Richard Atkins tests the new Caesar Guerini Challenger Sporting clay O/U
This is nicely finished and well-presented gun with attractive engraving and some decent walnut woodwork with fine-line chequering.
The wood has tight grain and some nice figure. The pistol grip is interesting having a tight competition style curve but a plain section to the trigger guard which, combined with the well placed palm swell gave a very comfortable hold. This and some of its other finer points, like the strengthening features, central sighting bead, safety sears and trigger free play adjustment , could be missed if taking only a cursory glance at the Challenger.
Taken overall these features and the comprehensive range of choke tubes make it clear how serious this gun is, but in a subtle way that will please with refinement and not frighten with more radical features.
The thirty inch barrels suited me as they are not too heavy with their ventilated side ribs. The review Challenger balanced about 20mm in front of the hinge point steadying the swing. The gun came to the shoulder readily despite the fairly generous pull length and the cast aligned the gun well. I felt instantly comfortable with it and shot a pair of 9 ex-10s on the first two stands shot and, without a slight lapse in concentration, would have bettered my average but it managed second place at its first local shoot anyway.
I certainly enjoyed using the Challenger: it handled very well. Although lighter than some competition guns it’s still meaty enough to feel smooth and controlled. It’s definitely a gun worth trying at one of the ‘Try a Guerini’ days that the UK distributors run around the country. Like a number of top shots both in Trap and Sporting who now shoot with a Guerini, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
A closer look:
The Challenger is conventional in its overall design and it is built around the familiar format of monobloc barrels hinging on trunnions in the receiver side walls and locked by a full width bolt at the base of the standing breech face: this bolt engages with locking bites machined into the substantial under lugs machined into the monobloc that engage with mating recesses in the receiver floor to provide an immensely strong locking arrangement.
Other features add to the overall strength, like the sculpted bolsters on either external side of the receiver sidewalls along with thickened webs ahead of each trunnion to absorb breech pressure stresses. Deeply sculpted and engraved fences at the top of the receiver around the top lever make an attractive feature of these strengthening concepts, blending functionality with pleasing form. The top leaver is solid and not pierced, which is a design I prefer; it has pleasing leaf engraving in its top forward face but more importantly the area where the thumb makes contact is finely stippled to provide good purchase in a more refined and comfortable manner.
The barrel tubes are set into conventional monobloc and into these are set two quite powerful, well timed spring loaded ejectors. These are actuated by a hardened roller system that is both smoother in operation and should give much longer life between services that the metal wedge type actuators. The monobloc sides are given a ‘jewelled’ finish which looks attractive as well as providing greater lubrication retaining properties, without the risk of picking up fouling, again improving longevity.
The barrels have been very well polished prior to high grade blacking, clearly evident by the deep lustre of the black finish which, frankly, you would search hard to find a better example of. More important still is the top rib: it is 10mm wide with cross-hatched anti-glare machined top surface with a narrow plain groove up the centre, rather like the famous Browning ‘Broadway’ rib. The front bead is white and another touch that confirms its competition intentions is the small white metal centre bead for checking mounting/alignment.
The barrels are slightly over-bored at 18.6mm (.732″) but bucking the trend to make everything universal (and hence save some production costs), the Challenger’s chambers are 2¾”/70mm long and therefore ideal for clay target ammunition. Many shooting grounds, especially sporting ones, now require the use of fibre wad ammunition and these do not have the same obturation capacity as plastic wad loads. When combined with 3″ chambers that are then used with 2¾”ammunition (as the majority of clay ammunition is unless even shorter) the chances for some blow-by with potential risk for balling increases. I shot several types of fibre wad loads through the Challenger and all performed as they should.
The muzzles are bored to accept MaxisChoke interchangeable choke tubes; these are 80mm long and are supplied in a range of eight choke borings; enough options for any keen sporting clay shot.
Removing the stock with the Tee bar wrench provided reveals the sturdy and well constructed action parts. Tumblers are conventionally bottom hinged with top mounted sears operated by a sear release raised by the trigger bar. The trigger is adjustable fore and aft for position and another refinement is the facility to adjust the degree of trigger free play before engagement using a small key provided, when inserted in a small socket set screw behind the trigger: another small but significant refinement.
Trigger pulls were positive and very light compared with many guns, both releasing at well below three pounds. That is light and as a precaution against possible inadvertent discharge each tumbler has a very pronounced safety bent machined into its top edge that ensures the tumbler cannot engage the firing pin unless the trigger is actually pulled. Barrel selection is by a latch within the top lever a la Beretta; this worked smoothly and positively and the recoil operated mechanism also functioned flawlessly.