The Compact 20-bore is ideal for juniors coming into the sport and also suits ladies of a lighter frame, says Roger Glover
Among the cluster of gunmakers nestled along the valley of the Mella river above Brescia in Italy is a company called Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, otherwise known as FAIR. Since its inception in 1971, the UK distributor for FAIR guns has been John Rothery, with the guns bearing its brand name of Lincoln. Renowned for their robust simplicity, Lincoln guns have always had their fair share of the UK market, something that can only be accomplished with a product that matches cost to quality.
Lincoln Premier Compact – a light weight option
The Lincoln range is quite extensive, with the entry-level shotgun called the Premier. This is a gun on a budget without doubt, yet it doesn’t fall short of being respectable enough for any shoot. Available in 12-bore, it is a man’s gun. It is also available as a 20-bore, with a dedicated action designed solely for that gauge. The 20-bore, with its lighter build, makes for a manageable medium-bore gun. There are those who require something of less proportion as well as light weight. Juniors coming into the sport or ladies of a lighter frame might benefit from the Premier Compact 20-bore.
Taking the Premier 20-bore as a base, this Lincoln has 28in barrels as opposed to 29in. The stock is shorter at 13 ½in, with the overall balance point barely ¾in forward of the hinge. At 44 ¼in overall length, the Compact is exactly that, yet isn’t so small as to be of limited use.
The stock of the Compact — and bear in mind that this is an entry-level budget gun — is walnut, and a fair piece at that. So many low-end guns have such straight-grained wood that the stock simply becomes a handle, nothing attractive at all — but not so with this. While you would hardly rate it as glamorous, FAIR has made absolute best use of the grain to create a very attractive stock for this grade of gun. The fore-end is a little more straight grained and simple, but at least that leaves strength.
There is no palm swell to this stock; it is very slender in the hand and especially so at the neck, which is ideal for smaller hands.
Lincoln describes the finish as waxed, which it may well be, but the base of the finish seems to be a synthetic varnish with a slight pigment to it. It gives the stock a super-smooth finish and will no doubt repel the worst of weathers. The finish is even and does indeed bring out the best of the wood. The chequering is deep and crisp with sufficient area to give comfortable purchase.
The drop at heel is just on 2 ¼in, with what looks like a lot of cast due to the short stock but is actually just shy of ¼in. There is a 5/8in vented recoil pad to ease what little load there is on the shoulder.
Action and trigger
As regarding the action, these guns have changed very little since the start of production, though they have had the odd little improvement here and there.
Advances in machining technology mean that all parts fit well and produce a basic but simple action that was designed from the outset to be a 20-bore. It is rather neat, with the ejectors set by tangs on the cocking rods so there are no moving parts of the ejectors in the fore-end iron. The single selective trigger breaks crisply at 4lb with selection by means of a sliding button in the automatic safety, which has a positive action and feel, yet is light in movement.
Internally, the trigger works on a standard inertia block system to engage the sears for the second barrel. Hammers are operated by coil springs set on guide rods, while strikers are angled on to the centre line and upwards or downwards for each barrel. Every part is well made; nothing looks rough or unfinished, which is quite unusual to see in a modest gun.
Externally, the action is finished in satin chrome with all-black furniture. Adorning this are laser-engraved game scenes on each cheek and the front of the trigger-plate, with token scrollwork and borders.
Barrels and chokes
Barrels again are pretty straight forward, 3in chambered and chrome lined throughout with steel shot proof, which means you would have no problems with your pick of cartridge.
The 6mm rib gives a clear sight picture and proportionally looks right above the barrels. The gun comes fitted with two choke tubes, improved cylinder in the bottom and modified in the top. You do also get a key and a third choke, cylinder, but looking at the patterns thrown, I don’t think you really need to go much tighter. What does impress, though, is the standard of finish on the barrels — much higher than I’d expect on this grade of gun.
It is difficult to test a gun that is built to suit smaller frames. I tend to need a relatively long stock so shooting this was rather awkward but despite that handicap, it is a gun with great balance and sufficient weight to absorb recoil but light enough not to fatigue. It will swing and continue to do so, which surprised me a little — I thought that at this weight it would be a bit of a pointing gun that would not carry much momentum.
It would be reasonable to say that Lincoln has come a long way since its early days. It has proven that budget is not always on the poor side of compromise, but that by taking the frills away, a modest gun, capable of years of service, can be produced that is able to hold its head high in any practical shooting environment. Even using 28g loads, this little gun absorbs recoil well and doesn’t show a tendency to flip its muzzles. It is a competent gun in any circumstance and certainly well worth considering as a juniors’ gun, progression from a .410 or as a ladies’ gun.
The action is basic but well executed with very little to go wrong – but if it did, it is easy and cheap to repair. Solidly built. Barrels are well finished in deep black with teh flexibility of multichokes 18/20
Impressive piece of wood for this level, much better than the synthetic wraps that some low-budget manufacturers use. Properly proportioned for this size of gun 17/20
Simple and effective trigger. Nice large safety catch/selector that doesn’t feel cumbersome 16/20
The gun is not so light and twitchy as I thought it might be – tracking and swinging through a target is quite manageable 16/20
Where I expected this gun to fall down, it excelled. It is not the cheapest on the market, but your money is going in the right direction. A solid, well-though-out shotgun. 18/20