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Three ‘do-anything’ guns for your cabinet by Roy McNally.
When asked to write this article, I tried to put myself in the mind of the ‘everyman’ shooter, and believe me, I’m very much that man! Like most people reading this, I don’t have thousands of acres of land on which I can safely discharge a centre-fire rifle. In fact, my garden is 30 meters long at its longest point. I do however have pest-control permissions on about 300 acres on local farms. I only possess a Section 2 Shotgun certificate, and so I’ve got a fairly typical profile common to the majority of the UK’s shooting public. So what guns could possibly meet all my needs?
Well, I like to do a bit of clay-pigeon shooting, and I have pest control permissions, so I need something that can take rats, rabbits, fox, pigeon, and corvid. But what if I wanted to do a couple of days game shooting each year? Well I’ve owned a few guns over the years, and as we all tend to do, I’ve chopped and changed, bought and sold, hoping to find the perfect set-up - but you suddenly find yourself with five guns in your cabinet, many of which get little or no use!
I never wanted to be a ‘collector’ of guns. I appreciate their beauty and their workmanship, but I regard them primarily as tools; and besides, I don’t have the money to justify an extensive collection. But after much trial and error, I seem to have found my holy-trinity! Three guns that do everything I need; and the best part is that each seems to get an equal amount of use, so I don’t feel guilty about having spent money on something that sits smeared in gun-oil, gathering dust!
So, what are my recommendations? Let’s cover the pigeons, corvids, rabbits, and fox first.
Here I want something reliable and tough which can withstand life in the field. For me, a semi-automatic shotgun fits the bill perfectly. You could opt for low-cost options from Hatsan or boutique-style offerings from Benelli, but I have settled on a Remington 1187 with wooden furniture (I just can’t do synthetic stocks I’m afraid). It’s only a 70mm chamber, but it’s so reliable, and as it’s a gas gun, much of the recoil is absorbed when cycling cartridges, and as such is comfortable to shoot even with heavy loads. Mine is a 1989 model which I picked up used for £275 and I love it to bits.
Remington 1187 12 Bore/Gauge (1989)
Some people bring semi-automatics to clay grounds (occasionally to disapproving glances), but you’d absolutely never turn up at a game shoot with a semi as they have a reputation for being “uncouth” with their side-ejection systems. So for shooting in a more formal setting, or for the occasional day at the clay ground, I choose a quality side-by-side shotgun. I say ‘quality’, because the overwhelming popularity of Over/Under shotguns today means that very high quality used side-by-sides are often overlooked and can be had for bargain prices. Your kill rate may be a little worse compared to an O/U but for my money, a side-by-side presents much more of a challenge, and they are just so lovely to shoot. Plus, no O/U can match a side-lock side-by-side for sheer beauty and elegance. My choice is a late 1970s AYA No 2 side-lock which I picked up used for £850. It retains most of its case-hardening and it always feels like an occasion when reverently withdrawing it from its slip. Take it from me, side-by-sides are just cooler than O/Us – no question!
AYA Fine Guns No.2 Sidelock (1970s)
As for my last recommendation, I want something I can use in my garden and on my permissions on small pests. For these tasks I think you can’t go wrong with a sub-12 ft/lb PCP air-rifle, and for me it has to be the Air Arms S410 Carbine in .22 calibre. Its more than powerful enough to dispatch vermin, whilst not so powerful as to be a problem when working around farm buildings etc. The Air Arms benefits from being incredibly accurate. I attach a red lamp to its scope and take out rabbits by moonlight at 30 yards; the pellet catching the red light through the scope hitting its target like a blast from a laser. Mine only cost about £350 used!
Air Arms s410 Carbine
If I could only keep one gun, which would it be? Well, if you’ve never tried an AYA No2 I urge you to try. I promise you’ll fall in love!