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- Last updated: 20/03/2019
There seems to be no end to the number of Italian semiautos available today. It’s only in the last few years that I have come to realise just how many there are and even then, manufacturers that are new to me or that I have hardly heard of keep surfacing. This is in no way reflective of how new they are in the production of shotguns, but more that they are only really just arriving over here or have been undeservedly kept in the shadows.
One common theme that runs through them, is the use of inertia operation and rotating bolts. In the UK, they are better associated with Benelli, as they are one of the most popular brands around. However, a bit more research credits one Bruno Civolani as the father of the recoil/inertia system we know today; whatever, it offers an interesting alternative to the various gas/piston systems.
With this in mind, I bring you the Breda B3.5SM brought to us by Viking Arms. Breda is an old established Italian firm that made ship engines, thermal power plants, special steels, weapons and sporting shotguns. In 1953, the National Breda holding was split into smaller, more manageable companies, of which Breda Meccanica Bresciana took on shotgun production. In 1994, it merged with Otomelara and building on the long recoil series with continued R&D developed new ranges of gas and long recoil inertia systems with rotating bolt heads.
The most striking thing, initially, about this shotgun is the paint job, which mimics a snake skin type of pattern, or to give its proper name, Kryptek Mandrake. After this, the eye is drawn to the extended bolt handle and the ergonomic bolt release, both of which get a big thumbs up from me. There is nothing worse than fumbling with cold hands on a wet day and these two features certainly make the chance of this much less likely.
The next points that are then very noticeable with the safety catch and the bolt hold open catch are the similarity to Benelli, or perhaps it should be the other way around? Internally, the working parts look very much like those of any other inertiadriven semi-auto I have looked at! However, one well thought out feature is that when the gun is broken down, the barrel, forend and top cover of the action are all attached, which, as the picture shows, make cleaning and maintenance much easier and probably more effective.
The test gun came with a 28-inch barrel but is available from 24-inches to 30-inches and chambered for 3.5-inch cartridges, so making it a serious contender for wildfowlers. With the 28-inch, the overall length is 49.25-inches. There was a set of five chokes supplied from Cylinder to Full, with Cylinder to Half all being proofed for steel shot. The barrel is topped with a 7mm vented rib and finished with a high visibility bead. This model can come with a three or five shot capacity, but there is also the option to have a high capacity extension tube.
The stock, forend and trigger guard are all made from a robust plastic composite and have the normal diamond cut chequering on the forend and pistol grip. A set of shims is supplied to make small adjustments to the stock’s cast and comb height. The comb also has a recoil reducing pad embedded into it and there is a comfortable non-sticking, or grippy, rubber recoil pad. It is also straight forward to remove to recoil pad to add an extension, as the length of pull is only 14.5-inches.
The safety catch is located to the rear of the trigger, being of the usual push-through design and the working parts hold open catch is to the right of the trigger guard. Plastic to metal fit is more than acceptable with no rough edges. The top of the action is grooved to take mounts for a scope for those using slug, sling studs are fitted and there is a set of swivels supplied. According to my scale, the test gun weighed in at 7lbs, although the official weight is listed as 7.1lbs.
The balance of this shotgun and its natural ability to point where I want it were excellent, it’s a build you can offer up, and it feels just right, making you wonder if missing your chosen target is even possible? I found the Breda shot loads from 28 to 36-grams comfortably and with 100% reliability. It was a little fussier with 24-grams and not particularly happy with the 21-gram loads, but then how many semi autos are?
As ever, for testing, I took it with me doing the rounds on my shoot and also had an hour flighting pigeon into a wood. I got on very well, after putting an extension pad on to give me an extra inch of length; using this gun felt no different to some of my own and, in terms of what I hit, I got on as very well. With the extended bolt handle and ergonomically improved bolt release, I actually preferred using the Breda B3 to my Benelli, which I have had for getting towards 20 years. There is nothing really not to like about this gun, except the price! Whilst being comparable to some of its competitors, is still at around £1400, which I feel, as with its competition, is too high, but if it stands the test of time is none the less going to be a good investment.
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