I’ve followed your advice to the “7 steps to shotgun heaven” and am now in a quandary. I’ve looked at all of the high-end over and under shotguns, read all the advice, and am still unsure. I understand that gun fit and “feel” are very important and personal, but because I’m a closet technoid, given enough money and time I can have a gun fitted, and modified to feel very different.
I know you’ve said (many times) that a gun is a personal thing, but I’m wondering if you can separate all of the marketing propaganda from the facts. Are there any technical, factual reasons to choose a K-80, from a Perazzi, from a Browning B-25, from any other?
Because I plan to buy new and get the gun fitted, I’ve been looking for any concrete reasons to choose one of the three guns over another, but I’m so thoroughly confused by the marketing hype about fundamental design, trigger design, construction, quality, monobloc vs. chopper-lump, etc, etc, etc… Is there any truth to any of it?
I look forward to your sage advice!
Roland wrote that piece on the “Seven Steps to Shotgun Heaven”. Had I written it, I would have advised purchase of ALL the guns considered, not just the narrowing down to one. The only real decision would be which gun to get first, but knowing that one would eventually own then all eases the decision process.
Currently the most popular top quality target guns in the US are the Krieghoff K-80 and the Perazzi. The Belgian Browning B-25 is far less popular today than it used to be. The Perazzi is probably the most sought after gun in trap, the K-80 the most coveted in skeet. In sporting clays the most popular gun in the US is the Japanese Browning followed by the Beretta 682.
You don’t mention which game (games) the gun will be used for, so it makes advising a purchase somewhat problematical, but of course I will take a stab at it anyway.
Longevity: Comparing the Belgian Browning B-25, Perazzi Mirage/MX-8 and Krieghoff K-80, all three will outlast you. Target guns are built to be rebuilt. All three guns will wear and shoot loose. All three guns can be made like new again with little effort.
Malfunctions: I have owned at least several of each of the three. All three have had trigger problems which put me out of a shoot, but the Browning had the fewest of them. Devotees of each brand will tell you that they have fired a jillion rounds through their pet gun and never had a hiccup. I am just telling you what has happened to me personally and what I have seen personally. None of the three have a “problem” trigger and the current model of each would have to be considered extraordinarily reliable. The K-80 trigger is monstrously complicated, but with proper maintenance it is marvelous. The Perazzi trigger is also marvelous, but the best Perazzi models uses leaf springs and they don’t age gracefully. They stay perfect until they snap without warning. Coil springs (K-80 and B-25) degrade gradually. The B-25 Mark 5 trigger is not nearly as crisp as the other two, but I find it more reliable. My Mark 5 triggers wear slowly and require touching with a stone every 25,000. Depends on what you want.
Modularity: This is where the K-80 shines. You can literally stick just about any K-80 barrel on any K-80 receiver. Less so with the Perazzi and not at all with the B-25. If you like to swap barrels around, the K-80 is the choice. K-80 and Perazzi have screw on/off interchangeable stocks. The B-25’s requires a stockmaker to recut inletting when stock switching.
Balance and handling: This, of course, is the name of the game. Which gun you prefer will depend on the game you shoot, your shooting style, your physique and the phase of the moon. I have always found the K-80 to be “clunky” and “chunky”. It balances like a pig on a snow shovel. I sort of like it for ATA trap, but not for anything else. The skeet shooters just love it though because they can easily fit a set of carrier barrels and tubes. Perazzi’s balance is all over the ball park because they make so many different models. They concentrate mostly on the US trap market and so tend to make most of what they send us in “trap weight” (nose heavy- pig on snow shovel). Some of their pigeon guns are very nice, but I have never been fortunate enough to shoot a Perazzi that I felt was perfectly balanced for what I want to do. As to the Belgian B-25, I have always felt that they owned the balance and handling market. That’s why I shoot them and not the K-80 or Perazzi. Not all the B-25s are perfectly balanced (some of the American market 32″ Broadway trap guns were too heavy up front for my taste), but due to their field, not target, heritage, most are very nice indeed. Some are simply exquisite. The current B-25 30″ sporter comes to mind.
Recoil: K-80 by a long shot here. I have never been able to figure out exactly why K-80s kick me less than other O/Us, but they definitely do as far as I am concerned. It certainly has something to do with the fact that they are heavy, have minimal head space (something generally overlooked when considering shotgun recoil), have split barrels, long cones and backboring, but it may also have to do with the design and lock up of the gun. Most Perazzis that I have owned or shot have kicked me just about like any other O/U. The exception has been a couple of the Perazzi pigeon guns I have shot. For some reason (probably perfect gun fit) they kicked less than the other Perazzis. B-25 Brownings have the reputation for being hard kickers and it probably isn’t too far from the truth. They aren’t as bad as the Winchester 101 (nothing is), but they do have noticeably more recoil than a K-80. I think that the generous head space is a major culprit, but I am sure that there is more to it. If recoil is a major concern, buy the K-80 and live with the handling.
Stocks: Getting a gun “fitted” means different things to different people. If you go with a K-80 or Perazzi, you can select from many different configurations of stocks that simply bolt on. Little bending will be required, just adjusting the length. With the B-25, if you buy it new from the US Browning custom shop, you can get anything you want as it will be made to your dimensions. If you buy it ready-made from Europe, you will end up bending to fit. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s an extra step. The one thing that you will have trouble changing on the K-80 and Perazzi stocks is the grip. That part is sort of built in. I have size Large hands and for some reason the K-80 and Perazzi pistol grips have never felt right. I just can’t get comfortable. Beretta O/Us too. The grips on anything that says Browning, Winchester or Remington feel fine. The grip is a VERY important part of stock comfort so don’t overlook it. It is also hard to change.
Used value: I think that K-80 is the clear winner here, with Perazzi not too far behind. Browning is WAY behind. The reasons might surprise you. When Krieghoff first came into the country in the ’50s, it sold for $100 less than the Belgian B-25. It became quickly clear that the Krieghoff was too clunky for field work (though some of the earlier M-32s did have nicely balance barrels) so its sales were limited to the much smaller pool of target shooters. When Hal duPont came aboard and took over distribution, he quickly realized that he wasn’t going to make money on volume, so he decided to do it on markup. Backed up with a good quality gun, a good ad campaign aimed at target shooters and excellent service, the K-80 has been able to command an extraordinarily high price- and keep it on resale too. I keep thinking that the bubble will burst, but so far it hasn’t and a used K-80 still brings a good price. Perazzi is more problematical as they have so many different models that no one can keep track of it. Perazzi has also produced some “cost cutter” guns that further muddy the picture. A Mirage or MX-8 is still a known quantity and holds resale quite well. The Belgian Browning (currently selling new in Europe for just as much or more than K-80 or Perazzi Mirage) has been a victim of its own success. So many guns were brought into the US in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that a huge used gun bonanza overhangs the new market. You have to be insane to pay $8 to $10 K for a new B-25 when you can pick up a good used one for $1200. Used Belgian Brownings are by far the best used gun deal in the US. When the Brits come over for shoots, they just can’t believe the prices of used B-25s. I saw one Brit buy the entire used Belgian Browning inventory at the Orvis display (at least 6 guns) at the SCA Nationals at Okemo, VT some years ago. They would be upgraded and sold in Britain.
Engraving: Perazzi. Period. No one else is even close to the Italian engraving quality. Standard Belgian Browning engraving ranges from average production line piece work to really bad attempts at acid etch/ hand chasing- as is seen on the Diana grades of the ’70s. Production line Krieghoff engraving is better suited for serial numbers on Tiger tanks. It is deep and durable, but that’s about it. Krieghoff upgrades tend more towards slathering on gold inlays than Browning (Midas exception) or Perazzi. It all depends on how you like to display your wealth.
Chokes: The B-25 is not available with screw chokes, the others are. That is one of the reasons that the B-25s balance so well. Factory screw chokes and the jugs and threads to accommodate them are notoriously heavy. If you simply must have screw chokes on your B-25, send it to Briley and get his Thin Walls installed for $350. That won’t alter the weight.
Where to buy: K-80s are best bought right through the normal channels in the US. I think that the best deals on both B-25 Brownings and Perazzis are through Andrew Litt in England. I don’t have his address in hand, but can dig it up if you really want it. He advertises in all the English magazines. Litt can get you a Perazzi Mirage with any set of options you can conceive of (including long, light flat rib solid choke barrels not available in the US) for about $1000 less than it would cost in the US if you could get it. You can literally build your own Perazzi to your own specs, including barrel weight. He can also get you the fabulous B-25 32″ sporter for less than you can get it over here through Browning. It costs a good bit more than a Perazzi Mirage though. New B-25s aren’t cheap.
Make sure to ask around and talk to other shooters who own the three guns. They may have different opinions (probably) and might have different experiences with a particular brand than I have. Just beware of the guy who tells you that his Brand X gun has never broken. He is either possessed of a faulty memory or he hasn’t shot it enough. You won’t go wrong with any one of the Big Three, but they are very different. Which brings me down to the usual canard: “Buy the one that feels best”. It always comes out to that.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)