The Italian manufacturer has gone to great lengths to ensure this is the ultimate fowler's firearm while keeping down costs, says Roger Glover
There was a time when I would have shunned a camouflage-painted gun. It would have been dismissed as a home-bodged effort by some diehard wildfowler on a worthless firearm. That view would probably have come from my mentor in the gun trade who was a former employee of a well-known gunmaker — traditional views of a past era.
Times and techniques move on, the home-grown tricks of those old fowlers have been surpassed, and guns and cartridges have seen developments unthought of in the days of blackpowder. As an evolution of those basic ideas, Bettinsoli has produced the X-Trail Camo Max-5, which brings all the crucial elements together — the power and reach of heavy loads and the concealment of effective camouflage.
The demand for heavier cartridges has led to the development of extreme loads for a 12-bore. With shot loads of lead now at 64g, there was no way that would fit in a standard 3in cartridge until the late 1980s, when the 31⁄2in case came into play. With muzzle velocities around 1,200fps or more, loads of this sort produce some pretty heavy recoil. A tough gun is needed to cope with that, as well as a decent barrel length to complete that powder burn and accelerate the shot up to speed.
Barrels and action
The Bettinsoli X-Trail is up to that challenge and is capable of the roughest use out on the marsh. The barrels have 31⁄2in chambers for the heaviest loads, proofed at 1,370 bar, and chrome-lined for lead alternative shot. The metric length of 810mm is all but 32in, so plenty of length to make use of that extra charge.
Ventilated side ribs would not be my first choice for a gun destined to be used in harsh environments. Bettinsoli might have done better with solid ribs or open sides with ribs only at the muzzle, but side vents are a problem to keep clean. This appears to be the trade-off from its parent gun, and a lack of planning to change the spec to something more useful, but it does keep the cost in check.
The same could be said for the top rib — why use a ventilated rib on a gun that won’t fire successive shots, when all the vents are going to do is collect dirt and salt? The tapered rib of 10mm to 7mm seems a bit broad for a gun of this intended use, as a 6mm parallel rib would have been far better, but broad seems to be the fashion.
Simple ejectors are a plus for this sort of work, though. Running in lovely, broad dovetail slots in the monobloc, there is little to trap dirt or cause problems. The only moving parts of the ejector system in the fore-end are two simple pivoting pawls to trip the ejectors and, again, simplicity is the key to reliability. The engine turning in this area is a bit of an embellishment that is not entirely necessary, but no doubt another hand-me-down from the parent gun.
Another disappointment is the use of short choke tubes — at 51mm long, the tightest you can use for steel shot is modified. This again is a case of building down to a price, rather than up to a specification for a requirement. You could change these to extended chokes with aftermarket items, but the technology does exist to produce long internal chokes as an original fitment with the gun. The longer they are, the tighter you can choke for steel, so surely it is an advantage for the dedicated wildfowler.
The action for this gun comes straight out of Bettinsoli’s line-up. It is good use of a standard action that is somewhat heavy by comparison to some makers. But heavy and solid is what is needed in this application, as a 6lb gun if fired with 64g loads would be painful. At 7lb 12oz this Bettinsoli will absorb most of that harsh recoil.
In terms of longevity, the stout, thick-walled action will have very little flex, even with the fiercest of cartridge firings. All components are built on the heavy side, with nothing looking like it will succumb under any circumstance. One nice little touch is that the trigger-guard has a thickened safety edge on the right side, in case you have a little slip.
The safety/selector, while lacking the refinement of a Rolls-Royce door closing, does have the benefit of great purchase and equal effort required in any direction of movement. Even with cold gloved hands, your thumb is going to know exactly what is going on. It is an excellent safety catch, positive and function orientated.
The stock is shorter than I’d prefer, but at 141⁄2in it falls into a special class of stock. Bettinsoli has recognised that this gun will likely be used by someone wearing six jumpers, a duffle coat and full-length neoprene vest, and has allowed for all those layers in its consideration of stock length. While testing the gun with just the one jumper and a fleece, the short stock didn’t present problems for me, even when firing off heavy loads — a testament to the gun’s overall design.
The stock is fairly generous in the hand and quite deep in profile. A right-hand palm swell adds to this and gives a solid handful of gun to hold. The rubber recoil pad is ideal. It is very even in its padding action, not hard lumps to create a pressure point, and just the right degree of give to take out the worst of the recoil.
The main selling point of this gun, though, is the finish. Hydrographics are a relatively modern invention or at least in their use on guns. Realtree Max-5 is designed specifically for wetland use. Not only does it offer photo-class images of your surroundings, but the material used gives an improved grip on the gun too.
It covers every external surface — bar the serial number and proof marks — with the only black parts of the gun on show being the recoil pad and safety catch. However, for a camouflaged gun, it is furnished with a gold trigger, which I find questionable.
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Have my prejudices against camouflaged guns been overcome? Yes, they have. This is a gun for a purpose and a lot of effort has gone into the technologies to bring you this. It is a huge leap forward from the days of hand-painted side-by-sides firing at best a 36g load of lead. I’m told that when the camouflage does get the odd blemish, it just adds to the effect.
Need to know
- Maker Bettinsoli, Italy
- Model X-trail camouflage Max-5
- Bore 12-bore/89mm
- Barrels 32in multichoke steel shot proofed
- Rib Tapered 10mm to 7mm ventilated
- Length of pull 141/2in
- Weight 7lb 12oz.
- Features Realtree Max-5 camouflage
- Price £1075.00
This gun will do everything expected of it, but it could have been a little better executed