Ask any shooter whether he or she would like a bespoke gun and there is little doubt of what the answer will be. Asked whether they could ever afford one and the answer is likely to be an equally emphatic no.
When the subject is raised everyone almost inevitably thinks of one of the great British London or Birmingham based makers or perhaps one of those similarly well-respected names that has never sought the big city showroom or has since relocated to a more rural environment. Whichever springs to mind, it has become habit to think British and expensive when it comes to bespoke guns.
Time for a rethink
Perhaps it is time to try thinking Italian. Already well-known for their top-notch competition guns, Perazzi’s SC3 model on test is a bespoke gun. It can be ordered with a choice of barrel lengths, chokes, rib style and foresight. Spare barrels may be ordered and not necessarily in the same gauge, so a 20-bore can be supplied with optional 28-bore barrels, and a 28-bore with a spare set of .410 barrels. Screw-in chokes are another option, either from the factory or Teague’s excellent products.
Also in the package are variations in stock and fore-end styling, with vital measurements of length, drop and cast made to suit the individual. Stock styles include full and semi-pistol grip or straight-hand, still much preferred by adherents of the classic look. It does not end there, however. There is also more choice in decoration, hand-engraved patterns, each job signed by the engraver adjacent to the trigger-guard.
For anyone willing to visit Italy it is possible to get even more involved. Make a trip to the factory, on, say a Monday, to choose your walnut blank and be measured for a fit, then by Tuesday the gun will be ready to try on the clay layouts with a shaped, albeit unfinished, stock. To achieve that is no mean feat, but with a combination of modern computer-controlled machinery for the basic stock-work followed by hand-finishing, it can be done.
So what do you get with an SC3? Well, I have to allow for the fact that the gun on test was crafted for an individual with his own tastes and ideas of styling who was good enough to allow us to put his new pride and joy through its paces. Technically, however, it is a fairly typical example of a mid-range SC3, even allowing for all the possible variations available. First impressions were that it felt good strong without any clumsiness, firm yet quite pointable. Balancing just about on the fore-end knuckle, at a shade more than 8lb, it felt lighter than its weight would at first suggest. Open and close it and everything snicks into place. It is a gun that suggests quality of build from the first moment of handling. Even the sturdy, triple-locked, leather-trimmed case is an example of how a modern guncase should be made.
The lock-work is based on a true trigger plate action where everything except the safety button/barrel-selector is mounted on the plate carrying the trigger and guard. It is lock-work of delightful simplicity and fine craftsmanship with each main component carefully finished. Even the lock dowel pins, tucked away behind the stock and rarely to be seen, have domed highly polished ends much as you would find on bridle pins in a traditional sidelock.
To make a gun lock that appears so uncomplicated is actually quite difficult. Take the finely crafted inertia block as an example of thoughtful design: not only is it a particularly pleasing shape, but when in the forward position with both barrels fired, the travel is simply and neatly arrested by the mainspring guide block. Additionally small circular cut-outs in the raised sides of the trigger plate give little windows to access the sears for lubrication. Given such good quality and attention to detail, it was a little surprising to find that an automatic safety did not come as standard, but is listed as an optional extra. Admittedly, with this layout of the locks, fitting a good auto-safe is a little more complicated than with some other designs and we have a generation of shooters to whom a manual safety is not regarded as a disadvantage.
The SC3 sports a rather wide action, which has probably been done to impart good strength and rigidity – important factors with all guns, but sometimes overlooked. The barrels have bifurcated front lumps that engage in trunnions within the sides of the action body, while the rear lumps slide into recesses in the breech face for the bites to engage with the twin-lugged locking-bolt. Looking at the lumps from the side they have a remarkable similarity to those of a side-by-side and do a similar job, where they fit against mating projecting blocks on the inside of the action body wall. All the parts fit exceptionally well and these aspects of design do contribute towards a particularly strong action.
The 29.1/2; inch (75cm) monoblock barrels are well blacked with flawless bores and struck up neatly with squared-off corners and crisp edges. The ventilated rib has a fine chequered finish and carries a small foresight bead, but other options are available. The barrels taper quite quickly and this necessitates large extensions on the monoblock breech to span the action sides. Perazzi has managed to achieve this with rare elegance. When gauged, the bores were found to be exactly on the proof size and the fixed chokes measured a nominal .3/4; in the top barrel and .1/2; in the bottom. While, to some shooters, fixed chokes may seem old hat, they are actually no disadvantage if you have the gun tailored for a dedicated sport or discipline.
Optional oil finish
The overall finish is well done with good wood-to-metal fit and some nice styling. I especially like the deeply cutaway fences behind the top action face that curved down to follow a side panel line leaving a good area for engraving. Other attractive parts are the beautifully proportioned trigger-guard and the positive fore-end catch. The stock and fore-end wood were, of course, a personal choice, and one I could not fault, with fine hand-chequering laid out in a practical manner. The finish is lacquered, so weatherproof and hard-wearing, and while it in no way detracts from the beauty of the wood, the optional oil finish has the benefit of being easier to repair if damage should occur.
The crowning delight on a fairly large action like this is the engraving. The pattern on this gun is neatly laid out with good contrast and crispness. Far more exotic patterns are available, including sideplate guns that extend the scope for decoration.
A comfortable gun
Using the SC3 lived up to all my expectations. It threw very even patterns and the trigger pulls, both set at 3.1/4lb, snapped off without even a hint of creep. The safety button/barrel-selector also mirrored the philosophy of keeping the design simple and neat, and proved practical and precise in use. It swung smoothly; the curve of the semi-pistol grip and proportions of the fore-end suited my hands, so one was free to concentrate on the target without thinking about the gun. Altogether it was a comfortable gun, easy to carry over the arm with the wide action, confidence boosting in use and, of course, rather good looking, which is always an asset.
One disadvantage of the rising popularity of this personal service means that delivery times have been extended. A plain black action gun will take about three months, and for an example such as the gun on test, the importer quotes up to five months. Other options, such as a sideplate model can take up to six to seven months. Even as a dedicated side-by-side man, I felt attracted to the SC3, but if I was ordering one it would be done a little differently – but that is the benefit of a bespoke service.
For more information, contact Ruag (www.ruag.co.uk), D. J. Litts (www.litts.co.uk) or Perazzi (www.perazzi.com).
Maker: Armi Perazzi S.P.A. (Brescia-Italy)
Bore: 12-bore, 20-bore, 28-bore and .410
Barrel length: 26.3/4in to 29.1/2in
Chokes: screw-in or fixed
Stocks: straight-hand grip, semi-pistol grip, full-pistol grip
Importer: RUAG Ammotec UK Ltd