New to clay shooting or a seasoned shot who fancies a new gun? Paul Pettengale selects six ‘entry-level’ shotguns that won’t break the budget
1. Beretta Silver Pigeon Sporting
Typical new price: £1,775
From: GMK www.gmk.co.uk
Typical second-hand price: £1,000 to £1,400
Pros: Excellent build quality, fine materials, Beretta name and reputation for reliability<
Cons: It may be a little too ‘field classic’ in looks for some shots
Based on the classic Beretta 686 design, the Silver Pigeon Sporting makes for an excellent budget firearm and is hugely popular with clay shooters who shoot a bit of game.
As you’d expect from Beretta, this gun may be comparatively inexpensive but the materials used and the levels of craftsmanship are excellent. The walnut stock might not have the lustre of more expensive shotguns but it by no means looks cheap, and the laser-edged scroll engraving is attractive and unfussy.
To our minds, the 30-inch, 12-bore barrel option has the greatest versatility and pointability – the barrels are chromed and suitable for use with steel shot, as you’d expect. There are second-hand bargains to be found if you search hard – guns that have fired just a few hundred rounds will be considerably cheaper than a box-fresh example – though make sure to buy from a reputable dealer and ensure the gun has been serviced regularly if over a year old.
2. Perazzi MX8
Typical new price: £9,000-£1,000
From: RUAG Ammotech
Typical second-hand price: £4,500 – if you can fine it! It’s very difficult to track down
Pros: With great balance and poise, it has a superb heritage and build that’s not commonly found
Cons: It’s expensive but you pay for what you get. It’s quite heavy – definitely not for use in the field
If you’ve already glanced at the retail price then you may have already switched off – but you shouldn’t. Perazzi burst onto the competition scene years ago and shots with the company’s guns have claimed almost every trophy you can imagine ever since. The brand has a fiercely loyal following – and for good reason. Perazzi firearms are made with precision and are as stylish as any Italian brand you care to mention, especially if you go for the bespoke engraving and stock wood options. They ooze class with the same lack of effort as they dust clays.
If you have the money, you can travel to the factory in Italy for a custom fit, which is worth doing if you’re shelling out for a gun of this quality. The MX8 is far from the most expensive of the company’s offerings and is ideally suited for Trap, though it can be tailored for other disciplines. At over 8lb, this is a firearm with sublime balance and so it won’t feel particularly tiring to use.
3. Miroku MK38 Teague Grade One
Typical new price: £1,700
From: Miroku www.miroku.eu
Typical second-hand price: £1,200 to £1,400
Pros: A very high quality gun at a competitive price. It’s attractive and reliable
Cons: It’s quite heavy at over 8lb
The MK38 from Miroku is renowned as a Trap gun and is the first choice for many in this discipline but the Teague-choked version opens up this very fine firearm to those of us who pursue other Sporting options.
Equally happy when choked for Skeet as it is DTL, the MK38 feels good on the shoulder and is relatively easy to fit. As you’d expect, it’s chambered for full-length, three-inch cartridges and has fully chromed barrels
for steel loads.
At just over 8lb, this isn’t a light gun but don’t let that put you off. It’s well balanced and not at all wearing, with the ten-millimetre ventilated rib helping to shift heat from prolonged use. You wouldn’t want to carry it around for a day’s worth of game hunting but that’s unlikely to be an issue for the vast majority of Clay Shooting readers.
With attractive scroll engraving and fine quality wood, this gun is a superb Sporting option as long as you have it fitted properly. The Trap version shoots high, which is to be avoided for other sporting disciplines.
4. Bettinsoli X Trail
Typical price new: £750
From: RUAG Ammotech
Typical price second-hand: £450 to £600
Pros: It’s a good-looking Italian gun, suitable for clay and game shooting, and great value for money
Cons: The woodcock engraving is a bit OTT for the Sporting shooter
This firearm harks from the Bettinsoli factory in Italy. The good-looking gun has a quality stock and attractive, though simple engraving. What marks the Bettinsoli X Trail out, however, is its price. For an Italian-crafted shotgun, this really is a steal – even when bought brand spanking new.
The monoblock-based barrels are proofed for steel and have a nicely tapered rib, again indicating the firearm’s dual clay and game purpose. At seven millimetres, the rib features a bright green sight point, which is a nod to its Sporting credentials. The tapered rib, starting at the stock end at ten millimetres, is a matter of preference but aids pointability and clarifies the target sight.
As standard, the X Trail comes with a Sporting-friendly manual safety – which can be adjusted to auto, should you wish – and the barrel switch operates on recoil. That said, it’s sensitive and shouldn’t cause you any problems when using 24g loads.
5. Browning B725 Sporter
Typical new price: £2,100
From: Browning International
Typical second-hand price: £1,600 to £1,800
Pros: A slim design for excellent handling, a crisp trigger pull and Browning build quality
Cons: It’s not cheap but, in our opinion, it’s worth the money
If a Beretta doesn’t take your fancy, then this Browning from 2012 is definitely worth a look. It was an all-new gun when it became available, superseding the popular 525 due to its shallower stock for greater manoeuvrability and general handling.
As with all Brownings, this is a strong, reliable firearm – damn near bombproof, in fact – so visits to the gunsmith should be few and far between no matter how many rounds you stick through it.
The trigger pull is particularly crisp, with wad and shot propelled through extended forcing cones and out via lightweight stainless steel Invector DS chokes. Recoil is nicely subdued, which is good news on several levels, including the fact that barrel switchover is automating rather than recoil-triggered.
This is a high-quality gun that will suit beginner and experienced shots alike. Attractive in an understated way, it is a classic gun that will fit in with any shooter’s portfolio.
6. Hatsan Optima Silver Select
Typical price new: £850
From: Edgar Brothers
Typical second-hand price: £450 to £600
Pros: It’s a cheap, reliable shotgun, ideal for all Sporting disciplines
Cons: It’s doesn’t have the kudos of a gun from a premium manufacturer but, frankly, who cares?
The Turkish company that burst onto the shooting scene in the mid-1970s has made a huge impact, producing solid, reliable shotguns at affordable prices. Its Escort shotguns have become the law enforcement firearms of choice in many countries.
But we’re not interested in the slug-slingers – we’re looking at the Optima Silver Select that makes for an ideal starter Sporting shotgun. The design is unfussy, the stock and forend wood are of a high quality, and the action is crisp and precise.
Chambered to three inches with barrel lengths of 26, 28 or 30 inches, this gun is steel-proofed and comes with five multichokes. To aid fit without visiting a gunsmith, the range comes with three Triopad stock spacers that you can self-fit to increase or reduce length of pull.
It’s not easy to buy a new shotgun that will offer you seriously competitive options for less than £1,000 but Hatsan has hit the nail on the head. It’s accurate, good looking, reliable and cheap. What’s not to love?