January 03, 2014
Gunfight Friday: Grouse Guns Edition
By Phil Bourjaily
Since, in my opinion, we need more shotgun gunfights, Springerman3 and I are offering up our grouse guns for this week’s fight. Grouse hunting requires a gun that you can carry all day through heavy cover, often with one hand. But, it also has to deliver its payload on target when the time comes. These two guns have more similarities than differences: both are 20 gauge doubles with shorter barrels and both have pistol grips and single triggers that will annoy purists. Both are also excellent field guns. Mine is ligher and more of a grouse and woodcock specialist. Springerman3’s is an all-around gun that sees a lot of time in the Wisconsin grouse woods every year. Here they are:
Phil’s SKB 100
I will confess I bought my SKB 100 in an impulsive “I have nothing to wear” moment. I had been invited to the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National Hunt and felt it was only appropriate to show up with a 20 gauge double. This gun, well used, appeared in the used rack at my local store at just the right time at a very low price. Made by SKB in Japan and imported by Ithaca in the ’60s and ’70s, the 100s were affordable and feather-light at about 5 ¾ pounds. It has fixed IC/M chokes in its 25-inch barrels and is a distinctly muzzle-light gun. Ordinarily I don’t like a gun with short, light barrels, but for carrying a gun in your trigger hand while fending off branches with the other, a muzzle-light gun is perfect, and it points quickly in thick cover. Besides the aforementioned pistol grip and single trigger, it also has a giant orange plastic blob for a bead that Ithaca called its “Ray-Bar” sight, a kind of primitive fiber optic. I also used to it shoot the only snipe my old English setter, Ike, ever pointed, so I’m fond of it for that reason, too.
Springerman3’s Franchi Highlander
I had been looking for a 20-gauge s/s for a couple of years because I wanted to have as a more versatile gun than the Ithaca SKB 100's that I had been using. They work well in the grouse woods but are too light to swing well on crossing shots in the pheasant fields, and I wanted one gun for everything and I wanted one that moved like my 20 gauge 11-87 that seems to float past the target or bird with what seems to be no effort on my part. This 6-pound 6-ounce Franchi swings almost the same as the 11-87, and I have enjoyed many fine days shooting grouse, pheasants, quail, doves, and sporting clays with it. With a 26-inch barrel and choke tubes it has proven to be almost another “Magic Wand” (my nickname for the 11-87). While some would not like this model as it has no barrel selector and a single trigger, I view this as KISS which means all I should do is point and shoot.
The Franchi Highlander, I should add, was made about 10 years ago and only lasted for a couple of years in the Franchi lineup. It is a nicely finished gun made in Brescia, Italy. It has a case colored receiver that is definitely better looking than the blacked receiver of my gun, and its wood also outshines the wood on my gun, which is has all the color and figure of brown cardboard. Vote, comment, and send your gun pictures and a short paragraph about your gun to email@example.com. If anyone wants to offer up a classic two-trigger, straight stocked double to pit against the winner of this gunfight, Springerman3 and I are game.