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* This past February I had the best opportunity thus far to prove to myself that what I have been preaching all these years about short-barreled shotguns is indeed true. I've always been skeptical of the tradition which for several decades dictated that an Improved Cylinder barrel be 26 inches in length; a Modified, 28 inches; and a Full-choked pipe 30 inches . . . or longer. I'm talking pumps and autos now, not standing breech guns, although doubles and O/Us have also been subject to the same kind of rigid length/choke relationships.

Until just recently anyone wanting to know how a shotgun wearing less than 26 inches of barrel handled had to saw off a longer tube or use a slug barrel with the sights removed. In either case the gunning application had to be one requiring an open choke. Fortunately, that's no longer necessary as several gun makers are now offering abbreviated pipes in a choice of the three standard chokings. Ithaca was first to break the 26-inch barrier by offering its Ultra Lite 20 gauge with a 25-inch barrel. Next to follow suit was Remington with its 23-inch Lightweight "Limited" 20 gauges in Models 870 and 1100, guns that featured shortened buttstocks for youngsters. With these 23-inch tubes available as accessory barrels, they could be purchased separately and stuck on the standard Lightweight guns (that's how I got my 23-inch, Modified choked 870). These models and the 23-inch barrels have since been discontinued, replaced now with the Special Field guns with their 21-inch pipes. Both the 1100 and 870 can also be ordered with 25-inch tubes in all three chokings.

Also joining the short-tube ranks for the first time this year is USRAC with its Winchester Model 1300 Featherweight pumps in 12 and 20 gauge, each with 22-inch spouts featuring the Winchoke system.

Anyway, with these new short shotguns generally available only within the past couple of years, it's been tough getting enough wingshooting practice with any of them to make valid comparisons. And then to have any validity at all such comparisons have to be the side-by-side kind with an identical gun and gauge differing only in barrel length. Such was the case with that opportunity I referred to at the outset; it was a three-day dove shoot south of the border in the Mexican state of Sonora.

At the kind invitation of my friend, Ernesto Zaragoza, who owns a large ranch near Guaymas, I had the chance to shoot until my shoulder turned strange shades of blue. In so doing I was able to compute my averages using two Remington 870 Lightweights, one my own 23-inch gun, the other my companion Ken Donley's 28-inch one. Both guns were choked Modified. At each shooting session I shot 50 rounds with one gun, then 50 with the other. All told I put 300 rounds through each gun, 600 rounds total.

In all the ink I've devoted to short-barreled shotguns over the years. I've never promised readers that they'd shoot better with shorter spouts; only that they'd shoot as well and at the same time enjoy far better carrying and pointing qualities to boot. Still, I myself did actually shoot better with the 23-inch barrel than with the 28-inch one . . . though not dramatically so. My best performance was 56 percent on the second morning using the short gun. The best I was able to do with the longer barrel was 49 percent, though the three-day average with each gun worked out to less than four percent.

It's not a dramatic difference, but I would have been satisfied if the odds worked out the other way for it would have still been close enough for me. Sure there are applications which favor the long sighting plane of the 28-inch or longer barrel--like trap and pass shooting waterfowl--but for virtually all other types of gunning the average guy will do just as well or better with a short tube as with a long one. SCI "BIG FIVE" RIFLES

A record price for a modern rifle was set this past February when Canadian Arnold Alward of Havelock, New Brunswick, paid $65,000 for the third rifle in a series of five commissioned by Safari Club International. In 1981, SCI commissioned the building of these guns, each to be dedicated to one of Africa's "Big Five." The rifles would then be auctioned off, one each year, at the Safari Club's Annual Convention in Las Vegas with all proceeds going to SCI's International Conseravtion Fund.

The first commission, honoring the elephant, was undertaken by the David Miller Company of Tucson. The exquisite bolt action .458 that resulted brought $41,000 at the organization's 1982 convention. For the second rifle in the Big five series, honoring the rhino, Champlin Firearms of Enid, Oklahoma produced a turnbolt .375 which fetched $43,500 the following year.

This year's record-setting bid of $65,000 was paid for a classic sidelock double in .375 H&H built by Friedrich W. Heym Company of Muennerstadt, West Germany. As one would expect for that kind of money, this third gun in the Big Fives series honoring the Cape buffalo is a one-of-a-kind piece lavishly embellished.

The stock, for example, is 400-year-old Circassian walnut and was personally selected by Heym's managing director, Peter Bang, in Istanbul. Two sets of sidelocks are included, one with buffalo motifs inlaid in gold, the other in chiseled steel. Locks are removed with the turn of a single screw. Buffalo hide and horn are used extensively for the presentation case and numerous accessories, including a Damascus-bladed sheath knife.

There are many more unique features on this superb double but suffice it to say that the time, effort and artisty that went into it are surely well beyond the $65,000 paid. Incidentally, the four original oil paintings from which the engraved game scenes were rendered brought an additional $10,000 to SCI's Conservation Fund.

With three down, that leaves two to go in the Big Five Series. Next Year's effort, already long underway, will honor the African lion and will be the work of the Paul Jaeger Company of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. The last of the series, the leopard, will again be the work of the David Miller Company of Tucson. For Rifle No. 1, Dave, his partner Curt Crum, and the engraving talents of Lynton McKenzie set extremely high standards for this Big Five Series, standards which have been upheld in the subsequent efforts. I look for this last rifle in the series, which will be auctioned off in 1986, to be the real topper. NEW FROM WEATHERBY

One of the busiest gunmakers last year was Roy Weatherby, as evidenced by the number of new items he's introduced this year. New for 1984 are three variations of his Vanguard rifle; a new interchangeable choke system for his Athena and Orion over and unders.

Roy introduced his Vanguard series a number of years ago of satisfy those who wanted the Weatherby name and look above all and were not overly concerned with the fact that the rifle wasn't based on the Mark V action or available in any of the Weatherby Magnum calibers. It also cost just a little over half what the Mark V did. The Vanguard has since proven to have been a smart move for the canny old gent in Southgate.

There are three Vanguard models being offered for '84. The VGX is the top-of-the-line model replete with high lustre blueing and a handle which is the spittin' image of the Mark V's, i.e., angled rosewood fore-end tip and grip cap, high-gloss finish, accented pistol grip, etc. Retail price for the VGX is $479 in all calibers, from the .22-250 to the .338 Winchester Magnum.

The VGS is a lower-cost version of the VGX and is offered with a stock of simpler line sporting a satin oil finish and low-lustre blue. The VGL is a 20-inch barreled version of the VGX and is available only in .243 and .308. Each of these models retails for $389.

As for his new scopes, I'm glad to see Roy going with a 1.5-5X low-range variable for one of his offerings. Though lacking those impressive 8X, 9X and even 12X and 16X magnification factors that are so popular today, these low-range variables are far more practical on the typical hunting rifle than the higher range ones.

The other scopes comprising this new Supreme line are two fixed 4Xs, one with a 34 mm objective, the other with a 44 mm one, and two more variables, a 2-7X and a 3-9X.
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Title Annotation:new rifles
Author:Sundra, Jon
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Jun 1, 1984
Words:1432
Previous Article:Washington report.
Next Article:Sharpshootin'.
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