Mike Yardley tells you which guns to seek out at the CLA Game Fair this year. For the best guns at the Game Fair read on...
The best Game Fair guns will be lining the paths of Gunmakers Row at the CLA Game Fair 2015. Head up north to Harewood House in Yorkshire and join The Field and all your favourite gunmakers this year. Gunmakers Row has some new guns on offer from English Gunmakers, leading importers as well as renowned gunmakers from around the world. Just don’t forget your shotgun certificate.
Do not let the sun and sloe gin taint your buying decision, the suppliers and manufacturers will be there to advise you on these Game Fair guns. Make sure you don’t miss out on The Field and the CLA’s Game Chef of the Year competition and do visit us on stand L896 for our very best subscription offer and amazing free gift. We look forward to seeing you there…
And once you have your gun make sure you find the best gunsmith to maintain it.
GAME FAIR GUNS
The CLA Game Fair and Gunmakers Row, in particular, has a special fascination for shooting people. One of the world’s great gun emporia, it offers a chance not only to see what’s new (some of which is highlighted here) but an opportunity to gather information about and handle different Game Fair gun models from the big and not-so-big, names. There are also many interesting Game Fair guns, old guns on offer and you can handle nearly all of them. I have lost count of how many obscure but significant old Game Fair guns I first saw at the Game Fair. Much priceless knowledge has been imbibed in long and wonderful discussion with gunmakers, savvy old dealers and fellow members of the Ballistic Brotherhood. To top all this, you have the opportunity to go on the ultimate shooting bargain hunt. There are thousands of “pre-loved” guns and “Game-Fair specials” priced to entice.
Before noting just what might be worthy of special attention gun-wise this year, perhaps a little advice on the best Game Fair guns is called for. So, in no particular order: think carefully about what it is you want (if specific) before you arrive at Harewood House and do some pre-show research if possible; arrive early – it’s a vast event; don’t be in a hurry; use the opportunity to compare different models methodically; ask to trial shoot (often permitted if you push for it); set financial limits (like at auctions, it is easy to get carried away on Gunmakers Row); be really careful of condition with anything second-hand (if capital sums are involved consider taking independent advice); and don’t forget your shotgun certificate. On the basis that time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted, you might want to look at the following new models at this year’s Fair:
GAME FAIR GUNS: AYA Centenary 20-bore Round-Action Sidelock
I tested the 12-bore conventional square-bar AYA Centenary for the May issue and was generally impressed with the aesthetic and shooting qualities of this special, limited-edition, commemorative model. I have also had the opportunity recently to handle and shoot the svelte, round-bar, 20-bore Centenary special which will be on display at the Game Fair. Aesthetically, it is significantly prettier than its bigger sibling (itself no Plain Jane). Apart from the elegantly rounded and attractively scroll-engraved and coin-finished action, it is otherwise a conventional and well-executed, Holland & Holland-type sidelock.
The new AYA, like all Game Fair guns from this well-respected maker, boasts chopper-lump barrels, an action made from a forging that is engineered on well-proven lines and a hand-finished, traditionally oiled stock (attached to the action by means of a proper breech pin rather than the stock bolts seen in most over-and-unders). The Centenary sits between a No 1 and a No 2 and was designed to be both attractive and affordable with an RRP around £10,000, not huge by modern standards. AYA sidelocks – “the logical alternative” – are well proven and this one is particularly appealing because of its excellent proportions and embellishment, all the more so as it may be made to measure at little extra cost. If I were ordering, it would be a 30in 20-bore with a flat, file-cut rib, twin triggers and a Prince of Wales stock.
RRP: £10,170, round bar; £9,690, square bar. See them on the ASI stand.
GAME FAIR GUNS: Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-bore EL
Beretta scored quite a success with its Parallelo 486 side-by-side. That replaced the old model 471 which never really inspired although, like most Berettas, it was well made and reliable. The new 486 had a rounded and entirely redesigned action that incorporated classic V-springs rather than the helical variety seen in the rather pedestrian 471s (and most non-premium Beretta over-and-unders). The rear of the action bar was asymmetrically scalloped, giving the new gun a modernistic but stylish look. The pricing – less than £4,000 – made the new gun affordable, too. It had some interesting features: you could, for example, switch off the ejectors (as you could in the older, less-stylish 471). In 30in 12-bore form the Parallelo was the best-shooting Beretta side-by-side yet.
This year smaller-bore Parallelos have been appearing; first, the 20-bore and, at the time of writing, a 28-bore, too. The gun shown is the elegant 20-bore, side-plated EL, which, like the AYA, has especially attractive features. For the first time, Beretta is offering its 20-bore side-by-sides with 30in barrels, which will make them more attractive to the British market. My choice would be a 30in gun with a pistol grip and beavertail fore-end (Beretta also offers a conventional, straight-hand grip option). All its guns are equipped with an inertia-operated single trigger.
They are priced from £3,875 in 12-, 20- or 28-bore for standard models and from £6,675 with sideplates. You can see them on the GMK stand.
GAME FAIR GUNS: Benelli over-and-under 828u
Benelli put a great deal of effort into its new, rather radical over-and-under (launched internationally with considerable fanfare earlier in the year but only now becoming available in the UK). Its Dan Dare-styling will not appeal to everyone. As a design and engineering exercise, it is impressive nevertheless. Benelli is, of course, famous for its repeaters and especially its inertia-operated semi-automatic guns. Clearly, something of that experience has been put into the new 828, which has an aluminium and most unusually bolted action (where the front part of the breech face, fabricated from steel and about 1⁄4in thick, is hinged and locks into the back of the monobloc; the barrel, rather than the action, takes all the stress).
Other features of the new Benelli over-and-under include a stock that may be adjusted (with 40 options) for drop and cast by means of plastic shims. There is also provision to adjust length of pull without gunsmithing by changing the hi-tech pads. The “Impulse” ejector work is unconventional, too: the ejector trips are activated by the pressure of the cartridge when it is fired. Just as novel is the clever “Progressive Comfort” recoil-reduction system, which incorporates three sets of interlocking flexible buffers made from polymer. The slightly raised rib – equipped with a fibre-optic front bead – is made from carbon fibre to reduce barrel weight.
The RRP of the 828 is around £2,000. See it on the GMK stand.
GAME FAIR GUNS: Sauer 404
Sauer rifles already have a substantial following in this country with the 202 model being one of the more popular modern stalking rifles. The new 404 builds on strong foundations and offers some major changes – probably inspired by recent successful Blasers and Mausers – in a stylish, well-engineered package. There is an entirely new safety mechanism with a cocking-type safety on the back of the bolt. The rifle is not cocked until the safety is taken off. There is no need to fit scope bases (or drill the receiver) as there is an integral mounting rail to accommodate the equally new “Sauer Universal Mount”. The trigger, attached to the forward sling swivel and adjusted by an Allen key, allows for four different weights. The same key is used for changing barrels and removing the stock. Another development is that bolts no longer need to be changed in their entirety when altering calibres/barrels, only the bolt face. The gun has already received much positive attention and may be seen at Swillington Shooting Supplies.
RRP from £2,500.
GAME FAIR GUNS: Miroku MK60 High Pheasant 32in 20-bore
Many experienced game-shots thought the 32in 12-bore MK60 something rather special when it came out last year. We had seen similar guns before but not with long barrels and a narrow, game-style rib. The guns came hand engraved with good-quality wood and in pairs at just over £5,500 – quite a bargain. Browning also had particular success with the “UK Game” 725 20-bore, a 30in and 32in 20-bore that impressed not only with its reasonable price (around £2,000) but with its outstanding shooting qualities and well-conceived, semi-pistol-grip stock.
Now, 32in 20-bore MK60s have arrived and there is little doubt that they will be popular. The scale of the 20 is inherently appealing and, unlike some, the Miroku and Browning guns do not suffer from excessively heavy barrels and have excellent standard stock shapes. The MK60s use a slightly modified B25-style action. Head to the Browning Winchester Miroku stand to see this gun and its larger siblings.
GAME FAIR GUNS: HPX RSR 33in 28-bore
This is the latest model in the HPX range of very-long-barrelled Game Fair guns. Working closely with Perazzi, John Jefferies has developed a highly specialised series of over-and-unders with unusual barrel and stock specifications offering, he says, better target vision thanks to a different configuration of the top rib and with reversed slope and stocks that allow for a comfortable, higher head position over the breech.
I shot the new gun and was impressed with pointability and the form of the stock, especially the grip and higher comb. I am not convinced that the “reverse slope rib” (RSR) offers an advantage but Jefferies was the man who developed the long-barrelled “sporter” in the Eighties and the HPX range draws on his experience and expertise. The guns are also available with a conventional (and excellent), slightly ramped, tapered rib.
Prices for the Long Tom 28-bore start at £11,750; 12-bores begin at £8,995, including a personal fitting. Jefferies will also show an entirely new premium model developed in association with another maker.