Nick Sisley welcomes your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sisley has been writing full time for 43 years, his thousands of articles appearing in many, many magazines. He’s the author of eight books, is an NSCA, NSSA and NRA Shotgun Instructor and a pilot with many ratings.
Shotgun Life has been leading the charge in breaking the latest information about the new Zoli Bilanx. Now we take it to the next level. I recently relished the opportunity to shoot one of the first to arrive in the U.S. from Italy – allowing me to form several opinions and impressions.
Caesar Guerini has a number of new shotguns, a few introduced very late in 2010, while some really new ones are just arriving in the USA from Italy. Further, I think there may be some very big news coming from this company, but right now “mum” is the figurative word on that subject. So stay posted.
Earlier shotguns used external hammers to cock the trigger springs. It wasn’t until near the end of the 1800s that design ingenuity permitted trigger springs to be cocked internally. But even long after so-called “hammerless” shotguns were readily available many, many astute shotgunners still preferred a smoothbore with outside hammers – and ordered their “bespoke” side by side shotguns with those hammers. I’m guessing at the date – but somewhere around the early 1980s thousands of these older hammer guns were brought in from England where they had been made – and the importers found a ready market for these storied masterpieces. One of the movers and shakers in this scenario was Houston’s Cyril Adams. There were others, of course, but Adams certainly had a lot to do with this importation of hammer guns – and with making them popular.
Dale Spartas might be the luckiest guy I know, for I’m very envious of the fine double guns he owns – as well of his Camp Swampy. On second thought Spartas has no doubt simply worked harder than I have – acquiring all those wonderful shotguns – as well as Camp Swampy. Dale and I were staying at Camp Swampy recently, using it as our base camp for hunting Hungarian partridge.
There are three versions of Winchester’s Super X (now shortened to the SX). The Super X Model 1 semi-auto first appeared in 1974. This was one heck of a shotgun, but production ceased in 1984 as the Super X was very expensive to produce because many of its parts were milled rather than stamped.
On the used gun market the most valuable, discontinued Browning – the Superposed over and unders – are those in 28 gauge. But .410 Superposed over and unders are not far behind in price.
Interestingly, there were more .410s produced in the Superposed than in 28 gauge. Further, the most valuable of the Superposed guns are the higher grades. There were quite a number of different higher grade Superposed over and unders, but we know them best as the Pigeon, the Pointer, the Diana and the Midas – with the Grade I being the lowest priced of these guns. Even the Grade I owned was very nice with its deep-cut engraving. But if you have a 28 or a .410 in Pigeon, Pointer, Diana or Midas Grade you certainly have a shotgun that’s worth plenty.
So I’m wondering if the Citori over and unders, especially those in the higher grades and in the smaller gauges, are destined to increase in value over time. The high-grade Citoris being offered by Browning are currently the Grade IV and the Grade VII. Like the 20, 28 and .410 Superposed, the small gauge Citoris are built on a 20-gauge frame. The Citori I’ve been shooting up a figurative storm with is the .410 Citori Grade VII with 28-inch barrels. More about shooting that gun shortly.
The three small-gauge Grade IVs are intricately engraved – including game scenes of flushing quail on the left side of the receiver, a flushing ruffed grouse on the right. To my eye this engraving is extremely well executed.
The Grade VII is also intricately engraved all around the game scenes – with three flushing grouse in gold on the left of the receiver, three flushing quail in gold on the right. The birds are well rendered, but it’s all the surrounding engraving that really catches my eye.
On the head of a pointer in gold on the bottom of these receivers, that gold head is surrounded by one heck of a lot of very intricate engraving. There’s also intricate engraving on the fore-end iron, the barrel “wings,” the receiver fences, the opening lever, top tang and trigger guard. This isn’t “just” engraving, as it’s very intricate and special, and the workmanship makes me wonder what these guns are going to be worth 60 – 80 years from now.
I realize (and probably so do you) that most of today’s engraving starts out with some type of chemical or etching process, but then that resultant engraving is worked on extensively by hand – by experts. For most of us, the days are over for real hand engraving with no help from acids, chemicals or whatever.
If a master engraver works for four months engraving one gun he is probably going to want about $40,000 – and that’s just for the engraving. The price of the gun itself is not included. So I’m guessing that the only shooter who can afford $40,000 worth of engraving has to make about $400,000 in four months. Along those same lines, if it takes a master engraver a year to make a super fine piece he’s going to want about $100,000 these days. The only folks able to afford that much money certainly have to make two million a year or more. That’s why I say true hand engraving has gone beyond most of us.
However, the engraving on production shotguns these days is sometimes outstanding – at least on some of the shotguns I’ve examined over the last several years. Today’s Grade VII Brownings are engraved so well that anyone examining these guns will be very impressed.
The Citori Grade VII .410 I have been shooting is the Lightning. Of all the various Citori models the Lightning is my favorite. I no doubt favor this model because of the stock’s lines – the semi-open pistol grip and the Lightning-style fore-end – which is rounded on the end.
The name “Lightning” and the style of the stock were stolen from the Superposed Lightning model. Browning was very wise to put this model in the Citori line as the Superposed Lightning was not only one of the best sellers – the Superposed Lightning is also very much sought after in the used market.
With the Grade VII you obviously get a very nice piece of walnut for the stock and fore-end. Further, the checkering is not only perfectly done – it’s tight at 20 lines-to-the-inch. The trigger is gold plated. In all three small gauges the Lightning wears a plastic butt pad so you will never have any gun mounting problems due to a sticky pad. The vent rib sits reasonably high, a good thing for hopefully preventing too much head lifting at trigger-pulling time. That rib is slightly tapered on the small gauge guns – .270 at the breech – .245 at the muzzle. Three screw chokes are included in all three gauges (even the .410): improved cylinder, modified and full. Also, it would be nice if Browning supplied at least one, preferably two, skeet chokes.
Because of the 20-gauge receiver, this Grade VII Lightning .410 is lightweight It weighed in at 7 pounds, 2½ ounces with 28-inch barrels (26-inch barrels are also available).
With my Baker Barrel Reader I measured the top barrel at .411, the bottom at .410. The improved cylinder measured .405, the modified .400 and the full went .395. The fore-end weighed 14.9 ounces and the barrels, 2 pounds 15 ounces.
Using my Shotgun Combo Gauge I measured the length of pull at 14 3/8 inches, the drop at comb 1½ inches, the drop at heel at 2 ¼ inches, and the gun balanced right on the hinge pin.
While serious competition skeet and sporting are great (I know a lot of you don’t shoot competition) just shooting for the fun of it is what I do these days. Accordingly, I have never met a real shooter who did not love shooting the .410. With that gun’s minimal recoil and impressive breaks at short ranges – using the proper chokes – what’s not to love about shooting a .410?
Although all the Lightning model .410s have 3-inch chambers (great for hunting), my clay target fun has been with the 2 ½-inch, ½-ounce rounds. For this shooting the Grade VII is pure joy, plus the 28-inch barrels swing well; and because of the 20-gauge receiver and the gun’s resultant weight of 7 pounds 2½ ounces there’s essentially no recoil at all.
The .410s that are really light, like under 5 pounds or a bit over 5 pounds, have more recoil than with this heavier Browning. Not that the recoil is bad in a 5 ½ pound, .410 shooting 2 ½-inch shells; it’s just that the recoil is even less with this Browning I’ve been having fun with. Another benefit to the heavier .410 is that this Browning .410 swings great compared to a 5 ½ pound .410.
To simulate upland bird flushes – the likes of ruffed grouse, woodcock and quail – I do a lot of this fun practice shooting from a low-gun position on stations six and two on a skeet field. These quartering away targets are often seen in hunting situations. But I also shoot plenty of low seven and low five targets, which also simulate certain upland bird shots.
Despite opinions by some, the .410 can be a good hunting gun as long as the shooter restricts the range. When I hunt with a .410 I go to the 3-inch shells. In addition to close-flushing upland birds, the .410 is also ideal for dove shooting, especially if the birds can be shot within the .410’s comfort zone. To simulate practice for this gunning I like to call for the bird from a low gun position, taking quartering incomers from stations one, two, six and seven, and full crossing shots from stations three, four and five.
Is this Grade VII Citori a shotgun that will gain in value as the decades pass by? There’s no guarantee of that, just the guarantee of one heck of a lot of shooting fun – speculative financial hopes be darned. With a suggested retail $5,109, this .410 is great fun to shoot today and could make for a lasting heirloom.
A research team at Remington has developed a revolutionary new wad design that lets steel shot fulfill its long-promised potential as the ultimate waterfowl load.
For waterfowl hunting, steel shot is the odds-on favorite. Other non-toxics are available, and most all of them result in better performance than steel. But these other non-toxic waterfowl loads are not purchased in huge quantities for one basic reason – they are more expensive than steel loads – a lot more expensive.
If you shot any of the early steel loads from several decades back you know those loads were very poor. They shot horrible patterns, produced a lot of powder fouling, and maybe crippled more ducks than the lead pellets that ducks ingested. Slowly the shotshell manufacturers improved on the steel loads. One factor that helped this along was new powders designed with steel in mind. This resulted in less powder fouling. Those who shot semi-auto shotguns at ducks cheered this breakthrough as this meant their shotguns now kept shooting instead of jamming so often.
Another factor that helped steel loads kill ducks more effectively was that the ammo companies were able to increase velocities with the new powders. Since steel is less dense than lead (lighter by 30 percent), the increased velocity helped steel enhance its killing power.
However, current steel loads are at their maximum – both from a velocity standpoint and from a chamber pressure standpoint. In fact, most high velocity steel loads produce chamber pressures that are right at the top of what experts consider safe. Increase chamber pressures further and we increase the chance of starting to blow up some shotguns. No ammo company is going to do that in these sue-happy times.
So how can we (1) reduce chamber pressures and still keep velocity of steel loads at current levels, and/or (2) increase steel shot velocity levels – and still keep chamber pressures within proper safety standards?
A research team at Remington went to work on this problem, and they have come up with a solution that promises to be a major breakthrough in shotgun ballistics – not only for steel shot but lead loads as well – in fact maybe all future shotshells.
Remington developed a totally new concept in a plastic wad that makes all of the above possible. The wad design is so new that we don’t even have any new loads to test – that have these wads installed. Remington is so confident in this wad’s potential that they are calling this the biggest breakthrough since the introduction of the plastic wad itself.
Remington had a name for this wad, but they have pulled that name back in hopes of a better one. Maybe now you’re getting some appreciation of how new this technology really is.
Check the accompanying artist’s rendition of this wad. The main breakthrough is the precision engineered “ignition chamber,” the smaller cylindrical part at the base of the wad. This ignition chamber is designed to nestle into the top of the primer pocket.
The powder is dropped in a normal manner. When the new wad is seated some of that powder works its way into the ignition chamber. To insure that powder fills that ignition chamber a ball-type powder with tiny grains will be used. Now remember that the ignition chamber is sitting right on top of the primer.
When the primer is ignited the small amount of powder in the ignition chamber gets ignited first, thus the burn is started. In turn, the wad and shot column move slightly forward, and this allows the burning powder in the ignition chamber to ignite the rest of the powder charge.
How can this reduce chamber pressures? It’s all about delaying (slowing down) full ignition of the powder. Use of the new wad system means that powder ignition is stretched out over a longer period of time – and that’s how chamber pressures are reduced. Bottom line – these researchers had to think out of the box to come up with a new way to reduce chamber pressures.
While I like the idea of the new wad for reducing chamber pressures in steel shot loads – I’m thinking to the future – and hopefully building this wad technology into target loads and field loads using lead shot. Being a recoil conscious freak I’m hoping the new wad will reduce felt recoil in target loads – via reduced chamber pressures – but still maintaining standard target load velocities.
Remington says they will be using slow-burning ball-type powders with the new wad and their new steel loads. I know of no current slow burning ball powders available to reloaders, but evidently Remington has worked with a powder manufacturer to develop such a powder.
An example of a slow burning powder and the resultant reduction of felt recoil would be reloading with slow burning IMR 7625 powder to develop an 1150-feet-per- second load with 1 ounce of shot in 12 gauge.
Work up the same 1-ounce, 1150-feet-per-second load using a fast burning powder, and it won’t take any rocket science research to feel that the 7625 load is very soft in comparison. Of course, 7625 is not offered in a ball-type configuration, but I can only assume that the science to do that is doable. The same principal that allows a slow burning powder like 7625 to have less chamber pressure – is now offered via a wad – a wad that slows down the burn rate and results in lower chamber pressure – and lower chamber pressures mean less felt recoil – a gentle shove rather than a sharp rap.
Remember – as the ignition chamber powder ignites the wad and shot charge move slightly forward – increasing the area for the rest of the powder burn – and thus we get the slower powder burn – ignition stretched out over a longer period of time.
A second new feature of breakthrough wad will be the “stress concentrators” built in near this wad’s base. Again, check the artist’s rendition. The new wad is not split down the sides, as most all other wads are. The “stress concentrator” areas, however, start the wad slits upon powder ignition. There are internal “slits” inside this wad, making it easy for the stress concentrators to start and complete the wad slitting up the sides. But because the slits start opening from the bottom, the pellets in the wad are held there longer, which Remington says results in tighter down range patterns.
Initially, (which means Fall 2010) Remington will only offer the new shotshells with the new wad in 12 gauge and in steel 3-inch and 3 ½-inch loads. All these loads will be at the same velocity – a whopping 1700 feet per second – which means no lead changes no matter which of these loads you are using.
Remington is calling the new shells HyperSonic Steel™. Interestingly 1 1/8, 1 1/4 and 1 3/8 ounce loads will be offered in the HyperSonic Steel – again all at 1700 feet per second. The 3-inch 1 1/8 ounce loads will be offered in BB, 2 and 4. The 3-inch 1 1/4 ounce loads will be offered in BB, 1, 2 and 4. The 3 ½-inch HyperSonic Steel will be offered in BB, 2 and 4 at 1 3/8 ounce.
As much as I’m excited about these new steel loads with the new wad I’m looking farther into the future – and lead target and field loads that utilize this new wad technology that permits slower burn rates with resultant lower chamber pressures and less felt recoil.
If a slow burning powder like 7625 in ball form could be used with this new wad chamber pressures could be reduced even further. Think of shooting a 1-ounce 12-gauge load at 1200-feet-per-second that results in even less recoil than we see today using slow burning 7625. The 7625 is used only as an example here, for there are other slow burning powders, though when it comes to 12 gauge shotshell powders IMR 7625 is one of the slowest.
I predict you are going to be hearing a lot more about this new wad design, and this wad could be the biggest advancement since the development of the plastic wad – especially if the wad technology can also be applied to lead loads.
You probably already have some preconceived notions about your dream shotgun, and that is just fine. But sometimes it pays to seek advice from someone who has had literally hundreds of shotguns pass through their hands, had so many different stocks touch their cheek, fondled so many receivers. Lucky for me, I am one of those folks, so hopefully what I’m going to tell you might help with your future purchase.
What is the most important quality to seek in your next shotgun? A beautiful piece of walnut, out of this world engraving, strength to hold up to a million rounds, a stock that fits you perfectly? Or what? To me all these factors are important, as are others, but I think the best quality a shotgun can have is feel. That’s what to look for first.
It’s difficult to describe feel, just as it’s difficult to describe love at first sight. You just know both when you feel either. Once you love how a shotgun feels you are going to thoroughly enjoy it. You are going to have great confidence in it. After that you can always add such luxuries as a custom stock, custom engraving, custom checkering, whatever. But if you don’t start out loving the feel of a shotgun the cards are stacked against you ever shooting that gun all that well.
When it comes to semi-autos I think Beretta attained the feel I’m talking about with the models 303, the 390, and now the many versions of the 391. I don’t think it’s easy to incorporate a good-feeling quality into a semi, but I do believe Beretta has done it. It’s more than balance I’m talking about, but good balance is certainly a big part of having a shotgun feel right. A shotgun with great feel should move almost effortlessly to the target – pitch or feathered. Such a shotgun will probably let you think it actually weighs less than it really does. You should look forward to picking up and fondling such a shotgun every chance you get.
Have you ever picked up a Perazzi? If you have not done so I urge you to do that – do it even if you cannot afford one. There’s something about virtually every Perazzi I pick up that just sings feel. From the initial pick up to the shouldering to the mounting to the swinging, even to the sound of a Perazzi clicking shut – for many it is a love affair at first sight or first feel. This seems to be true no matter the barrel length for this company has a way of matching barrel weights to the receiver, stock and fore-end so that balance and feel are not compromised. To experience feel first hand just pick up and handle a Perazzi intended for field shooting – or one of their sporting clays models.
The English got feel right over 100 years ago – with their side by side shotguns, first with hammer guns, but later with sidelocks and then even boxlocks. Not many of us are going to have the opportunity to pick up, fondle and swing a Purdey or a Boss, but maybe one day you will have a chance to do this with one of the lesser known old English doubles – perhaps an Army & Navy, a Webley Scott (this company made many fine English double guns sold in other names), a Cogswell & Harrison, a Reilly or one from a number of other English makers that don’t bring the prices of a Purdey, a Holland or several others. If you ever get the chance to handle a gun like this you will see what I mean by feel.
Enough about feel – let’s move to fit. Whatever new gun you buy – it probably won’t fit you perfectly. However, this does not mean you have to change the beautiful stock the gun came with – at least hopefully not. Length of pull can be adjusted with a thicker or thinner recoil pad. If the comb is too high you or a stock person can sand away until that portion of the fit is correct, and then minimal refinishing could be all you need to fix the looks of the walnut.
You could also have the stock you buy made into an adjustable comb stock – or it may come with one. These are sort of ugly but not double ugly. You could add self-adhesive Moleskin (available at drugstores) to the comb if the stock is too low – sort of double ugly but serviceable.
The best way to determine gun fit is to have a pattern paper or steel plate to shoot at. The premise should be to shoot over and over – say at least five times – at the same pointing spot on the paper or the steel plate. Is your new gun shooting high, low, left, right or some combination of two of those? No aiming for this work. Just pull the gun up and shoot.
Don’t overlook the recoil pad. Sad to say some recoil pads put on factory shotguns these days are abominable. This is not to say such pads don’t have recoil-absorbing qualities. That’s not what I’m getting at here. A recoil pad should be a significant aid in helping with a perfect gun mount. Too many pads are a significant handicap in allowing the shooter to make a great gun mount. With some pads the consistency is simply too sticky. Those that are cause a lot of gun mounting problems. Another problem is caused by sharp pad edges, especially at the top of the pad. Consider the type of pad that has a plastic insert at the top – a feature that can be a big factor in reducing gun mounting hang ups. Further, rounded edges all around the pad help guard against sharp edges gouging into the shoulder area. The recoil pad is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of new or used shotgun buying. Of course, the buyer can always add the recoil pad of his or her choice after purchase.
For hunting, as opposed to competition shooting, I actually like most shotguns fitted with either a plastic butt plate or simply a checkered butt. These are hunting guns, most of which are shot minimally, as opposed to competition guns which are shot one heck of a lot. With a hunting gun the plastic butt pad or checkered butt stock tends to reduce back-end weight a tad – and certainly facilitates an easy, unobstructed gun mount.
In wrap up I will make one additional shotgun make suggestion for you to consider picking up, shouldering and swinging at the gun shop. This would be the Caesar Guerini, and the company makes many models, those for hunting, skeet, trap and sporting clays. This company goes to special pains to make the guns balance just ahead of the hinge pins or trunnions – and they do this regardless of barrel length. To me all the Guerini over and unders that I have handled have a great feel.
With great fanfare Benelli USA introduced their new Vinci semi-auto. After months of promise the gun was formally unveiled in a four-minute action video at noon March 31 - on the Benelli website (www.benelliusa.com.)
Although my first shooting trip to South America took place in 1972 I didn't get to shoot in Uruguay until 1997. In retrospect I hate that I missed shooting in that country and enjoying those wonderful people for so many decades. This had been a winter trip, so the duck and partridge seasons were in full swing. Of course, it was summer back here in the USA.