If you hanker for a side-by-side, this little gun has an appealing legy elegance, says Lewis Potter
The story of the 28-bore shotgun is long and convoluted but it is sufficient to say that not many years ago we seemed to be on the verge of losing it altogether. It had become a rara avis, with sightings few and far between and ammunition scarce. This defied logic, as the 28-bore is really the smallest practical light-weight for general gameshooting and, with the lighter loads, makes an excellent vermin gun.
Quite what turned around its fortunes is hard to define, but it is back in fashion and makers have responded with a variety of models. Most are over-and-unders, which is understandable as this is now the most popular form of shotgun, but a few new offerings are side-by-sides. The Rizzini on test is not only a round-bodied side-by-side but is especially interesting as it incorporated several features that will be familiar to the over-and-under shooter.
First impressions were of a dinky, slim, light and attractive gun. Such a flush of adjectives deserves a rather more comprehensive explanation, so here it goes. For anyone used to a 12-bore this Rizzini 28 bore is going to seem dinky, but it actually manages to be a man-sized gun with a good length of pull at 14¼in and a decent size of pistol grip, which is cunningly shaped to feel comfortable with a variety of different hands.
The small action body and 29in barrels will always appear slim, but it has a kind of legy elegance that manages to look “just right”. This slimness is, of course, indicative of a light gun and this is borne out on my scales, weighing just over 5¾lb.
As for the overall looks, the walnut is pleasing and sports a fair amount of dark veining, the chequering neat and traditionally laid out, and the barrels are a beautiful glossy black. However, it is the decoration that draws the eye: the action body and around the ball fences are covered in a bold foliate pattern that extends down the top strap. Less obvious, due to the matt silk black finish of the parts, is similar decorative work on the fore-end knuckle, trigger-guard and toplever. Even the curve of the single trigger that matches the bow of the trigger-guard adds something to the attractive lines of this lightweight Rizzini.
It does not really end there because, while this is an “off the shelf” model, it can be built to the customer’s specification. So, choice of stock wood, dimensions, barrel lengths, fixed or multi-chokes, type of top rib and so on can all be chosen, at extra cost, to produce a truly bespoke shotgun.
Lightweight guns will always tend to be fast-handling but, as with any gun, much depends upon the balance. This Round Body Rizzini is a fast-handling gun but still stable and smooth to bring on target. This is partly due to the balance point being ½in in front of the cross pin (hinge pin), which adds a positive feel to the barrels without in any way feeling clumsy.
The stock dimensions suited me even in winter clothing on a cold day. Carrying this 28-bore was a doddle, though I had to abandon the 4×4 and take a longer walk to the pattern plate than normal due to a flytipper having blocked the lane. In a gunslip or carried broken over the arm, this gun would never be a burden.
One of the clever features that could appeal to any over-and-under user fancying a change is the familiarity of a pistol-grip stock, single trigger and barrel selection via the safety button. This features the commonly used dot markings; in this case one dot represents right barrel first, two
dots the left. Add to that the flexibility of multi-chokes and there is a combination for almost every occasion. The dedicated gameshooter will also appreciate the short, crisp movement of the safety button, which is of the auto-safe type.
Internally, the lockwork is akin to many over-and-unders with helical mainsprings and inertia selection of the second barrel. It even has the sears hanging from the top strap and a through-bolt holding the stock in place. With all this inside, the top strap is not too wide and the head of the stock is nicely proportioned, which is a credit to the neat t of the lock parts. These components are also well nished, which is indicative of the same sort of attention to detail given to the rest of the gun.
Rizzini 28 bore on test
The test day was cold, misty and gloomy, with the kind of atmosphere that deadens the sound of a gunshot. The report of the 28-bore, not especially noisy at the best of times, was muted to the point where, if there were close neighbours, it would be inoffensive. With both my eyes open, it shot to point of aim on the pattern sheets. I make that point because, even as a right-handed shot, I have a slightly dominant left eye, and with visibly bulky barrels or the superimposed barrels of an over-and-under, I naturally tend to shoot to the left. The slim vertical pro le of this 28-bore, plus a reasonable amount of cast, made a positive difference to my aim.
Cartridges used on test included Eley VIP Game 24g, Hull High Pheasant 23g, Lyalvale Express High Velocity 21g and 14g loads. Recoil with any of those loads proved to be modest, even in this light gun, and the Lyalvale Express 14g load would be a good choice out squirrelling with the Rizzini. The Hull High Pheasant and Eley VIP with respectively 23g and 24g loads put the 28-bore into 20-bore territory. Those proved to be two cartridges that suited this particular gun with the 21g Lyalvale Express close on their heels.
On the basis that one needs a bit more choke with a small-bore gun to get a reasonable pattern density, I tried first a combination of quarter- and half-chokes but finished up with half and three quarters to give that bit of extra reach with effective pattern density.
Everything worked well, with crisp trigger-pulls, well-timed ejection of red cases and good primer strikes. The safety button is both a pleasing and practical shape and of the kind of action that can be just flicked off with the thumb without conscious thought.
Built using modern technology and incorporating up-to-date lock work, it still manages to retain an air of tradition and proves that, whatever the fashion dictates, the side-by-side can still be a joy to use.