I'm officially in the market for a new – or used – shotgun and the scenario couldn't be better for a husband who usually has to at least run a big-ticket purchase like this by his wife. Maybe not for a formal approval, but just out of courtesy, alerting her that some serious cash might be dumped.
By serious, I don't mean Perazzi or Caesar Guerini-type bucks, although I did handle a beautiful Guerini 20 gauge over/under last month at a writers' conference. It didn't carry a five-figure price tag, but it was close enough. And they weren't doling out free samples, although that's the perception among some sportsmen.
So the search has begun in earnest, at the local gun shops, online and sometime this month at one of the bigger gun shows where the chances of handling a 20 O/U are pretty good. I've actually boiled it down to names like Ruger (Red Label), Browning (Citori), Franchi, Weatherby, CZ-USA and Charles Daly, but whether I actually pull the trigger, both figuratively and literally, on one of these models remains to be seen.
And whether I go the new or used route, too, is still up in the air. Some of the models I've eyed carry price tags that are pushing my envelope a bit, so used might be a better option to keep things in the ballpark.
But Paula has given this her blessing, and she really had no choice, since she basically stole my 20 over-and-under, a sleek Remington model I bought at an outdoor writers' conference auction. She had been toting a fine Browning A-5 Lightweight 20, but liked the Remington O/U even more, largely due to the safety location. Paula is left eye dominant and shoots lefty as a result, and we were regularly switching over the Browning's safety to serve myself (a righthander) and Paula at various times.
And with a Lab puppy on the way (that's another story all its own), the prospects of doing more upland hunting have never been greater. I'll gladly climb out of my treestand to hunt pheasants with a fine Lab, as I did with our black Lab Ben until he moved into retirement.
So I'm dead serious on this, and hope to have something in hand by the end of the month so I can do some trap shooting at the local club. There's nothing worse that having a young dog do his job in the field, only to have you puke all over the classic moment by missing the shot at a tight-flushing, cackling cockbird. Trust me, the dog will give you a look you'll never forget.
I'm a bit nervous about going the used route because I'm not a guy who knows firearms like so many sportsmen and gun owners do. To me, they are tools to be used, and beyond the feel and fit I don't get caught up in the minute details, although I know I should.
I've already done a big no-no in the gun-buying world: purchasing a firearm sight unseen, online. I got away with it, but it did have a couple issues that needed to be addressed by my gunsmith. Fortunately the repairs didn't cost a lot, and the Remington Model 7600 pump action .270 carbine with Williams peep sights is still a great tool is use on bad-weather days in the whitetail woods. I went the online route because while there are scores of .30-06 models out there (thanks to the legendary deer-hunting Benoit family), .270s were hard to come by.
I'm trying to prep myself for the prospect of buying a used shotgun, and am hoping to tote along a knowledgeable firearms guy to assist me. My local gunsmith has also offered to lend a hand, if only by phone, when and if the moment of truth arrives.
I've done enough research at this point to know I have to look for details like the condition of the gun's bluing; the stock finish and checkering; the butt plate or recoil pad; trigger guard; barrel; and, obviously with an over-under, the action. It has to be tight when closed.
Beyond all those important details, I think it will just be one of those things when I'll just know this is the gun for me. The fit, the feel, the look. And, of course, the price tag.