The fascination of Us-based collectors for English sporting guns has long been known, but what of the trade in the other direction? When one considers American gunmakers the name of John Moses Browning of course leaps the front of the mind, but even Browning has a whiff of the ‘Old West’ about it. Indeed, perhaps the best known of the American manufacturers are those from the films and games of our childhoods, with the likes of Colt, Remington, Smith & Wesson and Winchester ingrained alongside images of weather-beaten wanderers and the strains of Morricone’s great scores.
This is, of course, doing a great disservice to the American gunmaking industry, a feeling brought sharply to light the moment one lays one’s eyes upon the beautiful Christian Hunter sidelocks which are the subject of this review. Beautiful lines, natural feel and topend finishing characterise an American-made gun more than a match for most guns you would care to mention– including those carrying a much larger price tag.
These guns are the brainchild of Tony Galazan, a man who has devoted much of his life to the pursuit and manufacture of fine sporting guns and will perhaps be familiar through his Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company (CSMC). Founded in 1975, the company have been producing best quality shotguns for some time, though without ever puncturing the consciousness of the British buying public. That they haven’t met with enormous fanfare and success is somewhat surprising given the quality of the product, and this is something Mr Galazan doubtless hopes will change with the Christian Hunter brand.
Based on the CSMC A-10, the Christian Hunter over-under is a very low profile, shallow frame true sidelock shotgun, and is sure to appeal to the eye of any sporting gun enthusiast. Reliability should be no concern for those wary of an unfamiliar name, since the A-10 (and hence the Christian Hunter) was designed to be a truly durable and usable sidelock shotgun, not just a work of art to be admired from afar. Indeed, in a Shooting Gazette interview with Roger Catchpole in 2016, Mr Galazan revealed he had put over 100,000 rounds through his personal A-10 gun.
The Christian Hunter is based on the Beretta SO, itself a sidelock over-under shotgun inspired by the shallow-actioned Boss over-under. The wood on display is absolutely exceptional and features the carved teardrop shape at the rear of the lock plate one tends to associate with highend guns. The lock plates provide plenty of room for fulsome engraving, first applied by laser and then finished by hand. On our 12 bore test gun the pattern took the form of bold sprays of ornamental foliate scroll of a surprising and impressive depth, with real areas of contrast almost giving the appearance of carving. The gun also featured wonderful
blued lock plate pins and trigger, with some exceptionally fine chequering work on the capped Prince of Wales stock and Deeley fore-end. As standard, the gun includes many elements normally found as expensive extras, such as an extended trigger guard tang, either coin or colour case hardened finish, your choice of straight, Prince of Wales or full pistol grip and high quality American black walnut wood. Given these are bespoke shotguns, a full fitting service is also offered at various shooting grounds around the UK.
Alongside the 12 bore variant on test here, I also had the pleasure of testing a 20 bore gun with a straight-hand stock, rose and scroll engraving and colour case hardened finish which one might easily have mistaken for a best English gun. With a gold trigger and brass sight bead, this gun was a lovely thing to behold, and both 12 and 20 bore variants are sure to inspire envy in the line. Indeed, the only real aesthetic complaints one might make were over the standard sportingstyle ventilated top rib which can be replaced with a solid rib for £600, and the red plastic sight bead found on the 12 bore test gun. While by no means a significant problem, I was happy to discover a brass sight bead is a standard option! For those with a desire for something truly special, these guns can also be ordered with custom engraving and higher grade wood, including Turkish or English walnut.
Visually, then, the Christian Hunter is a certain triumph - but what of its performance in the field? Thankfully it is just as good to shoot as it is to look at, with superbly weighted trigger pulls, mounting in a consistently positive fashion and rewarding considered shooting. Given the quality of these guns and a price best described as extremely competitive (and likely to find several European gunmakers waking up in a cold sweat) you might find yourself wondering where the catch is. Simply put, there doesn’t appear to be one.
The engraved cap.
Can our American cousins fill the hole left behind as we turn our backs on Europe? discovers a gun willing to take up the challenge.
Fine chequering offers excellent feel in the hand.