When buying a 20-bore game gun it can be a mistake to go for an ultra-lightweight, says Mike George
Browning B725 Hunter 20-bore, target price £1,500
A basic, Grade 1 version of the Browning B725 Hunter may weigh anything between 7lb and almost 7½lb, depending on barrel length (tubes of up to 32in are available) and wood density. And those figures suggest to me that the weight is right for a full day’s comfortable shooting.
There are several grades and specifications of the Miroku-built gun available, and a new Grade 1 costs around £1,800 new. I have suggested a target price of £1,500 for a second-hand Grade 1 gun, which you may consider to be rather high. However, the gun is relatively new on the market, and game guns are not generally used to fire a large number of cartridges.
The 725 20-bore came out shortly after the 12-bore version, and it has been accurately scaled down from its larger brother. As a result, everything looks in perfect proportion. In design it is a typical Browning 25-series gun on which the barrels hinge on a full-width cross pin engaging with a shallow barrel lump, and a bolt running along the action floor.
Within the action, all the features are stacked logically, one on top of the other, yet on the 725 the Browning designers have produced a barrel set and action, which look shallower than on previous models. All of the features are of time-proven design, but one greatly-improved feature is the mechanism that transfers the single trigger to the second barrel. Like the mechanism on the long-discontinued Winchester 6500, it is purely mechanical rather than inertia-driven, so in the rare event of a first-barrel misfire the shooter still has a shot to fire.
The barrels are bored with Browning’s Vector Pro system, and the multichoke tubes are of stainless steel. The stock has a semi-pistol grip and is fitted with a 20mm pad. Other pads are available to alter length of pull.
More information: Full details of new guns are on the website www.browningint.com.
Beretta 687 EELL 20-bore, target price £5,000
The Beretta “680” series has been on the UK market for more than 40 years now, with versions for the Sporting, skeet and trap disciplines, and field shooting. One of the most popular guns is the 687 in its many forms, in 12, 20, 28-bore and .410.
In its basic form the gun is a sound workhorse, but the EELL 20-bore game version is something quite special. And if you can fi nd the Diamond Pigeon Combo version, with 20-bore and 28-bore barrel sets and fore-ends, like the one illustrated, then you are really in luck.
So, what is it that makes this gun stand head-and-shoulders above the plainer versions?
First of all it is side-plated, which means the engraver has a broad canvas to spread his or her art on. In truth, the engraving is not all hand work. Beretta apply it mechanically, then hand it to an engraver for finishing, but such is the standard of the process that the result is most elegant and the hand work element means that each pattern, in tiny detail, is unique.
Needless to say the gun is built on a proper 20-bore action, the internals of which have proved strong and reliable. It is the classic Beretta layout, which means there is no barrel lump, the rounded profile of the breech end slotting neatly into the action base of semi-circular section. Lock-up is achieved with a high-mounted, fork-shaped bolt, the two “prongs” of which emerge through the breech face to engage with holes in the barrel shoulders.
In mechanical terms, this means the lock-up is one of the strongest in the business. The gun weighs up to 6½lb, depending, as usual, on wood density and barrel length. The current recommended retail price of the 687EELL is a minimum of £6,125, although most shops sell it more cheaply than that, and second-hand guns do tend to retain their value.
More information: From the importer’s website, www.gmk.co.uk. There is also some detail on the North American website, www.beretta.com, although gun specifications and availability do not necessarily reflect the UK market.
Krieghoff K20, target price £6,000+
Krieghoff can trace their history back to 1886, when they began making guns in the German town of Suhl. After World War II, the community’s unfortunate citizens found themselves in the German Democratic Republic, so in 1950 Krieghoff relocated to the west and set up shop in the city of Ulm.
Ulm is a charming city in the south of Germany, on the River Danube. It is an important university centre, and among several claims to fame it is the birthplace of Albert Einstein.
Quite how Krieghoff achieved the move, considering the evils of GDR leader Walter Ulbricht and the dreaded Stazi secret police is probably a fascinating story, although it is not part of public records.
Krieghoff’s master stroke was the development of the 12-bore K80 in the late 1950s. It was, and still is, a distinctive gun with a curious but efficient bolting system, which consists of a sliding hood that closes over the breech end of the top barrel. It wasn’t unique – Remington had used it on two moderately successful O/Us before and after World War II – but Krieghoff were destined to be one of only two gun makers to use it in modern times (Marocchi is the other one).
Considering how successful the K80 was in competition, particularly in trap shooting, it is perhaps surprising that it took Krieghoff more than 40 years to scale the gun down to a 20-bore. The gun, called the K20, came out in the year 2000.
Apart from its unusual bolting system, the K20 is a shallow-action box lock with barrels hinged on stub pins. The hammers rebound to allow the fi ring pins to retract after firing. Cocking is achieved as the gun opens by the fore-end iron pressing down levers mounted on either side of the knuckles. The levers also serve to trigger the ejection mechanism.
The trigger mechanism has a very fine clearance with the sears, which gives very crisp pulls with minimal trigger movement. Twin springs for each ejector are retained on rods within the fore-end iron, so ejection continues to function even if one breaks.
It is hard to give the price of a new gun because most Krieghoffs are built to customer orders, but you are bound to pay close to £10,000 – and with engraving and wood options, and other customer-defined variables, the sky really is the limit.
More information: From the importer’s website, www.krieghoff.co.uk.