Longthorne Berkley: “among my top five guns of all time”
Overall Rating: 97%
Pros: Innovative design — you won’t find better
Price as reviewed: £69,161
Cons: The price
On a recent quail hunting trip to North Carolina I was lucky enough to shoot not one but two different guns with 28-bore titanium barrels. The first was a limited-edition Longthorne Valkyrie trigger-plate action weighing 6lb 4oz, and the other was a sidelock over-and-under weighing in at 5lb 2oz. Both were incredible in their own way, but it’s the Longthorne Berkley sidelock we are going to look at today.
The Longthorne sidelock has been around for some years in 12, 16, 20 and 28-bore and has seen some development over that time. As issues arose around any aspect of the design, Longthorne has worked to iron those out with slight changes here or there, including coating the majority of the internals to make the guns more corrosion-resistant and a slight trigger redesign to improve long-term reliability. Although I would usually rather a trigger-plate action gun for myself, given they are a little more bombproof than sidelock over-and-unders on the whole, this latest edition of the Longthorne sidelock, the Longthorne Berkley, is a pretty safe bet too.
The Berkley model is beautifully engraved, featuring an art nouveau-inspired scroll pattern that is designed by the in-house team at Longthorne. Although I appreciate the classic scroll or acanthus, I have always been drawn to something different — and this gun certainly is. The 28-bore tested was an all-steel action, but there is an option to have hand-inlaid gold game birds and accents if that’s your sort of thing.
The pattern works itself beautifully over the lockplates, the fore-end iron, the extended trigger-guard and also by request on to the breech-ends of the barrels. Engraved breech-ends are a personal preference, but I tend to take every gun as it comes — some guns it suits and some it doesn’t.
Longthorne barrels are machined from a single billet of metal, be that normal steel, damascus steel or in this case titanium, allowing the barrels to be extremely low profile. This in turns allows the action to be very low profile, which gives this scaled-down 28-bore a very appealing side profile.
The stock on this gun had a good-sized pistol grip, but you can order whatever your preference may be. I have seen them with straight-hand stocks, Prince of Wales, palm-swelled full pistol grips, and each one has been made from Turkish walnut and protected with a hand-rubbed oil finish that makes the wood pop.
I have shot the steel-barrelled version of this gun and it was a very pleasant experience indeed, but this version with its titanium barrels is really something else. The concept of titanium barrels isn’t that new, with a Swedish company doing some experiments with the material quite a few decades ago. Their process of gluing the monobloc, tubes and ribs together was good, but unfortunately didn’t last. Luckily, Longthorne’s barrel manufacturing process requires no joining and so this issue of how to stick titanium pieces together wasn’t an issue.
Titanium is a wonderful metal, being extremely strong and durable while also being lightweight. Barrel to barrel the weight saving is around 45%, which means you get an over-and-under gun that weighs about the same as a regular single-barrelled gun. For game shooting and any sort of walked-up hunting, this weight saving is a godsend. I must admit, between carrying the two guns, although neither was heavy, it was amazing how much of a difference that 1lb of weight made when walking or standing ready for a flush.
The loss in weight does mean that there is less mass in the gun, and as such the energy moves quickly through it and into your body. This doesn’t feel as bad as one may first expect, partly due to the stiffness that monolithic barrels have and partly due to the low profile of the barrels and action. These factors together mean that there is noticeably less muzzle flip than other guns, and rather the recoil goes straight into your shoulder.
The Berkley moves differently to other guns and does take a little getting used to. After a lifetime of shooting double-barrelled guns with steel tubes, I needed a bit of adjustment for this gun. If you give a 32in steel barrel a push, it will flow through a line beautifully without too much more work. This gun requires you to put it where you want it, and if you don’t, it will not continue on its own. It works wonders when shot either in an instinctive ‘point and shoot’ style or when you consciously make good moves with it.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Longthorne
- Model Berkley
- Calibre 28-bore
- Action type Sidelock over-and-under
- Barrels 32in
- Stock Pistol-grip
- Weight 5lb 2oz
- Chokes Fixed choke (multi-choke as a cost option)
- Price £69,161 plus VAT
- Contact longthorneguns.com
Even when I was missing with this gun I was smiling uncontrollably, and that may be its single best feature. Perhaps that statement may seem ridiculous, but we are all different. To some function is everything and to some form is everything, and maybe what I feel when I pick this gun up will be of little consequence to you. For me, however, this X-factor is paramount when choosing a gun to own and pursue game with, and the Berkley has it in spades.
The biggest downside? The price. Not that it’s unfair, it’s just a substantial price increase over standard models at almost £70,000. When questioned on this, James Stewart of Longthorne explained: “Titanium is much harder to machine than steel. In the time it takes to make one of these titanium barrels I could make 10 or more steel ones. The process is not only long, but the risk of it going wrong at any time is high as titanium really doesn’t like being machined.”
So there you have it; this gun sits firmly in my top five shotguns of all time. It has great looks, it’s great to shoot and it just makes you happy to be around something so special. I look forward to any chance I get to shoot it once again.
- Action and barrels 20/20 Innovative design — you won’t find better
- Handling 19/20 Rear weighted but heavenly to handle
- Trigger 19/20 The excellence you’d expect
- Stock 20/20 Beautifully engraved
- Value 19/20 Significant time goes in to each gun
- Overall Score 97/100 Firmly among my top five guns of all time
Firmly among my top five guns of all time