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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
The test gun this month is a near new Blaser F3 supplied to us for testing by Chris Potter Country Sports of Tunbridge Wells - one of our premier gunshops. I have known Chris for many years - we both enjoy using side by side guns - and he has built his business up into something really special, all the more in recent years with his business partner Charlie Harris, another keen shooting man.
First impressions of the test F3 are very positive - especially on the visual front. I have always thought the F3 a smart looking gun, and this one was no exception. There are deluxe models (including side-plated), but this F3 was the standard 30" sporting offering. Apart from being rather elegant in a modern way, it has a very low action profile, an interesting four-pull, single trigger mechanism (utilising an unusual horizontal inertia block), over-bored barrels and extended chokes (made by Briley - cylinder, skeet, modified, improved modified and full come with the gun). The arrangement of the firing pins is intriguing, with inline hammers and pins making the best possible use of kinetic energy. They offer a theoretical advantage over more conventional hinged-hammer systems. The gun is unusual with regard to its safety features as well. There is the usual trigger block but also an intercepting sear.
The wood on the test gun was very nice too. The stock had a full pistol grip with slight palm swell. The Schnabel forend was of modern form (generally the gun manages to create a classical effect with modern shapes and manufacturing methods). The price tag was something just over the 2K mark. This attractive gun weighed in at about 8lbs - ideal for a 30" competition clay buster.
The F3 felt reasonable between the hands when handled dry (and proven empty). I especially liked the gripping surfaces. When bringing it to face and shoulder, I also noted that it was steady. It seemed to me that that there was a fairly even weight distribution through the gun. My traditional preference is for more weight to be concentrated between the hands - but many like the steady quality in a serious competition gun (something that was most memorably a feature of the old silver actioned 682 Berettas). Another slight (and personal) quibble was that I felt the gun was not especially pointable - it seemed rather wide at the muzzles to my eye.
Overall manufacturing quality of this F3 was excellent. I could not fault it in any significant way. Everything was well up to scratch. Machining quality was first class. Finish was as good as anything that I have recently seen. Only one barrel prevented me from awarding dix points - one tube was very slightly out of true - but it is rare for me to see perfect over and under barrels even on guns costing twenty times as much. It doe not seem to make much difference to the way they shoot, anyway.
All things considered, the gun seemed extremely well made and solid, considering its relatively modest price point (an entry level Perazzi for example costs double). The stock was about right for me as far as dimensions were concerned. I liked the radius of the grip and the plain black recoil pad (which was not too sticky). My only other comments concern the stipple type chequering on grip and forend, which I thought looked smart and offered excellent purchase, and the nose area of the comb, which, relative to the grip, appeared a little low to my eye.
I shot the gun at the Braintree Shooting Ground, our usual test venue. I have not always done especially well with F3s in the past, frankly, but this one seemed to suit me well. I broke some quite tricky sporting birds presented as singles, including a low, longish bird hugging an embankment and dropping significantly (a presentation that has fooled many - there is a tendency to shoot behind and above such targets because the bank catches the eye and puts you off).
The report pairs which followed did not catch me out either. In spite of the weight distribution as previously mentioned, I found that the gun swung well. Felt recoil, however, was a little higher than expected. I am especially recoil sensitive. Considering the relatively flat comb, the back boring and the medium all-up weight, this was interesting. I wonder if it had something to do with chamber size or head-spacing? Overall though, a very cleverly designed, nicely made and good shooting sporting gun.
The F3 - which I am sure has a long way to go yet - thoroughly deserves the success it has already achieved. If I bought one, I would tend towards a 30" barrelled version as tested. Alan Rhone, however, has promised me a 34" Long Tom gun for trialling shortly - that should be interesting! Meanwhile, if you are thinking of buying a new or second-hand shotgun I cannot advise you better than to visit Chris Potter Country Sports - it is simply one of the best gun shops in the country. That is not an accolade that I give lightly. There is an excellent stock of new and second-hand guns on offer there and the collective expertise and back-up is second to none