Shane Robinson tests the William Evans St James, a gun that is simply top drawer - well designed, well manufactured and well executed
It had been a while since I have been asked to look at what I term “top-end”, so when the boss asked me to take a look at the William Evans “St James” I couldn’t wait to get a closer look. The following week I was pleased to see a parcel with a William Evans sticker arrive through the door.
A true English maker
William Evans has been building shotguns and rifles since 1883. A true English maker that has managed to survive the test of time when many old classic names have seemed to disappear, which is good to see. Over recent years, as a company, it has worked in conjunction with several other manufacturers to produce some really nice results. Combining English finish and specification with Italian style works really well on this gun in my opinion. In conjunction with renowned Italian maker Perazzi (who has been making World and Olympic champion guns for decades), William Evans has created a gun that is useable, practical, high quality and relatively affordable in the grand scheme of things.
William Evans St James
The St James is simply top quality with top specs added. The bespoke element allows you, as a shooter, to build the gun to suit your exact requirements and tastes. It’s not cheap at £17,500-plus, but when you buy this gun you’re paying for top quality everything! Wood, metal, machinery and, most importantly, handmade and engraved. Let’s face it, there are plenty of makers out there charging a lot more money for a lot less product!
- The first thing I noticed when I opened the case was the Prince of Wales pistol grip on the stock.
- The stock and fore-end were a beautifully matched piece of Turkish walnut.
- Plenty of figure as you should expect from a gun like this.
- Finished as well on the inside as it was on the outside.
- I liked the rounded fore-end a lot, it’s something not often seen, but was really well-finished.
- There was quite a lot of right-hand caste, which threw me a little being left-handed, but in the right shoulder it lined up perfectly.
- There was no palm swell at all which was nice – feeling the swell on the wrong hand can throw me off at times.
- The wood-to-metal fit on the furniture was outstanding all round.
- Internal woodworking was beautifully finished = as you would expect from a bespoke gun such as this.
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Made to order
The 32in barrels were perfectly struck and finished, again, as you’d expect on a gun of this spec. Although the model I was sent was fixed choke, which is the standard option, there is an option to have Teague multi-chokes fitted to the barrels at point of order. There are also other options such as stock type, grip type, barrel length and rib style to name a few. I found the tapered rib worked well for me and lined up nicely to the brass bead foresight.
The action, like the rest of the gun, was beautifully engineered. I just hope my pictures do it justice. Every piece of metal was perfectly made and finished. Based on the original MX8 action, Perazzi has made a few adaptions to make this action with non-detachable locks so it can be made thinner, lighter and stronger, which is a major plus in a game gun. Keeping things as light and as pointable as possible.
I have to say that even with 32in barrels the gun was really responsive and didn’t feel anywhere near its advertised 8lb 3oz weight. It behaved itself on the clay ground and I shot really well with it. The balance was perfect for me and the inertia action worked well on loads from 21g all the way through to some heavier 36g 4s I had knocking about. The recoil was more than comfortable, though I’m not sure I would want to do a 400-bird day with 36g 4s.
External beautifully hand-engraved and signed scrollwork set off the gun perfectly. I’m not normally a fan of heavy scroll, but when it’s done this well it can’t be beaten. I really struggled to say anything other than good things about the gun.
Scores on the doors
Build quality: 25/25
Value for money: 23/25
Price: From £17,500, depending on specification
Order time: approx 12 months
I really struggled to say anything other than good things about the gun.