Kemen shotguns were first spotted on the international market by West Country gunsmith, Tony Kennedy, who did a great job in promoting the brand around 10 years ago.
He managed to lure George Digweed away from his favourite Berettas, and George thanked him with a huge string of competition successes both at home and abroad.
The year 1997 could be called the year of the Kemen. In that year George used one to win the World and European FITASC titles, and the World Compak championship with a record 200-straight.
Richard Faulds, then still a junior, was also in on the Kemen act. He took the World and European FITASC Junior titles, and added the European Double Trap title for good measure.
Other Kemen converts included England’s trap ace Kevin Gill who was always there or thereabouts in major competitions, and all of these success suddenly brought the Kemen to the attention of the wider shooting public.
The current Kemen importer is Mike Megginson at Kelbrook Shooting Ground in Lancashire, who has off-the-peg guns with a variety of stock options, and can also get guns built to order.
Who makes it?
Kemen are relative newcomers to gunmaking, the business being founded as recently as 1990. Their workshops are at Elgoibar, a town located in the province of Gipuzkoa, in the autonomous Basque Country in the North of Spain. In the Basque language, Kemen means ‘strong’. The company makes only shotguns – including some side-by-sides which, like this gun, have drop-out trigger mechanisms.
How adaptable is it?
You buy the relevant Kemen model for what you want to shoot – sporting, the trap disciplines, or game. There are different models for everything, and Kemen guns can be built and fitted to individual requirements.
How does it work?
The gun illustrated is the KM4 Sporter, but all Kemen over-unders follow the same design principles, with handling characteristics to suit the purpose they were built for.
The gun has a low-profile action, with the barrels hinged on big, chunky stub pins. The frame itself appears to be one of the toughest around, with thick side walls and a substantial base. It is machined from a single block of forged steel. Inside the front of the frame are two substantial lugs which engage with slots in the barrel lumps to strengthen the lock-up when the gun is closed.
The bolt is an H-shaped component, two legs of which project through the standing breech to engage with substantial bites in the barrel lumps positioned just above the centre line of the lower barrel.
The gun has a drop-out trigger mechanism which fits in through a slot in the base of the action frame. It is secured by a spring-loaded cross peg worked by a small lever positioned under the back of the trigger guard, the peg engaging with a hole in the frame.
Within this trigger group is a pair of large hammers, hinged at the bottom and driven by V-springs. Bents for the sears to engage are cut low on the backs of the hammers, and the arrangement gives exceptionally crisp trigger pulls.
The single trigger transfers to the second hammer by a recoil-driven inertia mechanism. On the gun illustrated the trigger is not selective, always firing the bottom barrel first. The feature is, however, available, and takes the form of a switch positioned behind the trigger.
The gun comes complete with a spares box containing firing pins and a set of V-springs – a good point, because while a coil spring will often continue to function when broken, just delivering slightly lighter strikes to the primers, when a V-spring breaks then that’s it, until a new one is fitted. However, many shooters maintain that V-springs give sharper strikes and crisper trigger pulls – a highly debatable point which would be contested by some other leading quality gunmakers.
The hammers are cocked by a single rod running in a dovetail through the action floor, the rod being forced back by a cam on the fore-end iron as the gun opens. Ejectors are of the spring-loaded type usually associated with this style of gun, and are tripped from the fore-end iron.
The outside of the action block on this model is finished in deep, slightly matt black with little decoration – just a little scrollwork around the heads of the hinge pins, and the maker’s name and model designation in gold. The top lever and trigger guard are blacked to match the action. This style of blacking does an excellent job in reducing glare on sunny days.
In recent years the manufacturers have slimmed the action block down a bit, with the result that the head of the stock is stronger.
– Kemen barrels are extremely well constructed – strong and with very true bores.
– Made on the Monobloc system.
– Those on the gun illustrated are 31 inches, with 2.3/4in (70mm) chambers.
– The top rib is tapered towards the muzzles, and both top and side ribs are ventilated.
– The barrels, which are not internally chromed, are fitted with very long Briley choke tubes, which throw exceptionally good patterns.
– Five tubes come with the gun.
– Kemen woodwork is of very high quality. The gun pictured has a stock length of 14.3/4in, and drops at heel and comb of 1.1/4 and 2.1/4in.
– Fore end is a semi-beavertail.
– That’s just this gun: Kemen customers can specify any woodwork quality and style they like, with an expert fitting service offered by the UK importer.
– Styles include a stock with a fully adjustable comb.
The gun illustrated weighed 7.1/2lb, but weights will obviously vary with barrel length, wood density, and other features which can be specified by the customer.
What the tester thought
Sporting Gun tested the K4 in March 2002. It scored 8 out of 10 in every department – build quality, handling, styling and value for money. High points noted included the trueness of the barrels, and the general quality of construction. The tester noted: “Overall, you get a lot of gun for your money with this make.”
Prices begin at just short of £5,000.
Clay shooters looking for a gun in this class would also consider top of the range Beretta and Browning competition models, or one of the Perazzis.
UK importer is Mike Megginson at Kelbrook Shooting Ground, Kelbrook, Lancashire; tel: 01282-861632.
Only one, and you will have to brush up your Spanish! Try www.sport-kemen.com. If you don’t understand the words, you can get a good idea of all the available options by looking at the pictures. Engraving on the very top models is fabulous!