William Evans St. James 20-bore shotgun.
William Evans has an excellent reputation for building high quality side-by-side game guns and is ranked well up there with the best of English gunmakers.
One thing it lacks (or did until recently) was an over-under gun that would appeal to the growing number of game shooters who prefer a stacked barrel shotgun.
They?ve now filled the gap with a very elegant 20-bore called the St. James.
Over the years William Evans have made no secret of using other gunmakers to produce guns for them from time to time.
And in the case of the St James, Evans have gone to Italy for the gun they wanted.
Although the gun bears the William Evans name and address, placed discreetly underneath the barrel lumps are the words ?Made in Italy?.
In fact the guns are made by Caesar Guerini, a well-known gunmaker in his own country, and one whose products are becoming increasingly popular here in the UK.
There?s little doubt Evans could?ve made a quality over-under themselves, but it would have cost far more than the present asking price of £9,500.
When it comes to price, Italian gunmakers offer very good value for money, and production is much quicker.
One of the nice things about the St. James is that even though state of the art machine production has been brought to bear on it, the gun still manages to retain a classic British look as well as handling qualities.
The gun has been fitted with sideplates to give it the look of a sidelock as well as create a broader canvas to display the engraver?s art. Sideplates can also add support and strength to the stock.
The actual mechanism used here is best described as boxlock or perhaps trigger plate with hammers pivotting from the bottom strap and sears hanging from above.
Evans have chosen to have the gun fitted with a single selective trigger and automatic safety catch return.
In the style of most Italian guns this one hinges open on stub pins or trunions set in the wall of the action frame and it also sports a full width locking bolt for strength.
The ejectors are directly spring loaded and make for positive ejection.
The most eye-catching feature of this gun is the full covering of fine scroll engraving work which adorns the nicely proportioned action frame with its carved fences that run into side panels that incorporate the sideplates.
The furniture and long trigger guard is engraved in similar style by Giovanelli of Italy; the pattern is initially laser cut and then finished by hand, a process that ensures each gun is unique.
Wood quality is very good with a dark colour and full of figure.
The comfortable rounded pistol grip adds to the traditional British look and this line is completed by the slimly tapered fore-end that sports a release button at the nose.
Completing the traditional English gun look is a stock oval ready to be engraved with the owner?s initials.
The woodwork is oil finished and the chequering is done in the UK to traditional English patterns with the points and muller lines forming the borders.
The guns are made to average dimensions to suit the majority of shooters but for those needing a tailored fit, William Evans can accommodate by altering the gun to suit the individual.
Average dimensions in this case mean a 15in length of pull, drops of 1.1/2in and 2.1/4in at comb and heel respectively and a 1/4in cast off at toe.
The stock length includes a slim butt pad sporting a hard heel to prevent snagging when shouldering.
The 30in multi choked gun?s barrels are built on the mono-block principle and chambered for 3in magnum cartridges to give maximum versatility.
On a game gun of this sort some people might?ve preferred to see a solid top rib but the Evans/Guerini team has opted for a 6mm parallel type with ventilated slots in the usual fashion.
Personally I?ve got no problem with this arrangement.
The barrel blacking has been done here in the UK, and that?s no bad thing in my book; this has given the finish an added depth, which we?ve come to expect on best English guns.
The St James comes in a leather-covered case and is complete with a set of five multi chokes.
William Evans now have a 12-bore available also.
There?s no doubt at all that this is an attractive, well made, gun but will it stop people spending their money on a top of the range Caesar GuerinI?
I would like to think the William Evans name is strong enough to answer that one.
Build quality: 9
Value for money 7
William Evans St. James 20-bore shotgun
67a St. James?s Street
Telephone: 0207 493 0415