By Chuck Hawks
Here are some of my all-time favorite shotguns among the various scatterguns that I have owned at one time or another. Sadly, many nice shotguns have slipped through my hands when the urge to acquire something different become uncontrollable and funds were short (which was most of the time!). So I generally had to sell or trade one shotgun to acquire another. For whatever reason, the guns below are the ones I remember best.
Please note that the information about many of the guns below is from memory. It should not be taken as factory specification. Also, several of the guns below were altered by previous owners or by myself.
After I had compiled this list I realized that it was composed primarily of break-open, two-shoot guns of one sort or another. I have owned an assortment of repeaters and even a single barreled gun or two, but I guess it is mostly the doubles that caught, and retained, my fancy.
Action: Side by Side sidelock hammer double with dual under bolts plus a Greener top bolt.
Stock: Italian walnut, semi-pistol grip, splinter forend, after market recoil pad.
Features: Double triggers, plain extractors; a fully developed hammer gun with rebounding hammers.
Type: Field gun
Notes: This was my first double and my first fine shotgun, purchased during my Junior year in college. It was a very attractive gun. I got a good deal on it because, while it was otherwise in excellent condition, the previous owner had badly scratched the stock finish while fitting a recoil pad and it needed refinishing. I stripped the walnut and applied many coats of hand rubbed oil. The result, if I do say so myself, was striking.
I never shot the Bernardelli very well because I didn't know that I was supposed to see some rib with the gun at my shoulder. I tried to center the front bead on top of the receiver, as I had with the old American gun that the Bernardelli replaced, so I shot under everything. That old American gun had excessive drop at comb, which the Bernardelli did not. I traded the Bernardelli to a friend, who still has it. Live and learn.
Charles Boswell Pigeon Gun
Action: Side by Side bar action sidelock hammer double with dual under bolts plus doll's head top fastener.
Notes: This is my first and only "London best" gun. It is a beautiful bespoke gun from the late 19th Century, made a practical shooter by the Briley tubes. Thank goodness the British discovered proper stock design long before their American cousins.
The refinement of this 100+ year old Boswell is incredible. Its slender wrist has to be felt to be appreciated. Its petite 12 gauge frame is thinner than the 20 gauge frames of the Parker DHE and Charles Daly 20 gauge doubles that I used to own. Even with the Briley tubes, this gun weighs a few ounces less than did my 20 gauge Parker DHE, and balances on the hinge pin.
It is true that nothing handles quite like a true "best gun," and particularly a London Best. I was lucky to find this Boswell, which is in excellent condition, just before the price of Damascus barreled guns took off. This gun is semi-retired, but I have shot quite a number of clay targets with it and it is still fully functional. Look for an article about this gun on the Collector's Corner page.
Browning Citori Lightning, Grade I
Action: Over/Under boxlock with replaceable hinge pin and dual under bolts.
Notes: This is the Citori described in depth in the Citori shotgun review on the Product Review Page. At this writing it is my primary 12 gauge hunting gun.
Charles Daly Model 500
Action: Side by Side hammerless boxlock double with double under bolts.
Notes: I was shocked to discover that this little gun had chopper-lump barrels. Although not fancy, it is a very good field grade gun. A good friend of mine eventually talked me out of it and owns it to this day. It is his favorite shotgun. There is an article about this gun on the Product Review Page.
Action: Side by Side round action, hammerless, bar-action sidelock with double under bolt fasteners.
Notes: This fine shotgun is representative of modern Spanish (Basque) "best guns." It has become my "go to" shotgun. Among its many nice touches are its comfortable feel in the hand, frame correctly sized to the gauge, superb wood, fine line checkering, handsome Purdy type scroll engraving, good balance and overall fine workmanship. This gun is the subject of a complete review that can be found on the Product Review Page.
Remington Model 1100 Sporting 20 (LT)
Action: Autoloading repeater.
Notes: This shotgun is featured in the Model 1100 review on the Product Review Page. It is not the only repeater or the only autoloader that I have ever owned, but it is the only one that I have ever liked. I bought a 20 gauge gas operated autoloader for its low recoil, and specifically a Model 1100 because: (1) it fits me, and (2) it is the best looking semi-auto ever made.
Winchester Model 21 Trap Grade
Action: Side by Side hammerless boxlock double with single adjustable under bolt.
Notes: This shotgun is featured in the article "A Brief History of a Winchester Model 21," which can be found on the Shotgun Information Page. This is my current trap gun, and it is far better at the game than I am. I call it my "magic gun."
Copyright 2004, 2008 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.