William Evans St James 12-bore shotgun review.
William Evans first came out with their St. James model in 2008. A 20-bore, it was based on a Guerini over-under, built to the English maker’s specification and finished ‘from the white’ in London.
It was a considerable success, so much so that the 12-bore is now out. First impressions are very positive.
It is a beautiful gun with exquisitely scroll engraved sideplates, applied initially by laser. It has 30″ barrels, a solid, tapered sighting rib (my ideal on a game gun), multi-chokes, a single-selective trigger, and a semi-pistol grip stock of classic pattern.
Teague chokes can be ordered to suit. It looks elegant but is no lightweight, hitting the scales around 7.3/4 pounds.
Don’t let that put you off, though; it is well balanced and feels lighter. The ideal weight is around 7lbs for a 30″ 12-bore side-by-side and 7.1/2 for a 30″ over-under.
Ultra-light, as was once the fashion, does not make for comfortable, consistent, shooting.
The barrels are monobloc, well crafted and deeply blacked. The monobloc joints are neat and the tapered sighting rib is well done. The solid joining ribs and metal bead are what one expects on a game gun (even a hybrid intended for clays too).
The forcing cones are of medium length and the bores are 18.6mm – this is wider than the average but the gun is better for it – indeed, I would say 18.6mm is my ideal for a game gun.
The St. James 12-bore is chambered for 3″ cartridges. The gun will, however, happily consume 2.1/2″ and 2.3/4′ cartridges as well.
I do not normally use or advocate magnum loads, but it is comforting to know that the gun can handle them if required or should nothing else be available, as is sometimes the case when one shoots abroad.
The side-plated action is typical of current production from Gardone in northern Italy (at least that outside the Beretta and Perazzi factories).
It combines stud pin/trunnion hinging and bifurcated lumps with a low Browning-pattern bolt mating with a wide bite beneath the bottom chamber.
This arrangement is also adopted by Battista Rizzini, Fausti, and FAIR. Beretta and generic Perazzi-style guns combine bifurcated lumps with higher bolts to the side of the chambers, allowing for minimum action depth.
Sometimes this undoubtedly strong design leads to a gun that looks too deep in a 12-bore. However, this is not the case here. The proportions of the St. James are very good.
Indeed, this is probably the best-styled gun of this type that I have yet seen.
The single trigger is selective and recoil operated. The safety is automatic and it is combined with a barrel selector.
There is not much I would change or could criticise.
If William Evans really wanted to give the St. James the ultimate finishing touch, I would file the trigger blade by hand, and file and chequer the top lever and safety/selector in England.
The stock is made from well-figured wood and fitted with a thin, hard-heeled rubber pad, which is more of a decorative addition than a recoil reduction device.
I like the comfortable, well tapered comb and the excellent semi-pistol grip.
The Boss-style rounded fore-end is delightful, although it would be nice to have a steel cap for its button.
I can only say it is a truly an excellent gun to use. It is forgiving, with low recoil and good pointability.
The trigger pulls are exceptional for a gun of its mechanical type. The gun is well sorted and everyone present at the launch, and it was a most experienced crew, seemed to shoot well with it.
It is also beautiful, with the bold but tasteful Evans engraving.
The price tag of £10,000 plus VAT does not look that expensive, considering the effort that has gone into its creation.