Imagine shooting a British sporting-clays gun anointed with Royal Warrants from every reigning monarch since Queen Victoria, up to and including present day. It’s a 12-gauge tour de force that moves to the target with grace and deportment – even on that low chartreuse crosser that blends against the leafy background until the trees swallow it like a tasty mint.
Kevin Kelly has a knack for cultivating the sweet spot in America’s fine shotgun market. His collection of bespoke Plantation side by sides and over/unders for the field are built to his exact specifications by family-owned Fratelli Poli Armi in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy – replete with the hand-finishing you’d expect from an $80,000 English Best, but starting at $8,995.
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.
Over the years the sporting clays game has evolved from just targets thrown fast and far to an enticing mix of speeds, angles and distances. In the early years, throwing clays fast and at distance was a great way to challenge the best shooters, but doing so took the wind out of the sails of those new to the game.
Beneath a Texas mesquite tree, I sat on the camo bucket seat with a 20-gauge Zoli Expedition EL resting across my lap, watching skyward for doves.
We anticipated an extraordinary weekend of shooting and dining, since we also had dinner reservations at another great American institution, the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park.