Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spanish Side by Side Doubles

If you've always admired the beautiful English double guns, but can't budget the $25,000 or more that even the plainest of these costs, you might want to look at a Spanish gun- an engraved gun like this AyA sidelock 20 gauge can often be found for as little as $4,000, and plainer box locks for even less. The gun pictured belongs to a friend of mine, who sold me his previous gun 15 years ago when he found this gun fit him better.

I think he paid about $3,000 at the time, which is certainly a bargain for a hand fitted, hand engraved gun in a custom fitted leather case. But there are a still lot of deal out there to be had. 

Light doubles are just about perfect for upland game hunting, which is what we mainly do around here. Barrels are chocked open and improved cylinder, which makes them perfect for 10-30 yard shots (though I've dropped birds at 40). The short swing length and light weight  make it easy to bring the gun up quickly at a fast moving pheasant or partridge. Light loads are the rule- 3/4 or 7/8oz of plated #6 pellets in a 20 is the perfect load for pheasant at close range.

If you're not pass shooting at ducks and geese there's little reason to carry a heavy auto or pump loaded with 12ga 2-3/4" or 3" magnums. You may have read that British shooters typically use 12 gauge guns for upland shooting, and that's true, but many of those guns- particularly the older ones- have 2-1/2" chambers and are loaded to 1oz or less; their upland 12ga. loads are pretty close to our 20ga. loads.

Airguns for Pistol Practice

I'm a great proponent of airguns- not just for simulated firearms practice, but for shooting in their own right. I shot Airgun Field Target for several years,  I have an airgun blog, and I use air rifles for small game hunting. The gun shown above, though, I bought specifically for firearms simulation and training. It's a Makarov replica, and it's very close in size, design, and weight to the actual gun.

This is the second version of the Makarov BB pistol made. The first was made in the same Russian factory that produced the Makarovs, and was dreamed up as a way to use up the surplus frames and other parts after production of the pistol was discontinued. It was not a cheap gun, selling for over $100, but it was probably the best BB pistol ever made. It was so much like the firearm version that the BATF decided it could be converted into an actual pistol without too much effort (though I don't know that this ever actually happened)  and so after two years of production it was banned. If you can find one, expect to pay at least $200 for it.

The Umarex-made Makarov CO2 BB Pistol air pistol replica seen above sells for a more reasonable $59, and has a working slide and safety lever that closely mimics the functioning of the firearm. Pulling back the slide cocks the hammer, and the safety locks the gun so it can't be fired or cocked. BBs load via a magazine that slides into the grip, just like a magazine on the real gun. If the hammer isn't cocked, it fired with a realistic double-action trigger pull.

If you're just getting started with pistols, or introducing a family member to shooting, something like this is a good way to teach safe gun handling at home, with low risk of injury. Eye protection and a good backstop are still necessary, of course.