Three value-for-money second-hand Sporters
Mike George picks out three available on the second-hand market
More than 30 years ago, the UK Browning importers could offer an impressive range of guns – everything from £1,000-plus competition and game guns to exotic and expensive hand-built examples of John Moses Browning’s immortal B25.
But one thing they didn’t have was a “starter” gun retailing under £1,000. To redress this imbalance, they went to the Italian company, Zoli, and bought a gun they chose to call the Medalist.
It wasn’t a success, which was strange for Zoli. Maybe they had been asked to produce a gun down to a price rather than up to a specification – who knows? The importers soon dropped it and turned to another Italian maker, FIAS, which stands for Fabbrica Italiana Armi Sabatti. Sabatti, as they prefer to be known today, produced their own version of the Medalist, which lasted for many years
on the UK market, although it has been withdrawn for some time now.
There were several versions on the Medalist theme, including Sporters with 20 and 30in barrels, 20-bores and fixed- choke game guns. Nowadays there is a fair number on the second-hand market and, perhaps oddly, they all seem to be advertised as “Browning Medalists”, which they never were.
To their credit, the importers never claimed they were Browning’s, and the box in which they were supplied didn’t have the word “Browning” anywhere on it. It was just buyers who thought it was a Browning, and the popular name stuck.
The importers, however, never issued a statement about the gun’s true parentage. It has to be admitted that this was a bit of clever sales psychology, as doubtless many satisfied customers graduated to a proper Browning as they progressed in the sport.
If there was anything special about the Medalist, it was that it was so simple. The design hardly changed during its production run. It never did incorporate over-bored barrels, long forcing cones or extended choke tubes. It was just a typical Italian starter gun, with barrels hinged on stub pins, spring-loaded ejectors and the hammers cocked by a cam on the fore-end iron.
My most recent check of the market seems to indicate prices well above £500 are not uncommon. But, unless the gun offered is in quite exceptional condition, I’d be tempted to haggle.
More information: The gun has not been on the market for several years. T.W. Chambers of Dingwall, Ross-shire, holds a good selection of spares. Tel 01359-832974. Visit Gunspares
Browning introduced the 525 in 2003, and to say that it has become an established favourite is something of an understatement. There are far too many variations to list here, but the fact that it stays in production alongside the relatively new 725 says much for its reputation.
Like most of the affordable Brownings, it is made by Miroku of Japan – a long- lived alliance between the two companies which can be traced back more than 50 years. This alliance has produced some super guns, as popular in the leading market of North America as they are in Europe and the rest of the world.
The 525 was the logical successor to the 425, which in turn had taken over from the 325. It was clearly a matter of a “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” philosophy by Browning, because the basic engineering of all these guns has been improved only in detail. One major change was the switch from traditional chopper-lump barrels by Miroku in favour of the more modern Monobloc construction.
Barrel lengths of 28, 30 and 32 inches are available, depending on whether the gun is a field or competition model, and there are multichokes and fixed chokes available, but not on all models. New prices start at a commendable £1,350 for most Grade 1 models, although you can spend somewhere in the region of £4,000 for the very top grades.
For the 525, Browning still continue to use the rather tall action typified by the famous Belgium-built B25. And, although there are differences between the famous classic and the Miroku-built guns, the barrels still hinge to the action by a full-width hinge pin engaging with a hook on thebarrel lump’s forward end, and a lowmounted-bolt engaging with a bite at the rear of the lump. All the other mechanical features are stacked in logical sequence.
Woodwork varies from grade to grade, but is usually very good. A typical sporter stock length is around 14 3/4 in, with drops of 1óin and 2óin at comb and heel respectively. Some Sporters haveadjustable combs.
More information: From the importers, BWM Arms of Didcot, Oxfordshire. Tel 01235 514550, or visit Browning.
Rizzini Premier Sporting
There are lots of members of the Rizzini family making guns in Italy, so listen very carefully, because I shall say this only once!
First there is the maker of this gun, Battista Rizzini, who has a modern factory in the Gardone region near Brescia in Lombardia. The company was founded in 1966, and makes good-quality shotguns and O/U double rifles.
Then there is F.lli Rizzini, which translates as “Rizzini Brothers”. They, too, are in the Gardone region, and they also make high-quality guns.
There is also a company called FAIR, founded by Isidoro Rizzini, FAIR is an acronym for Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, which translates as “Isidoro Rizzini’s Arms Factory”, also in the Brescia region.
Finally we come to E. Rizzini, who made the budget-priced guns many of us remember from the 1980s, as well as many better quality guns we don’t because the then importer concentrated on rather basic guns. The “E” stands for Emilio.
All of the Rizzinis are closely related, and the Rizzini clan is also related to the Fausti family of gunmakers. Another relative founded the Caesar Guerini gunmaking company, yet another Brescia-area concern. It seems that, if you walk around the Brescia area you are almost bound to meet up with at least one member of the clan.
All that may be interesting history, but for some years Battista Rizzini guns were hard to acquire in the UK. In more recent times, however, importing is in the capable hands of ASI of Snape, the long-established importer of AYA shotguns. ASI, at the time of writing, is preparing their 2016 price list, but I would expect the new price of the Premier Sporting to be £3,000, or a little less if we are lucky and the £ holds up against the Euro.
The gun is one of the few available with 34in barrels, although these are a little more expensive than the more conventional 28, 30 and 32in versions.
The barrels come with long forcing cones and five long multichoke tubes with knurled extensions. Inside the action, the “works” are quite conventional, but very finished and presented.
More information: from the importer, ASI of Snape, Suffolk IP17 1SW, tel 01728 688555, or visit ASI