The latest product of a burgeoning Anglo- Italian relationship, is the E J Churchill Coronet worthy of bearing a historic English gunmaking name? Alex Flint investigates.
Since 2010 E.J. Churchill, perhaps most famous in the past for its 25″ barrel guns and today for its superb shooting ground on the outskirts of High Wycombe, has been producing guns in collaboration with Italian manufacturer Perazzi.
This bold move raised more than a few eyebrows at the time, with some questioning how wise it was to put an English name on an Italian gun.
However, E.J. Churchill saw a gap in the market between high volume guns from the likes of Browning and Beretta and the top quality handmade guns produced by their own workshops. Forging ahead with a partnership with Perazzi produced the excellent Crown range of guns, made by Perazzi and based on their MX12 model but built to the specifications of and bearing the stylistic cues of E.J. Churchill shotguns.
Though lovely to look at and, unsurprisingly, excellent to shoot with, the Crown is not a cheap gun, with a single over-under gun setting you back at least £12,875. In order to provide a more accessible entry into the world of E.J. Churchill guns the company once again looked to Italy, this time to Zoli, and in 2013 the Coronet reached our shores.
We had the 20 bore model on test and, though the gun certainly makes a good first impression, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for a 12 bore. This is further borne out on the scales where it reaches 6lbs 15oz – quite a weight for a 20 bore gun. Though produced by Zoli, the Coronet certainly shares much in common with Perazzi guns, not least the removable triggerplate action which allows for a pleasingly shallow action body.
This is accentuated by giving the gun carved fences and raised faces on each side of the action body.
Indeed, the lines of the gun are really quite pleasing and the engraving is generally excellent, carried out in the classic Churchill house style of a tight foliate scroll with the occasional group of roses. The maker’s name features in a restrained gold banner on each side of the action body, while the bottom of the action body features a banner making it clear where the gun has come from: ‘Made in Italy‘.
In fact, the gun is restrained all round in its finishing, with a pleasant brushed effect to the metal work and the equally pleasing stippling effect on the fences is also worth mentioning. On the top of the gun there is a lovely tapered rib, vented on this example.
However, the gun does seem a little disparate aesthetically. The wood used on this test gun was lacking some of the character one might expect at this price point. Oil has been used to finish the wooden parts, however some may find the end result a little pale. This is brought into particular focus thanks to the black fore-end iron sitting slightly uncomfortably on the gun.
While by no means unattractive, it seems an odd choice as the standard brushed steel is so pleasing to the eye. I should note, however, these guns are semibespoke so this may well have been built to a specific request.
In operation the Coronet is most pleasing. The safety catch is a lovely long, grippy device which offers ease of use without offending the eye. And the chequering has been well executed on the fore-end and semi-pistol grip which has an excellent sweep to it and is very comfortable – though very large – in the hand.
The rounded fore-end too is very attractive and the restrained choice of a steel trigger is something I will always favour. All these factors combine rather well of offer real control and stability when taking on long crossers and those most challenging of high birds.
And with 30″ barrels and 3″ chambers and fixed full chokes on both barrels, it is evident this is a serious high bird gun for serious game shooters. This perhaps accounts for the somewhat surprising weight of the gun, though it must be said one does not feel this when shooting and as one might expect recoil is dealt with effortlessly.
There is no doubt that this gun is catering for the serious shooter who wants a gun with a traditional name on it. If you are set on the idea of owning a gun with an English name on it, then this certainly is the most accessible way of doing so.
At £6,675 for the custom made stock version it is certainly not cheap, but it is excellent to shoot with and quite different from the usual suspects. An off-the shelf version with a standard 15″ stock is available at £6,100.
And if you happen to go and shoot well with one at the EJ Churchill shooting ground then you may well be tempted to make an addition to your cabinet.
E J Churchill Coronet in the field
Given this gun had been stocked for a lady I also enlisted the help of my fiancée who took to the stands at Grange Farm under the watchful eye of BASC coaches Ed Smith and Steve Wood. All agreed the gun felt nothing like its weight and benefitted from excellent balance, swinging well and being particularly easy to shoot on crossing targets.
Recoil was dealt with superbly, no doubt thanks in part to the gun’s weight, and trigger pulls were very crisp without being too sharp for a novice shooter. Even with small hands Gill found the gun very comfortable to use and looked quite at home with the Coronet; even the tight chokes were not a problem.
The Coronet performed impressively and it would be fair to say it was a pleasure to shoot. Why not try one for yourself? After all EJ Churchill have the facilities on hand.
View from the gun shop By Bill Elderkin
Being built on Zoli’s action is a big benefit for this gun, as the triggerplate design makes for a shallower, slightly wide action, reminiscent of a Perazzi. Unlike Perazzi’s design where pushing the safety catch forward releases the triggerplate, here one must use an Allen key.
The high quality engraving modelled on the style seen on E.J. Churchill’s Premier guns draws the eye and the wood to metal fit is very good – though there is plenty of wood left in the fore-end. At just under 7lbs the gun is heavy for a 20 bore, and the gun feels very big in the hand, however it clearly handles well as Alex and the team found out.
While the gun handles well, is good looking and has been undoubtedly well built, the question of cost is a tricky one. You could pick up a Beretta 687 EELL with full sideplates and game scene engraving for £6,125 or even a 687 EELL Classic for just a little more at £6,850. And a Browning Heritage Hunter comes in at £5,215. Although none of these include as many bespoke options as the Coronet. And perhaps this is missing the point anyway.
None of the above mentioned guns come with the pleasure attached to having an English name engraved on the sides of your gun, no matter which factory it has come out of. Certainly you will be well treated by E.J. Churchill, and to their credit there really is nothing else like it available on the market for this sort of price.
Very solid Italian design and building from a well known manufacturer