Zero doesn't sound like a lot, but add one to a secondhand gun’s price tag and you'll be surprised at what you can get, says Mike George

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If you’re in the market for a high-grade gun but don’t want to pay the full price, the secondhand market has plenty of prestige brands. Here Mike chooses three secondhand high-grade guns from Beretta, Perazzi and Purdey. And with prices starting from just under £2,000, maybe your next gun purchase can be high-end after all.

Beretta Silver Pigeon Classic Target price: £1,990

When we first tested the Silver Pigeon Classic in 2013, we noted that it cost £2,825, against £2,075 for the Silver Pigeon 1 Deluxe, and £1,600 for the Silver Pigeon 1. These were importer’s recommended retail prices and, although most dealers sold them cheaper, the difference between the prices were roughly the same in percentage terms. So was the “posh” gun – the top of the Silver Pigeon range – worth the extra cash?

Our then gun tester, Jason Harris, thought it was, while I remain sitting on the fence – largely because I have never bought a high-grade gun during my 50-plus years in the shooting sports. Maybe it’s because I’m stingy, but I will let you decide who’s right; Jason or me.

In its favour, the Classic has exceptionally good woodwork; so good that it stands out even when viewed from a distance. The proportions of the stock and Schnabel-pattern fore end are particularly pleasing. Also the engraving is extremely neat and well-executed.

Otherwise, the gun is typical Beretta. It has the shallow action, made possible by the use of barrels hinged on stub pins rather than on a full-width cross pin, while the twin “prongs” of the fork-shaped bolt protrude from the breech face to engage with cylindrical bites in the barrel shoulders.

Weight of the gun, with 30-inch multichoke barrels, is 7½lb, which is a touch heavy for a game gunbut makes it adaptable for both field shooting and sporting clays. Discounted price of a new Classic, at the moment, is around the £2,550 mark, so expect to pay £1,990 or more for a really good secondhand example.

More information: From the importers, GMK Ltd, Fareham, Hants. Tel 01489579999, or visit www.gmk.co.uk.

Beretta Silver Pigeon Classic

Perazzi MXS Target price: £4,500

The Perazzi MXS has been described as an “entry-level” Perazzi. Can such a prestige brand have an entry-level when it costs around £5,000 new? I’m not sure, but the fact is that although the MXS is the cheapest of the breed, the workmanship in the gun is excellent.

I mentally tend to classify Perazzi alongside Ferrari, in that they had their own “Enzo Ferrari” in the shape of Daniele Perazzi, who was brought up in wartime Italy. By 1946, when he was a school-leaver the best he could do was to become a sweeper-up in a gun shop. He eventually got a job witha gunmaker.

By 1957 he had saved some cash and he was able to form his own company – Armi Perazzi – and it is still run by his family. Perazzi’s highly-successful MX8 was designed for the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Although it didn’t win that year, it went on to win more Olympic, World and International golds than any other gun. It is still in production.

One of the MX8’s design features was a drop-out trigger mechanism powered by leaf springs. The idea was that if the gun suffered a fault like a broken mainspring, the whole trigger mechanism could be changed in seconds. The disadvantages were that it made the action rather wide, and also expensive to produce.

The MXS does not have this feature, which means that the action is slimmer. It is also powered by coil springs rather than leaves, and coil springs often continue to function even when broken.

The Monobloc barrels are available in 30 or 32-inch lengths. As this is basically a competition gun, chambers are 2¾in, and fixed chokes are ½ and ¾. One interesting point is that although the chambers are chrome plated, the bores and chokes are not, so owners have to observe a strict cleaning regime after shooting.

The feature does mean, however, that the chokes can be more easily opened out by a gunsmith, should the owner wish – and many may, because the gun is basically a Sporter, and at that discipline choking of quarter and half is often preferred.The gun carries no engraving other than the make and model, but actions are available either in black or nickel finish.

More information: From the importers, Ruag Ammotec UK Ltd, Liskeard, Cornwall. Tel 01579
362319, or visit www.ruag.co.uk.

Perazzi MXS

Purdey Sporter Target price: £25,000+

I always get a bit suspicious when I see the name of a once-prestigious English maker stamped on what is clearly a completely foreign-made and finished gun. To me it invariably seems like an attempt to pass off a pretty average gun as something it is not.

Of course, there always exceptions – guns made to the strict orders of UK companies, and most likely finished in this country. But the Purdey Sporter is none of these things. For although the gun is reasonably priced (for a Purdey, that is), some of the parts are made by Purdey in London, while others are made by their partners, Perugini & Visini, in Italy.

This, it seems, in a true partnership, with each company making or finishing what it is good at. In fact, more than good – world class. And world class is what you would expect, and what you get, with a name like Purdey and a price tag which starts at £38,000.

As an example, Purdey supplies P&V with the boxlock action body, barrel monobloc, top lever, bolt, safety thumbpiece and safety parts, all made in London. Lock work and barrel tubes are made by P&V, and the Italian company make the crucial jointing between the tubes and the monobloc because they are well experienced in the operation, which is so typical of Italian guns.

P&V assemble the gun in Italy, with wood sourced by Purdey’s experts, and they also laser-cut the engraving. The engraving is hand-finished by Purdey, who also give the gun a final touch of handpolished excellence. Unless fixed chokes are requested, the guns are sent to Nigel Teague to be fitted with his invisible choke tubes, and all are proofed in London.

Guns are usually delivered to the customer within six months of the order. What would a second-hand gun cost? It’s hard to tell because so few have been sold, but a 2011 gun to be auctioned was valued at between £25,000 and £35,000.

More information: From James Purdey & Sons, London W1. Tel 020 7499 1801, or visit www.purdey.com.

Purdey Sporter