The test gun is a 28-bore Churchill Premiere round bar, single trigger, over-under game gun.
Weighing in at a mere 5lbs 7oz and with deep scroll and game scene engraving by Dave Hudson, it is an attractive gun.
First impressions are of a modern bespoke small bore of the highest quality. A repeat would cost something over £40,000, and there is a long list of potential extras such as barrels, multi chokes, metal grip cap and leather covered recoil pad.
I am a great fan of 28-bores. They?re great fun to shoot, and much more ballistically efficient than one might think. The test gun is fairly light, but the barrels are a sensible length at 28″.
My own preference for both 20 and 28-bores is for something a little longer and substantially heavier.
My 20-bore has 32″ barrels and weighs 7lbs, my 28s are between 6½lbs and 63⁄4lbs. This may sound heavy, but I fire 30gram 5s through the 20 and 28 gram 5s or 6s though the 28s and find it works very well.
The test gun is beautifully finished and it has all sorts of nice touches, such as a rolled edge trigger guard and gold line cocking indicators.
It rockets to the shoulder – quicker than I would usually want in any circumstance (bar walked-up woodcock and snipe shooting). The grip and comb are slim, and it goes without saying that the wood is well figured at this price.
A true Prince of Wales grip suits the gun, promoting a little more muzzle control.
The rounded, Boss-style fore-end is also good. The gun has significant cast at the heel and toe but the drop measurements are near the normal. The stock length is only 14.1⁄4″- though this is fairly academic on a bespoke gun, as you may order what you want.
However, I agree with the school of thought that suggests very light guns should routinely be made a little longer in the stock and very heavy guns correspondingly shorter for the same person.
The barrels are proper demi-bloc – the over-under equivalent of chopper lump – and they have been made by Peter Higgins. They are equipped with 2.3⁄4″ (70mm) chambers – there is no 3″ 28-bore cartridge generally available.
The barrels, like the rest of the gun, are impeccably crafted. The minimum wall thickness is a reassuring 32 thousandths of an inch. The bore diameters are a whisker wider than normal at 14mm.
Chokes are very tight – full and full – awaiting regulation to the buyer?s requirements. The action made by Lee Butler in-house, is a pinless, back-action sidelock.
Most over-unders are back, rather than bar, action. It is built to Churchill?s own pattern and has a recoil-activated single trigger for reliability. The gun has Woodward-style hinging combined with Boss-style draws and wedges on the inner action walls/barrels, and Boss-style primary bolting. There are coil spring ejectors in the barrels running parallel with the extractors.
I enjoyed shooting this gun. Its handling characteristics are very fast. It killed all close driven birds effortlessly, but I confess to missing the first three birds in front.
I then settled down and middled everything, very tight chokes not withstanding.
The trigger pulls are crisp. Felt recoil is quite tolerable with lighter loads, though I would still prefer more weight for control.
I especially like the smooth-finished and narrow tapered rib. It almost disappeared when the gun was in use, but provided the necessary subliminal aiming aid.
If you ordered one of these beautifully made guns, you might easily have it built a little heavier.
My own feeling is that for many years there has been a tendency to make bespoke small bores too light. This fashion seems to have changed. I would certainly not advise a gun much below 6lbs for most purposes.
This is nevertheless a beautiful gun, which shows off the great skills of E.J.Churchill?s gunmakers. I also note that the firm offers side-by-sides built on the Baker action, rather than the ubiquitous Holland & Holland.
They continue to dare to be a bit different.
Tel: 01494 883 227