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Up until a few weeks ago Rich Cole’s stellar career was 100-percent Italian shotguns. Starting in 1979 he joined Beretta USA as a five-dollar-per-hour apprentice gunsmith. The job included extensive time at the mothership in Gardone, Italy learning the finer points of repairing and enhancing Beretta sporting shotguns.
From the small town of Thomasville, Georgia, Kevin’s Plantation Collection of exquisite shotguns has amassed an oversized influence on the wingshooting community. And now the collection’s namesake creator, Kevin Kelly, is ready to rock our world again with his remarkably low priced 20-gauge over/under.
The horn blasts, I look to the sky of burnished blue and pheasants appear over the hillside trees. The birds glide high and fast toward us, riding prevailing winds with gusts like pheasant afterburners.
The volley of shotgun blasts marks another driven hunt as dropped birds get taken up by our eager dogs. I discovered that here at 8,000 feet shotgun shells hold their patterns longer and tighter than at sea level, giving rise to extraordinary wingshooting – although our party includes serious talent.
Meet Augustus Fink-Nottle, known as Gus. He’s not the P.G. Wodehouse character from the novels. Instead, he’s the namesake Labrador Retriever from Florida who, in 2017 at age three, became the only American born, bred and trained gundog to win field trials in the U.K.
Some people in our sporting universe create beautiful shotguns. Others, like Paul Mihailides, make highly desirable shotguns while also building an all-encompassing upland nirvana in which to enjoy them.
There’s a difference between the gifted craftsmen who build gorgeous shotguns and the renaissance men like Mr. Mihailides, whose entrepreneurial vision shapes the future of our sport. Mr. Mihailides is the American owner of the Italian fine gun firm, Famars. He’s made a fortune in construction and used those resources to build the 3,500-acre residential sporting community and luxury event venue, The Preserve at Boulder Hills – replete with largest and longest underground automated gun range in America – in his home state of Rhode Island.
Spanish gun makers established their reputations for quality and value by replicating England’s best guns for a fraction of the price. Now Retay Arms of Konya Turkey has taken a cue from Spain by manufacturing the Masai Mara semi-auto with an upgraded inertia-action adopted from Benelli shotguns, but retails for about half.
I set out quail hunting with David Lanier at Carr Farms in the plantation belt around his hometown of Albany, Georgia. He’s an affable guy with your average mid-50s paunch and a friendly clean-shaven face shaded by the brim of a blaze ball cap. The brush pants, frayed at the hems, bunched up at the buckled wingshooter boots scuffed and rough, his forest-green hunting shirt nicely ironed and the pouches of his vest swollen with gear (he always hunts with a camera).
Among the musical shrines of Nashville that count The Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame is a new fine-gun store – and America’s latest authorized Fausti dealer.
In a way, despite its location in a city of American legends, Double Guns of Nashville adheres to the retail protocol of British Best – hand-selected break-open shotguns with curated upmarket gear. The store, which opened in November, is all about over/unders and side-by-sides from premium makers such as Krieghoff, Blaser, Verney-Carron, Grulla, Fausti and Zoli. They also stock rifles from Rigby, Mauser and Sauer along with Swarovski optics.
“Born in Germany, Lives in Texas” could be the calling the card of the new “Blaser Discovery Program” that combines a holiday in Blaser-USA’s San Antonio hometown with a build-your-own shotgun.
Directed at Blaser F3 customers, Blaser Discovery Program also applies to the economical F16. But it’s the flagship F3 that can get you a ticket to trendy San Antonio for posh lodging, gourmet dining and a lesson with Blaser Pro clays champs such as Cory Kruse, Mike Wilgus or Bill McGuire at a nearby top-notch shooting venue.
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