Gunmakers trying to break into the UK face an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. Alex Flint casts an eye over the latest Turkish gun to reach British shores.
You would be forgiven if, like me, you had never heard of Armed Guns, the Turkish manufacturer whose wares are the latest to reach the UK thanks to importer Edgar Brothers. Based in the city of Izmir on the western edge of Anatolia, Armed Guns produces a range of shotguns and air rifles for sporting uses, as well as rather more fearsome firearms such as pumpaction and tactical shotguns.
The only gun currently available in the UK, however, is the .410 SPE reviewed here. It is an over-under shotgun of fairly basic design, with a single selective trigger and ejectors. The design of the gun is straightforward, being based on a simple action relying purely on mechanical movement to fire both barrels, rather than an inertia-based system seen more commonly in mass-produced European guns.
Visually the gun is similarly basic, as you might expect for something available for significantly under £1,000. All the metalwork from the fore-end release lever to the trigger guard is black and is actually rather smart. The lines of the gun are reasonably attractive thanks to the small frame afforded by the bore size, only really being let down by the ventilated middle rib.
Engraving is basic, thin, shallow and lacking any particular style. Though not ugly and executed proficiently, the engraving adds nothing and the gun might look better if it wasn’t there at all.Wood to metal fit is fine if a little variable, with some quite large jumps and gaps being visible in places. As such, in terms of finishing this gun doesn’t compare terribly well with a product from the likes of Beretta, but then it is also less than a third of the price of a .410 Silver Pigeon I.
One area where the SPE can quite happily stand up to the competition, however, is in its wooden parts. The stock really is very attractive, being well figured with a lovely, deep, honey-coloured finish. A good straight grain runs right through the stock and semi-pistol grip and the checkering is superb, lacking any of the coarseness you might expect from a new gun, whilst feeling very secure in the hand. The wooden parts would not look out of place on a much more expensive gun and are impressive at this price point.
Largely, then, the gun works well on a basic visual level in spite of the problems in detailing and finish. Being brutally honest, however, it lacks a little something in the way of personality. There is no place on the gun, for example, for the company logo – a rather remarkable swooping eagle over the top of stylised wings and a banner proclaiming the “Eagle of Anatolia”. Though it might not look out of place on the chest of a member of the US armed forces, it would lend the gun a bit of character.
The basic nature of the SPE .410 also comes through in operation, with the top lever being a little inconsistent and needing to be pushed over almost as far as the travel will allow before opening, and occasionally requiring quite a hefty shove to close again. The foreend too does not locate itself in a satisfying way and the release lever moves out slightly when closed, leaving a raw edge that is quite easy to catch your hand on when shooting. All that being said, the gun does feel solid in use and does not rattle or wobble in the way other rather cheap guns can.
Our test model weighed just a shade under six pounds and two ounces, which while perhaps is a little heavy for a .410, still meant it was an intoxicating pleasure to use in the way almost all small-bore guns are.
As well as being light and quick to mount and move, the SPE is also impressively stable and rewards accurate shooting. The gun is so much fun to shoot, in fact, that any complaints you might have about its appearance are quickly forgotten – particularly when you consider the low price.
The only real black mark for me comes because the gun is not autosafe – something I would not be comfortable with in the field and which rules it out of contention as a first gun for a youngster.
Armed Guns SPE .410 in the field
Although underwhelming visually and slightly unrefined in operation, in the hand and in the field this gun is delightful to use. Given its relatively lightweight, you would be forgiven for expecting the SPE to be a rather flighty thing, but it actually proved surprisingly neutral and stayed on line easily. This is likely thanks to the excellent weight distribution, with the balance point just forward of the hinge pin.
It mounts and moves positively and there is absolutely no recoil to be felt, making shooting with this gun a very pleasurable experience indeed. While the trigger pulls were perhaps a little unremarkable, ejection was very good.
Initially I struggled a little with correct head positioning because the diminutive stock dimensions meant my head was prone to falling over slightly. This was soon corrected by my instructor Bruce Marks before I was let loose on a challenging variety of targets at Grange Farm including crossers, incomers and some long driven targets, which the SPE .410 dealt with well.
The light weight of the gun means most shots could quite happily use it all day with few problems, and given the straightforward mechanical design, it is likely to be reliable. With the correct stock adjustments – as with any gun – this should be a great addition to your cabinet.
View from the gun shop. By Bill Elderkin
This is a rather odd gun, but then the small bore market can be a little eccentric. There are some lovely touches, such as the ribs being properly brazed onto the barrels and the attractive wood, but then the fit and finish are quite rough overall and the gun has clearly been largely machined. Of course, we are talking about a £500 gun, but this raises more questions rather than answering them.
The weight and the lack of an automatic safety catch make it an unlikely option for a youngster learning the sport. And the rough fit and finish mean some buyers may not want to take it out into the field on that odd special .410 day, and they will probably be looking to spend more money.
That being said, it is by no means a bad gun. Mechanically it is a typical Italian-style design with the cocking levers at the base of the action. The ejectors work well and given the basic nature of the action and the small loads being used, the SPE is highly unlikely to break down. If it does, any repairs are almost certain to be straightforward and the importer Edgar Brothers provides an excellent three-year warranty as standard.
It also occupies quite an interesting position in the market as a new .410 for such a low price. Above you have both the Beretta Silver Pigeon I, which you can probably find for about £1,400, and the slightly cheaper .410 from Lincoln – both of which are significantly more expensive than this Turkish gun. As a tool for controlling rabbits or taking on a few clays it looks well priced, but perhaps not quite good enough for those looking to use a .410 for all their shooting.