Product Overview


Macnab Highlander shotgun review

Macnab Highlander shotgun

Price: £1500-£2000

John Macnab was the title of a tale published by master adventure storyteller, John Buchan, back in 1925. It concerned the adventures of three leading members of London society, one a cabinet minister, who laid a bizarre bet they could poach deer and salmon from three Scottish estates without getting caught.

Apart from drawing the comment that the ethics of cabinet ministers seem to have gone even further downhill since, the book also gave its name to the present-day Macnab challenge, which is to shoot a deer and a brace of grouse, and catch a salmon, all in a single day (in legal circumstances).

The book title and the challenge gave gunsmith, Patrick Keen, the ideal company name when he founded his own range of guns. The Highlander Claymore is the sporter in that range.

Who makes it?

John Macnab Ltd is based at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. They don’t make guns, but specify the quality and how they ought to handle and shoot, then source them from leading European manufacturers. This gun is by Sabatti, yet another gunmaker in Italy’s famous Gardone valley near the northern city of Brescia. Gun-making Sabattis in the region can be traced back to the early 1700s, and the modern company was founded in 1960. They make over-uders and side-by-sides, bolt-action rifles, and a single-shot break-action big game rifle.

How adaptable is it?

It is a sporter which, at a pinch, could also serve as a field-shooting gun as long as not too much walking was involved. It would be OK in a pigeon hide, and 3in chambers add to its adaptability, although its proof does not allow the use of very heavy steel loads.

How does it work?

Very simply seems to be the best description. Like the majority of Italian-built over-unders, it has a shallow action, with the barrels hinged on stub pins. There are two actions, one a plain boxlock and the other a side-plate, but both have similar internal mechanisms.

Hammers are hinged at the bottom, with the sears hanging from above. The hammers are cocked by rods which run forward along the action floor, to be forced back when the gun is broken by a projecting lug on the fore-end iron. As the gun reaches the fully open stage the ejector trips contact the action frame to release the spring-loaded ejectors.

The coil mainsprings run on guide rods and provide a rebounding action, so that the strikers withdraw after firing and their tips are clear of the barrels as the gun opens.

The single, selective trigger lifts the sears vertically off the hammers, and is transferred to the second barrel by a recoil-powered inertia mechanism. A barrel selector is incorporated in the safety thumbpiece. Safety is non-automatic.

The trigger is adjustable in the fore-and-aft plane, and it also has a small screw for the adjustment of the poundage – a feature best set up by a gunsmith.

Locking is by a full-width bolt which runs along the action floor to engage with a sturdy bite in the bottom of the barrel monobloc forging.

Unusually for a sporter – or any over-under come to that – the exterior of the action is colour-hardened with the abstract pattern of browns and blues found on many fine English game guns, rather than blacked or bright-polished steel. This is a pleasing feature which helps set the gun apart. Top lever, safety and trigger guard are all blacked.

The whole mechanism is so simple and sturdy that it should prove extremely reliable, and as the gun ages worn parts will be extremely easy for a gunsmith to replace.


– Constructed on the monobloc principle, and diameters measured out at 0.724 – just a whisker short of the English standard of .729.

– Tubes are internally chromed for corrosion resistance and ease of cleaning.

– Top and side ribs are ventilated for lightness and good heat dissipation, and the top rib is machined with a glare-reducing crescent pattern.

– In addition to a foresight, the top rib is fitted with a small, brass mid-sight bead – something you don’t use much on a sporter, but its presence does no harm and can be handy if you wish to shoot the occasional round of trap.

– Chambers will accommodate cartridges up to 3in, and forcing cones are of the slow-tapering variety which aids patterning and is said to reduce recoil.

– Multichoke tubes are flush-fitting, with notches in the ends to aid identification.

– A fixed-choke (¼ and ¾) version is also available

– Blacking is in a deep gloss.


– Wood-to-metal fit is good, and the walnut nicely figured. It features a semi-oil finish.

– The semi-beavertail fore end fits well to the hand.

– Overall stock length of 14¾ in is a good compromise for most people.

– Drops at heel and comb of 1¼ and 2¼ in are right for an off-the-shelf sporter stock.

– The pistol grip is quite full, but fits the hand nicely.

– Chequering is well executed.

* The butt terminates in a ¾ in recoil pad which does not snag clothing on mounting.

How heavy?

The 30in multichoke version weighs 8lb – a weight which provides a controlled, steady swing. The 32in version will be a touch heavier.

What the tester thought

Sporting Gun tested the Highlander in March 2004. Build quality, value for money and handling scored seven out of 10, and styling eight. The tester found the gun well-balanced, and liked the colour hardening. The trigger, adjustable for reach and weight, also drew praise. Some concern was expressed because the gun was, then, so new in a sector of the market in which there is strong competition from better-known manufacturers. Since then it has enjoyed some competition success at all levels, and seems to have been well accepted.


Fixed-choke boxlock £1,960, multichoke boxlock £2,170, fixed-choke sideplate £2,990, multichoke sideplate £3,175.


The Beretta 682 Gold E and the Browning XS are both in the frame, as is the Zoli Kronos for those who fancy something different.

More information

From John Macnab Ltd., Unit 6, Cropper Row, Haigh Industrial Estate, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. Tel: 01989-763859.

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