I have tested a Caesar Guerini shotgun before and found it to be elegant, well made and good value for money.
The sideplated Guerini 28-bore under the microscope this month caught my attention both because of its bore size (I use a 28 for most of my game-shooting these days even later in the season) and because of its colour case hardening and fine Purdey-style rose-and scroll engraving.
It is an Essex Limited model and very distinct because of its refined decoration. For the money, it would be hard to better aesthetically speaking.
It is available in 12 and 20-bore models at the same cost.
The gun not only has outstanding action finish and engraving, but the action body is well proportioned and the stock especially well shaped and made from interestingly figured wood.
The form and dimensions of the stock, like the decoration, put this gun in a class of its own. The stock has one of the best semi-grip designs that I have encountered.
The proportions of the semi-pistol hand ideally configured for a single trigger conform to my practical and aesthetic ideals. The stock dimensions are excellent as well.
I am being lavish in my praise: this excellent gun deserves it. It has, for once, been built with its market very clearly in mind (and listening to its markets specific needs something that many manufacturers fail to do).
The mechanical specification of the Guerini is not especially innovative; machining, however, is impeccable and metal-to-metal and wood-to-metal fit are up to the standard of the rest of this truly exceptional little gun.
Is there anything I dont like about it?
Not much especially when one takes the highly competitive price into account.
Nevertheless, let me try to be really picky The lip of the Schnabel fore-end might be removed (as Beretta is doing on some of its Silver Pigeons to good ergonomic and aesthetic effect).
I dont favour a forward hold as some do in imitation of George V if you adopt a forward hold with a straight or straightish front arm you restrict your swing and may come off the line on crossing birds but I think the smooth lines of an over-under can be spoilt by a ducks bill protrusion at the end of the fore-stock.
If you favour a forward hold, moreover, a Schnabel lip is a nuisance (but can be easily removed from an existing gun by a competent gunsmith).
As far as other decorative details are concerned, the gold-plated trigger is not quite to my taste (but contrasts well with the colour case-hardening), the fore-end push rod looks a little lonely going into bare wood rather than operating through a metal cap as it might without much additional gunmaking effort, and the top lever might benefit from metal chequering rather than stippling combined with a modernistic wavy line.
The aesthetics of the gun might also benefit from a longer trigger-guard tang, but on all these points I am being very demanding. The gun, as presented, looks first rate.
Address the small points mentioned, add a solid top rib and a leaf-sprung action, and you would be getting near to that mythical beast the perfect gun.
Lets look at some other aspects of the Essex Limited in more detail. The 30in monobloc barrels have a narrow, ventilated, sighting rib and solid joining ribs. The sighting rib is flat, well laid, with a neatly machined top surface. The rib is of simple form about 6mm at both breech and muzzle. I thought it presented an excellent picture to the eye.
I liked the traditional metal bead at the muzzle end, however. It was a good size not too large and therefore not too distracting. Happily, no centre bead is fitted (an unnecessary adornment to any sporting gun).
The relatively light-for-length barrels are made from tough chrome-moly steel and equipped with flush-fitting interchangeable chokes (five are supplied with the gun).
The Guerini bears Italian proof marks for 2.3⁄4in (70mm) cartridges. Both barrels have bore diameters of 14mm. The bores are well polished, too, and are blemish free.
Blacking is competent. I did note, however, that one tube appeared to be very slightly out of true when one looked through it in daylight.
This is no great issue though I rarely come across a modern gun with perfectly straight tubes.
The action style, inspired by Browning and Beretta, is familiar. There are bifurcated lumps on the monobloc that engage studs on the inner walls near the action knuckle.
It results in a fairly low action profile. Workmanship within the coil spring-powered action is very good. All the controls safety, top lever and so on, function well.
The ejectors are quite powerful in action and proved reliable in use, as did the recoil-activated single trigger and its well-conceived selector mechanism similar to that on a Beretta.
The figured stock and its good grip shapes have already been mentioned. Generally, I thought it was an exceptionally well-conceived design. It has the finesse that is missing from some cheaper Continental imports.
It was a good length at 14.3⁄4in with an extra 1⁄8 in at heel and 3⁄8in at toe (the modern industry norm).
The drop was absolutely on the money in my clearly biased opinion, at 1.3⁄8in and 2.1⁄8in at comb and heel respectively. The basic dimensions of the stock are very sound, but this gun also benefits from an excellent comb profile (with a good taper rather than the club shape seen on some Italian guns excessively influenced by the national trap-shooting experience).
The semi-pistol grip shape might well stand as a pattern for anyone who wants to get this difficult aspect of design exactly right. The radius was fairly open allowing one to hold the gun up easily when waiting in line for birds to break and it was relatively even in depth throughout its length, allowing for maximum purchase and ergonomic efficiency.
The basic action is a type inspired by both Beretta and Browning that the Brescians have been perfecting for the past 30 or 40 years. Most of the Rizzini-related clan of gunmakers Caesar Guerini, B Rizzini, Fausti use something similar and quality has improved significantly in the past five years with better computer machining.
The potential drawback of the design is that it is deeper in the action body than Boss, Woodward, Beretta, Perazzi and similar.
This is because it utilises a wide slot bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth, with the result that the gun needs to be made deeper with an under lump.
The other guns just mentioned use a locking system where bolts engage square or round bites to either side of the chamber sides rather than a longer, wider one beneath the bottom chamber mouth.
This hybrid action allows for a mechanically simple, attractive 20 or 28-bore, but creates certain aesthetic dilemmas for a 12-bore because of the increased depth of action required.
Shooting qualities were very good as anticipated. The gun points and swings well with its 30in barrels.
The narrow ventilated rib helps to keep forward weight down. This is a medium-weight gun for a 28-bore (hitting the scales just under 6.1⁄2lb), but it is not heavy and the longish tubes make it controllable.
The great stock shapes and measurements are also part of the positive handling equation. The semi-pistol grip offers especially good purchase and with it improved muzzle control.
I found I was breaking simulated partridges effortlessly, and had similarly encouraging results with longer birds from the high tower.
Trigger pulls were good but not outstanding (you cant have everything for £2,000).
Felt recoil was modest with 25g Eley VIPs and perfectly acceptable with Lyalvale 28g cartridges (my usual choice in a 28-bore).
I will not hold back: the Essex 28, like other guns in the Guerini range, offers elegant aesthetics, good shooting qualities and fantastic value.
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