Game Gun round up: Part 2
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- Last updated: 19/12/2016
In the February issue of Gun Mart we looked at the myriad charms of the Beretta 486 Parabello 12 bore and Browning’s B25 16 bore and the B725 Black & Gold Hunter 20 bore – all equally excellent options for the shotgun enthusiast. So, this issue, we conclude my round-up with another trio of, what I deem to be, the best shotguns for anyone looking to take a step up…
A 12g game gun that’s gaining considerable ground, Sabatti’s elegant and stylish Alpen Eagle combines everything the game shooter looks for in an Italian shotgun, except for the price. By giving the Alpen Eagle the weight plus the feel and handling of an Italian trap gun, the end-result is a 12 bore that performs superbly on demanding driven targets. Add in this Sabatti’s impressive good looks and it’s hardly surprising that the Alpen Eagle is finding an increasing number of owners, all of them delighted with their choice.
The gun comes with a fitted Negrini case, containing a full set of extended, flush-fit chokes plus key, which are all kept safe and secure in their own smaller container. The well-figured, straight-grained walnut, complete with a weather resistant semi-lacquered finish, forms the graceful game stock. Well-defined checkering encapsulates the nicely sized, open span, palm swell free grip and Schnabel forend, the two sufficiently well-proportioned for all but the smallest hands.
Barrel-wise, two gloss black 30 inch tubes, complete with a solid, game-style mid-rib and low stanchion but 9mm wide vented top rib swag into three inch chambered monoblocs, that in turn lock into an extremely stylish sideplate boxlock action. The extended metal surfaces have given the Alpen Eagle a chance to shine, profuse scroll work complimenting detailed game scenes, the ornamentation extending to the broad trigger guard, fences, top-lever and tang, only the wide, lozenge shaped manual safety evading the engraving process.
Mounting the Alpen Eagle makes you instantly aware as to why this game gun is different, yet so game orientated. Weighing 8lbs 2oz with the balance point two inches in front of the hinges, the 473/8 inch gun sits firmly in the shooter’s leading hand. Similarly, the view along the wide rib is more akin to a trap orientated 12 bore than a game gun, the gun’s attitude being near perfectly flat.
Dimensionally, the Alpen Eagle offers a comfortable 14½ inch length of pull along with 117/32 inch and 21/8 inch drops at comb and heel, the overall feel of the Sabatti being of a large but easily controllable 12g.
At the outset, the gun feels a little heavy to heft but once the momentum has been gained, the gun mounts and moves with a progressive ease, the physicality meaning that while the main mass sits within the leading hand, guiding the direction of the muzzles is a calm and unhurried act. Pushing directly back into the shoulder, all but the mildest recoil is perceived, once again confirming that the gun remains comfortable to shoot with over extended periods.
For game shooters that prefer a side-byside, it tends to be an ambition to own one of the famous names.
Problem is, they tend to weigh in a bit expensive but not if you go for one of the Webley & Scott 2000 series. Originally famed for their side-by-sides, the Webley & Scott name is in the ascendance, mainly because they carry the famous name and are English in nearly every respect, apart from the fact they’re now made in Turkey. But don’t let this minor detail put you off, these sideby- sides are absolute gems and more than live up to the name they carry and what’s expected of them. Complete with the brand’s trademark purple velveteen slips and a small black plastic case, these multi-choke shotguns come complete with a full set of chokes and key. The other thing you get is a shotgun that looks and handles like a game gun costing four times the price.
Long, gloss black 28 inch steel proofed barrels that are made up of two one-piece tubes, the three inch chambers jointed together courtesy of the central rib, along with machine finished barrel flats and brazed chopper-style lumps that have been brazed into place. Beautifully struck, the barrels alone would be worthy of being seen attached to a far more expensive action such is their quality. Sat between the tubes is a tapering 9-5mm raised and slightly concaved rib, marginally reminiscent of those once fitted to live pigeon shotguns. A small brass bead, almost imperceptible flair muzzles and the most delicate of choke tubes complete the look.
To give the barrels purpose in life, the 2000 utilises a time proven boxlock action that has been chemically colour-case hardened, the barrels pivoting on a single hinge pin, with a deep recess in the rear lump to engage the locking bar. The deep blue, purples and brown of the action’s finish combine to produce a pleasing finish, especially when combined with light scroll work and the gold inlaid Webley & Scott name on the base. Conversely, the trigger guard, trigger, bottom tang, top-lever and manual safety share the same lustrous blacking as the barrels. One unusual feature is that the barrels aren’t selectable, meaning the shooter is restricted to firing the right barrel first, the only way to vary restriction discharge preferences being to alter the chokes.
With the light engraving and colour-case colours repeated on the Deeley & Edge style latch and splinter forend irons, the quality of the walnut especially the ‘Prince-of-Wales’ stock is more than pleasing. The grain is good, the machine cut checkering well defined, the rounded grip free of a palm swell, whilst the concealed buttplate gives the 2000 a truly traditional look. And rapidly becoming a Webley & Scott trademark, the scalloping around the stock head is well defined and an excellent fit.
Dimensionally, the 2000 should fit most shooters; an overall length of 4513/16th inches, an all in weight of 7lbs 4oz more than acceptable. The drops at comb and heel of 1½ inches and 21/8 inches, combined with a 14¾ inch length of pull give the 2000 a ‘big gun’ feel, whilst the bulk of the mass sits firmly within the leading hand, the balance point just in front and beneath the chambers, a crisp average release weight of 5lbs 6oz allowing the trigger to break on either barrel, the mechanical action meaning inertia is required during the transfer.
Heavy enough to stop you over swinging but light enough and soft enough to handle the heavier loads, the 2000 displays noticeable abilities as both a walked-up shotgun as it would on a formal driven day. The notable aspect of the 2000 is that it speaks for itself every time you pull the trigger, the attractive yet understated looks meaning it’s what this shotgun does that makes it a serious consideration.
For many shooters, the Zoli name represents three things, firstly, they’re one of the top Italian makers, secondly, they tend to be expensive and thirdly, the name tends to be more associated with clay shooting than anything else. Ostensibly, all three facts are perfectly true, that is until the Standard Game made an appearance.
A thoroughly modern 12 bore shotgun, the Standard Game rather recreates the days of ‘have gun will travel’, the ethos being this is a no frills, robust game gun that’ll take on any target and shoot any three inch load and take it all in its stride.
Still featuring Zoli’s detachable trigger group mechanism, which considerably aids servicing and any lockwork repairs that might be encountered, you will however have to source your own traveling case. That said, you still get a full set of flushfit choke tubes and a hex key that allows you to remove the trigger assembly. Starting with the furniture, you’re presented with a nicely proportioned game stock, complete with a neat, vented recoil pad, an open radiused grip and an elegant London-style forend, all crisply checkered where they need to be. Equally, the quality of the walnut is excellent, the strong, straight grain and semi-oiled finish picking out the natural detail, whilst the fit and finish is everything shooters have come to expect from the Italian brand.
The unusual aspect of the Standard Game is the 29½ inch gloss black, three inch chambered monobloc barrels. Overtly Italian, this unusual length offers the best of both worlds, long enough to suit those who usually opt for 30 inches and quick enough for the shooter who prefers the slightly shorter 28 inch tubes. The barrels feature a slight flare towards the muzzles to accommodate the choke tubes and a small brass bead atop the 7-10mm low stanchion vented top rib and solid game-style mid rib.
Based on a Boss-style action, the inertia driven boxlock action, English scroll and simple game scenes decorate nearly every part of the surfaces, fences and the top-tang. Adding to the speed of operation, a short throw toplever allows for smooth usage when those high pheasants start filling the sky, although the auto-safe reapplies itself each time the gun is opened, something that a competent gunsmith can disengage. For the finger that does the business, an oversized gloss black guard shrouds the silvered trigger, Zoli having resisted the urge to gold plate the long, curved blade, which in turns adds to the gun’s purposeful looks.
Weight-wise, the Game comes in at 7lbs 10oz, with an overall length of 47¼ inches. Drops at comb and heel, along with the length of pull are a very comfortable 117/32 inches, 2¼ inches and 14¾ inches, with a nice 5lbs 1oz trigger release weight. Hefting well, with the leading hand doing the majority of the work, the Game balances approximately 1½ inches in front of the hinges, giving a slight weight forward effect, unusual in the fact that the majority of game specific 12 bores tend to pivot directly beneath where the barrels join the action. Similarly, the flat shooting attitude will mean you’re in tune with this Zoli the moment you pick it up.
Interestingly, even with the weight forward design, the Zoli initially swings faster than might be anticipated, the light muzzles allowing the Standard Game to get onto target with speed and accuracy. The overall dynamics also mean the Standard Game is comfortable to shoot over extended periods on driven days, whilst the gun’s ease of handling facilitates snap-shots when walking-up snipe or unexpected ground game.
Equally at home on a peg, around the hedges working with a dog, in a pigeon hide or sat quietly on the banks of a duck pond, Zoli’s Standard Game will do the job nicely. The bonus is the price, the Standard Game costing considerably less than might be anticipated.