2005 SHOT Show Report by Bill Hanus
and views of what's happening in the shotgun business and how it affects the bird hunter
The underlying theme of this year's annual exposition in Las Vegas is the continuing decline of the dollar's value against the Euro and the increase in commodity prices. Lead costs, the principle ingredient in shotshells, have skyrocketed. The net-net to bird hunters is that shotguns and shotshells from Common Market countries, mainly Spain, Germany and Italy, will probably cost more in 2005 than in 2004. But on the other hand, shotgun makers from around the world have reached into their bag of tricks and introduced half-a-dozen side-by-side models, with retail prices under $1,500, that will appeal to the bird hunter with budget constraints.
Aguierre y Aranzabal - the MSRP of AYA's popular Model 4/53 boxlock increased to $2,795, annual production restricted to 150 units. The Bill Hanus Birdgun, which had been based on the Model 4/53, has been discontinued. Sidelock prices for 2005 are: Model 2 $4,395, Model 2 Round Action $4,595 and the Model 53 $5,695.
BSA - Birmingham Small Arms - enjoys an old-line English name, but offers a variety of shotguns, including a 16 gauge semi-auto from Turkey and a pair of doubles from Zabala Hermanos of Spain (who made side-by-sides for Weatherby last year) which include the Royal Model (a boxlock with false sideplates) in 12 and 20 gauge with single selective trigger and 26" or 28" with Beretta-threaded screw-in chokes at $1,499; plus a double trigger side-by-side Classic model in 12-16-20-28-410 at $1,299. Note that Beretta-threading accepts Briley's exciting new Diffusion™ spreader choke, enhancing the short-range capabilities of the Royal's 12 and 20 gauge models.
Baschieri & Pellagri - B&P, the great Italian ammunition maker, is back on the US market. And just in the nick of time, too. I used my last two boxes of their F2 Classic 16 gauge shotshells with No. 8 shot to harvest 30 pheasants and half-a-dozen quail on my last trip to Nebraska. B&P is one of the very few makers who offer a No. 9 shot loading in 16 gauge and their No. 7 (as opposed to No. 7-1/2) shot is big medicine on barn pigeons and the second barrel on pointed pheasants. The new US distributor for B&P is Kaltron-Pettibone and you can order this nifty low pressure (which translates into less recoil, better patterns with less deformed shot) ammunition by phone or online.
Browning is discontinuing the manufacturing of 16 gauge guns. This doesn't mean that there won't be a special run for some occasion, or sponsor, but the 16 gauge will not be a catalogued item in Browning's catalogue. Browning's newly introduced Cynergy line adds 20 and 28 gauge models; the engraving embellishments on the Grade VI Citori has been changed; and several now alloy-receiver (Feather = lightweight) models appear in the Citori lineup, certain to attract buyers' eyes. Note that the rule of thumb concerning recoil is that it takes six pounds of gun to absorb the recoil generated by putting one ounce out the muzzle. Citori Feathers are a joy to chase birds with; but putting fifty rounds through the gun on a sporting clays range is another story. Since all the weight comes out of the butt end of the gun, the balance shifts towards the muzzle. This is a plus for pass shooting on ducks and doves, but you should try both 26" and 28" barrel weights before you buy.
CZ-USA - the world class Czech Republic maker of pistols and rifles has added shotguns to their portfolio by becoming the exclusive US distributor for Huglu, the primary producer of shotguns in Turkey. But equally important, they've added the people who are capable of translating the American birdhunters' needs to the CDC equipment in Turkey, as this quote from their catalog attests:
. . . upland bird hunting in America is normally taken over a pointing dog at the flush. Whether ruff grouse from thick New England cover or bobwhite in the Georgia pine, American upland game shooting is as often as not the quintessential snap-shot.
Although the CZ Ringneck model is priced more like an "entry level" side-by-side (the MSRP for 12 and 20 gauge guns is only $869, while the 28's and .410's are $1,045) they possess a degree of design sophistication not commonly associated with low-cost doubles. They are built on frames proportionate to the gauge with a Prince of Wales grip, single trigger and five chokes tubes: C-IC-M-IM-F in 12, 20 and 28 gauges (.410 is IC/M fixed). Stock dimensions are 1-1/2" x 2-1/4" x 14-1/2" with about 1/4" cast-off to a rubber pad. The pad has a hard-plastic horseshoe at the top that slides on a sweater or hunting jacket instead of hanging up like a lot of plain rubber pads do.
The specially designed forearm deserves mention. Most American shooters have a terrible time coping with a 7" splinter forend. It encourages shooting with a short left arm, a recipe for missed birds. CZ put a 9-1/2" modified semi-beavertail with a little Schnable tip on the Pheasant model, which positions the left hand to be were it ought to be. Nice touch. The raised rib does a good job in picking up the target and it's not ventilated, so you won't have to pick weed seeds when you get home. Top it all off with 3" chambers (not on 28 gauge), choice of 26" or 28" barrel lengths, case-colored and lightly engraved false sideplates, good wood to metal fit and side clips. These guns have extractors, not ejectors. Content yourself by making this small contribution to the environment by putting those empties back in your pocket.
FABARM has jumped the traces, leaving Heckler Koch and joining SIG Arms, replacing the Rizzini line there. Fabarm is well known for their TRIBORE® system, which combines the blessings of back boring with over-boring to produce superior patterns. Now they've added new ideas is choke tube design and construction, which appears to be cutting edge stuff.