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Natural Shooter

Natural Shooter

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For a change from the usual over-and-under shotguns, we have a lovely Italian side-by-side on test. Unless you are familiar with this shotgun genre, it may be easy to forget its unique position on the game fields, but for those who grew up with them, they still have a dedicated following.
Fair is a new name to me, and these shotguns are now imported by Artemis Outdoors UK. They offer well-crafted guns with great fit and finish, which is certainly in line with the Italian way of doing things.
The Fair Iside side-by-side is available in a variety of calibres, ranging from .410 to 12-gauge (on test). It features a rounded Boxlock-type action design and uses multi-choke barrels. Importantly, the gun is steel shot HP proofed, making it a good modern-day gun.
A retail price of £1799 makes this trim shotgun very good value for money. Let’s delve a little deeper.

A closer look
Action-wise, you have what looks like a typical monobloc and Boxlock design. However, it’s actually a little bit different. This is because the internals have the hammer springs set outside of the action body, which would make it a true Boxlock, but it does not have side plates so it’s not a sidelock gun either. Instead, you have a mechanically reliable and fast lock time system using a non-trigger plate design with coil springs instead of the usual ‘V’ spring type.
The whole action is forged from steel, has minimal tooling marks, and effortlessly opens and closes with great precision, which is a sign of quality. Best of all is the rounded design, which suits the more modern visuals and makes the whole Iside model look very svelte and expensive. The coin finish is your typical quality satin sheen.
There is some delicate scroll engraving, not overly deep it has to be said, but still fine and well-executed. This surrounds the game scenes to all sides and underneath, with rising Woodcock on the base, Partridge to the left, and Grouse to the right. You also have a black/blued trigger guard for contrasting effects, and this is also nicely engraved. The same finish can be found on the top lever, which, incidentally, is pierced for added appeal.
The action is the inertia-type, so the second hammer is set by the recoil of the first shot. This is not my favourite, but it worked without a hitch on this Fair shotgun. You do have an auto safety that always catches me out, but I know they are popular. It is smooth and quiet to operate. Inset into this switch is the barrel selector, and pushing the button left reveals the two dots for the left barrel and right equals one dot for the right barrel.

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Deeply blued barrels
Talking of the barrels, they show some deep, rich, and well-polished bluing. They are 18.4mm bored and feature 3” chambers, making them compatible with all sizes and types of wads and shot weight loads. I had the 30” barrels on this gun, but 26” and 28” models are available. I usually like a shorter gun, but the Iside handled superbly with the longer tubes.
You have a smooth concave rib and a single silver bead to the end, which has that classic side-by-side profile. I find it really leads the eye very well. You now have that all-important Fleur de Lys set of proof marks for HP steel shot loadings, and better still a full complement of five flush fit chokes ranging from cylinder to full, so all game and pattern sizes are accounted for.

Furniture
Finally, the stock on the test gun was a reasonably good piece of walnut that showed some fiddle back and figuring when outside in the natural light. It had a light lacquer finish by the look of it, making it quite practical in the field.
Best of all, however, was the handling. Some don’t like the traditional straight-hand grip, but it’s mandatory for me on a side-by-side, as it not only looks the part but really gets the correct positioning for a swift and natural swing. Like a lot of Italian guns, which are used for walked-up game, the gun has a low comb. The length of pull was good at 14.5” and there was a slight cast too, ensuring a correct eye-to-rib relationship. Less appealing, however, was the plastic butt pad. Sorry, but why not a slim rubber pad or chequered wood? The one fitted is not in keeping with the rest of the gun, quality-wise, in my view.
Better was the finely cut chequering with skip line design that can be found on both sides and the underside of the forend, as well as the straight grip. The forend is nice and slim, houses the ejector system, and has a neat push-button release catch to disassemble the Iside. Precise yet secure, with no fumbling.
I liked the wood-to-metal fit, which was very good, particularly the double radiused engagement to the back of the action, which looks very classy. In fact, the whole configuration of the Iside feels very natural and intuitive to use.

In the field
We had a ¼ choke fitted in the right barrel and a ½ fitted to the left, so selected the latter for the pattern board tests.
First up was Hull’s Driven Grouse loading (32-grams | No. 5.5), which uses copper-plated shot to avoid distortion. It also helps with less clumping of shot and produces tighter patterns down range. We had a total of 236 pellet strikes within 30” and a slightly left-hand-biassed pattern. Still, there were 112 strikes within 15” and the remaining 124 fell to the outer sectors. I like this loading as it’s always consistent and hits hard with dense patterns.
Hull’s Imperial Game (30-grams | No. 6) were up next, and they are a real favourite of mine because they are just a superb all-round cartridge. A total of 271 pellets hit the board, with a central, very consistent, and dense pattern. We counted 182 inner hits and 89 outer strikes, making this load and the Iside very compatible in my book.
Eley’s Pigeon Select loading (30-grams | No. 6) is the same spec as the Imperial Game, so I was interested to see how it would perform. We had a total of 264 pellets hit the board, with 116 inner hits and 148 outer strikes. The overall spread was even, but when compared to the Imperials, the bias of the shot was to the outer sectors and not the inner. Interesting, don’t you think? That’s why we test these things.
Finally, a very unique cartridge from Winchester; the Duo Faisan. They use a duplex load of No. 5 and No. 7 shot sizes and a whopping 36-gram loading! A good total of 265 pellet strikes on ½ choke, but a bit low on the board, with 103 inner and 162 outer strikes. This load covers all bases, literally, and game sizes in one.

Conclusion
This Fair Iside uses a rounded action profile that’s very popular these days, and small touches like these just add that little bit of difference to the norm and elevate the whole gun visually. It shoots so naturally and easily, and even I can hit something, regardless of the speed! It is excellent value for money and is just at home on a pheasant shoot, in a pigeon hide, while doing some walked-up shooting, or on a casual clay day. Perfect.

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gun
features

  • Name: : Fair Iside EM
  • Calibre: : 12-gauge
  • Barrel Length: : 30” (on test)
  • Overall Length: : 47”
  • Weight:: 3.2kg
  • Length of Pull::  14.5”
  • Price::  £1799
  • Contact: : Artemis Outdoors UK - www.artemisoutdoorsuk.co.uk
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