January 10, 2014
Gunfight Friday: Over/Under vs Side-by-Side
By Phil Bourjaily
Over/Under or side-by-side? That’s the question in today’s Gunfight. Personally, my answer is “some of each, please,” although I probably shoot O/Us better if only because I shoot them much more often. Double guns are better looking, I think, and that wide expanse of barrels makes them easy to put on target. At any rate, today we have a couple of neat guns representing the O/U and SxS perspectives today. Unfortunately, neither is made anymore. The Fox Savage BSE was a solid, if heavy, workingman’s double made in the U.S.A. by Savage, which bought out A.H. Fox in 1929. This gun is not an A.H. Fox but an upgraded Stevens double that Savage introduced in the ’40s. It lasted until 1988, and was discontinued when Savage eliminated everything but the Model 110 from production. It’s a rugged double, not refined, but they rarely break, and I wish I had them in all gauges. The “SE” in BSE stands for “single trigger, ejectors,” incidentally.
The Weatherby Orion was made in the SKB factory in Japan, which, sadly, closed its doors in 2010 after 155 years in operation. A surprising amount of skilled handwork went into every SKB gun, and the O/Us were excellent guns, with a crossbolt action that was very strong. They were sold here under the Ithaca label in the ’60s and ’70s, and as SKBs and Weatherbys until the plant closed. The Orion was the plainer, field-grade SKB/Weatherby, while the Athena was the fancier gun. Here they are:
Mark Lovelace’s Fox BSE
Since I am a lefty and cannot use stocks with cast-off, I vote for my 20-gauge Savage Fox Model BSE Series H. It has a vibrantly case colored case receiver, deep rich bluing, mid-rib bead, and cut checkering on its walnut pistol grip stock with Indian head cap. Heavy? Yes, but that just helps tame the recoil of hot 1 oz. loads better. Apparently someone quail hunted with this gun before I bought it. Both barrels are cylinder bore, the product of a 28-inch barrel (marked IC and Mod) cut to 26 inches. I hope to use my “new” 20 around Tustin, Mich., this fall after the leaves fall. And to those that say the 20 isn’t enough, I say: “Learn to hit something!”
Doug Tichenor’s Weatherby Orion
This 20-gauge Weatherby Orion was left in my care by a good friend who cannot hunt. I am not sure when it was made, but it was built in Japan. I do not think that they are in production anymore. At slightly over 6 1/2 pounds, this is a perfect grouse gun for where I hunt. Birds are there but finding them involves a long trek through hard cover, and this gun is well balanced, easy to carry, and easy to shoulder fast. After December, I leave the grouse alone and use it for snowshoe hares. With selectable barrels and 3-inch chambers, this gun can handle anything from skeet to waterfowl. My Brittany, Timber, likes this gun, too. He hates my deer rifles with a passion.
Take your pick—O/U or double—and vote, post comments, and keep sending in gun pictures. We need your submissions to keep the gunfights running. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.