Winchester Select Energy Trap
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
One of the joys of gun-testing is that sometimes you get surprised. I was certainly surprised by the Winchester Select Energy Trap. It is a 12 bore 30” barrelled over and under competition gun made at the FN plant at Herstal in Belgium. It is a big beast, and quite weighty, something over eight pounds I would guess. The styling is rather radical too and I suspect that it will not appeal to everyone. In particular, the chequering panels on grip and forend are rather unusual and the silver finished action is modernistic and rather sparsely decorated.
In truth, my first impressions of the Select Energy were not very positive. I did not like the aesthetics much. It looked to me like a gun that had been designed by committee. Nor, was I very inspired when I first mounted the gun. It felt heavy and pretty lifeless between the hands. The grip was not to my taste either. I thought it too narrow to its front and too round in cross-section. I did not much like the palm swell either. I have often made the point that these are a feature best left off a mass-produced gun, because it is almost impossible to design one that will suit every hand.
So, I was not expecting much when I took the Select Energy out to shoot at the Braintree Shooting Ground. Boy, was I mistaken! This heavy, seemingly ill-balanced gun, shot like hell. Recoil was very low. The patterns thrown were far better than average. This was down to the barrel technology and more on that in a moment. But, once again, it shows that one should not judge a book by its cover. It also shows what singular things sporting shotguns can be. You cannot judge them by their looks and even their feel can be deceiving. The only thing that counts is live firing.
O.K. let us get down to the nitty gritty. The barrels of the Select Energy are back-bored very significantly. The bottom tube is 18.8 and the top, 18.7. Forcing cones are quite short though (as preferred by Browning and Winchester). The sighting rib is ventilated and quite wide at 13mm with a centre channel and twin beads. The front sight is a bright but small TRUGLO type. There is nothing at all wrong with it in my book, indeed I rather like it. The mid bead is white and rather too large for my taste. The eye tends to be drawn to it. Moreover, it is, or appears to be, larger than the front sight.
The barrels of the Select Energy are monobloc and the join is just about imperceptible (excellent work and evidence I suspect of high-tech machining). They are reasonably straight too. Internal finish is good. External finish is adequate and would have been excellent had it not been for the rather heavy handed application of some of the lettering. The barrels bear Belgian steel proof marks and have been tested at 1370BAR at Herstal. There are joining ribs that extend for most of the barrels’ length, but the final section has been omitted - I presume to save weight. This seems a popular ploy with manufacturers today, though I have my doubts concerning the resulting barrel balance dynamics. It seems to me that it is something done in compensation for the thicker walled barrels used to accommodated multi-chokes. These by the way are really excellent in the test gun. They are not only beautifully machined with a knurled section extending from the muzzles, they are rather attractively styled too. Winchester call them ‘Signature’ Invector Plus (which, of course, are also seen in Browning guns).
Generally, the barrels pass muster, but the joins between tubes and monobloc are exceptional, as are the chokes - as just noted. Let us turn our attention to the action. This is an interesting design. It has stud pins at the knuckle like a Beretta or Rizzini, upon which the bifurcated lumps of the barrels hinge. It is also interesting to see Beretta style conical locking bolts coming out of the breech-face and engaging circular bites either side of the top chamber mouth. Imitation, of course, is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is not a rip-off of the Beretta design. The barrels have a shallow rear lump that engages a recess in the rear of the action floor. Apart from the very
visible cocking rods, I thought it all was rather neat.
I liked the shape of the trigger blade. It was adjustable too, and the pulls (on an inertia operated system) were good as well. I have a couple of criticisms though. I did not like the stubby thumb lever. I thought that it was quite hard to operate and also thought that it was too close to the safety. I had some difficulty opening the gun on occasion.
The stock was one of my least favourite features. The comb shape was very comfortable and the adjustment feature most useful. Cast and drop could be changed and one could bring the front or rear of the comb up disproportionately – always a useful option when one wants to reduce the angle of the comb. The only problem was that the comb itself had a very sharp rear edge and it cut me
(and a co-tester). I do not like guns that bite! It would be a simple matter to sand this off, though. I was not very fond of the grip either for the reasons mentioned earlier. The stock length was sensible at 14.75”. The pad fitted was good. Timber quality, wood to metal fit, and finish (with the exception of the chequering) were all adequate. I really did not like the chequering much. Its styling did not appeal and I did not think that it offered sufficient purchase. Why not just go for a conventional pattern cut by laser?
Here the Select Energy really scored. It may not have felt that good, and I think that the grip shape could have been substantially improved, not mention the balance. But it was really soft to shoot - as soft as any over and under that I have tested - and the patterns were exceptional. I am sure that the
soft shooting characteristic relates to the wide back-bore (though a good comb shape did no harm either). The effects of the back-boring are so noticeable that I cannot understand why it is not universal on competition guns. The long chokes clearly do the business too. I was killing stuff way out, even when there were slight errors of line or lead. So, there you have it. I did not like everything about the Select Energy, but in some departments it really impressed me.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express who supplied the cartridges for this test.