A reader writes: "I have decided to take up shooting in my forthcoming retirement and I have up to £1,000 to spend on a second-hand gun. I want something as near as I can get to 100% reliable over a long period. What do you recommend?"
Mike George’s buying advice for a second-hand gun for £1,000
It all depends on the amount of money the newcomer has to spend, because there’s no point in making a recommendation the person cannot afford. If the budget is, say, £300 maximum, then the recommendation has to be something like a second-hand Baikal, or maybe a used version of one of the Turkish guns on the UK market…
The big three affordable guns – Beretta, Browning and Miroku
Usually, however, these days newcomers like Robert have more money than that to spend, which puts us into the realm of, what might be called, the “big three” makers of affordable guns – Beretta, Browning and Miroku.
Before anybody starts yelling about the undoubted wonders of guns by other makers, let me justify that last remark. Beretta, Browning and Miroku have been around on the UK market for a long time, and their guns have a proven record of reliability going back for more than 50 years.
The three makes are also handled by importers with proven reputations, and spares are readily available from gunsmiths. So, if Robert chooses wisely, if his gun does need repair he can be sure that spares are available.
So you’re on the hunt for a reliable, good quality secondhand over under shotgun. Which is going to suit you…
Top choice – Beretta 686 or 687
The 686 and 687 are very similar guns, and there are many variations on the theme, culminating in today’s Silver Pigeon series. Robert may get an early Silver Pigeon for his money, but he shouldn’t let the age of the any gun in the series worry him, providing it is in good condition and has been well looked after.
You can always date a Beretta from a two-letter date code next to the proof mark. There isn’t space here to list a table, but there’s a very useful feature on the Avalon Guns website in which you enter the date code and the year of manufacture pops up.
I remember how impressed I was when I first handled one of these “68” series guns more than 30 years ago. Not only did it look sleek, elegant, and business-like, but I was impressed with the engineering, too.
The only reason why Robert might not like a gun in the 686/687 family is that he might not find one that fits him, or the general handling characteristics of the guns don’t suit him, in which case I suggest he looks to the Far East, and specifically Japan.
Option 2 – Browning B325, B425 or B525
Browning formed an alliance with Miroku of Japan in the middle 1960s. The arrangement was for the building of more affordable guns.
The first gun Robert can look at is the B325, which was introduced in 1995. There are quite a few around which fall well-within his budget. The gun which followed it was the B425, which wasn’t a lot different mechanically except for the method of construction of the barrels – the Miroku plant had introduced the modern monobloc system in which the main barrel tubes are sleeved into a solid steel forging, this forms the breech ends and the barrel lump which is engaged by the bolt and also forms the hook which engages with the cross pin..
The B525 came out in 2003, and again there were few differences with the B425 except for minor changes, one of which made the trigger pulls crisper..
- Over the three guns there are huge numbers of variations – guns for field shooting, wildfowling and the main clay disciplines, and also a good variety of grades..
- As with the Berettas, don’t worry about the age of the gun as long as it has been looked after.
- Remember that a gun which looks really tatty on the outside has most likely been neglected on the inside, too.
Option 3 – Miroku models MK38, MK60, and MK70.
Of the three, I think the MK70 would suit Robert best, and a search of advertisements at the time of writing shows an excellent example at £999..
When I reviewed the Sporter version of the gun 11 years ago, I remarked that like all current break-action Brownings and Mirokus, except Browning’s then-new Cynergy, the MK70 sticks broadly to the design principles laid down by John Moses Browning. This leads to a rather tall action by some modern standards, and also gives the gun the typical Browning-like handling characteristics favoured by many top-class shots down the years. Berettas – or any gun hinged on stub pins – tends to handle differently..
When I wrote that review the gun was available in Sporter and game versions with game guns to be had in 12, 20 and 28-bore. If Robert fancies the MK38, he may be lucky enough to find a Sporter with multichoke tubes by Nigel Teague. He should only consider buying the MK60 if, like me, he prefers a fixed-choke gun. Finally, note that all the Mirokus and Brownings I have considered are in Grade 1 specification. A high-grade gun – say a Grade 5 or 6 – can cost twice as much.