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Mike Yardley reviews a bespoke over-and-under 20-bore form Manor Guns - there’s a lot to like, with great handling & sleek lines
Manor Guns bespoke 20-bore - brief overview
We like: The looks and handling qualities; The tasteful medium-scroll engraving; The traditional oil finish and good wood
We don’t like: Very little
Manor Guns bespoke 20-bore - in-depth test & review
This month, we are looking at a lightweight 20-bore gun from a new company, Manor Guns, founded by Gerry Coulter. Gerry has an unusual background in aviation engineering and martial arts (and is also a long-standing member of the British Sporting Rifle Club). His business success has allowed him to start a new gun company, and his fresh approach to firearms metallurgy has already attracted the attention of some of London’s finest. He is currently engaged in patenting a new heat-treatment process for shotgun barrels (used in his side-by-side models).
This gun is an alloy-actioned, 30” over-and-under weighing just under 7lb, with a 15” pistol grip stock (so it is not an ultra-light, but there is a similar model with a shorter stock, hitting the scales at about 6¼lb). The test gun has a single, non-selective trigger (firing the bottom barrel first), and there is an option for double triggers if required (but not a selective trigger).
First aesthetic impressions are good. The action has an exceptionally low profile with a rounded belly. The general lines are sleek. The wood is well figured. The hand-engraving (medium scroll) is particularly attractive (a tight rose and scroll is another option, as are many other customisation possibilities). The words ‘Manor London’ are set in the middle of the action walls. The inclusion of ‘London’ in the branding may raise a few eyebrows, but this is a London company, and Gerry is a Londoner.
He is involved with makers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. In his own words: “I go where I can find the best at a reasonable price.” He stresses that he wants to make a top-quality gun at a realistic price, and that he also wants each to be unique. There is a lot of passion in this enterprise, and his guns are not the usual factory fodder, though they are mostly machine-made.
The test gun is distinguished by a superior finish in all departments. The wood is Turkish walnut and is nicely figured; the chequering is superb with crisp diamonds that are a perfect size and offered good purchase.
The gun had a slight right-hand pistol grip, which is quite tightly radiused but well scaled for the average hand. You can specify what you want with regard to grip style: straight-hand; Prince of Wales; full grips; and with or without palm swells.
Dimensions on the test gun were sensible for a demonstrator: 15” for length of pull, as noted, with a drop of 13/8” and 21/8” (but the gun is bespoke, so you can have what you want within reason). I was also pleased to see straight grain going through the hand with nice figure rearwards. The gun was competently oil-finished. I find the artisan work on French origin guns often impresses. The wood was left quite light in colour, but because of its quality, I thought it contrasted well with the coin-finished action.
The rounded, field-style fore-end was not too bulbous, and it is attached to the barrels by means of a Deeley & Edge lifting-lever fastener. I can never decide whether I prefer this or the Anson push-rod. I tend towards the Deeley, but occasionally they may transmit heat from the barrels to the front hand – something that can happen in the otherwise excellent Silver Pigeons.
Barrels are monobloc, as is the modern norm. They are proofed for steel and chambered for 3” (76mm) cartridges. Here, they are fitted with a ventilated 6mm sighting rib (well suited to the gun) and solid joining ribs. A solid sighting rib is also an option (and normally my preference for the field).
The bead is plain brass, my favourite pattern. Five multi-chokes come with the gun, and they are steel-compatible up to Half choke.
The new Manor over-and-under is particularly interesting because of the alloy used in the action, which is similar to the material used in aircraft landing gear and has unusual shock-absorption properties. I have traced the use of what was once called ‘Ergal’ in over-and-under shotguns to at least World War II, but technology moves on. There is a lot of input from Mr Coulter here.
This gun is made in association with a well-known French firm, based at St Etienne (where the bench work is done), but the barrel tubes are of German origin. The action design isn’t radical: stud pins at the knuckle engage with bifurcated barrel-lumps much like a Beretta (or Woodward). Helical springs drive the hammers and the ejectors. There are flat twin cocking bars, and there is a recoil bar set above the gully for these in the action, which absorbs some rearward energy. At the action face, there is a steel reinforcing strip, as is commonly seen in alloy-actioned guns to prevent hammering around the striker holes.
I shot the gun at my usual venue, Fennes Shooting School, with an enthusiastic Gerry in attendance. It shot very well. I didn’t miss anything, which is always a good sign! Its handling qualities were very good: the gun is lively forwards, but steady because of sensible stock shapes (the actual point of balance is about 1” forward of the hinge pin). Recoil with Lyalvale 21-, 24- and 28-gram loads was a little less than might be expected. Gerry is of the opinion that the action material and design absorbs some of the recoil - quite possibly. The gun is certainly very comfortable to shoot (better than some alloy-actioned guns).
Any negatives? Not really. I think the design suits a 20-bore well. I liked the new Manor OU and I would not change much. The fore-end, grip and comb shapes were all especially good, as discussed. The rib is well suited too. The finish was above average.
Anything to add? The gun comes in a smart leather-cornered, ABS travel case. Everything is bespoke, meaning you can even get an extra set of 30-06 barrels if you are a boar shooter.
n Maker: Manor Guns
n Model: Lightweight
n Bore: 20
n Barrels: 30” (options to 32”)
n Action type: bifurcated lump trigger-plate OU
n Chokes: multi (five supplied)
n Proof: fleurs-de-lys for steel
n Weight: just under 7lbs
n RRP: £5,999
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