For most people, the bespoke shotgun, which is to say one made to the shooter’s personal requirements, remains a dream. In the recent past, for the majority of clay target shooters, customisation comprised relatively crude alterations. Many guns were seen with stocks bound with plastic tape and extensions, or shortenings that left much to be desired. The custom-stocking service that only a few manufacturers offer is the logical alternative, but it can represent significant cost and usually travel abroad. Another recent development is the shotgun that, in most of its important aspects that include stock fit, weight and balance, can be altered or modified with built-in adjustable components. The German manufacturer Blaser leads the way in this concept and I’ve been evaluating the benefits that its new F3 Vantage Sporter offers.
The fundamentals of the Blaser shotgun demonstrates a pragmatism that perhaps only a company that was primarily a rifle maker would introduce. The jointing of the barrels to the action is by way of a single lump that locates through the bottom plate, lock-up being achieved with a full-width under-bolt that locates with a single bite. It’s a simple solution, but the bearing surface is substantial and the gun can easily be re-jointed with a replaceable component integral to the locking-bolt. The trigger mechanism incorporates what Blaser calls “linear guidance” for the firing pins and the hammers. I take this term to describe the directness of the in-line firing mechanism, whereby the hammers, rather than pivoting instead with the disengagement of the sears, move forward to strike the firing pins. This provides a fast lock-time and excellent trigger pulls.
One innovation is piled on top of another with the Blaser, which includes ejectors cocked with the firing of the gun rather than on its closure, an operation that, with most guns, represents something of a distraction to a shooter in competition.
Undoubtedly, the stock, and how it complements the shooter’s physical characteristics, is the most crucial ingredient to accurate shooting. His aiming eye, and therefore his face, must be carefully aligned with the rib in such a way as the head is comfortably supported and the shooter will not be inclined to move it. To achieve a properly fitting stock the shooters length of neck, and breadth and shape of shoulders will have to be taken into account, as well as length of arm and the shooter’s stance.
The Blaser’s excellent adjustable stock goes a long way to achieving the correct alignment of the aiming eye, with a comb adjustable for height, which determines the elevation of the aiming eye above the rib, and there is also adjustment for cast at the face which avoids undue canting of the head. The trigger blade is adjustable for length-of-pull, and this, together with a palm-swell, creates a firm hold and a feeling of control. Short of providing a complete try-stock with adjustment for cast at heel and toe, and drop-at-heel, the Blaser stock makes a significant contribution to accurate fit for an off-the-rack gun.
Balancing the Blaser
Blaser goes even further in terms of customising the F3 for the shooter’s individual requirements in the matter of balance. In this area, no other shotgun offers this facility, or at least not with the sophistication the Blaser provides. A detachable threaded extension of the stock-bolt incorporates two cylindrical weights adding 213 grams behind the gun’s point-of-balance. One or both can be removed and also positioned as far up front as to be behind the grip, or as far back as the butt. To add to the Blaser’s weight in front of the hinge pins, there is a block positioned between the barrels and the forearm, to which weights in the form of metal plates can be fitted, it is again a device that is flexible, effective and invisible.
The 81cm barrels on my test gun incorporated a set of five 7cm long, hand-detachable chokes, ranging in constriction from Improved Cylinder to Full. The rib is a low, ramped design that tapers from 10mm to 7mm. With a bore size of 18.5mm and with a gradual angle to the forcing cones, all is designed to provide an optimum muzzle velocity and an evenly distributed pattern with low recoil.
Shooting the F3 Vantage
With the 81cm barrels weighing 1.529kg, I considered that heavy enough to use the F3 in its Sporter role. I also removed one of the stock weights and now had a relatively fast handling long-barrelled Sporter with an all-up weight of 3.921kg. This is my kind of gun: pointable and providing just the right amount of weight between the hands for me to deal with longer targets, and fast-handling enough for the sharper ones at closer range. At North Oxfordshire Shooting School and Ian Coley’s ground near Cheltenham, the F3 and I got on well together, but I was curious to discover the F3’s potential for other kinds of shooting.
I replaced the stock weight and added barrel weights under the forearm, the F3’s barrel now weighed 1.61kg and had a total weight of 4.93kg. I was not entirely surprised to find with some adjustments to the stock for height and cast, I now had a well-balanced Trap gun.
On DTL targets and some faster Ball Trap, the F3 would, I believe, please a lot of Trap shooters. The more I used the F3 in both its guises, the better I appreciated the versatility and its mechanical function, which in many areas is up there with the best of target guns and all for a competitive price.