The Sporter shotgun as a generic type has always been what people say it is.
Browning made the first stab at it in the 1970s by incorporating a Schnabel fore-end and a game stock with their target gun action and 28” barrels choked ¼ / ¾; that was a Sporter, a long-barrelled version followed soon after.
Beretta was the next manufacturer to go for this market, which was then predominantly in the UK. After a number of attempts and a lot of help from GMK they achieved an approximation of what was required.
Target gun design, as any other piece of sports equipment, is determined by the requirements of the game. Sporting clays invented by the British was for a long time a gun down discipline, the targets purporting to replicate the flight of various kinds of game bird and all this was reflected in the Sporter’s weight, balance and stock configuration.
The game has now moved on from there, the gun down rule has now been dropped both in Great Britain and most significantly in the USA, where the Americans have embraced Sporting clays, but as with any game they adapt it to their own ways of doing things. The Guerini Ellipse Evo Impact is a reflection of this trend on both sides of the Atlantic.
The round-bodied action is spectacularly good-looking, its graceful shape carries over to the top strap and the head of the stock, wood to metal fit is impeccable. The engraving design has an equally sumptuous appearance but by what process it was achieved I don’t know; never mind, it looks gorgeous.
The action may look pretty but its also substantial; 44mm wide, it’s built to take some hard wear. It is jointed to the barrels by way of a full-width tapered bolt that engages with a single bite in the barrel lumps, which abut another large bearing surface on the action’s floor plate.
Even by Guerini’s standards the Impact’s appearance is lavish; however, this is a serious target gun and one that takes Sporter gun design in a new direction.
The stock configuration is clearly designed to accommodate a pre-mounted gun technique. As regards this I’ve made a point of both observing and talking to a number of Sporting shooters. In their case the pre-mounted method differs significantly from the Trap shooter’s slow, deliberate placing of the gun in the shoulder and lowering the head forward onto the stock.
In contrast the butt stock usually begins just out of the shoulder but comes into it as the target is called for. The Impact’s stock resembles one for Trap shooting, however, because it has to support the shooter’s face through the whole process of his swing; with drop at heel of only 50mm and at the adjustable comb from 40mm up to 28mm, it will do just that.
The 75cm 29 ½ “ barrels are made to very high standards and well finished with a deep black, which resembles the traditional rusting process rather than the shiny appearance obtained with modern chemical processes.
With a bore size of 18.7mm, and a set of eight long detachable chokes ranging from true cylinder to full, I was particularly interested to see the kind of patterns this Guerini threw and just as importantly where they were placed because now we come to this Sporter’s least conventional feature, an adjustable ramped rib. At 10mm from the breech face it’s 15mm high and is adjustable for point of impact. This could not be simpler to achieve, at its lowest setting 95 per cent / 5 per cent high at 35 yards, insert the key at the front of the rib and with four turns it’s up to 60/40; do the same again it’s 65/35, repeat and it’s 70/30.
As I like to look slightly down the rib, even a ramped one, I set the barrels at 60/40 and raised the stock’s adjustable comb until the front bead sat on in this case the very useful centre bead. I strongly recommend anyone with a gun that provides these options to do as I did and use a pattern plate to satisfy yourself you have the POI you need.
Knowing exactly where the Guerini was printing its patterns, I could now get on and shoot it exactly as I would any other gun.
At nearly 8lbs 12oz the Impact is no lightweight, but the big action puts the weight between the hands where it should be, so the gun never felt unwieldy.
I was determined to shoot the Impact from a gun down position as I would with any Sporter and to help with this I put a rearward slope on the adjustable comb and with 30mm at the face and the 50mm at the heel I had in effect almost replicated my usual measurements.
It felt good in the clubhouse and I shot it well on the range. At Francis Lovel’s shooting ground the first target from the high tower simply dissolved and I hit a succession of singles and pairs, missing only the odd one as would happen with a conventional gun when briefly I would look back at the rib.
I made a special point of shooting at some dropping targets and some long rabbits. The benefits of the adjustable high rib and stock is of course you can use a higher comb line to see more of the target, but still maintain whatever point of impact as high or as low as you wish.
It works then and you can if you like, as I did, shoot the gun as effectively from the gun down position as you can with a pre-mounted technique.
The Impact, however, is hugely versatile and I see no reason at all why with the rib and stock properly set up it would not make an excellent Trap gun, but that must be left for another day and a further gun test.