Bruce Potts draws up a list of shotguns that might just tickle your fancy if you’ve got a hankering for something classy…
It’s always nice to own at least one really special gun or, failing that, aspire to buy or even just dream of owning.
Often it can be the better engraved or more luxuriously figured walnut stocked custom gun but often it’s from the manufacturer’s own range of shotguns but just a higher grade.
‘Quality always sells’ is very true and with quality goes expense too but, in the long run, it can save you money, as you are less likely to sell that dream gun and thus save cash on countless cheaper versions and it will hold its value too.
Here are a few aspirational shotguns to whet the appetite.
This has to rank as one of the best, if not best shotgun designs of all times, emanating as far back as the early twenties. It certainly is an aspirational gun, as the quality and therefore price is similarly high, anything from £6500 second-hand up and usually twice that, to whatever you want to pay for embellishments. These Brownings were and still are made in Belgium and are handcrafted with the best quality steels and walnut available and can be individually made to customer’s spec for a truly unique shotgun. The attention to detail and sheer quality of a B25 is instantly apparent as soon as you pick one up. Browning has a knack at producing shotguns that handle superbly and feel incredibly balanced in the shoulder. The strong action lock up still endures today, with its full width hinge pin and the barrel lumps being secured with the low bolt engagement. Fixed chokes are favoured in a myriad of lengths, styles and rib configurations, as is the superbly figured walnut, again with some excellent special selections and engraved scenes to the metal work with side plate options too. Everything from .410 to the 12-gauge shooters is catered for. Best of all, is that unique Browning feel that handles so well and, although the sliding forward forend can be bothersome, the B25 is still considered the ‘family heirloom’ gun.
Price from: £14,500
Contact: IS Brands Ltd. isbrands.com
The F3 (and now F16) has made a real name for itself and is very evident why when you see the options and quality of manufacture. It has an understated elegance that belies its integral ability to handle superbly and produce some of the best patterns from a shotgun barrel.
Blaser are known for their innovative designs and high-end quality rifle systems but limiting the range of the new F16 models available to allow the cheaper manufacture and hence an aspirational gun at an affordable price; so, win win!
The steel and grey hardened coated action has a very slim low-profiled look, giving the F16 a very aero-dynamic appearance. It uses the twin hammer system cocked by opening the barrels, whilst lock-up is maintained by bifurcated bolts locking into the barrels Monobloc. The safety is non-auto and very smooth to operate, as is the F3 Blaser type barrel selector button, tucked away in front of the trigger.
The trigger is very un-shotgun like, more like a stalking rifle with 3.75lbs crisp let off weights and walnut stock although Grade 2 the colour and overall figuring is fine with the usual upgrades available.
This Sporting model has five chokes and is magnum steel proofed with a choice of 30- or 32-inch barrels with long forcing cones to avoid increased recoil and the barrel material is cold forged and chrome plated for longevity and uniformity contributing to impressive shot patterns. A barrel balancer system mid section allows the weight and thus overall balance of the F16 to be fine-tuned to the individual shooter The F16 not only looks very modern, sharp and streamline, it also performs and handles extremely well.
Contact: Blaser Sporting Ltd. blaser-sporting.com
Krieghoffs have always had that air of Teutonic superiority that sometimes-favoured function over pure aesthetics but handle one and actually shoot it and you soon realise why the K80 holds a premium price tag.
The K80 (12g) and K20 (20g) are designed around the action and, from this heart of the Krieghoff, individual shooting systems can be tailor-made, just by changing the barrels, rib, stocks etc.
The K80’s action is machined on the latest CNC machinery from a solid billet of steel; so, the K80 is capable of many hundreds of thousands of rounds fired without loosening. All parts are painstakingly hand-finished by fully trained craftspeople, so that every Krieghoff has the feel of a hand-built custom car. You have a sliding top latch or locking system like a Remington 3200 or Tikka Double rifle and the whole monobloc K80 action is incredibly strong. This design allows the use of one action for any calibre, saving yourself thousands of pounds on additional guns for differing disciplines.
Inside the action, the mechanism is made from finelytuned tool steel to give a very consistent and repetitive action and has a super-fast lock time.
Barrels of special steel allow a very concentric 18.6mm bore diameter with a mirror finish, 3-inch chambers and longer forcing cone for better patterns.
Again, length, rib options and multi choke, flush or extended, are too numerous to mention, with a mechanical trigger system and is available in a single or double release system for whichever discipline you shoot.
This Parcours model has a more sympathetic game/ sporter look to it, rather than that of a pure competition gun but Krieghoff offer excellent quality walnut regardless. £10000 may seem steep but perfection is seldom cheap.
Contact: Alan Rhone Ltd. alanrhone.com
This Italian made game gun is slim line and racy, with that lovely round bodied design that has benefits both for looks and for handling.
Zoli of Italy a renowned gun makers with a long pedigree for stunning shotguns and have produced one of the nicest little shotguns on the market with the Pernice. You have the choice of 20g, 28g or .410 cartridges with the option of a second barrel for a combination set and are available in 28-, 30- and 32-inch lengths. This is aimed at the higher end or more discerning end of the market, so indeed aspirational but obtainable.
It has a blend of good handling and balance that is equally good for all types of Game, Sporting and rough shooting. The action is perfectly proportioned to the range of smaller gauges with a shallow depth and height and as such is very sleek and puts the mechanical parts of the Pernice between the hands, so balance is near perfect.
The action uses the monobloc construction with the rear lock up is via the Boss type bite placed mid-way down the rear lug, making it feel very solid yet opens easily, a great combination for reassurance and quick reloading.
The trigger is a single unit that is detachable with a single Allen screw with key provided, Zoli’s trade mark Two grades of walnut are available and priced accordingly. The Grand Lux and Ambassador priced at £4995 and £5989 respectively with hand rubbed oil and well executed chequering. The Pernice is a superb handling, lightweight, elegant gun for all seasons.
Price from: £4995
Contact: Edgar Brothers. edgarbrother.com
Ian Coley Ribless Rizzini 20g
To me, this is the epitome of a superbly classic design but with modern day edge of excellent manufacturing technique, all blended together with a superb idea from Ian Coley, to have a ribless game gun for less than five grand. Of all the guns I have tested over the years, that’s the one I would have, its just right and that’s the essence of an aspirational gun. It has to have meaning to the owner and the Ribless Rizzini does and in spades.
This B Rizzini has the gorgeous round body design for slender looks and ultra-fast handling. The 29.25-inch fixed choked barrels are ribless and as such give a truly unique, yet highly natural sight picture, contributing to an uncluttered view of the target. It is trim at 47-inches and available in 20-gauge, 12g, 28g and matched pairs or combinations. The walnut stock is outstanding, with highly figured and rich colour, all finished in a traditional coat of oil. Length of pull is a good 15-inches, with an overall weight of only 6lbs 3oz. In the field, there are times when something spectacular lands in your hands, this Rizzini ribless is one such gun. It has that essence of quality, it handles just that bit better, the engraving is really well executed, the looks are exquisite, and the stock finish and fit are just right.
That ribless barrel step up allows a quick target acquisition and swing in either direction for pairs or cross game. The gun balances just behind the hinge pin, so literally floats in the hand. Save up and buy one!
Price from: £4995
Contact: Ian Coley. Iancoley.co.uk
Beretta 687 EELL Classic
The EELL has stood for premium desirable shotgun for as long as I can remember; in fact, I do remember my uncle’s friend bringing a pair of EELLs in the early eighties to a duck shoot and thinking: ‘Blimey, they’re better than my AYA Yeoman!’. The EELLs are Beretta’s premium 680 series of over/ under shotguns that have always had side plates to the action and selected walnut giving that desirable element. There are many options of the 687 EELL Classic version, both game or competition models and it’s a cracking looking and handling shotgun. It is available in three action sizes for 12- and 20-gauges, whilst the smaller 28g and 410-bore has been scaled down and what I think is the best EELL on the market.
The side plates mean a level of engraving and game scenes are super fine in execution and composition of scrolls, game animals that extend over most of the action and trigger guard and forend plate. A real feast for the eyes. The stock is a classic semi beavertail with high-grade walnut defined with fine lined chequering, brass oval shield and rounded Prince of Wales pistol grip.
Balance is perfect to pivot around the barrel and action hinge pin and it is one of those shotguns that feels at home in the shoulder and actually part of you. This is helped by the low-profile action that characteristically locks up at mid height on the action. The EELL is a gun to use and cherish, aspirational indeed!
Contact: GMK. gmk.co.uk