In old western movies you have probably seen some side by side hammer guns in action. The hammers were cranked back in a dire situation, the noise for added emphasis on the silver screen. Usually called “coach guns,” that name was probably for their use in defending stagecoaches against bandits. These were short barreled hammer guns and more intended as people killers rather than waterfowl and upland bird killers. If there have been any longer-barreled hammer guns produced for the average American hunter over the last several decades I’m not aware of any.
That is until now. CZ-USA, more noted for their outstanding bolt action rifles, has been importing shotguns from Turkey for several years now. Early on one of these imports was a so-called “coach gun,” this one with the exposed hammers and very short side by side barrels. The shotgun maker is the Huglu in Turkey, and 30-inch barrels have been added to their “coach gun,” and voila, we now have a shotgun that has a lot in common with the English hammer guns of yesteryear – well a little in common anyway.
I remember shooting a vintage hammer gun in Uruguay. It belonged to a collector from the USA, and he kept urging me to come over to his stand and try shooting it. That was maybe 10 years ago. I recall that old gun to be marvelously balanced, quite light, and it swung like the extension of one’s body. I had no problem adapting to cocking those hammers when it was apparent yet another flock of doves were approaching the stand.
The new CZ-USA hammer gun, dubbed the Hammer Classic, isn’t quite in the same ilk as those old English vintage hammer guns that now bring five figures in US Dollars, but the new arrival is nonetheless a fun gun to shoot, and cocking those hammers prior to each shot is going to take many of you back to the English countryside of yesteryear where you can imagine yourself standing next to the likes of Lord Wallsingham and/or Lord Ripon, both of whom were adamant hammer gun users. Further, they shot more game than had ever been shot in the world – at least up until that time – and with hammer guns.
I see the CZ Hammer Classic as a fun gun for waterfowl. As a clay bird gun I found that even light loads got to my sensitive shoulder after about 50 birds. For ducks and geese this new side by side has the required 3-inch chambers. The CZ is plenty heavy enough, but it has a steel butt plate which absorbs zero recoil. The stock dimensions read 1½ inches drop at comb (pretty good in my book – though 1.35 would probably be better for me) but 2¼ inches drop at heel – pretty low in my book and perhaps a factor in contributing to recoil. Most won’t feel the bump this gun gives, so I admit to being very recoil sensitive.
Looking into the barrels it is obvious this Hammer Classic has very short forcing cones. Longer cones could dampen recoil slightly and probably treat pellets on the outside of the shotstring more gently, thus providing fewer pellet flyers and more even patterns down range. The barrels measure .732. So these barrels are overbored, and that should help with recoil dampening as well as help reduce the number of pellet flyers.
The other modern innovation with the Hammer Classic is that the gun comes with screw-in chokes – Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder and Cylinder. I measured these screw-ins at: Full .686 for .046 of constriction, Improved Modified at .692 for .040 constriction, the Modified at .707 for .025 constriction, the Improved Cylinder at .713 for .019 constriction and the Cylinder at .725 for .007 constriction. So these screw- ins provide some quite tight choke constrictions. The .007 constricted Cylinder bore smoked targets hard at 25 yards. Understandably, the Improved Cylinder screw-in with .019 constriction smoked those 25-yarders even harder.
On the website (www.cz-usa.com) the information says this gun weighs 7.3 pounds, but the one I was consigned for testing went 7 pounds, 13 ounces on my digital postal scale. The fore-end hefted 9.3 ounces; the 30-inch barrels with two screw-in chokes in place went 3 pounds 1½ ounces. The website says the length of pull is 14½ inches. I measured this distance at 14¾ – from the front trigger. So now you finally know this is a twin trigger side by side. When initially received the triggers were very heavy. I sent the gun back to CZ in Kansas City for trigger revamping. The company now claims triggers will come through more like the one mine has been adjusted to – which was under five pounds for the front trigger, just over five pounds for the rear trigger (left barrel).
The receiver and trigger guard are case color hardened, which was typical of the old English hammer guns. There’s a bit of engraving, and it’s hand done. “Hammer Classic” is on the bottom of the receiver. The hammers are nicely contoured, and there’s an audible click when you move them back into the “fire” position. The safety is the non-automatic type, so after firing in the field make certain you engage that safety.
I can’t find any polishing marks on the barrels – which are hard black chromed. Inside the barrels there’s chrome plating for added corrosion resistance. The fore-end is fairly small – almost a true splinter type. There’s hand checkering on the fore-end and the pistol grip. The walnut on my test gun does not have a lot of figure, which bodes well for strength, and the cost of this one is only $915 at full retail, so there’s no reason to expect spectacular wood. The wood-to-metal fit is nice and tight, particularly at the top and bottom tang areas and the sideplates. The steel butt plate is not serrated. The rib between the barrels is raised slightly, plus that rib is lightly serrated for glare control and there’s a metal bead at the muzzle. The fore-end comes on and off easily, and it is tight with no wiggle.
Lock up is typical for many side by side models – the barrels pivoting on a hinge pin – two bolts protrude forward from the bottom of the receiver upon closing – to engage two lugs milled into the bottom of the monobloc. Further, a lug built into the base of the monobloc snugs into a matching recess in the base of the receiver.
Interestingly, Rick Staples won the 2010 Vintage World Championship with the CZ-USA Hammer Classic, so you can bet Rick did not object to this gun’s recoil. In addition to being a fun gun for clay birds and waterfowl the Hammer Classic should also feel very at home on pheasant forays. This one might not be a classic English Purdey hammer gun, but it doesn’t wear a $20,000 price tag either.
Nick Sisley has been writing about the outdoors full time for over 40 years. He is a Level I NSSA and NSCA instructor as well as an NRA Certified Shotgun Instructor. Nick has written thousands of magazine articles, authored eight books, and traveled the globe in search of story material, usually with a shotgun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org