Darne Damon Petrick shotgun review.
Any guns today, whether side-by-side or over-under, are made to very similar designs.
A few, tested by time, field use and the market, tend to dominate ? the Anson and Deeley boxlock, the Purdey Beesley and Holland sidelocks, Boss, Browning and Beretta over-unders.
There are, however, other designs probably as good but far less frequently encountered.
The subject of this month?s test, a 20-bore built in the workshop of Hervé Bruchet in St Etienne, France and made on the Damon Petrick action under the Darne name (which Bruchet now owns), is such a gun.
First impressions were not immediately overwhelming.
A blued action with small gold-bird inlays and subtle border engraving did not really bring out the best in what is a most interesting shotgun.
It might be added that the Damon Petrick-style over-under has an excellent reputation among French gunsmiths.
Low in profile, its most intriguing feature is a bolting mechanism that involves a sliding top cover like a Krieghoff or Remington 32 (which it may have inspired).
The primary lumps for hinging are bifurcated (two rear lugs extend in the action body for extra strength), and the barrels pivot on studs at the action knuckle like a Beretta or Woodward.
Before progressing further, I should note that the test gun ? not to be confused, of course, with the classic Darne side-by-side with sliding breech and vertical opening lever ? was found on the shelves of the West London Shooting School, where it had been left as an example of Bruchet?s work.
The price tag was £11,000, which seemed a little steep, but the pound has slipped sharply against the euro.
This Damon Petrick Darne may be a bit plain at first glance but it is a bench made product of an artisan workshop with a considerable family tradition.
The gun has quality.
Save for the gold, it is reminiscent of some of the better grade London and Birmingham guns that were made deliberately plain.
Dry-handling qualities are good.
It feels well balanced and solid. All-up weight is 6.3⁄4lb, mid-weight for a 20-bore over-under.
The form and finish (traditional hand-rubbed oil) of the straight-hand stock are good and the chequering excellent.
The stock showed more drop at heel than the British average, though this is typical of French guns. The 27.1⁄2in, 2¾in-chambered barrels are monobloc and choked half and three-quarters (tight enough to offer opportunity for regulation).
They are struck up competently, put together well and have solid joining ribs and a solid, narrow, sighting rib.
The traditional metal bead at the muzzles is well proportioned to the rib. The quality of the barrel-making, actioning and stockwork is superb.
This is, generally, a gun that impresses the more it is scrutinised. It has evidently been made on the bench and has an integrity that can only be achieved by traditional methods and skilled hands.
The most unusual feature of this gun is the sliding top cover action. This cover-cum-bolt moves over the rear 1⁄8in or so of the barrels and bears against the barrel shoulders which are machined into the monobloc.
The system is seen in the Remington 32 and 3200 and the Krieghoff, not to mention the Manufrance Falcon (long since discontinued).
Miroku has also made a sliding top cover gun (the Model 3000), as has Valmet.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this design in concept; on the contrary, it is exceptionally strong and wears in with use.
What I have yet to establish is whether or not Remington, which was much applauded for its Model 32 in the Thirties, got the design from France.
I took this gun to the partridge stands at West London with little idea of what it would be like to use.
When I broke the first incoming clay thrown over a bank I was pleasantly surprised.
The Damon Petrick Darne continued to impress.
It not only shot well, it shot and felt like the handmade gun it was. Felt recoil was not excessive. It shot instinctively ? the better the gun, the less effort one needs to put into the process of shooting.
There was none of the hollowness and vibration that one gets in many machine-made guns with stock bolts. Even with tightish chokes, few if any targets escaped it.
Practically, I liked the form and the crisp pulls on the double triggers; the ejectors were strong, and the prominent ?button? on the top strap safety was ergonomically efficient (though in action less than positive).
Overall, the gun scored highly. Its fundamental form was sound and the mechanical design clever and well executed.
As an advertisement for the work of the Atelier Bruchet it succeeded admirably.
Bruchet will make you over-under or side-by- side, shotgun or rifle, the old fashioned way to any specification you might desire (with delivery from about six months).
Tel: 01953 887219