The Silma name may be less well known today, but the company has sold plenty of guns into the UK over the past 55 years. It makes shotguns in a range of brackets but is best known in these Isles at the lower end of the price scale. In this highly competitive area, the choice among brands and models ensures all makers must be on top of their game. With several international market areas seeing a downturn, life has become tougher still and, as the recent closure of the Lanber plant in Spain clearly shows, only the fittest can survive such times. Ardee Sports believes Silma is the ideal gun to fill the gap Lanber has left in the market. The market is certainly there for a decent gun in this competitive area, if it has the right credentials.
One way to get noticed is to be different. The Silma M80 stands out in several ways. It offers genuine options that differentiate from other competing models. But before discussing those differences in too much detail, let’s look at the M80’s overall specifications.
This is Silma’s entry-level competition clay gun, the review model being in Sporting clay configuration. Styling is conventional enough with Sporter-style stock that has a close-radius pistol grip and a 10mm-wide raised and ventilated top rib on the 30in barrels. The barrel tubes have been well struck off and highly polished prior to blacking, providing a good looking, deep gloss blacked finish. The trigger guard is highly polished contrasting nicely against the matt nitride type finish of the action body.
The barrels are of monobloc construction with a nicely machined breech unit with the recess for the locking wedge machined under the bottom barrel. Strength is assured by twin bifurcated lumps that extend downward to engage in slots machined into the receiver. A wide, flat, tapered locking bolt emerges through the breech face base to engage in the barrel slot, operated by a conventional lever on the top tang. The receiver is made from a steel forging and is neatly machined for an excellent fit. The barrels hinge on large side trunnions in the receiver walls. These are of hardened steel and replaceable. The outer ends, visible on the receiver outer faces, are polished to provide another nice contrast with the receiver.
The latching fitments and forend iron are all machined from steel, with the latter featuring sturdy spring-powered ejectors with lever trips. These operate efficiently and look as though they should provide long and reliable service.
Engraving is plain, simple and perfectly adequate. This is a clay gun and the semi-circular swirls emanating from around the highly polished hinge pin trunnions alludes to clays in flight – sensible adornment that adds to the visual appeal without adding undue cost. Clay shooters will prefer what the money saved has been spent on.
The barrels are bored to the standard 18.3mm bore diameter and sensibly chambered for 2in cartridges. Cones are of conventional shorter length. As this gun is likely to be chosen by more shooters seeking a nice Sporter to get into clay shooting on a casual or club level basis, rather than more serious competition the grounds are most likely to include a high proportion where fibre-wad load ammunition is required. In my experience, those guns with chambers to suit standard length clay ammunition (70mm), not over-bored and without elongated forcing cones, tend to get the best out of fibre-wad ammunition. Long chambers, extended forcing cones and over-bored barrels can lead to some additional gas blow-by, causing leading and fouling to build up in the barrels, which can prove harder to clean and may even affect patterns. I personally view this 70mm chamber/standard bore diameter arrangement as a good one for the type of use envisaged.
The barrels take Silma internal choke tubes: five are supplied along with a good wrench for inserting and removing them. Once properly installed, choke tubes showed no signs of loosening in use.
The wood is plain, as expected in any gun of modest price, but will improve with occasional application of a good gun stock oil. The chequering is laser applied with the diamonds not quite precisely formed, but neat enough, performing the task of providing a gripping surface well. The forend is of a modified Schnabel form, with a less pronounced beak at the tip, a more modern approach. One Browning user tried the gun and shot well with it, only commenting that he preferred the thicker forend of his Browning – a personal comment within a positive response. The same shooter compared it to another well known brand at a slightly higher price: “this Silma blows it out of the water.”
The overall feel is surprisingly good with its balance about 20mm ahead of the hinge pin, which isn’t unusual in a 30in sporter. Upon taking a shooting stance with the M80, the fact it has a good palm swell becomes evident.
A look inside the action reveals a design arrangement that is possibly a little more difficult for gunsmiths to assemble, but the components can result in a more crisp and lighter trigger pulls. These attributes are often factors that set inexpensive guns apart from those costing much more. The difference here is that the tumblers (hammers) have their sears and bents at the base of the action, operating on the bottom of the tumblers instead of the top, and hence are closer to the tumbler’s pivot point. This also gives a shorter distance from the trigger to the release point compared with overhead sears. The trigger pulls are light with just a small amount of free play, setting a standard for trigger pulls on a modestly priced gun.
The barrel selector is in the rear of the nicely shaped trigger. Barrel selection is made with the action closed according to the slightly unclear English used in the user manual. I made my selection on the stand with the gun closed and had no problems, using the selector to save swapping chokes on several occasions.
The points of impact of each barrel on the pattern plate at 20 yars were thrown exactly in line and just slightly above my aim point. The M80 passed one of those indicators for me, that of how quickly I can ‘settle in’, with flying colours. I arrived at Park Farm just as the last detail on a murky day was getting under way on the Compak Sporting layout. I dashed onto the line and, never having fired this gun before or shot on this recently relocated layout, proceeded to shoot a 19ex-25 for top score of the line. It was nothing amazing, but given the conditions and circumstances, it told me a lot about the M80’s handling.
A subsequent visit to a Sporting shoot with gusting winds interrupted by heavy downpours, the M80 put in a tidy 41ex-50. I was pleased and the handling proved excellent. Several shooters were sufficiently attracted to the Silma to ask to try it and they went off to shoot a stand or two. Each had positive things to say about it, one even fancied buying one from his brief trial.
This is an entry-level gun but well thought out, with useful features and great trigger pulls too. It is light enough for easy handling but heavy enough to control recoil. If the reaction I got is repeated elsewhere then Silma could well become a name that is once again more widely known among clay shooters. It certainly deserves to be.
Model: M80 Sporter M/C
Action: O/U boxlock SST
Barrel length: 30in
Gauge / chamber: 12g /70mm
Overall length: 47½in
Pull length: 14⅝in
Weight: 7lbs-12oz (3.52Kg)
Trigger pulls-Bottom / Top: 3lbs-2oz/ 4lb
Special Features: Palm swell pistol grip
Left- handed option
UK Distributor: Ardee Sports Co