fore-end reveals that there is no joining rib between the barrels in this area – a weight-saving measure. The neatly machined sighting rib presents a pleasing picture to the eye with a perfectly true top surface. It is potentially delicate, though; a hollowed “solid” design might be preferable in a working gun. My only real criticism on the barrel-making (a very small one) concerns the decorative device: small, stamped circles in a vertical line, used to disguise the join between monobloc and the barrel tubes. Some of these were slightly out of line.
The action of the test gun is one of the world’s most respected and most copied. Few designs can trump a Perazzi. The aesthetic qualities of the compact, well-proportioned, low-profile design are all the more evident in a 20. The action also benefits from precise, cleanly finished machining and its tasteful and well-executed engraving. The fairly open scroll work is competent and the gamebirds realistic. The matt coin finish is also a plus. Practically speaking, everything works. The gold-plated trigger blade was comfortable (if large and bright). The top lever and sliding-safety-cum-selector were well styled and ergonomically efficient.
The stock was as good as any I have seen from the Perazzi factory recently. I am not always fond of the firm’s stock shapes; it can make its combs very thick and grips too large and tightly radiused. This gun strikes a good balance, however. The comb shape had some taper but it offered good facial support. The grip filled the hand, provided purchase and improved muzzle control. It allowed one to exploit the gun’s inherent handling qualities. The relatively flat-sided fore-end was well chosen too – it brought the hand close to the barrels and so enhanced natural pointing qualities. The stock was chequered competently with well-cut borders and the traditional matt oil-type finish will appeal to British tastes.
If I were to choose any action to build an over-and-under on, it would be a Perazzi. It owes much to British over-and-unders of the first quarter of the 20th century (notably Boss and Woodward). The Perazzi has bifurcated lumps and trunnions instead of a full-width hinge-pin. This design reduces barrel flip in a stack-barrelled gun because the line of inertia is not that far above the shoulder. The Perazzi also incorporates Boss-style locking – both with regard to the draws and wedges on barrels and inner action walls and the main bolting system where radiused protrusions either side of the bottom chamber mouth engage in corresponding slots on the action face. Bolts emerge from the latter to hold these down as the gun is closed.
This SC3 is based on Perazzi’s fixed-lock MX12 action. It is powered by coil springs and offers simplicity, reliability and a very positive, top-strap-mounted barrel selector. Other Perazzis based on the MX8 incorporate a detachable trigger lock. These are available with the choice of coil or leaf springs. The droplock guns, however, best suit a larger grip as the mechanism requires more wood to be removed in the grip area.
This test took place at the West Kent Shooting School near Paddock Wood – a venue notable for its excellent facilities. The SC3’s good shooting qualities were immediately evident. I have tested some impressive guns recently for The Field – this was another example of just how competent modern Italian gunmaking has become. The gun was very smooth to swing. Trigger pulls were crisp. Felt recoil was comfortable (even with 30g and 32g Express heavy payload shells). The ergonomics of grip, comb and fore-end all worked.
The standard “shelf” stock dimensions – 14¾in length of pull with drop of 17⁄16in and 21⁄8in – certainly worked for me. All one had to do was focus on the birds, keep the muzzles moving, and the gun did the rest. Overall, I would characterise this Perazzi as an effortless gun to shoot. It was fun as well, as 20- and 28-bores often are, and forgiving – not always a quality of small bores.
All things considered, this SC3 was a very serious shooting tool. The slightly higher-than-average weight and pointability of the longer barrels contributed to its practical shooting qualities. It is not cheap at £8,575, but nor could one call it that expensive considering that a gun may be ordered to one’s exact specification within the price (including all sorts of options with regard to stock style and dimension, barrel length and rib type). The possibility of a custom-made pair of highly efficient 20-bores for around £17,500 is worthy of note, too.