Shotguns at The British Shooting Show 2022
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- Last updated: 20/03/2022
It was great to be back at the NEC catching up with all the new products and players, as well as most of the usual suspects! My brief this year was to root out all that was brightest and best in shotguns - so here goes!
Italy’s leading gunmakers have given their 12g A400 Xcel competition semi-auto a major re-boot, up-sizing the ports and controls, re-profiling the pistol-grip and forend, re-designing the rib, re-styling the laser engraving and adding a smart new grey AquaTechShield finish to the action and end cap, which complements the mattefinished barrel and Beretta-blue bolt to a ‘T’. I also got my first hands-on look at the Ultraleggero, an innovative O/U that Beretta has trimmed to 3kg (28” version) by hollowing out the stock, doing without the side rib and filling in the walls of its skeletonised steel action with decorative black polymer inserts. I love the resulting look and feel, plus the way Beretta are positively encouraging 3D printers to create their own custom alternatives.
GMK - www.gmk.co.uk
Fabarm’s Autumn model is another pretty SxS gun. Its distinctive 4-bite action is colour-case-hardened and embellished with acanthus scroll engraving. Stocking is again English in style, and in excellent walnut, although a pistol-grip/ beaver-tail combination is also available. Offered in 20g only, buyers can choose between 28” or 30” barrels, equipped with interchangeable chokes and a stylish sunken rib. No less attractive is the new Elite Field variant of Fabarm’s roundbodied, Elos 2 O/U. Offered in 12g or 20g, it also sports a colour-case-hardened action, this time featuring an accomplished game scene motif with the birds accentuated in gold. Well-coloured, straight-grained walnut completes the positive impression.
Caesar Guerini - www.caesargueriniuk.com
I never thought I’d see the day a mainstream shotgun maker introduced a true left-hand top-lever shotgun. However, Browning now has no less than 10 different models in the B525 Sporter 1 line. Fantastic for southpaws new to shooting, but a hard re-learn for the rest of us! Also new to the Sporter 1 line is Browning’s new pick ‘n mix policy for stocks (trap, standard, reduced-length) and forends (trap, Schnabel) as well as barrels (28”, 30”, 32”) that permits customers to order their gun with the precise combination they want. Barrels have the fashionable new matte-black finish, too. There are some properly-pretty guns too, of course. Specifically, the B725 Hunter G5 with its game-scene engraving and the G4 B525 Exquisite, whose acanthus scroll engraving runs seamlessly between the action and forend steel, testifying to the precision inherent in all these guns.
Browning - www.en.browning.eu
Britain’s most accessible bespoke gunmaker continues to thrive and innovate, as well as to show our continental cousins a thing or two about how to decorate a shotgun with both taste and flair. Longthorne’s unique billet-machined barrel sets can now be had on trigger-plate as well as side-lock actions, and company founder and dynamo, James Stewart has recently completed the world’s first and only gun with monolithic barrels milled from titanium alloy. The resulting gun is by all reports as marvellous to shoot as it is to hold. This would be enough for most people, but James has also developed and brought to market (in the USA) an improved and beautifully-made version of the Browning M1935 ‘High-Power’ 9mm pistol, called the Dominion (engraved) and Defiance (blacked).
Longthorne Gunmakers - www.longthorneguns.com
If you want a good-quality budget gun, the Sportsman is the place to look, and their Kofs Sceptre range is the place to start. As fully-featured as they are affordable, Sceptres come in all calibres from 12g to .410, in both adult and junior versions (with full-sized stocks available separately for very modest money). Kofs’ new Zenith series offers buyers all this but with a steel action in place of the Sceptre’s aluminium alloy one, for those who like a bit more weight between their hands. Model designations are still being finalised, but a variant with female-friendly stock dimensions is very much on the cards.
Sportsman Gun Centre - www.sportsmanguncentre.co.uk
Many of today’s gun-buying decisions are influenced by predictions about the future of lead ammunition and a resulting desire to shoot high-pressure steel loads. Bio Ammo is at the centre of the move to eco-friendly ammunition, with the most genuinelybiodegradable wads and cases yet developed. However, they also offer loads that perform well through standard-proof barrels, using both conventional steel shot as well as pellets made from a proprietary alloy that combines the density of steel with the softness of lead. BioAmmo’s alloy loads are more expensive than steel but much cheaper than bismuth, so maybe there’s no need to retire your old gun after all! 12g loads are available now, with 20g due in time for next season.
Bio Ammo - www.bioammo.es
A theme of this year’s show was the resurgence of the side-byside in platforms proofed (and future-proofed!) for high-pressure steel. One such is the Esprit by Beretta-group brand, Franchi. It’s a classically-styled 12g or 20g SxS with high-gloss 28” barrels, a concave rib, a colour-case-hardened action with gold accents and stocked in the English style in good walnut.
GMK - www.gmk.co.uk