Boxall & Edmiston’s very first 20- bore over-and-under is put through its paces
The 20-bore shotgun has come a long way in the past 50 years. At one time it was regarded as a lady’s or youngster’s gun because grown men used a 12-bore, or perhaps a 16-bore if they wished to be a bit different. But now the 20- bore is something of a high-flyer. In second- hand sales, mention the magic word “twenty” and the price usually goes up. Along with this modest revolution in bore sizes is the rise in popularity of the over-and-under gun, so it was with considerable interest that I looked forward to putting Boxall & Edmiston’s very first 20- bore over-and-under through its paces.
The gun on test is effectively a sample of Boxall & Edmiston’s design and workmanship: a standard gun if you like, though customers can choose from a wide variety of options — such as gun fitting, barrel lengths, choice of fixed chokes, single or double trigger and safety button shape — to make it a bespoke product. Optional extras include Teague multi-chokes, gold inlay, hand engraving and deluxe stock wood. This Boxall & Edmiston 20-bore has 30in barrels and a single non-selective trigger, and it uses the round action. It has full scroll decoration and is stocked in the house style.
My first impressions were of a fine-looking gun of classic styling. Everything about it — from its beautiful walnut, long, slim tapered barrels, rounded action body and eye-catching decoration to its lightness — shouts “game gun”. That did not mean it would be unsuitable for some simulated game clayshooting, as I was later to find out.
The balance, right on the cross-pin (where the barrels hinge), makes it feel even lighter than its 6½lb as well as making it a fast- handling gun. Though stocked to fairly standard dimensions with a 14¾in length of pull, it was comfortable and the curve of the half pistol grip was just right for me. I was sure this was going to be one of those guns that inspire confidence before even taking a shot.
The action is similar to the Boxall & Edmiston 12-bore scaled down but with some important differences. The barrel lumps that engage into the action body sides are retained, as is the high locking bolt, but this Boxall & Edmiston 20-bore has a mechanical changeover between barrels. The “vee” mainsprings are a similar size to the bigger-gauge gun, but just a little narrower. Both of these features aid long-term reliability. Boxall & Edmiston has sufficient confidence in its product that it offers a 10-year guarantee and complimentary servicing for the first two years of ownership.
There are other aspects of this gun that the maker has got just right. The Deeley catch is a neat way of holding the fore-end on an over- and-under, while the chequering on both stock and fore-end is fine enough to look attractive but cut wide enough to give a good practical grip. The proportions of the tapered solid top rib add a delicate look to the barrels, while the scrollback finish on the action body is a nice touch.
This Boxall & Edmiston 20-bore gun exhibits the maker’s own laser-cut decoration in a bold but classic acanthus-style pattern. I must admit I do like the name carried on the bolster along the action bar (the bolster was originally the protrusion where the nipple of a percussion muzzle-loader fitted). Yet another neat touch is the stock bolt hidden behind a small piece of wood inlet into the butt and chequered to match: not a new idea but indicative of Boxall & Edmiston’s constant quest to incorporate good ideas into its guns rather than just following what becomes the norm.
One of the things that has aided the rise of the 20-bore is the wide choice of game loads now available, some even in 2¾in (70mm) length cartridges, pressing on the heels of the traditional 12-bore loads. There is always the concern that bigger loads in a light gun may be a recipe for unpleasant recoil, but much depends upon the particular gun. Loads used on this test included Eley Hi-Flyer 28g, Eley VIP 28g, Lyalvale Express Special Twenty 25g and Gamebore Pure Gold 30g, all with fibre wads. None of these produced unpleasant recoil, which is a tribute to both the cartridge makers and the way this gun is made and stocked.
Mechanically, everything worked well. The triggers let go at a measured and crisp 4¾lb with no discernible creep and a short pull. Ejection proved to be positive with all the makes of cartridge used, including some rather old stock with paper cases. The fixed chokes measured nominally quarter-choke with bottom barrel and half-choke in the top. As it turned out, both shot tighter patterns than expected.
I found a tendency at first to shoot slightly high and a bit to the right, a consequence of testing on a ferociously windy day. A good point of aim for me was with the top of the foresight bead just on the mid-point of the pattern sheet and, considering the conditions, the patterns produced were quite acceptable. With the top barrel, much of the shot was concentrated within 20in, so, though the overall pellet count indicated a tight half-choke, it was heavier in the centre — a real killing pattern for the good Shot.
A session on clays was fun, with the gusty wind sometimes lifting them in an unpredictable manner. With such a light, fast-handling gun, the need to follow through with the shot was vital. When everything clicked, though, it was magic, and I can say that because I beat the opposition on my favourite driven bird stand.