Arrieta Viscount side-by-side shotgun review.
Historically, the side-by-side shotgun was a matter of convenience of design. To produce a double gun in the days of the flintlock, it was the easiest layout to accommodate the locks, each being a mirror image of the other, on either side of the stock.
There, in the main, they stayed through the transition of the percussion muzzle-loader gun to the breech-loading hammergun that eventually evolved into the ?hammerless? side-by-side sidelock ejector.
This became the definitive British shotgun, admired the world over, and that admiration also brought with it the most obvious tribute: imitation ? nowhere more so than in Spain.
Arrieta is a company well versed in the traditional styling that still has great appeal for many gameshooters.
Even now, when it seems that nine out of 10 guns are over-unders, the attractive lines of a good sidelock side-by-side are admired, and for those of us brought up on them it holds a comfortable familiarity.
THE ULTIMATE CLASSIC
The Viscount is based around the barlock, which is a type of lockplate that lies forward along the bar of the action body with the mainspring projecting forwards.
We can see this even without detaching the locks, as there is a cluster of bridle pins around the hammer, or tumbler pivot, and further along the trigger-plate is the lone polished head of the mainspring peg.
This style of lock, especially when fitted with intercepting safety sears, is very much the ultimate classic form of the sidelock.
Complementing that is the Southgate ejector system fitted to this gun.
Only the minimum of parts and comparatively long ejector springs characterise a design of amazing simplicity that has become the industry standard.
HALLMARK OF A GOOD MAKER
Examining the Viscount in detail, one cannot fail to be impressed by the wood-to-metal fit, indicative of a lot of hand finishing.
The shaping where the fore-end comes up against the barrels is nicely executed, as is the fit of the walnut around the locks, top strap and the tail (tang) of the trigger-guard.
All these areas exhibit great attention to detail, the hallmark of a good maker.
I rather liked the way the panels around the locks ran into a semi-diamond grip at the hand of the stock, then faded out into an oval form.
This is the kind of subtle artistry that again shows a thoughtful and neat touch. As for the walnut, both stock and fore-end are pleasing pieces of wood, strong and tight grained.
The fore-end is a little more in the Spanish style – a bit squarer than the ultimate roach-bellied English form, but giving a more practical grip.
Chequering is quite generous, hand cut and crossing over the top of the hand of the stock, and with large panels on the fore-end.
Decoration of the metalwork follows the twin principles of restraint and refinement.
Bouquets of roses are surrounded by fine scroll and, while sporting an extensive coverage, with these fine patterns it is never ?in your face?.
Rather, it blends in with the autumnal colouring of the colour-case-hardening, so you have to sit and study the detail to appreciate its worth.
Some of the work on the tail of the trigger-guard is simple in form but has a charm all of its own.
Interestingly, and yet another thoughtful touch, the rib pattern on the fore-end tip is made to match that on the safety button.
I am glad to be able to report that the shiny blacked barrels are a good, old-fashioned 28 imperial inches, not some near metric equivalent.
Once again, this is only a small point and from a practical point of view of no real consequence, but it is this sort of detail that separates a gunmaker from its near rivals.
In the traditional manner, the chokes are fixed, gauging quarter in the right-hand barrel and half-choke in the left.
While this is very much the norm, chokes can be produced to order to suit a customer?s requirements when the gun is being built.
The bores are well polished and only a fraction on the tight side of 0.729in, or nominal 12-bore size.
Concave ribs, cleanly struck up lumps and fine finishing to the breech faces of the barrels and the extractors complete the package.
The Arrieta Viscount is a classic sidelock with barlock layout and an intercepting safety sear fore-end iron.
It utilises the simple and effective Southgate ejector system.
PERFORMANCE IN ACTION
So far, the Arrieta Viscount ticks all the boxes in appearance, build quality and attention to detail, but the other half of the equation is, as always, performance in the field.
In the handling stakes it comes out well, balancing right on the cross pin of the action.
At a bare 6.3/4lb, the Viscount qualifies as a true lightweight game gun and this undoubtedly is one of the reasons that it is, quite sensibly, chambered for 70mm (2.3/4in) cartridges.
The lightweight and good balance impart a fluid feel when mounting to the shoulder ? fast, but eminently controllable.
It suited me because it has a length of pull a little less than 15in, which for those of a shorter stature gives room for adjustment.
The drop across the stock meant putting the foresight bead on the bird to throw the pattern a touch high, an advantage for most forms of shooting.
Also, the slightly concave shape to the face of the stock, offset comb and stock cast all combined to ensure that it placed the shot centrally on the pattern sheet.
When patterning, it was found that the Viscount was sensitive to choice of cartridge to get the best results.
Trigger-pulls were crisp and consistent at 4.3/4lb on the front trigger and set a touch harder for the rear one.
The shape of the safety button and its short, sharp travel made it a delight to use because there was no fumbling; you did not have to think about it.
Spent cartridges showed good firing-pin strikes and those leggy vee springs in the ejectors threw the cartridges well clear; in other words, everything worked as it should.
The other advantage of a side-by-side is, of course, the ease with which it can be carried broken across the crook of the arm but quickly brought into action.
The Arrieta Viscount is the archetypal sidelock ejector in its lines, proportions and neat attention to detail.
The inletting inside around the lock parts may be done in a simpler manner than with a London gun and you are not going to get a £1,200 stock blank, but remember that this gun is a tenth of the price.
Apart from that, right from its dainty brass foresight bead to the silver oval set in the stock, it could easily pass for a traditional British-made gun, and that, I think, is still the greatest compliment.
With its traditional styling, the Viscount could easily be mistaken for a British side-by-side.
It should, therefore, be no surprise that Arrieta does make guns for English companies.
Arrieta Viscount side-by-side shotgun review