Shotguns to suit the various clay disciplines have evolved over recent years, and trends emerged in each.
The major makes and models are clearly recognisable, each having developed its own familiar format.
With numerous makers battling for that important lower-middle price bracket, in the sub-£2,000 market, competition is fierce and the choice of makes and models is considerable.
Increasingly, makers realised they must include extra features, or something special that is not readily available in the range offered by others.
That need to get noticed means consumers win, in the form of greater choice and more product for the money and guns with adjustable stocks and extra high ventilated top ribs have joined the ranks of more conventional styles of ‘sporters’ of late.
The once-thriving British gun industry has long been left floundering in the wake of overseas makers when it comes to well-specified guns in this price bracket. British guns exist, but no one offers a British-made gun either in volume or at prices that compete with Japanese, Turkish or Italian makers.
Gunmakers in those countries embraced CNC machining centres and expanded into CAD (Computer Aided Design) and more recently laser precision engraving, stock chequering and even laser precision measurement of components.
Many overseas countries are now so advanced in these new technologies, it’s unlikely Britain will ever catch them up, even though this country was at the forefront of emerging computer controlled technology over 30 years ago.
William Powell is a respected maker of fine English guns and continues its business for the more limited numbers of upmarket English side-by-side game guns. Being a gunmaker and having considerable knowledge of its market, with excellent retail outlets, William Powell decided it really should have an affordable over-and-under in its range.
The Perseus is undoubtedly a pretty gun, and drew admiring looks and positive comment from the moment I first drew it from the gun slip at a local clay shoot. The wood is of tight grain with some lovely figure, and is hand oil-finished to a high standard.
With fine-line laser chequering to enhance the Schnabel-tipped forend and semi-pistol grip stock, the Perseus is a looker, and one that will provide pride of ownership.
But looks are skin deep, so what of the mechanicals and construction? This could be described as simple and sound.
The action the Perseus is based on is the design used by a number of makers from the Gardone valley region of Brescia, Italy, so much so that it is frequently referred to as the Brescia-style action. It’s one we have seen on other makes of gun and has proven itself over many years, with each maker having developed its own small differences to the standard design.
William Powell chose B Rizzini to make the Perseus for it, to its precise specifications. This model is exclusively available through William Powell.
The Perseus action features tumblers (hammers) hinged from the bottom strap with the restraining sears hinged from the top strap and engaging with bents cut into the top surfaces of the tumblers.
A second ‘bent’ is cut behind the first so the tumbler will be arrested if a jolt should cause the sear to disengage from the first bent, if for example the gun is dropped. Safety bents are a desirable feature in any action of this type.
Sears are lifted out of engagement with the bents by a transfer bar (sear lifter) when the trigger is pulled. An inertia block re-sets the action to select the second barrel, so it is the recoil from the first shot that enables the second to be fired.
The tumblers are powered by coil springs positioned low in the action. All action components are of simple design so that they can be precisely and economically made.
The action body is machined from a steel forging and uses the twin trunnion in the front side walls as the method of hinging the barrels. These trunnion pins are of large diameter, and are replaceable. Following the Brescia design, the barrels are locked to the action by a wide, one-piece bottom bolt actuated by the top lever pivot bolt which is a sturdy and reliable mechanism.
The safety catch is mounted on the top strap and is automatically engaged as the top lever is operated to open the gun. The barrel selector is situated within the safety catch: note that this is pushed to the left for the bottom barrel to fire first (and right for top barrel first).
The Perseus barrel set is built on the monobloc principle, the two tubes brazed into a solid breech block that has the bite for the locking machined into it below the bottom barrel and the recesses for the trunnions to engage with machined in its forward edge.
The joint line of the upper tube to breech block is masked with a circle of light engraving. Permanently sprung ejectors are also set into the breech block, one on each side.
These are tripped by extensions to the twin cocking bars in the action floor and are re-cocked by a cam follower that engages with a cam slot machined into the action’s front inner side walls. The blacking of the barrels is competent, and that on the trigger guard is deep and lustrous.
The two tubes are joined by solid full-length side ribs, and a 7mm-wide raised and ventilated top rib with cross-filed anti-glare top surface fitted. It’s a compromise width between typical game gun width (6mm) and the wider ones typical of clay guns. The barrels are well bored and highly polished, with 70mm interchangeable choke tubes fitted.
The gun is proof marked as being bored to 18.3 mm (.720”) diameter, which is tighter than the ‘standard’ bore size (.729”). This goes against the increasing trend towards ‘over-bored’ barrels.
Though I was slightly surprised that it is .009” tighter than a standard 12-bore gun, the gun did not recoil heavily, which only served to reinforce my scepticism about the recoil-reducing properties of over-bored barrels. These tighter bores will definitely help obtain the best performance from felt and fibre wad-loaded cartridges, which are increasingly required at shoots.
The action sides are lightly engraved with tasteful foliate designs, and the underside is embellished with a very nice woodcock engraving. No gold inlays are applied; I feel this provides an attractive overall appearance, with the old silver not too brightly polished finish. Tasteful sums it up.
As mentioned, the walnut used is high quality and hand polished to a high-gloss oil finish that looks good and is easy to keep looking good.
The forend has a Schnabel tip, alluding to its sporting intentions; the central gripping portion is nicely full without being bulky, and provides plenty of options for the forward hand to be comfortably positioned.
The stock is unusual in that it has a semi-pistol grip (sometimes called a Prince of Wales). This gives a less upright wrist position than the tight, full pistol grip found on most competition guns today.
The butt pad is matching solid walnut, not a ventilated pad – it’s the ‘game’ side of the gun’s dual-purpose intentions shining through again.
Unfortunately some atrocious weather struck when it was testing time for the Perseus, with high winds causing quartering and crossing clay targets to buck or dive, bouncing along at times.
The balance point is just ahead of the hinge pin, so the nimble handling qualities of the Perseus were there to assist me, but being used to flatter-shooting guns, I missed over the top of several clays.
The Perseus is pleasant to shoot and remarkably smooth given its weight. I would prefer a shade more ‘drop’ put into the stock, to bring the patterns nearer to 60/40 per cent than the 75/25 they worked out for me.
I’m sure on a calmer day I would have soon settled in, but you have to take what comes. On rising teal that stalled then flew backward, and especially on fast incoming targets, I shot well with the Perseus – it would prove ideal for driven pheasant too.
The William Powell Perseus is not a Sporting clay shotgun for everyone. It’s not an out-and-out competition gun at all.
What it does offer is something different – a clay gun designed to have wider appeal and application. It is a gun that will suit those who shoot game and also like to shoot sporting clays.
The weight falls within the standard for game guns. It is fine with the moderately loaded clay competition cartridges, but is a shade light for 100-bird and above clay competition use, especially with ‘hotter’ fodder.
Recoil is well controlled, though, even with the wood butt plate and lighter weight, thanks to the nicely shaped stock and easy-to-hold forend with excellent chequering. Those taking their clay shooting more seriously would want the auto-safe feature deactivated too, something William Powell can easily carry out.
The high-shooting characteristics will prove useful on driven game, just as they will on incoming clays from the towers on sporting layouts.
It may well require time to familiarise yourself with it for the mixed type of sporting targets we encounter today. In its price range the Perseus has many competitors, but it offers a particularly attractive style and finish.
Maker: William Powell (B Rizzini)
Type: Over-and-under shotgun
Bore/Proof: 12 / 76 mm (3”) chambers (also offered in 20-bore)
Overall length: 47¾”
Barrel length: 30” (28” option)
Weight: 7lb 8oz
Trigger: Single selective (recoil operated)
Safety: Automatic (includes barrel selector)
Trigger pulls: 3lb 14oz (bottom) & 4lb 13oz (top)
Top rib: 7mm wide RVR
Chokes: Rizzini 70mm interchangeable (5 supplied)
Pull length: 371mm (14”)
Drop at comb: 35mm
Drop at heel: 53mm
Cast: 2mm/5mm (heel/toe)
UK distributor: William Powell