Game gun Round up: Part 1
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- Last updated: 19/12/2016
So, with the game season now at an end, how did it go? Did you perform how you thought? Was the preseason practice on clays worth the money, along with the two or three lessons you eventually managed to book? Better still, is your game gun still up to the job, or has the time come for a change? It’s often the case that as time passes, you out grow or become physically at odds with your shotgun, the company you keep now means you could do with something a little more upmarket, or your trusty 12 bore has become that little bit too heavy.
No matter how you look at it, we all like a change now and again, or our age and potentially creaking limbs have all finally caught up with us and that a 20g might prove to be that little bit easier to manage. There’s also the other possibility that, after years using an over-under, you just might feel that you really should be using a classic side-by-side. The classic format; if you’ve never shot with a side-by-side, it can take a little getting used to, but once you’ve become accomplished with one you quickly appreciate why the top game shots like their barrels next to each other.
So here is Part One of Gun Mart’s suggestions for what could possibly be your next game gun. All of them have been chosen because I like them and I think you will too. Equally, two of them are from the same maker, albeit they’re worlds apart when it comes to design and technology and one is best bought pre-owned unless money isn’t a problem.
Three are Italian, whilst one carries a famous English name, although now these remarkable shotguns are now built in Turkey. So without further ado read on!
Think of side-bysides and it’s a safe bet that Beretta won’t immediately spring to mind. As it happens, the Italian giant has always made them but should you have been unfortunate enough to handle a 471 Silver Hawk, it’s understandable as to why you’d try an erase it from your mind. Whist the metal bits were alright, the woodwork, especially the stock head and grip, had all the grace of a rough-hewn tree trunk. However, things all changed when the 486 Parallelo made an appearance, a side-by-side that looks good, isn’t badly priced and handles extremely well. It’s even a multi-choke, you only get two of them though and no choke key, although most others will fit.
Complete with a traditionally proportioned and profiled game stock and splinter forend, the richness of the walnut is enhanced by the oiled finish. The narrow, straight grip is complemented by two extended panels of fine checkering, whilst the slender profile ensures the 486 remains fluid in handling, only the stock head widening out to accommodate the action, defined scallops adding pleasing visual detail. Carrying the same fine checkering as the grip, the William Anson pushrod latch splinter forend is further enhanced by fine floral engraving around the irons and rod, with an inlaid diamond shaped escutcheon allowing the owner to engrave their initials should they so wish.
The demi-block boxlock action that, like the top and bottom tangs, fences, trigger-guard, top-lever and all other surfaces, is profusely decorated with floral engraving. Best described as a rounded action, which in turn adds to the gun’s aesthetics, internal lockwork has been based around a proven design; the main difference being that the trigger is powered by V-springs. More usually associated with performance competition shotguns; these springs give the 486 excellent reaction times, providing the shooter with a far faster reaction time.
Employing the latest technology to achieve a modern take on an older design, the barrel tubes, three-inch chambers and barrel flats are struck as one. Referred to as Triblock Technology, this means the usual monobloc weld lines don’t exist; only the lower and 7-4mm concaved top ribs joining the two gloss black barrels together. And whilst the lumps are carefully affixed between the chambers, it’s only the slight flair around the muzzles that indicate that the 486 is actually a multi-choke. Interestingly, whilst most side-by-sides place their shot pattern high to aim, dialing in some additional lead on driven birds, the Parallelo shoots flat, the ideal physicality for a walked-up shotgun, or those new to shooting side-by-sides.
Physically, the 486 weighs an exact 7lbs, with an overall length of 45¼ inches, although this will extend slightly if the optional 30 inch barrels are fitted. Drops at comb and heel are 1 15/32 inches and 2 9/16 inches, with a 14 5/8 inch length of pull, whilst the V-spring-driven trigger provides an unfailing 5lbs 1oz release weight, the whole gun balancing perfectly beneath the barrel pivot point. This means the 486 balances perfectly between the hands with no bias either way, the gun moving effortlessly when and where required.
Besides the fact the 486 will appeal to existing side-by-side owners looking to either change to a new, modern gun or add to their Beretta collection, this 12 bore is also to my mind a model that would be a good introduction to this barrel format for those brought up on overunders. The weight, handling, balance and flat shooting attitude means the transition won’t take long given how the 486 feels and shoots, replicating in many ways the attitude of an over-under. As a driven game gun or better still a walkedup, boundary-beating shotgun, the 486 is an ideal partner.
Similarly, with three-inch chambers the usefulness of this gun means that besides the usual pheasant and partridge, the fact the 486 is equally at home with heavier, non-toxic loads means duck and geese form part of this Beretta’s remit, something denied to many a lightweight side-by-side.
All in all, Beretta’s 486 Parallelo is, from my own perspective, a considerable advancement of what went before. And whilst there’s nothing inherently radical about the Parallelo, it represents a modern side-by-side that embodies all the traditional qualities at a price that should prove more than tempting for both existing and new side-by-side shooters.
Model: Beretta 486
Calibre: 12 bore
Barrel: 28 inches – as tested
Action: Side-by-side boxlock
Stock: Straight stock game
Chokes: Mobil multi-chokes
Price: SRP £3800
Contact: GMK 01489 587 500 www.gmk.co.uk
The very last gun John Moses Browning designed, the famous B25 first became available in 1925, hence its name. Since then, the B25 has rightfully become regarded as one of the world’s finest designs; the B25 is one of the greatest over-under shotguns you’ll ever hold. Regrettably, John Moses never actually saw his final design go into production, the great man passing away due to a heart-attack in his office at the Fabrique Nationale factory in Belgium, his son, Val, finally overseeing the launch.
Still handmade in Belgium, it’s the 27½ inch barrels that have always set the game gun apart, which means, if you’re considering a used example, you do have to look out for those that have been converted from competition models, these guns being worth slightly less. Equally, at around £12,000 plus waiting time, compared to around £5000 for a near-perfect preowned B2G grade B25, it makes good, sound sense. A word of warning though, B25s require an annual service by someone who knows what they’re doing; they don’t have chrome-lined barrels, so they need cleaning after use, so make sure there’s no pitting, also, the ejectors tend to be weak. The cure is to have Miroku ejectors fitted.
Available in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauges, along with an extensive number of grades, whilst the example seen here is a D4G, it still tends to be the B2G that’s the most popular. But whichever B25 you go for, they’re inherently all the same beneath the engraving and quality of furniture. They all feature a full width hinge pin for a far stronger, longer lasting pivot, whilst the quilting effect around both the action, chambers and ejectors, besides adding to the aesthetics, allows for oil retention, so enhancing the lubrication and silken sensation when operating the gun.
Although double-triggers are available, it tends to be the single-trigger that predominates with barrel selection via the manual safety-catch, gold inlays indicating firing order and the catch’s position. For those unfamiliar with B25s, it tends to be the fixed forend that is of greatest interest. Where most forends come away to allow for the barrels to be removed or attached, the B25’s doesn’t. With the gun assembled, pushing the end of the latch rearwards allows it to hinge down, the fore-end then sliding forwards, so allowing the cocking lever to vacate its indent.
When this hinges down, the barrels, complete with forend, can then be removed in the usual fashion. Reassembly is the exact reverse but you must make sure the forend is in the forward position and the cocking lever is parallel to the action before sliding the forend back towards the action. Weighing a tad short of 7lbs, all B25s feel instantly purposeful, the gameorientated stock has near perfect proportions, drops at heel and comb of 1 7/16th inches and 2¼ inches, combined with an average length of pull measuring 14½ inches with a crisp pull weight of 5lbs 1oz. Barrel-wise, the 27½ inch monobloc, deeply blued tubes are capped off with a traditional 6mm solid cross-cut top and mid rib, a small brass bead completing the look.
Since the B25 still echoes the original versions, they still come with fixed chokes, ¼ in the bottom, and ¾ in the top. This in turn has lead onto some B25s being converted to multi in the main by Teague, a set of their Thin Wall chokes increasing the gun’s versatility, with no visual clue that anything’s been done, the conversion’s a genuine feat of engineering.
To shoot, a B25 game gun, in whatever grade or gauge, is as near to perfection as you’ll get. The balance, poise, handling and ability to react like nothing else you’ve ever experienced; to a degree a B25 almost does it all for you. As a driven gun, or a walked-up companion, owning one of Browning’s B25s is one of life’s pleasures, irrespective of gauge or grade. The other benefit is that if you’ve bought right and keep the gun for a good number of years, B25s usually represent a good investment. No matter how you look at it, when John Moses Browning passed away, he didn’t so much leave a legacy, more a lasting icon.
Model: Browning B25 D4G
Calibre: 16 bore
Barrels: 26 inches
Action: Break-barrel boxlock
Stock: Walnut Sporter
Weight: 6lbs 4oz
Chokes: ¾ & ¼
Price: SRP £22,500 – production version
Contact: BWM Arms Ltd 01235
Based on Browning’s latest B725 action, which means it’s as near far removed from the B25 as its gets, Browning’s B725 Hunter G1 is an elegant little shotgun that handles like a dream, the new Black & Gold version elevating Browning’s latest 20g into a gun you’ll want to be seen with. Likewise, the benefits of the new Browning design, such as the lower profile, slimmer outline and more responsive lockwork are all there for the shooter to take full advantage of. Equally, the quality of the finish and walnut means the gun far exceeds its Grade 1 stature, meaning the new Black & Gold is more than likely to become the sub-gauge of choice for numerous game shooters.
Complete with one of Browning’s now familiar grey plastic traveling cases, apart from having to decide which of the five flush-fit Invector DS chokes to fit, the Black & Gold is ready to go. And when it comes to the looks department, the gun is ready to make an appearance anywhere, the rich, semi-oiled walnut of the Prince of Wales style stock finished off with one of Browning’s Inflex recoil pads. Stunning walnut, the stock flows effortlessly into an open span, rounded semipistol grip and precision fitting stock head, the darker hue of the walnut blending perfectly with the black of the action.
Move forward and the black latched, London-style forend continues the quality looks and finish of the stock. And with the softer lines and more malleable qualities of this forend style, not only does it add to the Black & Gold’s looks, it enhances this 20 bore’s shooting pleasure. Both finished with matching panels of extended close cut checkering, the furniture alone elevates this gun above the competition.
As a game gun, the gloss black barrels come with a solid midrib and a low vented stippled 5mm top rib that culminates in a small, squat silvered bead. Flaring almost imperceptibly to accommodate the Invector DS chokes, the tubes in turn run into three-inch monobloc chambers that incorporate Browning’s familiar under bolt or bar locking mechanism. Finished in a semi-matte black, the gold inlays leap from the surfaces, the birds, along with the gold B725 logo embossed in the base and the gold trigger and gold Buckmark in the guard all elevate the looks and style of this already elegant sub-gauge.
Elsewhere, more delicate engraving has been applied to the lesser-seen surfaces of the action, whilst the plain top tang’s only form of decoration is extended stippling along the left side of the short top-lever. Interestingly, whilst this verbal description might depict a far less attractive action than the standard gun, the gold partridge actually bring it alive, the detailing and contrast are proof that an already attractive shotgun can be made even better with what ostensibly is little work.
Physically, the Black & Gold has been configured to encourage fast handling. Weighing 8lbs and 47½ inches in overall length with the 30 inch barrels fitted, drops at comb and heel are 113/32 inches and 25/16 inches, with a 1413/16 inch length of pull and 5lbs 8oz average breakingweight over both barrels. All in all, from the moment you heft the Black & Gold for the first time, you have an immediate sense of handling a shotgun with true purpose. Be it a walkedup 20g, a task this Browning excels at, or an unsurpassed smoothbore for partridge, you have an overwhelming sensation that you’ll shine with this B725 in your hands.
Whether you’ve used a 20g before or are considering your first, the Black & Gold will stun you as to just how fast and controlled it actually is. The gun mounts and comes up the same, time after time, to a degree that if you miss it’s definitely your fault, this little B725 constantly presenting the perfect sight picture, the butt sliding into your shoulder as if it was part of your anatomy. An exceptional game gun, it also represents excellent value for money and a game gun you’ll enjoy for many years to come.
Model: Browning B725 Black & Gold Hunter G1
Calibre: 20 bore
Barrels: 30 inches
Action: Boxlock over-under
Chokes: Flush-fit Invector DS
Price: SRP £2276
Contact: International Sports Brands 01235 514 550 www.browningint.com