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Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun

Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun

The old discipline of Practical Shotgun (PSG) as we first shot it in the early 1980s has changed considerably. Back then the majority of us did it for the fun of it and also the personal satisfaction of good and safe gun handling and improving our shooting skills. But as it grew so did the competitive element, which is always the way and serves to drive any sport/discipline forward. Given PSG and the newer spin off’s of Action and Target Shotgun as well as 3-gun events that use a Practical-style gun for one of its elements then the equipment too will evolve.

TAKE THE TUBE

Though box mag guns have made an impression, it seems to me that the simple magazine extension tube, which was our only real modification to early PSG equipment, still reigns supreme. But nowadays it seems they get bigger and bigger. Equally the more practical-minded shooters and builders have taken a look at the semi-auto shotgun and seen ways where they can shave fractions of a second off reloading and also improve controls for easier and faster operation. We see this everywhere and you just have to look at the popular and growing airgun discipline of Hunter Field Target as the people who want to win have it seems brought Field Target-style equipment to do the job.

With this in mind let’s look at the subject of this gun test - the IRON Armi Competition! To my eyes it seems to be more shooting machine than weapon, which is no bad things these days! It’s not the sort of shotgun you could miss, as it’s bright blue with a capital B, which is counterpointed by the black synthetic furniture. Everyone who has seen the gun said they hated the colour!

The gun is made in Italy by IRON Armi who make a number of semi-auto shotguns for clay and game shooting plus personal defence. The Competition is an off shoot of their Aries defence gun but aimed at what the company describe as dynamic shooting, which is I suppose 21st Century lingo for Practical or Action events.

SOUND AND FAMILIAR

Blue finish and the rest of the go faster/ shoot longer bits aside the Competition is just another gas/piston design, something the Italians seem to be very good at building! Operation is by a floating piston that sits inside the gas shroud; behind it is a sliding spacer that imparts the blow to the operating rod slide, which connects to the bolt by rods. The mechanism is self-regulating so takes as much gas as is required to reload and vents the rest, meaning it should be ammo-friendly across the board!

So with a sound and reliable mechanism; which as I discovered it is, things start to get pretty funky! Two aspects of the design immediately stand out – 1 the massive muzzle brake (V-4 Compensator) and – 2 the huge magazine extension. The full name of the Competition includes the nomenclature 12/76, which alludes to the calibre (12-bore) and the use of 76mm (3” cartridges). I was running the gun on 70mm 32-gram game loads and I could get 13-shells up the pipe plus one in the chamber; impressive.

TONI WHO?

Unlike your average semi-auto the Competition has a very different sort of top rib over the familiar ventilated types we see every day. Designed by a company called Toni Systems who supply what they call a barrel bridge pointing system. This consists of a large rib that just makes contact at three positions on the barrel. Up front is a red, fibre optic and in the middle a U-notch style rear sight with twin green fibre rods one either side of the notch, which is elevation adjustable being fitted to an angled dovetail. I would imagine that this is primarily for slug shooting, though I would think the front dot makes a useful pin sight too!

story continues below...

Moving back we get to the heart of the gun - the action. The receiver is made of Ergal a high strength aluminium alloy and shows sections of material machined away to lose weight. It does not look like much has been removed but given the size of the gun it is no dead weight either! What I did like was the sides of the loading port are cut away at an angle so giving a bit more access for thumbing the ammo in. The shell lifter is solid and I thought they might have slotted it to save a bit more weight. This can also be useful if you get a round jump back so making it easier to clear.

BIGGER, LONGER; SMALLER!

One aspect of sporting semi-autos are their generally small controls; the cocking handle is usually a small hook and the bolt release is not massive! In a discipline that requires speed shooting and reloading size does matter and IRON Armi have got it 60% right!

The round/chequered cocking handle is huge giving plenty to get hold of! Equally the bolt release latch is a large rectangular plate forward and right of the ejection port, which is checked to provide a non-slip surface. So why didn’t they go the whole way and fit an extended safety catch to the standard cross-bolt? Moving with a loaded gun between targets in this action discipline requires the safety to be ON and then quickly taken OFF prior to shooting so why not make it big and easy to manipulate?

The top of the receiver shows four cut-outs (two per side) that will accept scope rings for optics; this seems to be a very common feature on most European semi-autos. Probably because they use them for boar shooting with slug. The black polymer furniture is basic with a long gripped, low-combed butt with what is called a Pillow Recoil system; for that read thick, ventilated recoil pad. The forend is as you might except, though both items shows aggressive, cast-in chequering panels in all the right places!

TUBE AND PORTS

Moving forward to the two most distinctive features; the 12-shot mag tube extends about two inches in front of the V-4 Compensator. This looks a bit odd, but from what I have heard from some shooters the advantage is that this extra bit acts like a resting bar and would be of use on barricade stages perhaps? However, like the safety catch IRON Armi have missed a trick as the gun does not come with a barrel-to-magazine stabilising clamp. Given the length of the unsupported mag tube it’s certainly in danger of getting banged out of alignment if you inadvertently bash the tube against something. Not hard either as the gun is a whopping 52” long and I could not find a bag to fit it, so had to remove the mag tube for transit!

The barrel on this example is 27” long and the 4-port muzzle brake is hard to miss. The gun comes with six multi-chokes as standard, so you can tailor it to the cartridge being used. You have to take the brake off to do the job though! A choke key is included along with some shims to adjust the butt angle.

SLICK PERFORMER

Overall and with the caveats of the small safety and the lack of barrel clamp; of the two I can live with the former but not the latter, the Competition is very much a top end gun built for purpose. I ran the gun on two loads - a 70mm, 32-gram #5 game cartridge and a 70mm, 28-gram, #8 clay round. Both cycled reliably proving the operating system’s design and ability admirably.

The game load is quite snotty in my 26” Browning Maxus and not that much better in the IRON Armi. With this one felt recoil is most noticeable; especially over a longer string of shots. Though the brake did tend to keep the muzzle down a bit, which proved useful on standard exercise type, multiple target scenarios.

Loading the magazine to capacity is easy with little to no stacking of the spring as it gains tension. Equally the relieved/angled sides of the loading port are of benefit. At £1500 the Competition is expensive when compared to guns like the Mossberg 12b JM Pro Series Tactical Class 24” 10-Shot, which is £729.95 and also comes with all the go faster bits including magazine clamp. Or a Remington 11-87 is around £800 and only requires a mag extension to be practical! However, I can see the IRON Armi appealing to shooters who want it all from the box and I have to say it pretty much does just that; beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun

Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun

The old discipline of Practical Shotgun (PSG) as we first shot it in the early 1980s has changed considerably. Back then the majority of us did it for the fun of it and also the personal satisfaction of good and safe gun handling and improving our shooting skills. But as it grew so did the competitive element, which is always the way and serves to drive any sport/discipline forward. Given PSG and the newer spin off’s of Action and Target Shotgun as well as 3-gun events that use a Practical-style gun for one of its elements then the equipment too will evolve.

TAKE THE TUBE

Though box mag guns have made an impression, it seems to me that the simple magazine extension tube, which was our only real modification to early PSG equipment, still reigns supreme. But nowadays it seems they get bigger and bigger. Equally the more practical-minded shooters and builders have taken a look at the semi-auto shotgun and seen ways where they can shave fractions of a second off reloading and also improve controls for easier and faster operation. We see this everywhere and you just have to look at the popular and growing airgun discipline of Hunter Field Target as the people who want to win have it seems brought Field Target-style equipment to do the job.

With this in mind let’s look at the subject of this gun test - the IRON Armi Competition! To my eyes it seems to be more shooting machine than weapon, which is no bad things these days! It’s not the sort of shotgun you could miss, as it’s bright blue with a capital B, which is counterpointed by the black synthetic furniture. Everyone who has seen the gun said they hated the colour!

The gun is made in Italy by IRON Armi who make a number of semi-auto shotguns for clay and game shooting plus personal defence. The Competition is an off shoot of their Aries defence gun but aimed at what the company describe as dynamic shooting, which is I suppose 21st Century lingo for Practical or Action events.

SOUND AND FAMILIAR

Blue finish and the rest of the go faster/ shoot longer bits aside the Competition is just another gas/piston design, something the Italians seem to be very good at building! Operation is by a floating piston that sits inside the gas shroud; behind it is a sliding spacer that imparts the blow to the operating rod slide, which connects to the bolt by rods. The mechanism is self-regulating so takes as much gas as is required to reload and vents the rest, meaning it should be ammo-friendly across the board!

So with a sound and reliable mechanism; which as I discovered it is, things start to get pretty funky! Two aspects of the design immediately stand out – 1 the massive muzzle brake (V-4 Compensator) and – 2 the huge magazine extension. The full name of the Competition includes the nomenclature 12/76, which alludes to the calibre (12-bore) and the use of 76mm (3” cartridges). I was running the gun on 70mm 32-gram game loads and I could get 13-shells up the pipe plus one in the chamber; impressive.

TONI WHO?

Unlike your average semi-auto the Competition has a very different sort of top rib over the familiar ventilated types we see every day. Designed by a company called Toni Systems who supply what they call a barrel bridge pointing system. This consists of a large rib that just makes contact at three positions on the barrel. Up front is a red, fibre optic and in the middle a U-notch style rear sight with twin green fibre rods one either side of the notch, which is elevation adjustable being fitted to an angled dovetail. I would imagine that this is primarily for slug shooting, though I would think the front dot makes a useful pin sight too!

story continues below...

Moving back we get to the heart of the gun - the action. The receiver is made of Ergal a high strength aluminium alloy and shows sections of material machined away to lose weight. It does not look like much has been removed but given the size of the gun it is no dead weight either! What I did like was the sides of the loading port are cut away at an angle so giving a bit more access for thumbing the ammo in. The shell lifter is solid and I thought they might have slotted it to save a bit more weight. This can also be useful if you get a round jump back so making it easier to clear.

BIGGER, LONGER; SMALLER!

One aspect of sporting semi-autos are their generally small controls; the cocking handle is usually a small hook and the bolt release is not massive! In a discipline that requires speed shooting and reloading size does matter and IRON Armi have got it 60% right!

The round/chequered cocking handle is huge giving plenty to get hold of! Equally the bolt release latch is a large rectangular plate forward and right of the ejection port, which is checked to provide a non-slip surface. So why didn’t they go the whole way and fit an extended safety catch to the standard cross-bolt? Moving with a loaded gun between targets in this action discipline requires the safety to be ON and then quickly taken OFF prior to shooting so why not make it big and easy to manipulate?

The top of the receiver shows four cut-outs (two per side) that will accept scope rings for optics; this seems to be a very common feature on most European semi-autos. Probably because they use them for boar shooting with slug. The black polymer furniture is basic with a long gripped, low-combed butt with what is called a Pillow Recoil system; for that read thick, ventilated recoil pad. The forend is as you might except, though both items shows aggressive, cast-in chequering panels in all the right places!

TUBE AND PORTS

Moving forward to the two most distinctive features; the 12-shot mag tube extends about two inches in front of the V-4 Compensator. This looks a bit odd, but from what I have heard from some shooters the advantage is that this extra bit acts like a resting bar and would be of use on barricade stages perhaps? However, like the safety catch IRON Armi have missed a trick as the gun does not come with a barrel-to-magazine stabilising clamp. Given the length of the unsupported mag tube it’s certainly in danger of getting banged out of alignment if you inadvertently bash the tube against something. Not hard either as the gun is a whopping 52” long and I could not find a bag to fit it, so had to remove the mag tube for transit!

The barrel on this example is 27” long and the 4-port muzzle brake is hard to miss. The gun comes with six multi-chokes as standard, so you can tailor it to the cartridge being used. You have to take the brake off to do the job though! A choke key is included along with some shims to adjust the butt angle.

SLICK PERFORMER

Overall and with the caveats of the small safety and the lack of barrel clamp; of the two I can live with the former but not the latter, the Competition is very much a top end gun built for purpose. I ran the gun on two loads - a 70mm, 32-gram #5 game cartridge and a 70mm, 28-gram, #8 clay round. Both cycled reliably proving the operating system’s design and ability admirably.

The game load is quite snotty in my 26” Browning Maxus and not that much better in the IRON Armi. With this one felt recoil is most noticeable; especially over a longer string of shots. Though the brake did tend to keep the muzzle down a bit, which proved useful on standard exercise type, multiple target scenarios.

Loading the magazine to capacity is easy with little to no stacking of the spring as it gains tension. Equally the relieved/angled sides of the loading port are of benefit. At £1500 the Competition is expensive when compared to guns like the Mossberg 12b JM Pro Series Tactical Class 24” 10-Shot, which is £729.95 and also comes with all the go faster bits including magazine clamp. Or a Remington 11-87 is around £800 and only requires a mag extension to be practical! However, I can see the IRON Armi appealing to shooters who want it all from the box and I have to say it pretty much does just that; beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Iron Armi Competition 12-76 practical shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

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