Webley & Scott 3020 20-bore shotgun.
It used to be something of a game called counting the pins, and by this I mean the ends of those little screw pins that are visible in the lock plate of most sidelock guns.
When someone turned up on the shoot with such a gun enthusiasts would count the ends of the visible lock pins as it was firmly believed this was an indicator of quality.
It was also passing silent judgement on the owner?s new pride and joy.
Later, down the pub, this might be the basis of a discussion whether so-and-so had a good deal or not.
Such subtle techno-snobbery has always been part of the game shooting scene (and sometimes part of the fun).
With the Webley & Scott 3020 the owner would be on safe ground, as the blued and rounded ends of five screw pins are very evident.
Also, a gold-line cocking indicator on the tumbler pivot and the end of the peg on the mainspring are visible in the colour case-hardened lockplate.
For those ?pin counters? among us it is a bar lock with back-action mainspring and intercepting sear (or, to put it in simple terms, a good ?un).
An air of tradition
In spite of the fact that it is an over-and-under, the 3020 has a traditional feel about it.
It is worth noting that over-unders were used out on the gamefields just before World War I, so getting on for 100 years must, by now, qualify as something of a tradition.
It is the restrained decoration and styling that gives it this somehow familiar, slightly old-fashioned aura.
The glossy woodwork, very much the market norm, is absent and there are no gold birds festooned around the action body. This 3020 carries the sort of styling I prefer, though that is not necessarily to everyone?s taste.
In the handling department it is quite lively, as a 20-bore should be, even one like this that weighs in at a bare seven pounds with its 28in barrels.
The half-pistol grip, or bag grip, is slim and comfortably shaped, as is the fore-end, with its nicely reduced Snabel tip.
There is not quite as much drop across the stock as I might have expected, going from 1.5in at the tip of the comb to 2.1/4in at the heel, but certainly adequate when mated to the fairly deep action body.
A good degree of toe out, reasonable cast and a slim, slightly off-set comb are all factors of importance to good gun fit and comfort. This is all aided by the extensive chequering, cut fine enough to impress but still of a practical size.
SUBTLE STOCK PATTERNS
As for the walnut, both the butt-stock and matching fore-end wood are a weave of subtle patterns.
There is some dark veining and shadow patches, but it is the fiddleback that really catches the eye. It has a holographic effect as one turns the gun against the light.
This fiddleback almost disappears at some angles of viewing, then reappears with all the intensity of an autumn sunrise. It changes from pale gold to bronze, from a light straw to a dark reddish hue.
It is everywhere, from the chequered butt to the fore-end tip. What one tends to find with this sort of wood are hard and softer layers that can give a corrugated finish, but whoever worked on this gun managed to avoid that to get a nice, even finish.
The scrollwork around the action body, top-lever and trigger-guard is of simple form, but more than overshadowed by the colour case-hardening.
This has a wonderfully marbled effect like clouds in a stormy evening sky. It matches the walnut very well and blends in quite attractively against the glossy black barrels.
STEEL SHOT PROOFED
The gun is proofed in Birmingham for steel shot with 76mm chambers. The proof size is recorded as 15.9mm which is at the wider end of the 20-bore size range.
Screw-in chokes are fitted and, while only two were provided with the test gun, there is normally a range of five provided from cylinder to full choke.
They are of the flush-fitted type which looks very neat and more suitable for a game gun. They are marked along their length with the gauge, degree of choke and ?stars? that relate to the standard notch marking, so little is left to chance.
Without the lug cut-outs for a choke key they are of course screwed in and out with a tapered key, which is surprisingly effective.
Ventilated ribs are fitted with neat cut matting of the top-rib and a quite practical red foresight, though I feel a brass bead would have looked more the part.
Bores are chrome-lined, clean and shiny, with extensive jewelling around the monoblock.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
It was a pleasant day so I walked to the test ground alongside blossom-laden hedgerows with the gun broken over the crook of the arm.
After all, this is what one does a lot of the time when out shooting and it was not at all a burden.
Shooting it was pleasant – that little extra weight (for a 20-bore) convincingly taming the recoil of even some of the snappier game loaded cartridges I tried.
Trigger pulls proved crisp, if set just a touch on the heavy side, and the chequered trigger is a most pleasing bit of attention to detail.
A non-selective system, the first pull fires the bottom barrel and there is a mechanical changeover so, even in the event of a misfire, it will select the next barrel.
The ejectors tripped together and threw the cases cleanly away past the elbow.
On the pattern plate it threw the shot very central but a little high.
When taking a point of aim with the centre of the pattern sheet seeming to float just above the bead however, most shot was fairly evenly distributed within the outer circle.
The improved cylinder choke performed very well, producing an impressively even shot distribution.
The cylinder choke was a bit too open for most practical game shooting and a touch of choke is almost always beneficial in producing better patterns, especially in the smaller gauges carrying less shot.
The 3020 really has to be looked at in detail and taken out and used to appreciate its worth. It is not flashy by anyone?s standards, but the quality of the walnut, colour case-hardening, finish and fit are very good.
A hint more satin to the finish on the stock and an autosafe to complete the package, putting ?icing on the cake?, would have made this particular piece of walnut even more attractive, yet for anyone who wants a 20-bore sidelock over-under in the English style it is pretty close to the mark.