Perazzi HPX shotgun review.
Take a reputable Italian gunmaker, which made its name producing competition guns (later turning to game guns), add an enthusiastic Englishman, who believes the guns can be improved on and that extra-long barrels are the way forward, and you have the basic concept behind the High Pheasant Extreme (HPX) version of the Perazzi.
Of course, in the days of blackpowder, long barrels were the norm and some of these vintage pieces are very pointable.
Come the late 1960s, even 30in barrels were regarded as old hat – 28in was the sought-after length, with other enthusiasts clinging to Mr Churchill?s concept that 25in was best.
I was taught that barrel length should be proportionate to the height of the user and that for high, fast birds or targets, it is better to err on the long side rather than the short.
So far, I was on the same track as John Jeffries, the guiding hand behind the HPX, but the offer to test a Perazzi HPX Standard 34in barrelled 20-bore game gun – was that taking things a step too far?
Unlike blackpowder, smokeless powder guns do not require extra-long barrels to perform to their best, so ballistically, there is no advantage – it all comes down to handling and pointability for those high driven birds.
It is quite the opposite to the short-barrelled, fast, almost choppy handling suitable for quick snap shooting, as long barrels tend to smooth out the mount and swing.
On their own, though, it is not enough as the gun still needs to fit the user and balance properly ? matters that the HPX makers clearly had in mind.
THE PERAZZI BASICS
What the HPX offers is a bespoke UK version of a Perazzi shotgun. To quote Perazzi advertising, it is a fully fitted, customised and balanced range of shotguns, presenting the very best designs available today.
If this seems a bit overambitious, it is worth looking at the basic Perazzi design in a little more detail.
The main feature is lumps on either side of the barrels engaging in the side walls of the action body, similar to the older designs of both Woodward and Boss and later taken up by Purdey.
This gives it quite a low action for an over-under.
It is a little wider than many, but especially comfortable when carried over the arm.
The shaped lumps that, on an English gun, would be known by terms such as draw or circle and run-up, provide amazing strength when the gun is shut and this is aided by the high-mounted locking bolt, another technically good part of the design.
The single-trigger mechanism is also a delightful piece of work ? detachable, inertia operated and powered by pleasingly elegant vee springs.
Another notable feature of Perazzi is the quality of its barrels, still bored from forged bar giving more than a hint of tradition to a modern maker.
A LADY’S GUN?
Where the HPX comes in is this customising of an already excellent product towards a specific use ? in this case, high pheasants.
A 2.3/4in to (70mm) chambered 20-bore might not seem quite the ticket compared with its bigger 12-bore sibling, but HPX believes there is a market for a gentle-recoiling lighter version, or what we used to call a lady?s gun.
So, the black Perazzi HPX 34in Standard comes out on the scales at about 7lb, but that is not all.
These guns come with unfinished stocks to allow fitting and weight is reduced in some areas and added in others to get the correct balance.
This is more than a sort of see-saw effect around the knuckle of a gun.
It is a matter of correct weight distribution. On the gun on test, it had been carried out most effectively, giving a feel much more akin to a 6.1/4lb gun.
The Perazzi lock is a delightful piece of work and can be detached with the stock in place.
One HPX modification is the careful resetting of the trigger-pulls.
As for the pointability, it really is impressive, even though the stock was to a particular customer?s dimensions and too high and straight in the comb for me, meaning it was likely to shoot high.
This is a gun that seems to flow to the shoulder and point effortlessly where you want it to and it gives a feeling of confidence even before squeezing the trigger.
The trigger is adjusted to give crisp pulls, like a Best sidelock at about 3.5lb, with none of the play or first stage pull normally associated with inertia lock designs.
It can be tricky to get this just right, so after the trigger tuning, about 50 cartridges are shot through the gun to allow for ?settling down?.
It is then readjusted if necessary.
The barrels are beautifully made and finished without side ribs but sporting a ventilated top rib.
On this gun, there is a red plastic foresight, but you can opt for a traditional brass bead.
The length is actually 86cm, a nominal 34in, with fixed chokes both the same measuring 0.032in, or around a tight three-quarters.
With a gun like this, built for a specific purpose, screw-in chokes are no real advantage and carefully formed fixed chokes may even have the edge in performance.
Snicking off the wide and practical safety button, the first shot on the pattern plate went high, as expected, but with driven birds, its real effect would be to build in a bit of automatic lead.
The choice of fit and point of shot impact is, of course, a matter for the individual customer.
After correcting my point of aim for the second barrel, the shot placed neatly in the centre of the pattern sheet at 40 yards.
Extra testing was then carried out at a local club with driven clays being thrown off a high bank.
The first impressions of the assembled shooters were admiration for the quality of the wood (even though it was not yet fully finished on the tested gun) and the apparent lightness and balance combined with an easy and steady aim.
It brought out the best in most shooters, including a beginner who had not used a shotgun before and convincingly dusted a single clay on his third shot.
There was some debate as to whether the principle of finger and thumb meeting around the grip is better than the thumb lying forward, but with this gun?s steeply angled and flared grip, the former method is really the only way to use it.
Can one miss? Of course you can if the shooter does not do their bit.
However, there is no doubt the Perazzi HPX makes it easier not to miss, and for an already skilled Shot, it would make those high birds much more obtainable.
The HPX is a gun that handles superbly. It is bound to give an advantage when taking high birds.
The patterns and performance indicate that the gun is more than capable of that sort of shooting.
Perazzi HPX shotgun