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10 of the Best Clay and Game Guns

Bruce Potts selects some shotguns suitable for busting clays and tackling pests…

  • CLAY GUNS

  • Breda 930i

    Breda 930i

    Contact: Viking Arms Ltd. vikingarms.com

    Price: £1875

    The Breda model 930i is a new breed of semi-automatic shotguns that that’s smooth and reliable and takes excellent shot patterns to a whole new level.

    Calibre is 12-gauge only and its action is the good old Inertia type, working off recoil generated from the firing of the case. Typical Italian styling with a split action profile with a polished black upper casing allows very easy cleaning and the lower action chassis houses the trigger, bolt and mag follower and is made from a light aluminium alloy called Ergal; it’s finished in satin polished, very classy.

    Length is 50-inches with the 28-inch barrel length (30- inch available) with a 3-inch chamber, three extended steel proofed chokes are included and the whole gun weighs in at 3.1kg. The barrels are back bored to 0.728 internal diameter for improved patterns and better velocities with 9cm forcing cones that ease the shot column down the bores and thus reduce felt recoil. The stock is a very good walnut semi fancy grade with very handy adjustment for the cheekpiece for perfect fitment.

    Excellent value for money.

  • Krieghoff K80

    Krieghoff K80

    Contact: Alan Rhone Ltd. alanrhone.com

    Price: £12,000

    Nothing says quality like a Krieghoff K80, especially a Parcours model. It epitomises quality German engineering and pure excellence of an over and under shotgun.

    The K80 (12g) and K20 (20g) are designed around the action and, from this heart of the Krieghoff, individual shooting systems can be tailor-made just by changing the barrels, rib, stocks. In this way a competition clay gun in the morning can become a fast handling high pheasant game gun in the afternoon.

    You can change calibre also, very handy. The K80’s action is CNC machined from a solid billet of steel and is designed for many hundreds of thousand rounds fired without loosening. You have a sliding top latch or locking system for longevity and reliability with a super-fast lock time.

    Barrels are made, unsurprisingly, from special steel that has a very concentric 18.6mm bore diameter with a mirror finish. They are 3-inch chambers and steel shot proofed and have a longer than normal forcing cone to lessen deformation of the shot column. The trigger is a mechanical system and faultless.

    The Parcours model has a more sympathetic game/sporter look to it, rather than that of a pure competition gun. Krieghoff offer excellent quality walnut both in figuring and grain that appeals certainly to me; the finish is semi oiled. Think of it as a complete shooting system, the K80 mechanics will outlast you and are totally reliable.

  • Benelli 828U

    Benelli 828U

    Contact: GMK. gmk.co.uk

    Price: £2500

    Benelli are known for their quirky, truly Italian approach to technical design and visual flair. This Benelli 828U model has a lovely radical look but all with positive design and handling reasons. Overall length is 45.75-inches with the 28-inch barrel length (26- or 30-inch options) that has a 7mm carbon fibre rib and weighs in at only 6.5lbs. There is a full complement of five chokes and the stock is walnut with a semi oiled finish with recoil reducer fitted.

    The 828U has a very sleek and slender gait with a long flowing action made from aluminium and finished on this model with a semi satin finish. It’s all impeccably made and fits together very well with barrels locking by means of a pair of extending bolts that protrude from the action and locate into the extension arms at the top of the barrels.

    The ejector system is another radical work of art, with an intricate mechanism with a port in the chamber wall linked to the ejection system to eject cases clear.

    The stock is really comfortable and well handling and the recoil pad has Benelli’s Progressive Comfort system that diminishes recoil according to the level of shot charge fired. Overall, you have a superb, lightweight 12g with carbon fibre rib, novel ejector system, radical looks great handling and phenomenal patterns on the boards.

  • Browning Liberty Light

    Browning Liberty Light

    Contact: IS Brands Ltd. isbrands.com

    Price: £2289

    It is difficult to make a truly lightweight 12-gauge without increasing felt recoil but the Liberty is one such exception. This model Liberty Light B525 is available in 30-inches, Back Bored (28 available) barrels and comes with 4x Invector Plus (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, Full) extended chokes.

    You have a top rib width of 8mm and overall length of 47.25-inches and it weighs in at only 6lbs. It’s a typical Browning over/under action profile and well-designed stock really help soften 12-gauge recoil despite its lightweight. Strength is still achieved from the alloy action with all bearing surfaces having hardened steel inserts.

    The walnut stock has a 14-inch length of pull and the Inflex II recoil pad softens the blow further and its oiled finish keeps Browning’s classic looks too. This Liberty Light is just as good for small framed shooters on the clay circuit, as it is for younger or more experienced shots after game wanting Browning quality, combined with a light weight.

  • Beretta 686 E Sporting EVO

    Beretta 686 E Sporting EVO

    Contact: GMK Ltd. gmk.co.uk

    Price: £1600

    The 686 E Evo Sporting O/U 12-gauge only shotgun from Beretta is a finely crafted shotgun, designed for the Sporting clay circuit. You have a choice of 30- or 32-inch barrels with a 10mm rib fitted with the excellent Opti choke system of which these extended versions are supplied in a full five choke compliment for all disciplines.

    Overall length is 48.25-inches with a weight of 3.65kg and length of pull of 14.5-inches, giving the Evo a good weight to length ratio for fine handling and swing. These 686 actions are designed to take sustained fire without breaking or loosening up. These barrels are made from Beretta’s own cold-hammer forged steelium material, which is an alloy providing lightness yet strength and thus contributes to the fast handing properties. The bores are enhanced for durability by being chrome-lined.

    The stock is a walnut Sporter pistol grip, the butt has a fuller form, giving some more weight to it and thus equals out the longer barrels on this model. The forend is slightly longer than normal with a classic Schnabel forend tip further enhanced by some nicely cut checkering. A lefthand option is available.

    This model is designed to perform on the Sporting Competition clay grounds, but I can see people using it for extended pigeon decoying too.

  • GAME GUNS

  • Browning B725 Black Gold

    Browning B725 Black Gold

    Contact: IS Brands Ltd. Isbrands.com

    Price: £2675

    This is the UK version that has a great style to it and superb looks. We have a slim 20-gauge profiled action that is finished in a black/blue, accented with gold inlaid game scenes and very traditional rounded pistol grip in high grade walnut. Combine this to the B725’s great handling characteristics, balance and fluidity in the swing and reliable performance and you have a cracking little gun, weighing 2.95kg with an overall length of 45.5 inches.

    If the black action is not your speed, then you can have a Premium version with silvered/ grey action or Light version at 2.6kg instead of 2.95 for walked up game or a standard B725 styled stock if the rounded pistol grip is not to your liking.

    Barrel choice is 28, 30 and 32-inch, all with 3-inch chambers and supplied with 5 x Invector Plus (Cyl, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, Full) chokes. This 20-gauge Gold has an all steel construction with a slim and low profile to the action, again a combination of elegance and strength that Browning do so well.

    That lovely grade 3 stock is my sort of stock, both in looks and styling as well as handling. Although I like a Schnabel forend, this Hunter Black Gold edition has that authentic air of a gun from yesteryear.

  • Beretta 486 Parallelo

    Beretta 486 Parallelo

    Contact: GMK Ltd. gmk.com

    Price: £4445

    Beretta have introduced the new Parallelo shotgun to their range and is a really decent side by side shotgun.

    It is designed as a classic looking side by side on the outside, with all the trappings of yesteryear with fine engraving, round bodied action and deeply blued steel finely crafted into quality walnut. However, all the magic is on the inside, as Beretta, rather than revamping an old model, has opted to start again with a redesigned action, springs and trigger group for utmost reliability in the field, as well as obvious Beretta elegance.

    What you finally end up with is a really nice handling, pistol grip or straight side by side with 28- or 30-inch barrels in 12g or 20-gauge. Handling is very good, as the 486 has a very natural profile and handling characteristics and is well weighted. In other words, not too dainty and light but solid and very balanced.

    Someone looking for a classic side by side but who likes all the modern technical features to improve performance but outwardly looks elegant will find the 486 Parallelo fits the bill.

    Priced from £4445, I would say that’s about right for what you get. It has all the charm of a classic side by side but with all the benefits of modern manufacture.

  • Fausti DEA British Express SL combo

    Fausti DEA British Express SL combo

    Price: £19,000 rifle or £22,000 combo

    Contact: Stag Country Sports & Fausti UK

    Fausti are a family run business from Italy and it shows through the design and passion of the guns they’ve made since 1948. Originally started by Cavalier Stefano Fausti, it is now run by his three daughters Elena, Giovanna and Barbara. This model, from the Boutique collection and called the DEA British Express SL rifle that retails for £19,000 and £22,000 with a set of matching 20-gauge barrels and is the crème de la crème.

    The DEA is set around a hand finished box lock action design, made on state-of-theart CNC machinery but then all finished my hand for that individualistic old-world quality. The action is your typical box lock design, which is both strong and proven to provide a secure and precise lock-up.

    Cream always rises to the top and the Fausti DEA Express combo is one such gun. Yes, it is expensive but to obtain this level of workmanship you need to pay for it, don’t expect Ferrari performance from a Ford Escort budget! Both as rifle or shotgun, the Fausti DEA Express performed flawlessly and would make a great, ‘do anything’ travelling gun or home spun deer and bird gun in the right cartridge.

  • Bettinsoli X Trail

    Bettinsoli X Trail

    Contact: RUAG. ruag.co.uk

    Price: £840

    The Italian gun maker Bettinsoli from the traditional gun making region north of Brescia have earned a reputation for solid no nonsense shotguns. The Bettinsoli range sit very nicely in the mid-priced range, where youngsters just starting, new-comers or second gun shooters look for a gun. It’s tricky to get it right at this level as competition is tough but the Bettinsoli shotguns have a good overall range, calibre styles and workmanship which keep them stock on gunsmith’s shelves.

    The X Trail model is your typical over and under shotgun that is available as this small calibre version or also as a Sporter in sliver or case-hardened finished action and even a 3.5-inch chambered version with camo cladding for wildfowl. All have a single trigger, manual safety catch and proofed for steel shot.

    The X Trail Evo, which is the Game version, is a very pretty, light-handling little shotgun with a lot of uses.

    Within this sub-£1000 price mark, the Bettinsoli range represents good value for money and have a good reputation too. They are better made than some of their competitors and, if you just get out and use them, you will be very happy with it. I liked the 28-gauge X Trail version, as it feels well proportioned.

  • Remington Sporting 410

    Remington Sporting 410

    Contact: Raytrade. raytradeuk.co.uk

    Price: £1250

    The Remington 1100 auto loading design now encompasses models such as the Classic, Classic Trap, Competition Synthetic, 200th anniversary and the Sporting series on test. The Sporting models are available as competition sporting clay use or for hunting an all encompass the steel receiver, highly blued finish and fancy grade walnut with a high lacquer finish.

    Available in four calibres, 12g, 20g, 28g and .410g, you have a semi-auto shotgun for all reasons and seasons that has light recoiling characteristics and those classic good looks. The .410 version is a particular favourite and is a gas operated semiautomatic design of 47.75- inch overall length with a barrel length 27-inches that is reliable with a variety of loads.

    Best of all is the Rem Choke system that allows you to get the best from your .410 gauge. Many think of the .410 as a close-range pipsqueak vermin shell but there are many that use it for clay competition and sporting uses. The complete complement of five chokes are included, Cyl, ¼, ½, ¾ and Full chokes.

    This really helps achieve the perfect pattern for the range you are intending the Remmy to be used for and matching the shell size and shot size to gain optimum pattern density The fancy grade walnut stock has Remington’s tough thick lacquer applied and handling is super-fast and lightweight just what a 410 should be. The action is all steel and it just feels right, well made with reliability and longevity.

    If you are looking for a good .410 shotgun for youngsters, vermin control or clays, I have to say that the Remington 1100 would be my top choice.

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