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Over-under shotguns for less than £350

Over-under shotguns for less than £350

Not everyone wants, or perhaps can afford, to purchase a new over-under shotgun.

Some may be inspired by the recent Olympic success to try for the first time, what an old farmer friend of mine calls, ?one of them up and unders?.

For others it may be just a tool to carry in the 4×4 or an economy hedgerow gun, keeping their best guns for more formal days.

Whichever of these categories it falls into, the tendency is not to spend too much money, so let us see just what sort of over-under shotgun one might find within a budget of £350.

AYA shotgun £250
Prices for a plain, fixed choke gun are around £250 and £100 extra for the sideplated version, with immaculate examples fetching a bit more.

Prices start from as little as around £100 for a double-trigger non-ejector gun, up to £250 for a tidy single-trigger ejector model.

The AYA Yeoman over-under was stablemate to the long-lived side-by-side of the same name.

Only made from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, it was produced in three model variants, including a deluxe sideplated version.

Not to be confused with the more expensive AYA Coral over-under, the Yeoman is a much simpler gun and is available with both fixed and multi-chokes.

The good news is that the importer, ASI Ltd, still stocks a full range of spare parts.

Breda shotgun £350
Most prices will be at the top of our price range.

However it is possible to find this Beretta clone for around £350 and they will give a lot of good service.

Breda is better known in the UK for semi-automatic shotguns modelled on the Browning Auto Five, but it actually produces a wide range of products.

The over-under Vega Special, sometimes referred to as the poor man?s Beretta is a re-badged Beretta from the time it owned the Breda name.

Rather plain styling and a slightly unfamiliar name can be a little off-putting to many shooters, so the price tends to be lower than one might expect.

As a result tidy examples can be found at the top end of our price range. It is just a pity there are not more of them around.

Baikal £100-£250
Prices start from as little as around £100 for a double-trigger non-ejector gun, up to £250 for a tidy single-trigger ejector model.

No listing of economy guns would be complete without reference to Baikal.

They are strong, surprisingly light and made of good steel with chrome-lined bores.

Basic in looks and finish, they are nonetheless reliable and wear well, with a choice of double or single trigger, ejector or non-ejector and all with auto-safe.

Some even came with two sets of barrels and testimony to their strength is that the same basic action is used for a rifle version.

The stocks are a bit short for many users and early guns sometimes had a tendency to crack along the grain around the head of the stock, which should be repaired when possible, as the early pattern stocks are no longer available.

Winchester shotgun £300-£350
A good model 91 is going to be a better bet than a worn 101. Not so popular or common the model 91 is good value, a little different and notably sturdy.

It is possible to find a plainer model Winchester 101 showing some wear for our benchmark figure of £350.

However, Grand Europeans and Diamond Grades remain popular and tend to fetch good money.

It is worth bearing in mind that a plain 101 is mechanically the same as its more exotic cousins.

The other option is a Model 91, made for just more than 10 years for Winchester by Laurona in Spain.

They are reliable, different in having twin lumps and Laurona?s slightly unusual but usually trouble-free lockwork but, apart from that, are of fairly conservative design.

They do not fetch the same money as a 101 and a good one is around the £300-£350 mark.

Lanber shotguns £175
Lanbers tend to be well used but hold together reliably. Spares are economically priced and while prices drop to as low as £175, very tidy examples can be found just within our price range.

Lanbers have proved over the years to be inexpensive but generally reliable guns.

Older models had a rather fragile ?piano wire? safety button spring, which was prone to failure, leaving the user without any barrel selection.

A later upgraded flat spring solved that problem and prices for a well-used gun start at around £175, but it is always good policy to buy the best you can afford in the price range.

Valmet shotguns £250
Because they are a bit different, Valmets do not fetch what they might be worth in build quality, so you can find examples for around £250, but one with lockwork problems is definitely best avoided.

The Finnish company Valmet manufactures forestry equipment as well as rifles and shotguns.

The shotguns are well-made but a little unusual in design and styling and, for the gunsmith unused to them, they can sometimes be a bit of a challenge if problems occur.

Verney Carron shotguns £250
Prices for a plain, fixed choke gun are around £250 and a £100 extra for the sideplated version, with immaculate examples fetching a bit more.

The French-made Verney-Carron is slim and light, but older models with a trigger-plate non-auto safety can be a bit of an acquired taste.

This takes the form of a knurled wheel projecting from the trigger-plate and using it is not the most natural action.

Unashamedly Gallic in style, Verney-Carrons are of good quality and actually make a fine, fast handling game gun if you fancy something a bit different.

Prices for second-hand models start at around £275-£300.

What to look for…
There are plenty of other choices such as Bettinsoli, Zoli, Rizzini and even the Browning Medallist in the price range.

Most are similar in construction and there are some potential problem areas to check.

Apart from the usual matters, such as making sure barrels are tight on the breech face, it is worth checking for dented ribs on ventilated top-rib guns, as they are vulnerable to damage.

Extractors have a hard life on over-unders, especially those that are permanently sprung.

Cracking of the extractor leg is a potential fault, which will then eventually break, sometimes ejecting the component parts.

With some makes a replacement needs hand fitting. Less obvious are worn firing pins and weak mainsprings. The nose of each pin can usually be examined through the hole in the face of the standing breech.

If the end of the pin looks an irregular shape, almost as though part of it has broken away, it is time for replacement.

Firing pins broken in two may continue to function, but are often the cause of misfires, while sometimes the small end of the firing pin will fall out through the hole in the standing breech so a cartridge will not fire: if you cannot see the end it is most likely that it is not there.

The majority of over-under mainsprings are of the helical wire type which, compared to vee springs, do not have a very long service life especially if a gun is left cocked when not in use.

Fortunately most such spares are readily available and reasonably priced.

Whatever one?s choice, if it is rather old and somewhat worn, then best to stick to a make that has been around for a long time or where spares are known to be available.

A gunsmith having to make parts can prove uneconomic on a gun of modest value.

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