Tested: fox A Grade side-by-side

AN AMER­I­CAN CLAS­SIC RE­BORN

Outdoor Life - - CONTENTS - BY JOHN B. SNOW

Igreeted the news with a Costco-sized dose of skep­ti­cism. Sav­age Arms, which has owned rights to the Fox trade­mark since 1929, was bring­ing out a side-by-side shot­gun un­der the leg­endary name.

A host of ques­tions quickly came to mind. Fore­most: What on earth were the head hon­chos at Sav­age think­ing? The de­mand for new sideby-sides with price tags one buck shy of five grand isn’t ex­actly ro­bust. And how would Sav­age’s blue-col­lar DNA, best known for pro­duc­ing in­ex­pen­sive, yet ac­cu­rate, ri­fles, go over in the snooty blue­blood world of fine shot­guns? Then there’s the mat­ter of the Fox faith­ful. Would they want any­thing to do with a dou­ble gun, no mat­ter how nicely fash­ioned, that de­vi­ates sig­nif­i­cantly from Ans­ley H. Fox’s orig­i­nal de­sign? Or would they re­ject it like a liver from a black-mar­ket or­gan clinic?

Made for the Up­lands

Mr. Fox had a track record of gun build­ing long be­fore he founded A.H. Fox, and to dis­tin­guish his new ven­ture from his pre­vi­ous work, he dubbed the smooth­bores made by his epony­mous com­pany “The Finest Gun in the World.”

This same boast is printed on the in­side lid of the hard- plas­tic case that the new Fox A Grade guns are shipped in.

Th­ese shot­guns are avail­able in 12- and 20-gauge, with ei­ther 26- or 28-inch bar­rels. I went with a 28-inch 20 for my eval­u­a­tion, an ideal up­land gun for the coun­try I hunt most.

The high level of crafts­man­ship on the shot­guns is un­de­ni­able. And lit­tle sur­prise there, since they are be­ing built for Sav­age by Tony Galazan’s Con­necti­cut Shot­gun Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co., which makes the finest pro­duc­tion shot­guns in the coun­try, and ar­guably the world.

The new A Grade is a clas­sic dou­ble right down to its bones. The ac­tion is an up­dated An­son & Dee­ley boxlock with a Purdey dou­ble un­der-lug lockup. (While the pedi­gree of the Purdey sys­tem is beyond re­proach, this is one of the key dif­fer­ences from the orig­i­nal Fox shot­guns, which had a ro­tary top fas­tener that locked the bar­rels in place.) The splin­ter forend at­taches to the bar­rels with an An­son-style push rod. The pins (also known as screws to us un­washed masses) are timed so their slots run par­al­lel to the axis of the bore. The re­ceiver and forend iron have been color-case-hard­ened with bone char­coal. The check­er­ing on the oil-fin­ished wal­nut stock is hand cut, and the top rib is tipped with a sim­ple brass bead. This is

pure old-school gun mak­ing, as tra­di­tional and sat­is­fy­ing as a stand­ing rib roast with York­shire pud­ding.

The Fox has some mod­ern flour­ishes as well. The dou­ble trig­gers wear a gold ti­ta­nium ni­tride fin­ish, as do the ejec­tor sears and some other in­ter­nal parts.

The bar­rels are fit­ted for flush-mounted chokes, and the gun comes with five to fine-tune your pat­terns.

As be­fits a dual-trig­ger shot­gun, the stock has a straight English-style grip, and the butt wears a thin piece of slightly con­cave hard rub­ber with horizontal stri­a­tions. The gun mounts eas­ily and stays put while shoot­ing.

A Clay Smasher

Speak­ing of shoot­ing, what­ever reser­va­tions I had about the gun in terms of how it fits in with the Sav­age Arms of to­day fell by the way­side once I started send­ing shot sky­ward.

The Fox A Grade is an out­stand­ing gun. It has beau­ti­ful bal­ance and the lively feel that is the hall­mark of a great smooth­bore. The trig­gers are crisp and easy to reach, and the au­to­matic safety re­quires no con­scious thought to ma­nip­u­late.

Of­ten it can take a few rounds to get used to a new gun. Not so with the Fox. It was in­tu­itive from the first time I brought it to my cheek.

There was a se­ri­ous cross­wind at my gun club that first day, and clays launched from the low­house took off like they were be­ing chased by the Devil.

No mat­ter. I set­tled into sta­tion 4 on the skeet field and dared the el­e­ments to do their worst. The tar­gets bobbed and weaved, but the Fox swung eas­ily and I was able to make mi­nor ad­just­ments and shat­ter clay af­ter clay. The Fox is one of those rare guns that seems to make you a bet­ter shot, an im­pres­sion con­firmed dur­ing mul­ti­ple shoot­ing ex­cur­sions.

Me­chan­i­cally, it func­tioned flaw­lessly. The ejec­tors popped the emp­ties clear with­out fail, and the ac­tion, though it locks up as tight as a bank vault, opens and closes with a min­i­mum of ef­fort.

Of course, the gun looks beau­ti­ful, too. The en­grav­ing is un­der­stated, and the matte bluing on the bar­rels con­trasts in a pleas­ing fash­ion with the re­ceiver and glossy oiled wood.

It is not a gun for ev­ery­one, true. But it is worth ev­ery bit of the price tag and cer­tainly wor­thy of car­ry­ing on the Fox le­gacy in the 21st cen­tury.

The Sav­age Fox A Grade ex­udes dou­ble-gun el­e­gance. The sleek lines, gor­geous wood, and un­der­stated met­al­work make a strik­ing im­pres­sion.

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