Roger Glover tests a shotgun by one of Italy's newer gunmaking companies, Caesar Guerini, whose clever rebuild system is in a class of its own
One of Italy’s newer gunmaking companies, Caesar Guerini has progressed quickly.
Started in 2000 by brothers Giorgio and Antonio Guerini, the company moved in 2002 into purpose-built premises in the Trompia valley in northern Italy, the heart of Italian gunmaking, and it now manufactures in-house.
Most types of gun are based on very established designs, so it always causes a bit of a stir when any new element of design comes on to the market. Outwardly, the Invictus I is a conventional over-and-under top-lever gun, but there is a significant difference. Every mechanical device will wear with use and a gun is no different — there eventually comes a point when it is no longer useable and you need to buy a new one. This is unless, of course, a worn part can be replaced, but there are limits as to how much can be done to save your beloved friend.
Caesar Guerini has come up with what it says is a new principle to create a stronger gun in the first place; a gun that is less prone to wear, but when it does wear, is easier to maintain and return to original specifications.
New Caesar Guerini system
Usually over-and-under guns have trunnions in the side of the action, stub axles that the barrels hinge on and sockets machined into the sides of the monobloc to pivot on the trunnions. Most trunnions are replaceable if they wear, but to an extent the sockets will wear too, so realistically the wear can only be halved at best. The locking bolt can also be replaced as an item, but again, wear in the bite cannot be easily repaired. These two areas are the main cause of guns coming off the face and becoming dangerous.
The Invictus system, however, uses replaceable “cams” on the barrels, rather than trunnions in the action; these cams are easily changed. To me the term “cam” insinuates movement or adjustment, but these cams do not adjust — they are merely replaceable. The bolt engagement, while fairly broad across the monobloc, is split by the cocking rod and, like on other guns, is still a wearing part.
The main part of this system is the Invictus block, a component keyed into the floor of the action and designed to act as a bearing face to prevent the barrels moving forward, away from the breech face on firing and sharing the load on the cams. This block is removable so it can be changed when worn and so is a major step towards a longer-lasting gun that can be rebuilt several times over. However, just like all the other areas prone to wear, only one side of the bearing surface can be replaced; this system would make more sense if both mating parts could be changed so the whole bearing unit is renewed, not just one face. That said, no one else comes close to this level of “rebuildability”, so this is in a class of its own.
Caesar Guerini's latest over-and-under competition gun aims to reduce wear on the jointing using ground-breaking design
Solid in the shoulder
In the shoulder, the Invictus I feels solid and confident. For a gun with 32in barrels it certainly doesn’t feel unbalanced or muzzle heavy. This is, however, at the cost of multi-chokes; the Invictus I Sporter M-Spec is a fixed-choke gun with half and full chokes so has less weight at the muzzles. It is certainly a hard-hitting gun with the capability to put high pellet counts on a distant target, so definitely an all-rounder for challenging game as well as clays.
The stock is oil-finished to a high sheen with some well-executed chequering at 22 lines per inch. Wood-to-metal fit is tight and the steep pistol grip and full palm swell provide excellent purchase.
Length of pull is 14¾in at its shortest, but with the trigger adjusted fully forward you can achieve 15¼in. The fore-end follows similar form to the butt, with the drop-point design of the stock reflected in the fore-end captive nut. The stock has plenty of drop with 2¼in at the heel, and a good ¼in of cast, yet I found my line of sight to be left of centre. This seems to come about due to the broad comb of this stock. All exposed furniture has a high-lustre grey-silver finish called “invisalloy”; this is in contrast to the deep Italianate scroll engraving and background patterns.
The chambers of this gun were 3in, but somewhat unusually do not bear steel proof marks. Though Caesar Guerini does state in its catalogue that steel proof is available on request, I do wonder if this gun falls outside of that scope having full choke in the top barrel. Theoretically, if the full-choke cone is at a shallow enough angle, it could be steel proofed.
The trigger sears and hammers are hard chromed. This would lower the friction between sear and bent and, sure enough, that translates to a really sweet trigger break at 3lb 13oz. That said, however, I did find the safety catch stubborn and the chequering upon it so fine as to offer little grip.
In terms of simplicity of major maintenance, this gun certainly shows the way forward. A used and slack gun should become a thing of the past if it works out as advertised. However, there is, I believe, the potential to take this a stage further if a little extra thought were to be applied. I could comfortably shoot this gun day in, day out, something about it just feels right. The presentation is first class and eye-catching, yet subtle in its flair.
Action/barrels: The Invictus system tries to address some of the problems of a break-open gun. The fixed chokes reduce weight at the muzzle. (Other models in the Invictus range do have multi-chokes.) 18/20
Stock: Very well proportioned if a little broad in the comb. Good grade of wood with excellent standard of finish. 18/20
Trigger/safety: Beautifully clean release of the trigger. Safety and barrel selector wouldn’t be too helpful on a cold day. 17/20
Handling: Other than just not quite fitting me, the Invictus does move well. Heavy enough to be stable but still manageable to catch a bird in the opposite direction. It mounts and sweets through a target well and should produce good results for anyone. 18/20
Value: Hard to judge as the marketing of the Invictus system leads you to think the gun will go on much longer than any other. If it does, resale values should stay high if the spares remain available. It looks and feels like a very good-quality item and given the passage of time I would award another two points if the Invictus system proves itself. 18/20
I could comfortably shoot this gun day in, day out