The Turkish Invasion: Shotguns for 2007 and Beyond
Americans can be a frugal lot. We always seem to want something for less than it is worth. The results of that are found in every gun shop across the country: we really dig the cheap stuff, evidenced by Chinese pump guns (H & R Pardner, ugh!) and the bastardization of once great names such as L. C. Smith.
We are suckers for brand names, horribly so. We really don't want to hear that "Winchester Muzzleloading" is a cobby CVA gun from Spain with a Winchester sticker on it, also printed in Spain. The very rough Russian imports (Baikal of Russia) somehow are more acceptable to us when they come in a RACI Holdings box, commonly known as Remington.
We really don't care to hear that our Weatherby Vanguards are Howa's, our Remingtons are Russian, and our H & R pumps are rice-burners. It is to the great discredit of the American consumer that we fail to support good American gun companies; all too often in favor of slave-labor manufactured fodder that comes in a familiar box so it doesn't hurt so bad.
We also really have the wrong idea about the size of gun manufacturers. Your typical Wal-Mart superstore has far more employees than any single consumer-oriented gun making facility I'm aware of. Gun makers are small businesses.
It is strange that we would support foreign companies from lands that have never had the pleasure of breathing free air with, of all things, our firearm purchases. We do it every day, though, with a blind eye towards the American gun industry, of which there are scant few sizeable, diverse companies that are both American and reputable: Savage, and Ruger being among them. The list grows abruptly shorter after that. It would be myopic not to give a nod to the international companies, such as The Herstal Group, that also manufacture in the United States.
(The same is true of American scope manufacturers, where Leupold is the sole survivor. A few smaller American gun makers, such as Colt, Marlin, Henry and Kimber, also produce guns most shooters can still afford. And you can read reviews of their products, along with Ruger and Savage, on the Product review Page. -Ed.)
In any case, Turkey is becoming prominent in the shotgun world. Huglu and Kahn have been around for a while now. They make the CZ double guns and Mossberg Silver Reserves, respectively.
Smith & Wesson, now that they have apparently distanced themselves from their little Clinton Administration gun betrayal, has announced that they are importing a full line of shotguns from Turkey. It wasn't that long ago that the chairman of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., shamefully the nation's second-largest gun manufacturer, resigned after it was disclosed that James J. Minder spent time in prison in the 1950s and '60s for an armed-robbery spree and an attempted prison escape. As reported by the Arizona Republic, Mr. Minder spent 15 years in Michigan prisons for his crimes and ultimately confessed to eight armed robberies. Surely Smith & Wesson could have done better? It is the track record of Smith & Wesson, kindly referred to as "uneven," that should give cause for pause with their newly invented shotgun prowess.
What Turkey has is remarkably cheap labor rates, and reasonable metallurgy. Mark DeHann, who imports Huglus, tweaks them a bit, and then offers them to the consumer as DeHann Shotguns, notes that his barrels are bored solid bar, inner side plated with durable hard white chrome, outer side plated with black chrome. Receivers are machined from a solid block of steel material, black or white chrome plated. All engraving is done by hand using the traditional hammer-and-chisel method. According to TS 870 Standard, each barrel is tested to a pressure of 1200 kgf/cm2. Steel used to manufacture shotguns is chrome-moly produced by ASIL CELIK.
Cheap double guns and quality has always been an oxymoron. It is the very labor intensive hand fitting, test firing, precise barrel regulation, and close tolerances along with costly "real" aesthetics that make truly hand-worked double guns more than worth the high cost to those that can appreciate skilled craftsmen and long hours of fitting that can only be done by hand. Complete quality control costs a lot of money; the rejected parts are something we never see.
The CZ "Ringneck" side-by-side has been reviewed here on Guns & Shooting Online, and a DeHann U2 16 gauge over-under is forthcoming. Watching the Turkish guns over the years, the metal used has been adequate-with the real turn-off revealing itself in the all too often clumsy assembly.
The CZ had a few turn-offs, too. The cheap looking chemical faux case coloring, and the horridly heavy triggers being the two most obvious. Mark DeHann has earned a good reputation in the industry, so we will see how his personal specifications and personal tuning of Huglu product results.
We can all expect a new influx of Turkish shotguns. With no EPA presence in Turkey, black-chromed barrels are standard fare. Properly done, it is stunning; poorly done, well, any can of Rustoleum is more durable. Like the paint on automobiles, it is surface preparation (again, costly) that makes all the difference in the world.
Turkey offers the possibility of good wood, durable finishes, and strong metal. The past has given us mis-machined parts, ghastly triggers, and sub-standard springs. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
One day, perhaps the country of origin will no longer mask the "good and the bad." By that, the assumption has been made that Belgian product is always good, British stuff is always good, Spanish stuff is always bad, and so forth. The more learned students of gun-making long ago understood that brand names and country of origin used as broad paint brushes to characterize product is quite foolish. We all know that the Japanese are not clever enough to build a proper automobile. As for the many little plants in Turkey, expect a mixed bag. It will take a little investigation to separate the wheat from the considerable chaff.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.