Charles Smith-Jones admires the Japanese craftsmanship in the Nikko 5000 series, which was popular on the clay circuit
The Nikko Firearms Company is a subsidiary of the Kodensha Company, once a major manufacturer within the Japanese firearms industry. It operated out of the Tochigi prefecture about a hundred miles north of Tokyo, where Nikko is a major town that is not only a popular tourist destination but also an important manufacturing district. This explains several trade names for products that are not necessarily related to this particular one.
Origins of Nikko 5000 series
Kodensha started manufacturing or distributing under the Nikko name during the mid-1950s. Part of the attraction for using it probably lay in an old Japanese saying, which translates “as never say ‘kekko’ [I am satisfied] until you’ve seen Nikko”, reflecting the beauty of the area. The company exported extensively to the USA and also traded as Golden Eagle Firearms; the eagle motif figures heavily on many of its products.
The Nikko 5000 series range of shotguns entered production in 1975, a run that lasted for about seven years. The last ones to be imported to the UK came into the country in 1982. At the time they were popular on the clay circuit and, being well made, are still very much in evidence today. There were field, trap and skeet versions offered in three grades, but all generally had fixed chokes, a chequered pistol grip stock and a semi-beavertail fore-end as standard. As a general rule the initial run of guns had white receivers, while those made after 1976 were blued. The Grade IIs came with a better quality of wood, a higher level of engraving and a ‘screaming eagle’ inlaid in gold.
The top of the line Grade III was labelled ‘Grandee’ and featured sideplates engraved with a game scene, with scrolling on the frame and barrels and a Monte Carlo comb on the stock. All of the models had a ventilated rib, which was noticeably wide on the skeet and trap models at 11mm and may not suit all tastes.
Opinions vary about the recoil. Some commentators consider it to be a soft-shooting gun but others have remarked on the kick being a little harsh. If this is the case, fitting a modern recoil pad or restricting loads is an easy way of overcoming this.
The Winchester 101, which itself certainly carries a reputation for kicking, was also built by Kodensha in partnership with Winchester. While the two guns may not be identical, they carry many similarities and reflect the same construction values, although the quality of Nikko engraving and woodwork is generally considered to be higher than that of Winchester.
Barrel lengths tended to reflect the intended use of a model: the field had options of 26in, 28in or 30in barrels; the skeet 26in or 28in; the trap 30in or 32in. All the 5000s came with a single selective trigger built on a reliable mechanism. The chokes are almost invariably fixed, which might render a gun less attractive to some, although many shooters outside the more competitive side of the sport would probably be quite happy to use the same unalterable arrangement for general purposes. A quick check with a choke gauge will show which combination on offer is likely to work for you. It is rare to come across a multichoke gun in this range.
Any 5000 you come across will be around 40 years old and, if it was purchased for clay shooting, may have seen a good number of cartridges through it.
A careful inspection is always recommended when considering any pre-owned gun and in this case it’s worth paying special attention to the ejectors, which had a tendency to splay over long periods of heavy use and could end up overriding the cartridge heads.
Spare parts in general are by now unlikely to be readily available and might present an issue although, of course, a good gunsmith will usually be able to fix most problems by machining what is needed.
The Nikko 5000 series handled well and, in common with so many other Japanese marques of this era, carried a reputation for being well constructed and robust. You are unlikely to have to pay silly money for one and there are certainly some great bargains to be found.
- Configuration: Over-and-under
- Action: Boxlock
- Choke: Fixed or multi (rare)
- Chamber: 2¾ or 3in
- Barrel length: 26in to 32in
- Ejector/non-ejector: Ejector
- Trigger: Single selective
- Safety catch: Manual or automatic
- Weight 20-bore: 7lb 4oz; 12-bore: around 8lb,
depending on barrel length
- Available in calibres: 12- or 20-bore
- Cost new: N/A
- Cost used: From around £350, depending on grade and condition