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FABARM -- This is easily one of the most innovative makers in the industry and this year they introduced these concepts:
  1. At about 6-1/4 pounds the Classic Lion Elite 12 gauge side-by-side with 26" or 28" TriBore™ System (final patent protection received this year) fixed choke barrels, English grip, double triggers and enhanced wood (see below) retail priced at $1,599.
  2. Enhanced Wood --With the price of high-grade wood going through the ceiling and hard to find in any quantity, alternate choices become attractive. It doesn’t make economic sense to put a $400 or $500 stick of wood on a $1,600 shotgun. FABARM starts with a piece of medium grade walnut, then transfers hand drawn accent lines from a transfer sheet, in such a way so that it enhances the natural appearance of the wood. Each pattern is different. The stock is then finished in the normal fashion. Even when I knew the wood I was looking at was enhanced, I could not detect any phoniness or painted-on appearance. If you are hooked on good wood, you are going to be a goner when you look at the Classic Lion Elite (above) or the Lion Paradox, which follows.
  3. The new Lion Paradox is an over/under with 12 or 20 gauge 24" barrels, the top barrel of which is a TriBore™ System barrel with screw-in chokes, while the bottom barrel has one-turn-in-1411 rifling in the last six inches of the barrel at the muzzle. I have seen the 15-yard test patterns comparing this Paradox barrel to straight cylinder bore. It provides a dense, even pattern superior in every way to cylinder. For short-range targets -- and grouse, woodcock, bobwhites and some sporting clays targets come to mind -- this new Lion Paradox is going to be big medicine. Other features include: 3" chambers in both 12 and 20 gauges, single selective trigger, some cast-off with palm-swell grip for right-handed shooters, an interesting interrupted raised rib, screw-in chokes for the top barrel, a smooth pad for easy mounting and the same, very nice enhanced wood described above. Suggested retail is $1,199.
When the legacies of Shotgun History are compiled, one of the more interesting footnotes will refer to the Paradox Gun Company. The chief distinction of this unusual side-by-side was polygon-shaped bores, capable of firing either "buck or ball" effectively. The system offered all the advantages of rifling. It imparted a spin to solid projectiles making the gun far more accurate than a smooth bore musket. It also acted as a "spreader" for shot.
Franchi -- Last year I rated the Franchi 28 gauge Veloce over/under as the #1 gun of the year. I didn’t get to test it until December, which only served to solidify my first impression. It is built on a 20 gauge alloy receiver with a steel reinforced breech face, so it weighed only 5 lb. 15 oz. Nicely figured walnut, with a bit of cast-off and plastic-cased with some accessories. A good value at the $1,380 suggested retail and a steal when discounted to under $1,100.

Ithaca Gun was not at the show, which may be a marketing decision to go Shooter Direct via their website. In any event, they offer a full line of extra barrels for their 12, 16 and 20 gauge Model 37 pump guns. Included are Vent Rib, Rifles and Smooth Bore barrels in various lengths along with camo options.

Merkel -- As a rule I give "Trophy" guns a wide berth at the show. Lily-gilding on a shotgun never grassed a bird. But if I had avoided the Merkel exhibit because of their four cased 28/410 side-by-side combinations priced at $5,795, $8,295, $11,995 and $12,995; I would have missed their new Model 162O, which is truly newsworthy. This features 16 gauge barrels mounted on a 20 gauge frame with double triggers. 28" barrels choked IC/M, English grip, the catalog weight is shown as 5.9 Ib. and retail priced at $3,695.

Remington -- had two items on display that required a closer look. The first was a 16 gauge Model 870. A nice gun with screw-in chokes, built on a 12 gauge frame. A very economical way to capitalize on the growing popularity of the 16 gauge.

HEVI*SHOT™ is the hot, new non-toxic pellet that waterfowlers are talking about -- and it is getting rave notices everywhere you look for being harder, faster, farther and friendlier (to the environment). Remington has the exclusive commercial license for this product in their Remington Premier® shotshell line. First caution: it can be used only in barrels specifically made for steel shot.

Then if you cut one of these shells open, you quickly discover that no two pellets are alike -- in either size or shape! Scandalous! Everything I thought I knew about, the importance of roundness and uniform pellet size/weight, apparently does not apply in this instance. So when the facts don’t conform to theory, I ascribe it to magic and move on.

Ruger Gold Label-- the all-new 6-1/3 lb. American made side-by-side, available with English straight grip (shown) or half-pistol grip. Retail priced at $1,950.

Ruger, with their all-new American side-by-side, was the star of the show. A lovely 6-1/3 lb. 12 gauge double with either straight or pistol grip, single selective trigger, screw-in chokes with five tubes (two of which are Skeet) and deserving of the name Ruger Gold Label. At $1,950, Ruger is going to have another winner on their hands. Lots of guys could be weaned from their repeaters with this one.

Weatherby has added Athena and Orion Spanish-made side-by-side models to their roster this year for your consideration. The higher grade Athena has nice Turkish wood, false, fully engraved sideplates, 3" chambers, single selective trigger, screw-in chokes, 26 or 28" barrels, straight grip and splinter forend in 12 and 20 gauge, weighing 6-3/4 - 7 lb. and retail priced at $1,549. The Orion is an engraved box lock with Prince of Wales grip, single trigger, semi-beavertail forend and offered in 12 and 20 gauge with 3" chambers and 26 or 28" barrels at $1,099.
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