Tony's eyes darted from one production process to another like an eagle. Staff approached him constantly, giving him updates on one gun or another. Tony explained that he can't sleep when he's designing a new gun or mechanism. "I stay awake, thinking, how can I make a better gun?"
Tony founded the Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company in 1975 and is the current president. He had tinkered with repairing guns and re-working gun mechanisms since he was a youngster. He loved guns but was fascinated more by their mechanics. His first commercial product was a barrel gauge. He is drawn to small details and these passions for details and fine firearms have propelled him to become one of the preeminent gun makers in the world.
The model A. Galazan over/under shotgun was introduced in 1990. It was only a few years later that I first met Tony at a SHOT Show and viewed these early masterpieces. I was a novice in gun mechanics but I knew gorgeous aesthetics when I saw them. I have been a fan of the A. Galazan ever since.
Tony spares no expense building his Galazans. In his unrelenting pursuit of perfection, he takes apart guns from very prestigious makers to study their mechanical solutions and designs. "I will do anything to make my guns the best," Tony said. "I will stop a gun in the middle of production and change the tooling or the design if I can improve the quality."
The gun is a full sidelock built on the classic Boss action and boasts the unique Boss forend iron. The receiver is machined from a single billet of tool steel. Details illuminate the big picture. I describe some of the production details to illustrate Tony's uncompromising dedication to excellence.
The barrels of all his guns are drilled rather than cold hammer forged although the drilling is far more expensive. Tony has studied both processes and concluded that drilling produces a stronger and more concentric barrel because the steel is subjected to less stress. Tolerances of all parts are machined to one ten thousandth of an inch.
The sidelock action is strong and eminently reliable. Tony explained one of the many refinements he designed to make the lock more durable. The upright stanchion pieces in the bridle of the lock are precision cut with a cup shape on the top. The plate to be screwed onto the stanchion is recessed to accept the stanchion's cup. Thus, the metal contact surfaces of the bridle are not flat against each other but rather are mated.
This modification may seem trivial but the consequences are substantial. The surfaces cannot slide under the stress of firing. The lock would work even if a screw broke or was removed. More significantly, the tighter fit reduces flex, eliminates lateral movement and reduces stress and wear. Perfection is in the details, and the details are achieved incrementally. It's an expensive process, Tony informs. "It's like an iceberg. What you don't see distinguishes the greatest guns,"
Tony also re-designed the Boss forend iron so that it is installed into the wood by lowering it down in a vertical plane rather than inserting it horizontally into the breech end of the forend wood. This modification adds considerable strength to the forend and stabilizes the metal in the wood. However, it is an expensive process.
Tony informed that the cutting and polishing of the metal takes two full weeks. "Price and time are no objects. The goal is to make the best gun," Tony said as his hands accentuated the point like a referee signaling a touchdown at a football game.
Tony introduced me to Robert, an employee of 14 years, who was filing the underside of a round action A. Galazan. Stacks of different grit sandpaper and emery cloth crowded his desk. He explained the laborious process of filing and polishing the steel. "I file the steel until it's perfectly flat," Robert said. He works in long strokes, aligning his motion with the grain of the steel. It can take weeks to fully file the action.
All the steel is then polished with stones until it is flawlessly smooth. Tony points out that the internal parts, once again, the parts that are not seen, are polished as perfectly as the exterior steel surfaces. This adds dozens of hours to finishing each piece, but that is the price of creating the highest quality guns.
"There are no scratches or tool marks. The concentricity is perfect. Every line is straight and crisp," Tony said. "The customer pays for what we know," he added. "That's why I want the most knowledgeable customer. The person who knows the most will see my quality and can make meaningful comparisons."
Across from Robert's station is Ron Buck. He was checkering a stock and inletting the gorgeous wood with tiny gold and platinum flowers. "We go slowly," Ron said. "Every inlay must be precise and aesthetically harmonious with the complete shotgun." He added, "We are never rushed here."
Tony works with the world's finest engravers, although most of them are in Italy. I was thrilled to have learned that I had interviewed several of these stunning artists. For example, in the office salon were several Galazans engraved by Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa and by Mario Terzi.
These guns featured a unique and challenging process where enamel is painted on the steel much like a canvas and then hardened to withstand the flex of the steel when a round is discharged. Included among the finest engravers to work on the A. Galazans are G. S. Pedretti, Manrico Torcoli and Creative Art.
Each gun can be made individually to the exact specifications for every situation and for every shooter. Fortunately, not all Galazans are bespoke. Tony has a few made the way he likes them, with the engravers, the engraving patterns and the styles that he personally loves. Thus, the purchaser may possibly obtain a Galazan rather quickly without having to wait several years for a custom gun of this quality.
Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company is a completely integrated company. It makes its own designs with its own engineers and tooling. "It costs more," Tony said, "but the end product is superior."
Visit the CSMC website www.connecticutshotgun.com to see its extraordinary spectrum of new shotguns as well as its substantial offerings of new and used guns from other makers around the world. CSMC also offers a vast array of tools, clothing, accessories and cases plus gun repair and restoration services.
Tony has rekindled the great American arms tradition of the Connecticut Valley. And I share my bias. I am darned proud that Tony is making guns in the United States that properly belong in the pantheon of the greatest sporting arms on the planet.
The statement on his website is not puffery: "If you want the best, that is what we are offering. It is made in America with pride, craftsmanship, and without compromise." Good for Tony Galazan, and good for the few favored shooters who can call an A. Galazan their own.
Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado whose practice emphasizes estate planning. He lectures nationally to bar associations on the ethics of rhetoric as a legal competence and a litigation skill. He also presents to private companies and civic groups on the use of rhetoric as a management skill. As a freelance writer he has been published in many of the finest shooting and hunting magazines, including Double Gun Journal, Shooting Sportsman, Safari Magazine and Sporting Classics. He is pleased to have written many of the most comprehensive articles on the Beretta family and its fine firearms.