By Lewis Potter
Wednesday, 01 August 2012
Gun review: William Powell Perseus shotgun: Made for Powell’s by Rizzini, this over-under combines English style with Italian flair, offering shooters a gun for all seasons.
William Powell Perseus shotgun. £1795
In Greek mythology, Perseus was the hero who killed the gorgon Medusa.
Today his name is lent to William Powell’s latest over-and-under shotgun, produced in both 12-bore and 20-bore.
This is something of a new venture for the company because, while the customer can request a special order, the intention is to market it as a standard product, albeit an upmarket shotgun with good walnut and pretty engraving.
It is aimed at the kind of owner who is primarily a game shooter but also enjoys clay shooting — a gun for all seasons.
To be successful in this area is a salesman’s dream, and competition is strong, with some already dominant and well-established brands.
RELIABILITY THROUGH SIMPLICITY
The Perseus has Italian ancestry, being made for Powell’s by Rizzini — an arrangement not unusual in the gun trade (for example, some years ago, Beretta provided the basis for a Webley & Scott over-and-under model).
With its hinge discs (or trunions), ventilated rib and single trigger, the Perseus has a similar appearance to the Rizzini, but it has some interesting details that set it apart.
The Perseus is based around what is called the “guild action”, which is to the over-under what the Anson & Deeley boxlock is to the side-by-side.
Of straightforward construction, the emphasis is on reliability through simplicity.
This gun’s lock work is one of the nicer-finished examples that I have seen, with highly polished, dome-ended dowel pins holding everything together.
In the past, one small weakness in this design was that the strikers (firing pins) often broke with extensive use.
However, the old stepped striker design has been replaced with one that has curved and tapered sections to eliminate stress points and to enhance greatly their life expectancy.
Also, echoing the practices of some past British gunmakers, the Perseus comes complete with spare strikers, return springs and retaining dowel pins.
The barrels are of the familiar monobloc construction, with permanently sprung extractors, neat, shiny jewelling around the block and a glossy black finish to the remainder.
At 7mm, the tidy matted top rib is slightly wider than those found on some game guns, but the brass bead is traditional.
Five long, 2.3⁄4in (70mm) chokes are supplied as standard, with a substantial choke key incorporating a thread cleaner.
Well-made and nicely finished, they are marked with the American system of measurement and are suitable for use with steel shot.
While guns can be ordered superior proofed for all steel shot cartridges, this one carried standard proof marks, meaning only the so-called “reduced” steel shot loads may be used, and with no more than half-choke.
ENGLISH STYLE AND ITALIAN FLAIR
The stockwork is a combination of English style and Italian flair, and the grade of walnut on this gun is beautiful.
This is enhanced by the neat chequering and good finish, though I would prefer a rounded fore-end, which is more in the English style.
The semi-pistol grip, or what used to be called “bag grip” in Birmingham, is a particularly effective style on an over-and-under.
It is now often referred to as a “Prince of Wales grip”, though the original was a little more conical in shape — eminently practical but less pleasing to the eye than the form normally used now.
With a length of pull of 14.5⁄8in, my leading hand needed to be well forward and, while this gun has a fairly high comb, it turned out to be quite a bit different, as the other Powells in stock carry a little more drop, which is usually preferable for a game gun.
The balance is good, with the 30in barrels giving good pointability — dampening any tendency to be too lively, but without any undue feeling of front-heaviness.
It has all the hallmarks of a forgiving and easy gun to get on with, but only a practical test would decide this.
The “guild action” achieves reliability through its simplicity.
The strikers have curved and tapered sections that eliminate stress points to enhance their longevity.
The decoration is not excessive, and is of a restrained style of foliate work, with the William Powell name either side of the action bar and on the top barrel.
Overall, the glossy blacking, polished action body and fine, golden honey-coloured walnut contrast well with the engraving to give a visually pleasing effect.
Even the undecorated but gracefully curved trigger guard enhances the gun’s appearance, while the plain steel trigger is a welcome change from so many gold offerings.
First up was the pattern plate and, as expected, the Perseus threw the pattern just a touch high, giving a good view of the aiming mark.
Other than that, patterns were central, and much of the credit for this must go to the fine shaping to the face of the stock, with a slim comb and a reasonable amount of cast.
A variety of cartridges was used, including Eley Hi-Flyer, Pigeon and Grand Prix; Lyalvale Express Super Game and Special Game; and Hull High Pheasant.
The gun proved a bit snappy with anything more than a 32g load and, even though it is chambered for a 3in (76mm) Magnum, at around 7lb in weight you would have to be a brave shooter to try to use maximum loads.
Patterns were, in the main, good, and while it was not at its best with Eley Hi-Flyer, the same maker’s Grand Prix threw good patterns — shot loads tried varied from 25g to 36g.
A trip to a local clay club was a useful exercise, not least to field a variety of opinions on the gun.
What came across strongly was that the Perseus was an easy gun to get on with — even a beginner was soon breaking clays with reasonable consistency on the high tower.
With crossing birds, one had to remember to allow for the tendency with this gun to shoot slightly high, but, of course, on high driven birds that is an advantage.
Apart from that, everything worked as it should — there was little creep on the trigger, with a crisp break, strong and well-timed ejection and that most welcome addition to any game gun: an auto-safe.
The Perseus held its own when compared with other guns in its league. It certainly inspired confidence, and some credit for this must lie not only with the handling, but also with the good stock shape and consistent patterns thrown with a wide variety of cartridges.
For maximum pleasure, it is not a shotgun for heavy loads, but for game shooting and with the light loads favoured by clayshooters, it is sweet to use.
Though it is more “lasagne” than “meat and two veg”, this should prove to be a worthy addition to the William Powell range.
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