Abbiatico and Salvinelli Excalibur
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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
I love to test long barrelled guns with a bit of quality to them. Our test gun may not be a Purdey, but it does not look unlike the new Purdey Sporter which is made, of course, by our illustrious gunmaker in association with Pellegrini and Visini of Brescia. The test gun, an Exalibur Sporting model, is made by Abbiatico and Salvinelli, another well known Brescian company known for innovative gunmaking. Indeed, Remo Salvinelli, is an engineering genius in the same league as Ivo Fabbri who has come up with designs for all sorts of extraordinary guns including the single trigger ‘Quatro Canon’ which is a four barrelled small bore that weighs in, somehow, at only 7 pounds or so. Remo also designed the Poseidon drop-lock side-lock over unders, and a drop-lock side-lock side by side amongst much else.
The Excalibur we test here – the posh version of the BL model – is available in a variety of barrel lengths and bore sizes. Our example is a used gun, has 32” tubes and a retail price well in excess of £15,000 but is on offer at a good saving, in as new condition, from Mike Ladd, of Ladds of Crediton. Mike also offers new and secondhand A&S guns from his very extensive stock and guns made to order. Mike, I might add is one of the great gun dealers in the UK today, and he’s a keen clay and high bird shot (as you might expect from a shooting man living in Devon). I might mention that I recently tried a similar second-hand model from Victor Chapman Guns in Essex, and that was up for a very reasonable £8,500.
First impressions of the test gun, meantime, are really excellent. The Excalibur’s rounded silver action is profusely engraved with beautiful scroll work, and, by any standard, looks most attractive. Is it too flash? For my taste, frankly, yes, but only just! The stock wood, which is quite light, has really good figure too. The blacking is deep and lustrous. Wood to metal, and metal to metal fit are impeccable. The gun is superbly machined in all departments. Is there anything I didn’t like? Yes, the huge grip with palm swell grip is horrible (a particular shame since the rounded forend is of almost perfect pattern).
This gun looks, and is, big, hitting my scales at no less than 8lbs 4oz. It is primarily intended as a clay-buster, but might well appeal as a high bird gun as well. The criticisms made not withstanding, it has real style with some refinements suiting a proper model de luxe. There is a full length trigger guard, a grip cap, a gold oval, and the engraving extending to the first section of the sighting rib. The sliding forend catch is extremely well done, and, like all the furniture is silver finished (which seems the fashion at the moment). The sighting rib, which is tapered (9-7mm) is clearly hand finished too. You can’t fault the detailing of the Excalibur – few manufacturers can achieve this level of finish.
Time to get the magnifying glass out. The barrels are built on the monobloc system as are most modern over and unders. Internal finish was good, although I noted one tube was not quite true. The Excalibur is chambered for 70mm (2 ¾”) cartridges and forcing cones are mid-length. The barrels have multi-chokes (Briley – four supplied in this case), vented joining ribs (which extend all the way back to the monobloc) and an especially well proportioned sighting rib as already implied. The latter is ventilated as well and equipped with a traditional white metal bead which is smaller than average. Barrel weight, most interestingly, was 1500 grams (light for a 32” gun in spite of the overall weight), bores were quite tight at 18.4 - this is still the standard for Brescia, although some makers are going to 18.6 or .7 these days.
Action and Trigger
The action of the test gun is atypical, not least because of its beautifully engineered detachable trigger unit which uses leaf springs to power the tumblers. The single trigger mechanism is of the usual inertia type, but a selector is placed at the back of the trigger. This was not an especially ergonomic place to put it. Indeed, I found it quite hard to use in practice – excessively fiddly. The trigger pulls on this gun let it down a bit – I found the second pull quite heavy though I did not have a trigger pull gauge on hand to test it precisely.
The action, as previously noted, is decorated with scroll. It all looks sumptuous. This gun scores highly in the aesthetics department. The gun hinges much like a Beretta with stud pins at the knuckle and the usual bifurcated lumps. The bolting system is pure Boss. The barrels have radiused side pieces which engage in slots in the action face and there are the draws and wedges of the classic Boss OU pattern too. The detachable lock is a clever piece of work and it may be removed by bringing the safety catch back beyond its normal position against spring pressure, rather than moving it further forward as in the MX8 Perazzi.
The stock, though beautifully finished, lets the gun down a bit in my opinion. I didn’t like the grip especially as mentioned, and the form of the grip and comb is BIG. Both could be slimmed to good effect. I don’t advocate excessively small grips (nor thin combs) but this grip is just too much. The primary stock dimensions are sensible - 14 7/8” for length with a thin wooden butt plate. Drop is 1 3/8” and just over 2” respectively at the front and rear of the comb – not much to argue with there. The finish to the wood is exceptional, as noted, and the chequering is fine and extremely well executed. The forend is truly splendid – one of the best that I have ever held – it would be hard to improve on its design.
I found the Excalibur to be reasonable. It was hard for me to appreciate the full potential of the gun because the grip and trigger pulls did not suit me. It was a beautiful gun, and beautifully made too, but it did not really float my boat. Someone will love it. However, with some work on the stock (which appears over influenced by the Italian trap shooting experience) and a bit of ‘smithing’ on the trigger pulls, this could be something really special.
PRICE: £15K approx
CONTACT: Ladds of Crediton on tel. 01363-772666