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Big News In Small Gauge And Lightweight Shotguns

by Bill Hanus

First look at some of the new lightweight 12 gauge doubles previewed at the SHOT Show Las Vegas, NV February 1-5, 2002.

It seems like only yesterday that the echoing theme of the SHOT Show was Thunder Over The Marshlands as gun makers saluted waterfowlers with massed 3-1/2" magnums. But at SHOT Show ’02 -- the shooting industry’s annual trade show -- gun makers were on a well deserved diet, as excess pounds and ounces were shed to offer upland hunters good quality, moderately priced, lightweight (under 7 pounds) 12 gauge side-by-side beauties.

Aguierre y Aranzabal (AYA) -- AYA derives a major chunk of their business from England and their guns are the largest selling side-by-sides in the U.K. The British market is, as you might guess, a pretty sophisticated one as far as double guns are concerned. AYA’s leading models there are their No.2 sidelock and their Model 4/53 box lock (from which the small gauge Bill Hanus Birdgun is derived).

AYA’s lightweight 12 gauge Model 4/53 has 2-3/4" chambers, double triggers, fixed chokes a retail price of $2,025 and weighs about 6 Ib. 10 oz.

If you are thinking about buying your first side-by-side . . .

Keep in mind that most European side-by-sides have some cast-off, meaning the butt stock is bent a bit to the right. This is considered to be an advantage to right-handed (and right-eyed) shooters on fast, instinctive shots. Some, but not all, makers offer cast-on stocks for left-handed (and left-eyed) shooters, sometimes at added cost. Most American shotguns are cast-neutral.

An easy way to identify cast on a side-by-side is to sight down the underside of the barrels, using the "U" between the barrels at the muzzle as the rear sight and the trigger guard as the front sight. If the toe of the butt stock is to the right of the front sight, you have cast-off.

V. Bernardelli -- The old and well-liked doubles for which Bernardelli that were justly famous were back at the SHOT Show this year, while the new owners trolled for distributors to handle the line. No prices, of course, but it was nice to see and handle the old Model S. Uberto 2, the Roma series and the Hemingway, which at 6 lb. 4 oz. was part of its appeal.

Bismuth -- With hunting areas requiring the use of non-toxic ammunition increasing, it’s worth noting that Bismuth is the only source for non-toxic 28 gauge shotshells. Bismuth pellets are compatible for all shotguns with any choke configuration. Bismuth No- Tox pellets are available for reloading in shot sizes BB, 2, 4,5, 6 and #7-1/2. Bismuth is right next to lead on the periodic table, so it’s nearly as dense and, of course, much heavier than steel.

Browning -- While most of the crowd was oohing and aahing over the new Citori 525 over/unders (very nice wood, trigger shoes that adjust to the length of the trigger finger by 1/8" fore or aft and a pronounced pistol grip), the real news was the introduction of the Citori Superlight Feather. This English style over/under has a straight grip stock with Schnabel forearm, lightweight alloy receiver with dovetailed steel breech face and weighs only 6 lb. 4 oz. in 12 gauge, 5 lb. 11 oz. in 20 gauge and Bill Hicks has special-ordered some in 16 gauge for me weighing 6 lb. 2 oz. These Superlight Feathers have single triggers, screw-in chokes (IC-M-F) and retail priced at $1 ,800.

Browning has brought back the Zero-Halliburton alloy gun cases in four sizes. These are the finest aluminum gun cases made and are priced in the $300-$400 range. A Cordura padded cover adds about $60.
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