Verney-Carron Sagittaire Express One
- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 15/12/2016
I love double rifles and have hunted with some of the best makes – Krieghoff and Merkel. However, they are a highly specialised build and at the thick end of £5000 for a basic model, are perhaps out of the reach of most of us. Like the shotguns they so readily follow in design there are two types – the more traditional side-by-side (S/S) and the modernistic over & under (O/U). If you make a double shotgun then it’s not a huge leap to use the same chassis and controls and drop on a set of rifle barrels. The trick however, is making the two tubes shoot as close together as possible; which is called regulation.
This feature separates the good from the bad and I have shot some guns that will not hold 6” @ 25-yards. Others have come in 1-2”, which is good given the technology! Though preferring the look of the S/S layout, I feel the O/U is the better design in terms of shootability. I tend to fit low/mid power variables - 1-4x24 or 1.5-6x42 and zero up one barrel that can take me out to 100-yards+ for longer shots. However, up close (25-50-yards) where most of the action is on a driven boar shoot, I either wind down the magnification to minimum or opt for iron sights or a red dot and zero in the centre of the group.
Sagittaire Express One
Verney Carron is a French company with a long history of gun manufacturer and their website shows all manner of firearms – shotguns, bolt-action, semi-automatic and double rifles. The UK importers – Garlands - sent me their Sagittaire Express One, which is an O/U design. The layout is modern and combines the power of a centrefire cartridge with the handling of a shotgun. If you have never used a double then you will instantly appreciate how pointable it is!
This is not a fancy gun, as the barrels are matt black, the aluminium alloy (Ergal) action dull grey and the walnut basic but acceptable with an oil-finish. The barrels are 22” long with a short mid rib that does not extend the full length of the tubes, underneath is a fixed sling swivel. Between the muzzles is a screw-in adjuster that allows you to regulate the point of impact. Sights consist of a ramped, windage-adjustable blade with red fibre optic insert up front. At the rear is a short, Battue-type rib with a height-adjustable, flat, V-notch. The top of the upper chamber is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Though none were supplied I have seen pictures of these rifles with swing-off, Apel-types and also Weaver rails fitted.
The action is undecorated apart from the legend - Express One and the Verney Carron centaur logo. Operation is by a top lever identical to an O/U shotgun, however there’s no tang-mounted safety. Instead the rifle has twin triggers with a tiny safety catch on the right that’s level with the front blade.
The timber is plain and workmanlike though well proportioned. The Schnable forend is hand-filling with chequering and finger boards along the top and offers an excellent hold and hand position. The butt is a simple, pistol grip type (again chequered) with a low, straight comb and checked plastic recoil plate, plus the other sling swivel. The trigger guard is cast aluminium and looks a bit tacky. However, the whole package comes together well, at 6.9 lbs and 39.3”.
Opening the action shows no lower locking lugs but just two pins that protrude from the breach face that engage into pockets on either side of the chambers. Closer inspection shows a steel plate inset into the face, doubtless to add strength around the firing pin holes. The standard Express One does not offer automatic ejection. You get partial extraction with the empties being lifted up by the single, ejector plate to be grasped with the fingers. Which brings us on to calibre, as the rifle is only offered in 8x57 JRS (rimmed). This is a version of the German 8x57 rimless (8mm Mauser/7.92x57mm) but adapted to double guns, which makes loading and unloading far easier.
From previous experience I would not use a rimless in a double, as case removal is slower. French law forbids the use of military calibres, which the 8mm Mauser is, so the rimmed version solves that problem. In whatever configuration it’s a good cartridge and very much like the 30-06 Springfield in terms of power and ability. It is however a rarity in the UK, so if the Express One turns your crank I’d ensure a supply of ammo before you buy!
On the subject of ammo I used Winchester Supreme (Grand European Metrics) 8x57 JRS (200-grain Nosler Partition). This to me is a good load for boar busting. On that point it’s possible to chamber and fire 8x57 rimless, as there’s no change in case dimension or headspace. The problem occurs when you try to unload as the empties stay in the chamber and have to be knocked out – take note!
Operation is simple – push the lever to the right, open the action and drop in two rounds and shut the gun. Note the safety is not automatic, so set it to SAFE before you chamber the ammo, as it will only function with the mech cocked. Despite the reasonably light rifle, recoil was not that bad, but the 200-grain load is a little lively… To reload open up the gun and grasp the rims with the fingers of your firing hand and pull the cases free. Conversely you can simply flick the barrels muzzle-up and they will drop clear as the case is slightly tapered.
The gun comes up quickly, mounts easily and offers a good head/sight position. Likewise the red bead settles near automatically into the flat V-notch and shows up well in dull conditions. Initially I found the safety a bit small to get on to with the trigger finger, but you get used to it, however, with gloves on I can foresee a few access problems.
Trigger pulls were firm but crisp breaking around the 5-6 lbs mark; probably ideal for a driven gun. Different too is the ‘dual-action’ trigger mechanism as you can pull the front blade once for the first barrel then again for the second. Conversely you can swap between front and rear blades too. There’s reasonable room inside the guard to switch between the two blades, but it gets a bit tight with heavy gloves. In terms of barrel selection the front blade fires the bottom and the rear the top. The gun was factory-regulated and at 50-yards as printing 3”, which is acceptable.
Overall I was impressed by the Sagittaire Express One, fit and finish was acceptable though nowhere near as good as a Merkel or Krieghoff. But it does the same job and at around 50% less in price, though the thick end of £2,500 is still quite an outlay for many of us for what is a highly specialised purchase. Options include the Classic with automatic ejector (EJEC Classic).
•Quick, handy and accurate enough
•This gun would sell better with scope mounts
•Limited calibre choice, could do with a 9.3x74 R option too
CONTACT: Garlands, 01827 383300 www.verney-carron.com