Perazzi HPX RSR
Vic Harker takes a close look at a revolutionary twist in gun design – the reverse slope rib. And he is impressed.
For many years, at least so far as the British were concerned, there was no doubt as to what constituted the ultimate game gun. A knowledgeable consensus had long concluded that the best quality sidelock ejector, as made by a small group of artisan gunmakers located mainly in the centre of London, was the epitome of the gunmaker's craft.
These arbiters of excellence also prescribed its specification, almost down to the last detail. The gun would be a side-by-side with 28" or 30" barrels and weighing between 6 and 7lb. Double triggers were preferred, both for utility and reliability, although a single trigger mechanism could be provided. Some makers also made a self-opening mechanism, designed to assist in the quick reloading of guns, usually by a loader. Often, but not always, built in pairs, these guns represented state of the art equipment for dealing efficiently with the huge quantities of gamebirds the great landowners of the time reared on their estates.
Of course, at least to some degree, this form of game shooting is still replicated on the larger estates in the UK, but in many cases the sport has changed and so have the people. For example, the high pheasant presented at ranges up to 40 yards and beyond is much sought after and people are prepared to pay for it. These sportsmen have found that the best English game gun in its traditional form is not always the most efficient choice for their preferred form of shooting, and they now look elsewhere.
Other factors have also impacted on game shooting and the game gun. Most significantly the democratisation of game shooting in general, with newcomers to the sport – having learnt to shoot at clay pigeons with over-under guns – now bringing with them their own ideas of what is the best kind of game gun. Indeed, this whole matter is now very much open to debate, and tradition in some quarters is forgotten, with the attitude being ‘if it works for you, use it'. At the same time the over-under, which in its most sophisticated form was also perfected by the London makers, has been developed to very different specifications by continental makers for both game and clays.
As to the question of barrel length and choke, again a pragmatic mood now prevails. Certainly it would be true to say in most cases longer barrels are preferred, especially for high bird shooting. A man who has made a speciality of modifying over-under shotguns for this form of sport is John Jefferies with his HPX range of shotguns built by Perazzi.
Perazzi's MX8 action, though significantly heavier than English over-unders in terms of the jointing of the barrels to the action and general exterior appearance, owes much to the English interpretation of the superposed gun. A low profile action with elegant carved fencing and side-panels with bolsters that overrun the bottom plate, the Perazzi action makes a very suitable platform for a long range game gun of full weight. The HPX was first introduced in 2007 with 34" barrels, but shorter options are now available, beginning with 30". The Perazzi's hand-detachable trigger plate mechanism is flat spring powered and trigger pulls are right up there with a good sidelock.
The latest long barrelled Perazzi HPX is a 20 gauge. This adds a new dimension to really long barrelled game guns, and with modern 20 bore ammunition there are very few instances where you are likely to feel under-gunned. It should now be apparent that John Jefferies and the HPX team never stop pushing the envelope when it comes to over-under game guns. The RSR (reverse slope rib) is the latest development he has brought to his specialised Perazzi. As every schoolboy knows, shotgun ribs beginning at the breech slope downwards to the barrel's muzzle ends. Originally designed to raise the gun's point of impact and therefore place a higher percentage of the shot-charge above the point of aim, it was a major contribution to shotgun design. The Jefferies' RSR does the opposite, with a rib a fraction higher at the front which slopes rearwards and lowers the point of impact. This allows the use of a higher stock, providing a better view of the bird, but at the same time not raising the point of impact too high. In use, this modification is undetectable but many find the better visibility it gives is of great benefit, particularly on high birds at range.
Indeed it is a great advantage. I've found when using the new 33" barrelled 20 bore that I was totally unaware of the rib, but target acquisition with the high comb was quicker and consequently my shooting more effective. A really first class performer on driven game, but is this the ultimate game gun?
I suspect shotgun design will continue to evolve, but make no mistake the Perazzi 20 bore HPX with its reverse sloped rib is ingenious without representing a distraction. In fact, it has been said that this is the best new sighting aid since the Manton rib (patent 1806). I wouldn't argue with such an observation.
PERAZZI HPX RSR 20 BORE FACT FILE
Barrel length: Available in 28 – 34"
Choke: Fixed or multi-choke
Barrel weight: 1,300 – 1,450g (depending on spec)
Safety: auto or non-auto
Stock shapes: HPX Sporting, UK semi-pistol or straight hand
Fore-end shapes: HPX Schnabel or HPX Flute
Weight: 7 – 8lb (depending on spec)
Engravings: Full Perazzi selection
Cost: From £9,500 (standard black finish) to include gunfitting with cartridges and clays, oiled finish and three year guarantee.