You Get What You Pay For: (with Colonel Smoothbore)
By angelamontana

Last week we discussed American style trapshooting and the disciplines involved. As a result of the column, I received a couple of inquiries from readers that I thought I should share with you.

One of the questions came from a fellow who just wanted to get involved in some recreational clay target shooting. Fortunately he already owned some very good equipment that fits nicely with the clay target sports. His over/under shotgun is a 12 gauge with longer barrels and interchangeable chokes. It is a quality gun (I’ll define that term a bit later) that should hold up quite well to lots of shooting like that involved in trap, skeet, or sporting clays. He has the necessary accessories such as a good vest, and eye and hearing protection. He has some experience and understands the games and he really seems to enjoy the sport. While he was shooting a round of trap, I studied his technique and found it quite sound; this was evidenced by the good scores he tallied. With a bit of practice, he is going to become very proficient at the clays games. All he needed to do to get started was to show up at the range.

The second inquiry came from a fellow interested in upgrading to an over/under shotgun that could be used in all the clay target sports. He was looking for my input on cost and quality. Now here’s my definition of a quality over/under shotgun. It must fire each barrel every time the trigger is pressed. It must stand up to thousands of rounds with few if any malfunctions or break-downs. For instance, I have a Browning® Citori Lightning Sporting Clays 12 gauge over/under that I have used for all the clay target games including some International trap. This gun has had over 100,000 rounds fired through it over the 16 years I have owned it. I replaced both firing pins and hammer springs at about 70,000 rounds and I had the locking block replaced not long after that. Total cost of those repairs was about $100.00. Besides clay target competitions, I’ve also used this gun for some hunting. I wish my other tools, appliances, and cars gave me this much value and efficiency.

My suggestions to the reader interested in an O/U target gun were fairly simple. Spend as much as you can afford, buy a quality brand that has a solid track record such as Browning® or Beretta®. These guns may be found for about $1500 to $2000. This is a lot of money but these guns will last a lifetime with very little maintenance. Some of more expensive European guns such as Caesar Gurerini®, Zoli®, or Blazer® are really great quality guns and run in the $4000 to $10,000 price range. The really high end guns such a Kolar®, Perazzi®, or Kreighoff® are all 5 figures plus and not something I’d recommend for a recreational shooter; but they are really cool guns.

I strongly advise that the low end, under $1000, over/under guns not be purchased if the intended use is heavy clay target shooting. Many, if not most, of these guns are produced in Turkey and while they are probably okay for limited field use, my experience has been that they simply won’t hold up to lots of target shooting. I’ve seen more than a few literally fall into pieces in just a few hundred rounds. If you don’t wish to spend the money necessary to buy a quality O/U, I suggest you check out a semi-auto. For instance, Winchester®, Mossberg®, and Remington® have good reliable guns available for under $1000.00

Be advised that guns are mechanical tools and at some time everything mechanical will likely fail. I once owned a somewhat expensive trap gun that simply wouldn’t last for more than about 1500 rounds. After 3 years and four trips back to the manufacturer’s repair facility, the company refunded me the full amount I paid for the gun. No pro rating, no arguing, no excuses. I have since bought a couple more guns manufactured by this company and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. While the malfunctions were frustrating, the excellent and personal customer service was really appreciated. This is an example of the old saw, “…you get what you pay for.”

Be safe and good shooting.

Colonel Smoothbore