Conventional looks and modern lockwork combine in this lightweight and handy small-bore gun, but it has an interesting layout, says Lewis Potter
There is always something attractive about small-bore guns that is difficult to define. Whether it is the small bore size that accentuates the slimness, the lightweight, dainty action size, ultra-fast handling or, more likely, a combination of all these factors, there is no doubt they are much admired. Also, in the past few years as more models have come on to the market, their use has grown. It is no longer rare to see bores smaller than 12 or 16 frequently on gameshoots.
Admired as they might be, they are not going to be everyone’s choice and there are limitations on their use. For quite practical reasons the foreshore, as one example, is still the domain of the “big boomers”. But imagine a bright early autumn day on the stubble fields, driven partridge and a light, handy 28-bore, then a small-gauge gun can really show its mettle.
The F.A.I.R. (Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini) Iside Deluxe 28-bore on test is a model imported by John Rothery (Wholesale) Ltd and is a single-trigger ejector gun with interchangeable chokes and a selective auto-safe. Or to put it another way, it has all the functions you could wish for on what is still, in appearance, a traditionally styled side-by-side shotgun.
In the handling department it qualifies on all counts as a true lightweight, weighing in on my scales at 5lb 6oz, even with the leggy 30in barrels. Its weight is biased just a bit forward, which gives a nice, positive feel to the handling and a length of pull to the middle of the butt of nearly 143⁄4in helps balance the long barrels and puts it well into the man-size gun fit category.
The glossy blacked barrels, shiny action body and oil-finished woodwork complement each other nicely and the external fit and finish of mating parts appears excellent. While at first glance it looks very much a model of conventionality, the usefully large trigger-guard and slightly bulky, if practical, auto-safe hint at something a bit different under the skin.
When I first took this gun out of its sturdy ABS case I had to look carefully to assure myself it was indeed an ejector gun because the two extractor halves appeared to be almost as one, so fine is the fit between the two.
The ejector mechanism, powered by helical springs, is as usual mounted in the fore-end with a cam fixed in the action bar knuckle to operate the extractors in the unfired mode. What is quite different to the familiar Anson & Deeley boxlock design is the layout of this gun, which is an adaption of over- and-under practice. The hammers pivot from the trigger-plate, while the sears hang from the top strap.
Mainspring power is provided by helical springs and there is the usual lifter/inertia block into which the barrel selector engages. This has an advantage over an over-and-under in that the strikers (firing pins) are set at a much shallower angle that is only possible because of the side-by-side arrangement. While the return springs on the strikers are somewhat stronger than I expected the hammer/striker geometry is good enough to more than overcome this bit of resistance.
The barrels are quite conventional in several respects, with a neatly matted and slightly concave tapered top rib, slim bottom rib and a combined fore-end loop and keel rib. F.A.I.R. is obviously proud of this product because, along with the chamber and gauge details, near the breech the gun is marked “100 per cent Italian made”.
Long, slim, beautifully polished and finished, the barrels sport the conventional hook, two lumps and double bite as found on the great majority of side-by-sides. Externally, there is no hint that these barrels are fitted with screw-in chokes until you actually look at the muzzles.
The usual five chokes are supplied, covering a range from cylinder to full, all notch-marked with further details on the body of the choke tube. The tighter chokes not suitable for use with steel shot are appropriately marked and the barrels bear the new superior proof marking.
Woodwork and decoration
This particular 28-bore is fitted with pleasing walnut, the butt on the opposite side to the face showing some fine fiddleback, while the chequering pattern on the fore-end follows a very conventional pattern that, on the stock, is more unrestrained but not at all over the top. Unusual but attractive in my view.
Decoration is confined to the action body, top-lever and trigger-guard. Fine scrollwork, suitably scaled to the size of the action body, vies with birds in flight, while the top-lever sports a pierced thumbpiece, something that seems to be enjoying a revival in popularity. As for the double curve at the rear of the body, it is a variant of the scroll-back, but nonetheless a pleasing feature.
F.A.I.R. Iside Deluxe 28-bore side-by-side on test
Testing is always something I look forward to, though sometimes it can be a bit fiddly when finding a make of cartridge and load that suits a particular gun. Not so with this F.A.I.R. 28-bore, which produced acceptable patterns with most makes and/or loads of cartridge put through it. Cartridges on test included Eley VIP 16g and 24g loads, Hull Cartridge 18g, Lyalvale Express 14g and 21g loads and Saga 21g.
The loads felt just a bit snappy in this light gun but shooting deliberately at a pattern sheet always exaggerates the felt recoil and, when swinging and shooting, it was not really unpleasant.
Whatever mode I used, the Hull 18g loading proved to be especially pleasant to use and the 14g Lyalvale Express would be fine for a youngster. Trigger- pull was crisp and light whatever barrel was selected. The changeover is mechanical so it does not matter how light the loads used, barrel selection is assured and ejection of spent cases, regardless of case length, was at all times reliable and quite smooth. For me the gun fit was such that to place the shot pattern central, the foresight bead was right on the bird.
Being lightweight and convenient to handle means it translates into a gun that could get a lot of general use