It is with a touch of envy that the older generation grumbles that youngsters these days are spoilt for choice, particularly every time a new .410 shotgun comes up for testing. After all, why should those young scallywags be able to have an affordable double-barrelled .410 when we made do with old, worn and shaky singles of dubious origin and sometimes blackpowder proof? Actually, there are plenty of good reasons ? for a start, the new models are much safer. Having been ignored for many years, the resurrection of the .410 is remarkable. Modern manufacturing techniques have helped enormously, coupled with the rise of Turkey as a mass producer of firearms ? the Birmingham of the 21st century.
First impressions of the Khan Arthemis are of leggy barrels and a combination of generally conservative looks with some futuristic styling details. Surprisingly, the barrels on the test gun, in spite of their appearance, are just 26in long. It is the slim tubes and ventilated ribs that give the impression of extra length, plus the short stock with its 13 5⁄8in length of pull. This is, after all, intended as a beginner?s gun, and at a bare 5 1⁄2lb in weight it is not going to be a burden.
In all other respects, the Arthemis is simply scaled down from a bigger gun. The barrels are assembled on the monoblock system with a large single bite at the rear of the block. Some simple decoration disguises the join line, and where the block fits into the action bar it has a neatly jewelled finish. While the ventilated ribs aid the appearance of a ?proper? gun, having screw-in interchangeable chokes really is the icing on the cake.
Five chokes were supplied with this gun in a handy pocket-sized case, which also holds the choke key. The only marking is the standard notch marking at the muzzle ends which cover a range from cylinder to full-choke. Made with 3in chambers, these barrels carry London markings for superior proof.
At first glance, the proportions are such that the short stock is only noticeable when mounting the gun to the shoulder. Even then, if one indulges in the old trick of placing the front hand well forward, in this case at the tip of the fore-end, it becomes reasonably easy to handle, even for an adult. The deep tulip-style fore-end makes that sort of hold quite easy and the curve of the pistol grip allows the other hand to be either well back or close up against the trigger-guard. The great thing with a .410 is that there is little recoil to ?bite? the second finger, and anyway the trigger-guard is nicely rounded. This all means that the gun will accommodate fairly well those sudden growth spurts that children have.
The butt-pad is not really essential on a .410, but nonetheless it is a neat touch. As for the stock colour, while much of it may be in the varnish, it is applied smoothly, giving what appears to be a durable finish.
The lockwork is simple, partly because this is a non-ejector gun. Construction follows the usual modified trigger-plate pattern, with the sears hanging from the top strap. Everything is powered by helical springs and with a one-piece frame it can be considered a boxlock.
For reliability, the automatic changeover from one barrel to another is mechanical, a plus point with a .410 because of the lack of recoil to operate an inertia-only system. While the finish of individual parts is in keeping with an economy gun, a nice touch is not only the barrel selection on the safety button but also the auto-safety.
Most of the decoration is on the stock and fore-end, though the white scrolling lines on the side of the action body have a distinctive Turkish look, emphasised by the two-tone black finish. In contrast, the laser-cut chequering on stock and fore-end is rather futuristic, with sweeping panels and curved borderlines. The barrels are polished black while everything else is matt-black, and with the fairly dark treatment to the wood, the final product is a gun that would appear quite attractive on a dealer?s gun rack.
I suppose one of the good things about testing a .410 is that it reminds one of more carefree, youthful days when life was simple and restrictions on shotgun ownership very few. It was, therefore, with a light heart that I set off up the lane to the test field.
I used 2in Eley Fourtens, 2 1⁄2in Fourlongs and Extra-longs, or what are now called 3in Magnums. I also tested a selection of Lyalvale Express in 2in,
2 1⁄2in and 3in lengths as well as some 2 1⁄2in Gamebore ?Traditional Hunting? cartridges. Loads varied from 9g to 18g, mostly in No. 6 with a few No. 7s.
The first thing I noticed was that this gun shot to the point of aim, and with the bead on the target centre the pattern was evenly distributed around it. Any tendency to pull off could be attributed to the wind and unfamiliarity with a long trigger-pull. It did prove a bit fussy in choice of cartridge and, though patterns were similar, some proved distinctly better than others.
What did come as a surprise was how tight it shot. Years ago the advice concerning the original Fourten (2in) cartridge was to treat 15 yards as typical killing range, and when you were sneaking along intending to make every shot count, getting that close to a rabbit was not easy. This gun well out-performed that old benchmark and at 20 yards, even with the 2in cartridge, the patterns thrown by the quarter-choke were actually closer to half-choke patterns. Trying it at both 25 and 30 yards with up to full choke indicated that this gun had potential. After all, at one time 25 yards was regarded as a long shot with a .410, but with 3in Magnums at 30 yards the shot patterns were better than expected. As for the mechanical selection of second barrel, it never missed a beat, regardless of how the barrels were selected.