After examining thousands of shotguns of all types, including the top makes of every nation, I found that there are some common characteristics in what contributes to good handling. With the shotgun taken down pick up each part and hold it from the point you hold it when mounting. So you hold the barrels where your hand would go when picking up the assembled gun, hold the stock and action assembly from the grip and so on.
The more pronounced the tendency of each individual part to swing towards the center, the better the handling of the assembled gun will prove. Conversely the more sluggish, or absent, this tendency the more likely it is to handle indifferently. This test has proven more reliable than balancing at some point of the assembled gun. Any gun will balance at some point along its length, this in itself does not say much for the handling in practice.
As for the finest handling gun I have come acrosss, it is a single barrel 12 gauge sidelock Lang. Yes single barrel sidelock, it has one lock on one side and an escutcheon on the other. You can see it here:
SGJ, what is it about the Lang single bbl that prompts your feeling of fine handling quality? Light/heavy weight? Balance point from trigger? Short/long bbl? Light/heavy stock? How does its handling compare to a typical Brit game gun? Typical Brit game gun has the following handling characteristics: 6 1/2# weight, 4 1/2" balance to (front) trigger, unmounted swing of 1.45, and mounted swing of 6.4 (average of 60 some guns).
It is both possible and practical to sum the parts/assemblies of a gun to see where the swing characteristics are coming from. For example, measuring the weight, balance, and MOI at balance for a set of barrels and forearm (assembly) and for a stocked action would give a "which was causing what" for that gun. I have now two positive experiences of specing the restorative work on quality "orphaneds." Per Dig Haddoke's theory of restoring best work guns to usefulness and owning a best work gun for about 20% of new, I have tried one with high quality barrel sleeving and another with a restock. In both cases I got what I wanted for what I could afford. I'm convinced that it is possible to spec a gun for handling provided you actually know what you want. That is to say replicate the handling of one gun to another.
Interesting, Don. I would think that, for a multiple gun shooter, having the specs of all of them very near matching would do more for your shooting than seeking one magic set of numbers. As long as the guns were reasonably well suited in MOI and swing effort, and barring extreme weight differences, muscle memory would have a much easier time of it, and you would (should) shoot them all with pretty much the same degree of effectiveness.
Caveat ..........as long as you could keep the "thinking side of it" to a minimum.
"With one foot in the grave ..........and one foot on the pedal, I was born a Rebel" T.P.
" what is it about the Lang single bbl that prompts your feeling of fine handling quality?"
It lets me feel that I am in control of the gun, rather than the other way round. A prime example of a gun that would not let me control it is the Blaser F16 Sporting with that brick like stock comb and its muzzle heavy feel. By accident the Lang's stock dimensions happen to suit me just right, as does the stock shape, a factor not often discussed.
The Lang has a 30 inch barrel, yet it feels in my hands more like a Churchill XXV. The pointability is partly due to the weight distribution, but mostly I think due to the single barrel construction. The left hand, the one that points, is as near to the barrel axis as you can get. Note also the short forend which most likely works well with the right hand placement due to the sidelock form. The mass of the guns is definitely between the hands. That feel in combination with the longer barrel contributes to the sense of control over the gun.
It is not a light gun. Though single the barrel walls have plenty of metal in them, if I recall thickness is about 40 thou before the choke cone. I figure the weight at about 6 lbs. I do not recall the balance point. What is noticeable is that the barrel, due to the generous amount of metal at the breech, snaps back when held at the the point just before the forend. The breech walls are about 4mm thick.
This Lang is not super unique. Most of the quality English singles, usually hammer guns, display the same general characteristics. This Lang happens to suit me best. Second comes a 16 gauge peninsula lock hammer single from Midland Gun Company.
Singles, regardless of quality, are not going to displace doubles or autos. However, these quality singles are useful tools for comparison of this thing we call handling.
An aside. I read somewhere that these quality singles were known as "vicar's guns" because clergymen needed a respectable yet affordable gun to attend invitation shoots.
interesting comment re sidelock handling and balance, by two English gun experts discussing four London bests, Purdey, Holland, Boss and Woodward.
"even distribution of weight over the whole gun so that it feels effortless to use" is an intriguing comment by the Holt's man who handles best guns all day every day. His opinion sounds close to what Powell had written.
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