This month we are looking at a pair of Rizzini EM over-and-unders imported by and specially made for J Roberts & Son of London’s Vauxhall (a company run by the hugely experienced shooting man, Paul Roberts).
The guns have 30in barrels and round-bodied actions. The latter are colour case-hardened and scroll engraved. First impressions are good.
The guns are not flashy but they do have neat lines and competent finish. The traditional colour case-hardening, well-figured walnut and excellent stock shapes are all positives. The engraving is a little thin but it is in good taste and well executed (by some mechanical process).
On the handling front, these Rizzinis – a true pair – feel significantly better than average when brought to face and shoulder. The 30in barrels seem to suit them well. The guns are pointable but steady. They hit the scales at 7lb 3oz, which is near ideal for a modern 12-bore over-and-under game-gun with longer barrels. Weight is fairly evenly distributed throughout the length of the gun, rather than concentrated in the middle. Grip, comb and fore-end all felt comfortable. The refined stock shapes will suit the tastes of the British market well; there is not the evidence of the trap-shooting experience that sometimes has had excessive influence on the form of Italian sporting and field guns.
The test Rizzinis are not the normal factory output and have various custom features as specified by Paul Roberts, who has several distinct advantages in dealing with Italian gunmakers. He is of Italian stock and therefore fluent in the language and he is a great gunmaker in his own right (a former holder of the Royal Warrant, specialising in rifles but with 40 or more years of experience of shotguns as well). And, not least important, he is an extraordinarily keen and competent shot. Indeed, I know of no one who has shot more game – pachyderms or partridges. He knows what practical qualities are important in a gun. He also has the eye of a premier-league London gunmaker.
As a consequence, the test guns have interesting features which distinguish them from the mass-produced pack. First, there’s the round-bodied actions. This was a project that Paul – as respected in Italy as he is here – encouraged initially. He persuaded Bosis, whose guns he also imports, to file up one of the old-style Rizzini actions to give it more attractive lines. The experiment worked: a rounded action bar has now become a standard feature on Rizzini’s more upmarket products. The modification definitely improves the looks of the basic gun and works especially well in small bores too.
The test guns have semi-pistol grip stocks. This grip is probably the most efficient on the market today, ergonomically speaking, and a near-perfect design for a single-trigger game-gun in my opinion. Many pistol grips are not especially efficient – they do not allow you to hold the gun as well as you might. Often, they are too tightly radiused or, as bad, not even in depth, allowing the hand to slip forward in recoil. This excellent grip – which reminds me of the grip on some London muzzle-loading duelling pistols – suffers neither deficiency and looks elegant as well.
The sighting ribs on the Rizzinis are solid. This is a feature that more gunmakers might emulate. A solid rib is much better suited to a game-gun than a ventilated type because it is less prone to denting in the field. Many game-guns these days are equipped with 6mm vented ribs and these are almost guaranteed to get damaged if you use the guns a lot. I am also fond of the aesthetics of the solid rib (which appears solid externally but is, in fact, hollowed to save weight). To my eye, it is less fussy than a ventilated rib and contributes to clean lines on a gun.
Paul specifies automatic safeties, a sensible feature on any field gun. Paul also orders extra-long stocks which may be cut down to accommodate most length of pull requirements (those on the test gun were close to 15½in). Knowing the tastes of shooting men, Paul also pays a supplement to Battista Rizzini for upgraded walnut and silver ovals. This is sound commercially as well as aesthetically; I have lost count of how many glassy-eyed gun owners have thrust stocks at me with comments along the lines of: “look at the wood on this…”
Finally, Paul adds two more stylistic touches to his package – long trigger-guard tangs, which look more elegant (the short-tang guards are the mark of a machine-made gun and are a particular bête noire of his), and gold serial numbers inlaid on the elongated tangs.
The latter is not only a quality touch but a useful feature if you are travelling with guns and need to confirm the serial number quickly (as one does when passing through airports). Paul has even made sure that the numbers are large enough for middle-aged eyes to read without strain!
I took the guns to the Braintree Shooting Ground with Marc Newton of J Roberts. The good stock shapes and “dry” handling qualities have already been mentioned, but I was surprised by the truly excellent shooting qualities of these guns. Even with stocks ½in too long for me and a bit low (there was nearly 2½in of drop at heel), they mashed every clay target in sight. Skeet range, sporting stands, high tower – we got through the first box of cartridges without a miss. A
tremendously difficult dropping 50yd crosser finally got me! Marc also did extremely well with the guns. They shot
brilliantly, much better than I expected and better than any Rizzini I have yet tested with the exception of the round-bar 30in 28-bore (which was equally good).
A pair as tested costs £6,000 plus VAT. I think this represents really good value, considering the thought and work that has gone into it.
Off-the-shelf guns can be altered by Roberts’ on-site craftsmen (included in the price). A pair ordered to bespoke
specification will take four to six months to complete. An airline case is included, but leather cases are an option. The guns come in 20-bore and 28-bore at a small supplement.
J Roberts & Son, 22 Wyvil Road, London SW8 2TG, tel 020 7622 1131, J Roberts & Son.
The barrels of the Rizzinis are built on the monobloc system favoured by nearly all Italian manufacturers. Two barrel tubes are inserted into a short block (which also incorporates bifurcated lumps – machined recesses – on either side, which engage with stud pins at the knuckles). If you imagine a sleeved English gun, the concept is very similar. The more expensive alternative is demi-bloc manufacture (the over-and-under equivalent of chopper lump). In this, barrel and lump are forged together and only two parts – save for ribs and extractors – are required to make a set of barrels. Demi-bloc barrels, however, are rarely seen in guns costing much under £30,000. Monobloc manufacture, good enough for Beretta and Perazzi, is more economic and extremely strong when well done (as it is in this case).
The Rizzinis have 76mm (3in) chambers and bear Italian proof marks. The bores are marked at 18.4mm and 18.4mm on the
No 1 gun and 18.5mm (top) and 18.4mm on the No 2. The chrome-lined barrels of the test guns were, nevertheless, well
presented and very well blacked. The tubes were acceptably straight, the chambers cleanly machined and the forcing cones – the funnel-like constrictions in front of the chamber that leads into the bores – were longer than the average (and better for it). Multi-chokes were fitted.
The action design of the test guns is employed by a number of manufacturers in Italy (and notably those connected to the Rizzini clan, which include FAIR, Fausti, and B Rizzini). Stud pins at the knuckle of the action engage semi-circular recesses at the front of the monobloc – the bifurcated lumps as noted. This is a clever arrangement developed by Woodward originally and adopted most famously by Beretta. It allows for a lower profile gun than in those designs that have a full-width hinge-pin, which necessitates a lump or lumps beneath the barrels. The action employs coil springs throughout. There is a recoil-activated single-trigger and a barrel-selector-cum-safety of Beretta style on the top strap. All machining is very neat.
On the Rizzini style of action, there is also a long slot “bite” beneath the bottom chamber mouth, which is engaged by a full-width bolt that emerges from the bottom of the action face. If the Woodward-style hinging arrangement were combined with Boss- or Beretta-style bolting, the action could be made even shallower, but this is not the way that Battista Rizzini does it. His guns look adequate in 12-bore but better in 20 and 28. They have proved to be extremely reliable in all forms.
Price £6,000 for the pair, excl VAT.