A gun for the ages need not be revolutionary, as Alex Flint discovers.
One of the very great pleasures of reviewing shotguns (aside from the obvious) is the experience of visiting Elderkin and Son in Spalding. Not just because I am sure of a comfy spot on the sofa and a cup of tea, but because I get to watch so many people going through the process of buying a shotgun from first to last. I am constantly surprised by the emotions involved in such a process, from the pupil-widening excitement of the first glance of the gun on the shelf, right through to the process of steeling oneself for a long course of explanation and bribery with your significant other upon your return home with a significant new asset slung over your shoulder.
Each ‘new’ item excites me
In real terms, so many of the guns available to buy today are little more than slight variations on designs which have dominated the market for a number of years. I have tested a vast number of guns from a variety of manufacturers, yet each ‘new’ item excites me in a way I am not sure I will ever be able to fully explain.
This month’s test gun is a fine example of this puzzle; the Miroku MK60 is a gun based on an action first produced in 1925 and which frankly has hardly changed at all since. It should be staid and boring – it should be an entirely known and predictable quantity. Yet when one looks at this gun, or mounts it for a few dry swings, one cannot be helped but be a little mesmerised. It is astonishingly good.
The Miroku MK 60 Sporting Grade retains its handsome lines
Whilst it is doubtless based on a famous action, few would describe this gun as having an antique appeal. You would not, however, face much criticism for considering the MK60 as something of a classic. In fact, in 20 bore form as on our test gun I would argue this design looks its absolute best. Compared to the slim lines of Beretta’s sporting guns, Brownings and Mirokus have always been a little on the larger, perhaps more masculine side. Here – the action noticeably scaled down – the gun retains its handsome lines yet looks considerably more refined.
This suggestion of refinement is gleefully reinforced upon mounting the gun – coming sharply to the shoulder with ease. The gun comes to the shoulder consistently well and is very comfortable, perhaps as a result of being slightly longer in the stock than your average Italian gun might be. This level of comfort and security in the shoulder is somewhat surprising, since the hard plastic butt plate looks like it will be anything but at first glance.
An attractive foliate scroll pattern
Fortunately, the butt plate is unlikely to be the first thing you notice when laying eyes on this gun, as the quality of the wood, engraving and finishing is difficult to ignore. Japanese craftsmanship is famed in fields as varied as motor cars and musical instruments, and here that expertise is brought to bear in some style. The engraving is fulsome and deep, following an attractive foliate scroll pattern.
Perhaps the only place where the gun is a little weak on the visual side is the bottom of the action, where it seems to my eye a little too much of the surface has been left unengraved. Moreover, it seems some of the internal, moving parts of the action have been made of a different metal – or at least given a slightly different finish – the result being the bottom of the action body has a slightly odd patchwork feel about it when the gun is closed. These are minor visual quibbles, however, and you would be forgiven for missing them entirely thanks to the wood used on the gun, which is beautifully figured and very well finished, with a rich, deep colour throughout the fore-end and stock.
Given the quality of what is on offer here, and the truly superb shooting experience, this is certainly one of the most attractive new guns on the market. Factor in the price, and anyone picking one of these guns up might find it difficult to be dissuaded from that opinion.
View from the gun shop
These are superb guns from an excellent manufacturer, and offer fantastic value for money. This Grade 5 model is currently the top of the line in terms of the quality of finishing, however rumours abound a Grade 6 is to be introduced in the future – if there is to be an improvement over this gun it promises to be fairly spectacular.
These guns come with fixed chokes at ¼ and ½ – you might want these widened as this is fairly tight for a 20 bore. At just under 7lbs, however, this is clearly a serious game shooting gun, so if you plan on taking on plenty of high birds then perhaps you might leave them as is.
The gun has 3” chambers which are magnum proof, though I would suggest you might want to avoid putting quite so much load through the gun. Cartridges for 20 bores today can be had at 34gram and up and I would argue you should consider shooting a 12 bore if you feel that load is necessary – with this 20 bore you might be waiting for lead to queue up to leave the barrels.
These guns are based on a tried and tested design, with a full-body hinge pin and ejector kickers in the fore-end which always give very positive ejection. It arrives in its (cardboard) box non auto-safe as standard, though this is a matter of moments to alter for any competent gunsmith.
There is little wood left over in the stock – wood to metal fit is absolutely excellent – though the fore-end is rather thick as it has to be; you need that strength with the ejectors in the fore-end.
These guns are a little bit longer now – 15″ stock with a slight right-hand bias to the toe – the bend is slightly higher as on most modern guns. However, all of these things are easily changed – the stock provides an excellent canvas to work from. The only thing I would suggest you be slightly wary of is ensuring there is a good straight grain through the hand.
In the field
The balance of this gun and the ease and consistency of mounting is astonishingly good. All the positive handling characteristics of a 20 bore are present, as you would expect, though as noted above it is no lightweight. This does of course have a major benefit in terms of recoil control, even given the relatively tight nature of the chokes.
The trigger has a lovely low profile shape, set well back in the trigger guard and gives very clean, crisp trigger pulls. In the hand the wooden parts of the gun are very comfortable, with no irritation from the new chequering. The semi-pistol grip stock is well shaped, offering enough in the hand whilst still feeling slim. Similiarly, in the front hand there is plenty of birth with no danger of your fingers being able to reach around and be burned on hot barrels. Indeed, in many ways the gun feels like a refinement of its bigger brother. The only issue I came across was once or twice when my hand was slightly too far forwards on the fore-end I did catch the meat of my palm on the edge of the fore-end release lever; though this was down to my own error and certainly wouldn’t be a problem for those of a slightly more athletic persuasion!
Engineering: 9/10 As good as it gets for mass-produced guns.
Handling: 10/10 Astonishingly entertaining but totally consistent too.
Looks & finishing: 8/10 Some small faults but the overall picture is good.
Reliability & customer service: 9/10 You are unlikely to run into trouble on either front here.
Value: 10/10 If you can find a better looking, better handling gun for less money then you will do well indeed.
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It is astonishingly good