By Lewis Potter
Friday, 06 March 2009
The Rottweil over-under .410 shotgun is a small-bore shotgun with a beautiful stock and a lot of class.
I remember having a brief flirtation with the .410 when, like so many of my contemporaries, this small bore was a kind of stepping stone between a worn-out air rifle and a larger bore 'proper' gun.
Unfortunately, the .410s we used were often a disappointment, mainly single barrel and either a crude bolt action or, if you were lucky, a Belgian folding gun. Most of the guns were chambered for the 2in cartridge.
What they almost all had in common were neglected bores reminiscent of a badly ploughed field and patterns so poor a sitting rabbit at 15 paces had a good chance of surviving an encounter with us young nimrods.
I was not impressed.
I am equally sure none of us would have believed that, in years to come, the .410 would ever be taken seriously in its own right. The idea that grown men might buy such small-bore guns and use them to good effect, even to break clays, was beyond comprehension. Yet this is just what has happened and, in the UK, much of this has come about due to the willingness of continental makers to produce worthy guns for the everyman market.
One such gun is the dainty little Rottweil over-under, supplied with a smart, black ABS case. It is an attractive, nicely proportioned gun: not too light at 6lb and balanced almost exactly in line with the hinge discs.
Basing a .410 on a 28-bore is not always a success, but in this instance the shaping around the fence at the top of the standing breech and the finely tapered barrels work in visual harmony to produce a stylish gun.
One of the advantages of using this action body must be the considerable strength it imparts to such a small bore, while still appearing to be in proportion. The only improvement in looks I could see might be to reduce the dimensions of the eminently practical but rather large safety button and barrel selector. Then again, it could be said that no safety button can be too handy.
The action is the popular and well-tried modified trigger-plate type, with sprung firing pins (or strikers), sears hanging from the top strap and heavy helical mainsprings. Based on the inertia block system, it also incorporates a mechanical changeover for reliable second barrel selection, as recoil operation alone is notoriously fickle with guns of light recoil. Another neat safety-related feature is the fitting of adjustable stops to the mainspring guides. This ensures that, after firing, the hammer rebounds to the end of the firing pin travel, so at no time with the hammer at rest should the nose of the firing pin protrude from the breech face or drag against the base of a cartridge.
The only slight disadvantage with this system is that it does have to be set up properly not a problem when new - otherwise weak firing pin strikes and annoying misfires can be the result.
A quality stock
The wood is outstanding and what you see really is what you get. Both the stock and fore-end are a good match of attractive reddish walnut that would not be out of place on a much more expensive gun.
The dark veining in the butt is particularly eye-catching and the factory oil finish only serves to enhance its appearance. The grain flows well up through the hand to the head of the stock and the wood machining to fit the action is to a good standard.
I have never been a great fan of the bag grip when used on side-by-sides, but it really suits this little over-and-under. The curve of the grip is comfortable and, like the fore-end, of the sort of dimensions that would easily accommodate a variety of different sized hands. With a 14.5/8in length of pull and drop measuring 1½in at the tip of the comb, 2½in at the heel, with modest cast off and toe out, these make dimensions that right-handed shooters would find satisfactory, or at least easy to adapt to.
Chequering, while having a practical application, is in decorative terms the icing on the cake. The extensive well laid-out patterns of laser-cut chequering on the test gun is of sufficient quality almost to be mistaken for hand-cut work.
A musical assembly
The 28in barrels are a neat piece of work, long and tapered with a swamped section where they meet up with the tapered mono-block breech. The mating line between barrels and block is good and the top barrel joint completely disguised by the usual band of machined decoration, which, with the fit exhibited on this gun, is hardly a necessary addition, but is complemented by another fancy line at the breech end.
The ends of the spigotted barrel tubes are only just visible at the breech, again an indication of the quality of the fit, and while I can understand the makers being proud of their product the rather obviously stamped Made in Italy does spoil the neatness of an otherwise good job.
The barrel tubes have a good finish both inside and out, and the ribs are well laid, as evidenced by the musical ring to the assembly when hung from the finger of one hand and tapped with a knuckle of the other.
There is a narrow file-cut top-rib and while the concave side ribs may appear wide, this is due in part to the unavoidable comparison with the slim tubes and is done to accommodate the width they are held apart at the breech.
It in on way detracts from the workmanship or design, which again scores a good point for the sensibly sized shoe where the fore-end loop fits to the lower barrel.
The barrel bores are clean and proofed for a tight 10.4mm, chambered for 76mm (3inch) cartridges and carrying half-choke in the top barrel, quarter in the bottom. When checked on the pattern plate both barrels were found to shoot to the same point of aim with a concentration of shot in the middle of the pattern.
A touch of class
The overall finish and attention to detail is good, incorporating a clever move on someone's part: the colour case-hardened action. This not only makes the action appear smaller than it actually is, but the deep blues and reddish browns contrast well with the gold-finished gamebirds and complement the dark walnut of the wood and satin sheen to the barrels and furniture, adding a touch of class.
The machine engraving around the action body is tasteful and has a lightness of finish and style that is again quite suited to a small gun. It suggests that, though this is a factory product, someone has put some thought into trying to make it just that tiny bit better. Things like the auto-safe, wooden butt-plate and smart, well-fitted fore-end catch, all contribute towards this impression.
Proof in performance
Handsome looks, while important, are only part of the package. Performance is the ultimate factor. I decided it would be a good idea to relive those youthful times of what we once irreverently called "bunny bashing".
Interestingly, it turned out in some ways quite like those long-gone days of the late 1950s. A brambled bank, a handful of Eley Fourlong cartridges, bright winter sun and a borrowed gun and a dog - there the similarity ended, for now I had a gun which, in spite of its small bore, turned out to have consistent performance and quite a punch for its size, especially when I swapped to a few 3in cartridges.
The firing pin strike turned out to be very positive and the ejectors well timed, and second barrel selection was faultless. Being light and so well balanced it was quick to swing and fast enough to even miss in front.
I was not brave enough to attempt the cock pheasant that thrashed up out of the undergrowth a few yards in front, but this was an easy gun with which to gain confidence and perhaps if I had used it before, that bird may not have been so lucky.
As it was, three rabbits were bowled over cleanly at distances up to 20 paces. I must admit, for the first time in years, I began to look upon the .410 in a new and favourable light, but then I never previously had a modern over-and-under like this little Rottweil.
Barrels: 28in with fixed chokes
Stock: pistol grip
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