Bretton-Gaucher G12 Phantom
In this short series on moderated shotguns, Jules Whicker finds the bolt action Bretton-Gaucher G12 Phantom .410 complete with synthetic stock
Made in France by Bretton-Gaucher, the Phantom G12 represents a modern take on the old “garden-gun” concept. Modern, in the sense that it’s available in black synthetic furniture as well as wood, but also because if a handy .410 shotgun has always been an ideal tool for a little discreet pest control, then a fully moderated version is a prudent response to today’s paranoia about everything that goes “bang!”.
Most moderated single-shot shotguns are based on fixed-breech designs, but the G12 is a bolt-action, appearing to share everything but its barrel and the front section of its bolt with Bretton-Gaucher’s rimfire rifles. Indeed, the stock design is more centrefire than rimfire, with a Monte Carlo comb, raised cheek-piece and Schnabel-tipped fore-arm. And though the build may be basic - an injection-moulded body with an integral trigger guard and a hard plastic butt-plate - the matte finish and moulded-in chequering panels nevertheless provide a secure and comfortable grip, internal bulkheads make it stiff, and it even has pillar bedding! All that’s missing really is a pair of swivel studs, but it wouldn’t be hard to fit them yourself.
The action offers a similar mix of centrefire-style features (some cosmetic, such as its butter-knife-style bolt handle and streamlined bolt-shroud, and others mechanical, such as an enclosed bolt face and plunger-type ejector) with economy of construction. Thus the rear section of the bolt, including the handle and shroud, are plastic mouldings, whilst the metal parts are simply shaped and roughly finished. So roughly finished, indeed, that at first it took considerable effort simply to open and close the bolt, though this soon began to ease up with use.
Though an indicator pin protrudes from the bolt shroud when the gun is cocked, there’s no manual safety on the G12, so the manual instructs the user only to load the gun when a target presents itself. Alternatively, you can make the gun safe to carry loaded but uncocked by chambering a round, lifting the bolt handle fully and then squeezing the trigger as you lower the handle to de-cock the action (it goes without saying that you should practise this manoeuvre with an empty chamber first and always ensure the muzzle is pointing in a safe direction.) The truth is that even with the G12 cocked and loaded it is unlikely to go off by accident - though safe handling procedures should always be applied - since the (non-adjustable) trigger is seriously heavy, sending my Lyman gauge off the scale.
The moderator and receiver carry French proof marks, and the barrel is chambered for 3” cartridges, so it will also accept 2” and 2.5” loads, although the extractor disliked the 2” cases and these frequently had to be hooked out by hand. No such problems were encountered with the longer cases, however, and the ejector dealt reliably with anything the extractor got hold of. Moreover, as the action is open-topped, it is easy to see and access any stuck cases.
Sighting is by means of a brass bead at the muzzle and a broad U-notch at the rear, which is a bit more than you get with most moderated shotguns, and a good idea given the absence of a sighting rib and the importance of centring the pattern on the target to make the most of the modest 9-18 grams of shot thrown by the little .410 cartridges.
Although the gun shot pretty much to point-of-aim over the fixed sights, I fancied something a bit more sophisticated, so I improvised a Weaver mount and fitted a mini red-dot sight, which I was then able to zero. This increased my confidence in being able to make clean kills out to 25 yards. In truth, I had hoped to get a bit more range out of the gun, but there’s no sign of choke in the 15” bore – perhaps to facilitate its use with slugs (which could be interesting – given the right paperwork) - and consequently patterns were rather open.
Because of the short barrel, the moderator measures a bare 24.25”, which makes the G12 the most compact gun in its class at just under 45.5” overall, and light at 5.5 lb. The steel moderator tube shrouds the entire barrel, from which gas is initially taken off via a line of 5 ports located a couple of inches in front of the chamber at 6 o’clock. Thereafter, a series of sprung polymer baffles beyond the muzzle further dampen the report. The moderator is permanently attached to the action so as to keep the gun legal, but the muzzle cap unscrews to allow the baffles to be removed for cleaning. You’ll need a pin spanner for this, however. Unfortunately I didn’t have one to hand, so couldn’t make a closer examination.
Sound reduction with 2” standard-velocity cartridges was very good – akin to an un-moderated spring-powered airgun - and made it possible to use the gun around the farmyard without alarming livestock. I found that 2.5” and 3” standard loads weren’t slowed down enough by the barrel ports to be rendered subsonic at the muzzle, so in order to throw more than 9 grams of shot I had to resort to Eley’s 3” subsonic load, which fortunately proved to be almost as quiet as the little 2-inchers and at least twice as effective.
With ammo, sights and range-testing sorted, I took the G12 after some feral pigeons and squirrels. The ferals have had it easy for too long, since a concrete floor, the presence of livestock and a lack of access to the roofs around the farmyard mean that the risk of ricochets at ground level and of unrecoverable bodies up above makes hunting them with an airgun almost impossible. But with the G12 I could flush them up and shoot them overhead, then wait and have another go when they returned to feed. Disturbance really was minimal, and at the ranges concerned (10-20 yards) the gun killed well.
My next stop was a hawthorn thicket on the other side of the farm. The tangle of branches is so dense that it’s as hard to shoot with an airgun here as it is in the yard. Of course, I could just use a regular shotgun, but the thicket also has a few mature, ivy-covered trees in it that make it a popular stopping-off spot for passing crows and woodies, and I figured the quiet little .410 would improve my chances of making their stop permanent. Sure enough, the Phantom proved to be just the tool for the job: so much so indeed, that even after I had accounted for a couple of squirrels, and a pigeon, a rabbit still reckoned the coast was clear enough to leave its burrow under the hawthorns.
I see the G12 as gun with a particular niche rather than as a general-purpose tool. If stealth is all that counts, then a moderated sub-12FPE air rifle is to be preferred as it’s quieter and cheaper to run, needs no licence, and has a greater effective range, but when quarry has to be taken on the move, or a totally clear shot is hard to come by, then the Phantom comes into its own, delivering the advantages of a shotgun with much less disturbance.
Ideally, I’d like to see some choke on the gun and some swivel studs, and it would be nice if B-G would throw in a basic pin spanner for the muzzle cap, but aside from the initial stiffness in the action there’s little to criticise and much to like, not least the price, which, at £325 for the wood-stocked gun and £295 for the synthetic version, represents very good value.
|Overall Length||45 3/8” / 115 cm|
|Moderator length||24 1.4” / 61.5cm|
|Weight||5.5 lb / 2.5 kg|
|L.O.P.||14 1/8” / 36cm|
|Sights||Fixed rear notch and front bead|
|Accessories||Camo gun slip|
|Price||£295 Synthetic stock model / £325 wood stock model|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates