In the market for a new over-under? Vic Harker looks at an exceptional new example from Churchill and Perazzi.
On the face of it E.J. Churchill and Perazzi seem an unlikely partnership, the one a distinguished English gunmaker, albeit having survived a number of previous incarnations, and the other an Italian family business who produce arguably the best and certainly the most successful clay target guns in the world.
I therefore have to admit I greeted the news of an over-under game gun created by this pairing, with a degree of cynicism. It sounded very much to be a case of blatant badge engineering with a famous British gun maker stamping its name on an Italian gun, admittedly a very good one, to fill a market it cannot satisfy on its own. I was nevertheless intrigued to call my friend Chris Cloke who is the manager of Churchill's retail operation and very much the prime mover behind the project.
A word about Chris: A former world champion trap shooter and previously a notable civil servant, he took early retirement and then joined Churchill. A year ago he was struck down with a virus that left him completely paralysed and the prognosis was he would remain in that state. With a courage and resilience bordering on superhuman he has somehow regained the full use of his upper body but for the moment is confi ned to a wheelchair. When I met him at E.J. Churchill Shooting Ground, apart from sitting down, he was the same dynamic, incisive and clear thinking man I have known for 30 years.
He briefed me on the marketing strategy behind the new gun.
While Churchill can and do make their own guns, they perceived a gap in the market between the volume production guns they sell like Browning and Beretta and their own artisan work. They therefore decided to look around for a ready made basis to which they could bring their own expertise to create an over-under with handling qualities close to an English gun.
It seemed to Chris that Perazzi was the obvious choice, incorporating as it does, many design features originating with English makers. The jointing and the bolting of the Perazzi in particular owe something to both John Roberts of Boss & Co and James Woodward whose gun also provided the basis of the Purdey over- under. The system of wedges and draws at the sides of the action body and the barrel lumps, not to mention the stubs on which the barrels pivot all owe their origins to one or both of these makers. Likewise the bifurcated bolt engaging with bites under the top barrel. Dimensionally though, the Perazzi's bearing surfaces are larger than the English guns'. The convex extensions on the under barrels lumps that meet with reciprocating slots each side of the breech face, are also an addition which contributes to the Perazzi's durability.
As to the lock work, although Perazzi have made sidelock guns in the past, they are best known for their detachable trigger plate mechanism. In this case, the trigger of the Chruchill Crown, although sharing the same excellent geometry, is non- detachable which allows for a narrower trigger plate and a more elegant shape at the head of the stock.
With 35mm drop at the front of the comb and 50mm at the heel together with 38cm length of pull and 5mm of cast, the example I shot had the kind of set-up I would confidently use for any kind of driven game shooting. The well designed
semi-pistol grip provides both control and flexibility for shots taken at any height or
angle. The fore-end has a slim comfortable shape that compliments the stock and with a discreet but well executed engraving design, this Anglo-Italian gun is a very handsome piece indeed.
The gun's handling qualities matched its looks, tipping the scales at 7lb 9oz, just about right for a 30” barrelled over-under game gun. The barrel assembly incorporates a special lightweight monobloc with a narrow 7mm rib that all helps provide the gun with a fast handling but controllable quality. This gives a feeling of confi dence
on both the close very quick target and those at much greater range where a degree ofsteadiness is required.
I have a Perazzi and have shot many others but Churchill have brought their own expertise to this gun. It has characteristics usually only found in the best English game guns that allows you to mount, point, swing and hit the target with the minimum of conscious thought. I have to say I am hugely impressed with the outcome of this joint venture that combines the virtues of two illustrious names in gun making which in terms of build quality, dynamics and value for money has few rivals.
Cost: £11,000 (inc VAT) www.ejchurchill.com