Great shotguns don't have to cost the earth; here we consider several for under £1,000
The idea of owning a new gun, unsullied by the hands of others, is an attractive one – imagine something straight out of the box, brand spanking new and factory fresh without a scratch or a blemish and complete with guarantee and dealer back-up.
The stumbling block is often the small matter of cost, especially in these times of retrenchment, when money is tight and there are likely to be cutbacks for some years to come.
Needless to say, when times are hard, the second-hand market thrives, but for those who still yearn for a new gun, a surprising choice of competitively priced models can be found.
There is a wide choice in the £1,250 to £1,850 price range, and these guns can often be found on special offer.
However, for this article, we will stick with the recommended retail price.
On that basis, the guns listed will be £1,000 or less, though deals might be made to save a bit more.
The 12-bore double has to be the most commonly used gun for game shooting and the over-under is immensely popular.
On some shoots, the side-by-side is now in the minority.
In our price range, there is a greater choice of over-unders and sometimes there is the option of 20-bore or even a 28 for the small-bore enthusiast at little or no extra cost.
Turning up on a shoot day with a Baikal will at least bring a smile to your companions? faces as they anticipate the opportunity to pull your leg.
Why? Because it was ever thus, from the days when Baikals were subsidised by the Soviet state, sported a basic finish and appeared to have stocks made from reject wooden pallets.
They were in fact always better than many shooters believed, and now have a respectable finish and almost all have walnut stocks.
Baikals are, as ever, strong without being heavy, reliable and complemented by particularly good chrome-lined barrels.
Long model numbers are the norm rather than names, but all you need to know is that for £617.95 you can get a single-trigger ejector over-under with auto-safe and multi-chokes in 12, 20 or a fixed-choke 28-bore at the same price.
For a side-by-side, Baikal produces a single-trigger selective ejector 12-, 20 and 28-bore, which is available with 26in or 28.1/2in barrels for a recommended £562.95.
Well-made but uncomplicated, they usually give years of reliable use.
In a nutshell: With particularly good chrome-lined barrels, the Baikal is a strong, reliable gun with a decent finish.
For more details, visit www.yorkguns.com
If your inclination is towards something similar but a bit fancier, the Turkish Huglu is worth considering.
Current models are the 103DE and FE, marketed as lightweight ejector guns.
A single selective trigger and multi-chokes are the norm, while the lock work is simple and well thought out.
Barrel lengths are available from 26in to 30in and the whole gun suggests reliability for continuous use.
The standard walnut stock is sound and tight-grained, while there is the option, at an extra cost, of fancier patterned wood.
Prices start at £779 to £951, with a three-year warranty from Edgar Brothers.
In a nutshell : Sturdy and reliable, the Huglu performs well and has a simple, well-thought-out design.
For more details, visit www.edgarbrothers.com
Want a more familiar name? Try the Italian-made Lincoln. The Premier Basic fixed choke in 12- and 20-bore is available for £800 or so, while a multi-choke version is £100 or so more.
In line with UK market requirements, these are nowhere near as basic as the name suggests except for being non-ejectors.
Otherwise, you have 29in barrels, single selective trigger, auto-safe and a pleasantly decorated action.
This is a brand that has built up a good reputation and the ejector Premier Gold can be sometimes found at a few pounds under our budget.
In a nutshell: Pleasantly decorated action, 29in barrels and single selective triggers, but it is a non-ejector.
For more details, visit www.bisley-uk.com
Yildiz is a make that has made great inroads on the market. These are true lightweight guns with aluminium alloy action bodies and, in the main, walnut stocks that would not be out of place among far more expensive guns.
There is quite a choice of Yildiz guns above our budget and you get a good-looking gun for your money.
Prices start at £615 for a single trigger ejector over-under and go up to £945 for a specially hand-engraved gun.
The handsome side-by-side wildfowling gun, which would easily serve for high pheasants, is listed at £740.
In a nutshell: Wildfowlers, in particular, will appreciate the lightweight and attractive Yildiz, especially the side-by-side wildfowling gun.
For more details, visit www.entwistleguns.com
Zabala shotguns used to be a bit basic, but have been improved over the past few years, not only in overall quality and finish, but also the model range.
These are strongly made guns and are a little heavier than some competitors.
There is a choice of finish from silvered actions to colour-case-hardened.
The Berri Lux side-by-side retails for £799.95, while the popular and more upmarket Anthea comes in at £928.95.
On the over-under front, there is the Torro, a striking-looking gun, usually with dramatic colour-case-hardening – this is the same price as the Berri Lux.
In a nutshell: The Zabala range has improved over the years in both quality and finish, and are strongly made guns.
For more details, visit www.yorkguns.com
Lanber?s reputation was built around conventional, reliable guns at affordable prices.
This still holds true, but finish and decoration have improved without, it seems, a commensurate increase in cost.
This can only be put down to more efficient methods of manufacture.
The Lanber Field Deluxe has a suggested retail price of £900 and for that you get an over-under with 28in or 30in barrels, multi-chokes, chromed bores, single selective trigger and auto-safe.
Alternatively, for the same money, fans of the 20-bore have the option of the Lanber 20-bore Field with lightweight aluminium alloy action body.
In a nutshell: Lanber models offer reliability with a quality finish and decoration at affordable prices.
For more details, visit www.gmk.co.uk
This 12-bore is at the top end of our price range and the Elos A Field is an interesting blend of conventional and state-of-the-art technology.
In spite of the technical advances Fabarm has made, the Elos is a traditionally styled gun, even a little conservative in appearance.
It handles steel shot especially well and, while it is a non-ejector, it is Fabarm quality as usual.
By searching around, you should find one for the budget price.
In a nutshell: Conventional and modern styling combine on Fabarm?s 12-bore Elos A Field, a gun that shoots steel shot especially well.
For more details, visit www.vikingarms.co.uk
WEBLEY & SCOTT
No matter how good a gun is, some shooters feel more comfortable with one that they recognise.
So, how about the Webley 900 over-under?
Proofed in Birmingham, it?s possible to obtain one for less than £800, complete with carrying case and set of five choke tubes.
Sadly, the 2000 series boxlock side-by-side is just out of the price range.
In a nutshell: The Webley 900 series offers reliability and well thought out safety for a reasonable price, with five choke tubes.
For more details, visit www.webley.co.uk
These are only a few of the guns within the £1,000 budget, but they represent a fair cross-section.
There are semi-automatics for the vermin controller, such as the Hatsan for about half the budget, and Franchi produces the gas-operated Raptor and Inertia 1-12 Fast, both for £995.
For the hardened wildfowler, pump-action guns can be purchased at economic prices, for example, the Benelli Super Nova at £600 or so.
Fancy something lightweight for pottering around the release pens?
There are plenty of .410s, including sound-moderated singles for a few hundred pounds. There really is something to suit every need.