GUN TEST: Mike puts the Bet­tin­soli X-Trail through its paces

We aren't all able to spend thou­sands on a new gun, and this month’s test gun has been se­lected pri­mar­ily for its rea­son­able price tag. Let’s see how it got on…

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Be­ing con­scious that a lot of read­ers work to a tight bud­get, it is good to test guns here that are sen­si­bly priced when we can, as well as the more deluxe mod­els. For the record, I have never found price to be that great a pre­dic­tor of how a gun will per­form. Some of my own favourite sport­ing weapons are worth no more than a few hun­dred pounds. I have quite fre­quently tested guns cost­ing tens of thou­sands of pounds that were not as good to shoot as oth­ers cost­ing less than a thou­sand. Price isn’t ev­ery­thing. For me, beauty is as beauty does. As an Amer­i­can once wrote, “The only in­ter­est­ing ri­fles are ac­cu­rate ri­fles,” and much the same ap­plies to shot­guns; I’m only in­ter­ested in the ones that work.

With this in mind, I sought out some­thing less ex­pen­sive this month, some­thing well un­der the key £1,000 price point. I found it while look­ing in the well-stocked EJ Churchill gun room – a Bet­tin­soli X-Trail. It’s a 30", sin­gle-selec­tive trig­ger over-and-un­der with multi-chokes (five sup­plied). It weighs in at 7lbs 7oz and has an RRP of £795 (the test gun was, how­ever, on spe­cial of­fer). Al­though the sil­ver-pol­ished and sparsely ma­chine-en­graved ac­tion did not float my boat aes­thet­i­cally, it still looked quite good, though my pref­er­ence would have been plain black or er­satz colour case hard­en­ing (which Bet­tin­soli do some­times of­fer).

This is a plainly fin­ished work­horse. Close scru­tiny does not re­veal any un­pleas­ant sur­prises. In­deed, if any­thing, putting the gun un­der the mag­ni­fier shows it to be bet­ter made than sim­i­lar guns of a gen­er­a­tion ago. CNC and lasers have im­proved the pro­duc­tion process con­sid­er­ably. Fin­ish is gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent with good blu­ing and bet­ter than ex­pected wood-tometal fit. The wood shows slight fig­ure and is well che­quered (by laser). The en­gi­neer­ing is sound in all de­part­ments. The gun is well jointed and all the metal parts fit tightly. Even look­ing at the en­grav­ing and met­al­work closely with en­hanced mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, one notes few flaws.

Bring the X-Trail to shoul­der and you will note a slightly muz­zle-heavy bal­ance as is typ­i­cal of a 30" multi-choked gun. The fairly nar­row rib with a brass bead at the muz­zles suited my eye. The stock shapes do

‘Some of my own favourite sport­ing weapons are worth no more than a few hun­dred pounds’

the job and pro­vide ad­e­quate pur­chase. Gen­er­ally, the gun shows just how much can be achieved at rea­son­able cost with the new pro­duc­tion meth­ods. Over­all, it may not be a Beretta or Per­azzi, but it feels okay. The ba­sic spec­i­fi­ca­tion is sound.

The 30" bar­rels fit­ted are the only op­tion with this model. Hap­pily, I tend to ad­vise 30" as the best all-round length – use­ful for both game and clays. As long as bar­rels are not too heavy, I usu­ally pre­fer the 30" ones for game shoot­ing rather than the tra­di­tional 28 or 32. 28s don’t point as well, while 32" guns can be a bridge too far, es­pe­cially in cheaper grades where they tend to be too heavy. Move­ment is one of the keys to good, con­sis­tent shoot­ing, so the bot­tom line is that the gun or bar­rels must never be so heavy that they im­pede good move­ment in the mount and swing of the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion.

This Bet­tin­soli’s bar­rels are monobloc. They have 76mm (3") cham­bers and Ital­ian proof marks. Both bores of the test gun have an

in­ter­nal di­am­e­ter of 18.3mm, which is quite tight. I har­bour a prej­u­dice in favour of slightly wider bores; I would say 18.5mm would be ideal for a game gun where fi­bre wad car­tridges may be em­ployed, and 18.7mm for clays. The bores of the test gun were well pre­sented, how­ever, with neatly ma­chined cham­bers and forc­ing cones a lit­tle bit longer than av­er­age. The flush-fit chokes are well ma­chined, too. One would imag­ine that few who buy an X-Trail will look for af­ter­mar­ket chokes (though my nor­mal pref­er­ence is for ex­tended chokes – or fixed chokes – in work­ing guns as they are eas­ier to clean).

The ac­tion of the test gun is com­mon to the Bet­tin­soli range and well proven. There is a sin­gle cen­tral cock­ing bar, sim­i­lar to a Per­azzi. Hing­ing is ac­com­plished by the usual studs near the knuckle. Semi-cir­cu­lar re­cesses on the en­gine-turned monobloc mate with the pins near the ac­tion knuckle (as in a Beretta or Per­azzi). There is a long slot bite be­neath the bot­tom cham­ber, which is en­gaged by a full-width bolt that emerges from the bot­tom of the ac­tion face (as seen in Brown­ings, Rizzi­nis and Gueri­nis, amongst oth­ers). This re­sults in a slightly deeper ac­tion than one that em­ploys a Wood­ward- or Boss-style bolt­ing sys­tem, but in this case, Bet­tin­soli have man­aged to make their ac­tion look pretty trim.

The ac­tion em­ploys coil springs through­out and in­cor­po­rates a nicely shaped top lever and a bar­rel-se­lec­tor-cum-safety of Brown­ing-style po­si­tioned on the top strap. Ma­chin­ing is neat – the prod­uct of CNC, as noted. The fit of bar­rel shoul­ders to ac­tion was im­pec­ca­ble, ditto the fit of the fore-end iron to the ac­tion knuckle. I can re­mem­ber ear­lier Bet­tin­so­lis that were not as good.

What about the wood­work? The stock – at­tached by the usual stock bolt – is made from rea­son­able wal­nut and is well fin­ished. The stan­dard di­men­sions were pretty good. Length is 14¾" with the stan­dard pad (about 20mm deep). Drop is a stan­dard 11/8" to 21/8". There is a lit­tle cast for a righthander. The schn­abel fore-end is inof­fen­sive (though I would dis­pense with the lip). The form and size of the grip was good. There was no palm swell in ev­i­dence.

£795RRP

En­grav­ing is sim­ple yet well fin­ished

Trig­ger pulls lack re­fine­ment, but got the job done out on the range

The fit of the bar­rel shoul­ders to the ac­tion is im­pec­ca­ble

En­gi­neer­ing is sound in all de­part­ments

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