This short and stubby combination rifle/shotgun is quick, light and practical for multiple uses, writes Lewis Potter.
Described to me as a “hedgerow gun”, the question posed was, did I wish to test it? The somewhat informal description conjured up a number of thoughts, but for those readers of a more delicate and refined upbringing unused to such expressions, it is not the kind of gun to take out on a formal shoot. Instead, a hedgerow gun is usually far from fancy and often a little basic — it is simply a tool to do a job. It must be able to absorb a few knocks and scuffs with less than gentle treatment, yet, just like any Best gun, it has to be reliable.
A hedgerow gun is a gun for creeping along a field headland in search of a sitting rabbit or crouching in cover waiting for pigeon to roost. It is used for ratting, carrying around the release pens when out feeding or despatching mink in a trap. At one time my old hedgerow gun was a short-barrelled single 12-bore with both .410 and .22R/F chamber adaptors, but another and more convenient option is, like the little Savage, a combination rifle/shotgun.
I had not previously seen a Savage Model 42, so first impressions were of surprise tinged with amazement because it was unlike any other combination rifle/shotgun that I had ever come across. The Model 42 is short and stubby; a good job really, as the barrels are not readily detachable. However, with only 20in barrels, the overall length is just a bit under 36in, so the fixed barrels are not really an inconvenience.
Its overall appearance is striking; a combination of dark, Vaderesque looks and almost brutal functionality. You could even be forgiven for assuming at first glance that it was a double rifle or a rifle with a tubular magazine, because so much about it is more carbine than shotgun, but I suspect in its home market this sort of styling is an advantage.
In the handling department it is again more akin to a small rifle than a shotgun, but bearing in mind its likely use, this is not a disadvantage. At a touch over 4¾lb it is certainly light both to mount quickly to the shoulder and to carry. The rifle-like impression is highlighted by the stock dimensions, which are designed to bring the eye into line with the open sights.
A simple description of the Model 42 would be a break-open combination rifle and shotgun with the rifle barrel at the top. This is a technically useful layout so the sights are close to the rifle barrel, which is an aid to accuracy. The barrels are hinged to the action body and locked with a single bite at the rear, operated by a short lever situated in front of the triggerguard. Barrel selection is via the simple but time-proven method of a hinged selector in the nose of the hammer. Locked in the up position, it selects the rifle barrel, and the shot barrel in the down position. The cross-bolt button safety, when on, blocks the fall of the hammer, preventing it achieving its full throw so that it does not make contact with the firing pins.
Much of the rest of the Model 42 is a little unconventional, such as the manual cartridge extractor, which is pulled back by holding two grip panels on either side between the thumb and forefinger. Once free in the chamber, unfired cartridges or spent cases can be lifted out.
The action is unusually deep for a small firearm, but some of this is due to the wide spacing between the barrels. The synthetic (polymer) stock projects forward around the lower half of the aluminium alloy action body, and the fore-end wraps completely around the barrels like the hand-guard on a military rifle, and gives a super grip.
While the foresight is a fixed part of the “spectacles band”, near the barrel muzzles there is some modest adjustment on the rearsight to allow zeroing. As for the sling swivel fixings, I think these are a sensible addition for the kind of use this little Savage is likely to be put to.
Savage Model 42 on test
When shooting on the pattern plate, the tendency was, with the sights in view, to take deliberate aim. This is not necessarily much of a disadvantage with a firearm used as a tool to do a job rather than any attempt to be sporting.
All the cartridges used on test were loaded with No.6 shot, two with plastic-wads — Hull Game & Clay 2½in cartridges loaded with 11g of shot, and Lyalvale Express 2½in loaded with 14g of shot — and the other two with fibrewads. These were Eley Extra Long (3in) 18g and the Eley Fourlong (2½in) 12.5g. The shot barrel measured cylinder bored, in other words without any choke. This, of course, gives a good spread but reduces the effective killing range as the pattern opens out. Also, without any choke, it is often more critical to find a cartridge that will give consistently good patterns. The cartridge that suited best turned out to be the Lyalvale Express 2½in that produced killing patterns out to and just beyond 20 yards.
When used in rifle mode, I shot from a rested position, shooting off sandbags at 50 yards on a still, cold afternoon. The triggerpull, always more noticeable when taking a deliberate aim, was heavy but with a reasonable let-off. The sights are a barleycorn foresight with a small square-cut rearsight. While the foresight is a bit big for sporting use, especially at longer distances, the sights were not too bad at close range in good light conditions, but as the day wore on and became dull and overcast target acquisition against an earth background became quite difficult.
Ammunition used included Eley, RWS and Winchester, all subsonic loads, with 40-gr hollow point bullets. With rifles, more so than shotguns, it is a matter of finding the cartridge and load that suits to give best accuracy. I shot on copies of the target thoughtfully provided with the instruction manual by the makers, and the cartridge that suited this particular rifle barrel best was the RWS.
Imported by Edgar Brothers, visit their website for more details.
Compact, light and handy. No doubt as to potential in the role of multi-purpose 'hedgerow gun'