Kemen KM4 MkII Sporter
Mike Yardley tests the Kemen KM4 MkII sporter, a world class competition gun – and good for game too
This month we are testing one of my favourite modern over and unders, the Kemen KM4. The gun in question is Mark II 32” sporter, but I also use it for some game shooting situations. This year, for example, I took the gun on a serious pigeon shooting safari in the Republic of South Africa.
During this - and if you have not been pigeon shooting in Africa I would recommend it to you - a team of 4 guns shot more than 1,000 birds on two consecutive days (though no more than 100 birds to my gun on either day - because when I reach that mark, I slip my gun these days).
Strengths – and former weaknesses
Kemen - and it means strength in Basque (the independently minded region of Spain where the vast majority of Spanish guns are made) - are imported into the UK by Mike Meggison of Sport Kemen UK and the Kelbrook Shooting Lodge at Foulridge in Lancashire. Kemen guns, of course, are well known in this country, they look rather like a Perazzi (by which great marque they have clearly
been inspired with regard to their mechanics and general styling). Although there are very definite mechanical similarities between to the two guns, the handling qualities are typically very different.
Kemen have made their name for guns which have stock shapes which have a rather Browning-esque look to them and barrels that are long, and relatively light for length (the most distinctive feature of the Kemen gun). From a sporting point of view, many (myself included) think Kemens handle especially well and suit British conditions. And, just as Kemen once copied Perazzi, now other makers have copied Kemen - thinning their sporting stocks in the comb (making them less trappish), reducing the radius of grips and barrel weight.
Early Kemens - shot by some of our top Guns - were not without their issues, though. In particular, they had a nasty habit of cracking in the grip and of galling on the knuckle. Quality control on their barrels was not always up to standard either. BUT, they did shoot. Both George Digweed and Richard Faulds used Kemens with great success, as did the late Paul Juniper (probably the
toughest man in Essex to beat at an open 50 or 60 bird event) - Paul must have won hundreds of competitions with his Kemen. I had an early Kemen and did well with it too, once winning a shoot off by distance at the Colchester Garrison club that went back (honestly) to 90 yards!
Anyway, I am veering off the point. The old Kemen was a great gun, but not perfect. The new version looks much like it, but, critically, has been improved in just the way that any who thought about it seriously would have wanted. The bottom, rear, tang of the action has been narrowed so that now less wood has been cut out in the grip area and consequently the stock is significantly
stronger. Quality control has been addressed seriously and, the barrel bores are now 18.7mm on all guns (and there are also subtle changes in the way the barrels are bored). The result is that felt recoil is substantially reduced without any loss to pattern quality. On the finish front, a new blacking process has been being used - the action finish on the early Kemens had a tendency to
rub - the finish on the action and barrels now is really impressive. And, according to Mike Meggison, much harder wearing too.
Top Class competitor
In all departments, the new Kemen is well up to standard for a top-class sporter. The barrels are not only nicely blacked, they are well struck up and there is not a hint of a rivel to be seen inside or out. The gun I have on long term test is fitted with a near ideal rib for a hybrid sporter game gun - a
7mm ventilated parallel design (which also helps to keep barrel weight down). But, there are other options for those who want them - an 11mm parallel and, an excellent 11-7mm taper.
The barrels on the test gun, which bear Spanish proof marks for 2 ¾” (70mm) shells - like most sporting Kemens - are relatively light for length - 1580 grams - as is typical of these guns as noted. In passing, I might note that I would advise anyone ordering a Kemen who does not already know want they want to order a 32” gun with barrels weighing in the range 1550-1570. You will not
go far wrong with this and will benefit from the magic combination of point-ability combined with controllability.
The action of the Kemen KM4 has a detachable trigger lock rather like a Perazzi MK8. It is powered by leaf springs - so there need be no compromise on sear angles - and the trigger pulls are excellent (along with the handling qualities one of the great strength of the Kemen). This hinging system involves studs at the knuckle like a Perazzi, Beretta or Woodward (from which both are inspired), and there are Boss/Perazzi style draws and wedges on the inner action walls and sides of the monobloc. The engineering passes muster in all departments.
The stock on our gun shows some good figure, the wood looks strong too, and the shapes are sensible and well suited to sporting shooting or the occasional foray onto the game shooting field. The stock was not made for me, and the grip radius is a little tighter than I might have specified (as noted a more open radius grip is something of a Kemen speciality), but very comfortable nevertheless. There is no palm swell either - a feature I abhor on a sporter or game gun. Chequering was well cut (by hand). The traditional oil finish was good too. The dimensions on the test gun are pretty academic - you can order what you want, but the measurements on this gun which suit me well are 14 ¾” length of pull. Drop is 1 3/8” at the nose of the comb and 2” at heel with a cast off of ¼” at heel and about ½” at toe ( a little more than I would usually have).
I have shot thousands of clays with this gun. It shoots extremely well and it has accounted for several High Guns. Felt recoil is low. The trigger pulls are very crisp. The gun always feels controllable. But, as noted, it also feels lively. This quality became really evident in Africa where I was happily knocking dove and pigeon down consistently at 40-50 yards once I got into my
stride. Now, it would always be bad and unsporting advice to suggest shooting live birds at extreme range - we must all discover our limits and work within them. But, I will say that this was an especially effective tool for long range work. I have also used it in some very testing high-bird situations in Wales and it did the job well there too. The MK II Kemen is a significantly better gun than the Mk I and to be highly recommended.
|Model||Kemen KM4 MkII|
|Type||Over and under sporter|
|Rib||Tapered from 11mm to 7mm|
|Weight||7 ½+ pounds|
|Price||Starts at around £5000|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates