GUN TEST: Guerini Essex

… not just for Christ­mas! This year, Mike has treated him­self to a rather spe­cial Guerini Essex, which, once cus­tomised to his specs, should earn its keep for many years to come

Sporting Shooter - - Con­tents -

This month’s test is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. It con­cerns my Christ­mas present to my­self! What is it, you ask? A new Guerini Essex 20-bore with 28" and 30" bar­rels.

I thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to tell you about the sort of gun I buy and shoot my­self, and the sort of sim­ple mod­i­fi­ca­tions I might make. Mean­while, I al­ready use a pair of 32" Guerini Maxum 20-bores. They’ve served me bril­liantly and have been my go-to game guns for driven work for years.

For the record, I also shoot a We­b­ley side-by-side pi­geon gun, and my Beretta 303 semi-au­tos. I have owned more ritzy guns, in­clud­ing a pair of Purdeys and a Purdey pi­geon gun, but I am very happy with my work­ing bat­tery now. I do have a cou­ple of posh ham­mer guns still – I keep them for high days and hol­i­days and the odd spe­cial­ist com­pe­ti­tion. For most of my shoot­ing, though, I use the 32" Gueri­nis, the We­b­ley (a copy of Percy Stan­bury’s) and, most fre­quently, the good ‘ol 303s. I parted com­pany with an ex­cel­lent KM4 sim­ply be­cause I didn’t use it, al­though I still think it one of the best sporters ever in 32", well­sorted form.

So, why the new Guerini? Be­cause I wanted to get some­thing with shorter bar­rels for walk­ing-up – which I am do­ing more of – and specif­i­cally for wood­cock which I may be shoot­ing with a mate in North­ern Ire­land by the time you read this. I must con­fess to also buy­ing a lovely lit­tle Beretta Par­al­lelo re­cently for sim­i­lar pur­pose, but this lit­tle Guerini stack-bar­rel came along and was too good an op­por­tu­nity to miss, es­pe­cially as it is an all­rounder and well suited to travel.

I got it from my friend Neville Chap­man. Ap­par­ently, it was part of a spe­cial lot that came through from An­glo-Ital­ian Arms; the model is of­fi­cially dis­con­tin­ued and this one was the last Neville had. Over a cuppa in his ‘Costa gun­shop’ near Colch­ester he made me an of­fer that was sim­ply too good to pass on. So, I bought an Essex in Essex.

The gun had 28" bar­rels, the only slight down­side for me, but that was soon rec­ti­fied by Mike Mans­field of An­glo-Ital­ian who was kind enough to find me an ex­tra pair of 30" tubes with a ta­pered solid sight­ing rib – my favourite pat­tern.

By any stan­dard, the gun looks great – no bling, ev­ery­thing in the best pos­si­ble clas­sic taste. The brush pol­ished tight rose and scroll en­graved ac­tion is near my own aes­thetic ideal (and copied from Lon­don’s finest). Over­all, the Essex looks re­ally too good for its money. It’s fin­ished to a high stan­dard and feels solid and will­ing in the hands.

The bar­rels are con­structed on the usual monobloc sys­tem with full-length join­ing ribs and a solid ta­pered sight­ing rib. The tubes them­selves are well pre­sented, per­fectly straight, with bores a lit­tle wider than the norm at 16mm. The cham­bers are 76mm (3") and proofed for steel, with Ital­ian fleur-de-lys marks. There are five mid-length multi-chokes.

The Essex comes to the shoul­der well, too. Ev­ery­thing is right. The form, the bal­ance, the shapes... I have a the­ory that the rea­son the

30" ma­chine-made 20-bore has been a suc­cess in re­cent years is that it shares sim­i­lar han­dling to a best Lon­don 12 and comes in at a sim­i­lar weight (just un­der 7lb). It may even have a slight ad­van­tage in pointabil­ity. This gun, with an ex­cel­lent but not too acute pis­tol stock, only con­firmed my opin­ion. You would be hard pressed to bet­ter the shapes or very slightly muz­zle for­ward han­dling with the longer set of bar­rels on. The grip and rounded fore-end could not re­ally have been im­proved upon.

Now for the cus­tomis­ing... We are all dif­fer­ent, and I needed a bit of ex­tra cast and a lit­tle less drop to achieve per­fec­tion (out of the box the mea­sure­ments for drop on this gun were 13/8" and 23/16", and there was about 1/8" of cast-off at heel). I asked a gun­smith to ad­just the stock to the clas­sic shelf di­men­sion of 1½" and 2" and give me an ex­tra

1/8" of cast. I am Mr 5' 11" av­er­age, with quite broad shoul­ders, and th­ese mea­sure­ments suit me well. The length of pull needed no ad­just­ment at a sen­si­ble 147/8".


The ac­tion of the Essex is not rev­o­lu­tion­ary. It has a sin­gle cock­ing bar amid­ships and the usual stud pin hing­ing seen on most over-an­dun­ders, bar Brown­ing and Miroku. Coil springs are used to power the works. The sin­gle trig­ger mech­a­nism is of con­ven­tional bob-weight in­ter­tia type, and a good sized se­lec­tor-cum-safety (auto) is placed on top of the con­ven­tional thumb-op­er­ated top strap safety. The qual­ity of the trig­ger pulls was sur­pris­ingly good for a he­li­cal spring de­sign, which usu­ally ne­ces­si­tates com­pro­mises with sear an­gles.

Lock­ing is Brown­ing-in­spired as on other Gueri­nis (and on so many other guns). A full-width flat bolt emerges from the bot­tom of the ac­tion face to en­gage a slot bite be­neath the bot­tom cham­ber mouth; it is a well-proven ar­range­ment. In a 12, this can make the ac­tion a lit­tle high, but in a 20 it cre­ates what I think is an ideal height with per­fect spac­ing be­tween

top and bot­tom straps to achieve a good grip shape with even depth. Very low ac­tions with bi­fur­cated lumps and bolts higher may re­duce re­coil ef­fects, but can re­sult in a grip which is too nar­row for­ward, es­pe­cially in a 20.


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