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Gunfight Friday: Grouse Guns, Round 2

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February 21, 2014

Gunfight Friday: Grouse Guns, Round 2

By Phil Bourjaily

This week we have a battle of two outstanding grouse guns. A few weeks ago, Springerman3 and I put our grouse guns up against one another—my beater SKB 100 versus his much nicer Franchi Highlander. Two of our friends offered to take on the winner (Springerman3) but their grouse guns operate on a whole different level than ours. It wouldn’t have been a fair fight. I thought we would let them face off against one another instead.

Both guns are Spanish-made—one from Arrieta, the other from Ugartechea, two of the Basque region’s best gunmakers. The two factories are small, their work forces are highly skilled, and a lot of old-fashioned handwork goes into these guns. They aren’t cheap, but they are still a deal if you look at the price of a comparable English gun. The quality is very good. Both are smallbores. Scott Thompson’s is a two-barrel 16/20 gauge set, and Dave Kalkwarf’s, a 28 gauge. Nice as they are, both of these guns go into the woods on a regular basis, which is what fine guns are made to do. Here they are:

Dave Kalkwarf’s Aspen Outfitting Company Ugartechea

This model of Ugartechea is somewhat of a custom-order gun by John Hollinger of Aspen Outfitters Company, in Aspen, Colorado. It’s an Anson and Deeley type boxlock. It’s a 28 gauge, weighing 5 pounds, 14 ounces with 28-inch barrels. It has a few upgrades: bushed firing pins, scalloped receiver, hinged front trigger [so you don’t bruise your finger under recoil when you pull the back trigger] a rolled edge trigger guard, long lower tang, initial plate it the stock and a checkered butt.

Although it's perhaps choked a bit tight of ideal for a grouse gun, through trial and error and lots of patterning, I've found several 28 loads that change that Sk2 barrel to the equivalent of Sk1, and a load or two that move that Improved Modified barrel to full as needed.

It's seen some rather heavy use at sporting clays courses in addition to my hunting trips, and to date operation has been flawless. On one occasion, I used it as my primary pheasant gun on a trip to South Dakota, and on a second trip I used it as a secondary gun. With proper loads, it's easily a 35-yard pheasant gun (and that's without the 1-ounce loads available). I've also harvested a number of prairie grouse and ruffed grouse, plus a few woodcock. It's one of my keepers.

Scott Thompson’s Arrieta

What we have here is a "pre-owned” Arrietta 871 Round Body Sidelock. I had always shot O/Us for grouse and woodcock, but after reading Burt Spiller and George Bird Evans I decided to go retro. I found this 16/20 gauge two-barrel set at an area sporting goods store. Both barrels are 28 inches, which I have not found to be a handicap in grouse cover. The 20 gauge barrel is choked Skeet/IC, the 16 is IC/Light Modified, and the double triggers let me instantly choose the right choke for the flush. The gun weighs right at 6 pounds so all day carry is not a problem.

I prefer the function and look of the straight English stock. The splinter forearm is fine for hunting (keeps weight down and minimizes "twig catching" material), but on skeet or clays you have to wear gloves to open the gun as the barrels heat up. The checkered wood butt and the gold inlays for the barrels (1 for 16 and 2 for 20) add a touch of class to this removable-sidelock beauty.

Too nice to take into the woods? Nope, if you are going to pursue the king you must look the part, right? I see myself as the "keeper of this functional art"...until death do us part. 

Both guns are beauties. The choice really comes down to boxlock versus sidelock or gauge: 28 on the one hand, 16 and 20 on the other. I have a hard time choosing. I want them both. You? Vote and comment below, and keep the gun pictures coming to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.

Comments (13)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Mark-1 wrote 8 weeks 11 hours ago

Slurp!!!!

I can't decide. Both guns are the REAL DEAL for grouse...and for any other upland bird [as an after thought].

May both owners be proud and use these wonderful functional art pieces for many years and hours in the field.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wittsec wrote 8 weeks 11 hours ago

I like the interchangable barrels of the Arrietta, plus I think it has the edge on looks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 8 weeks 5 hours ago

Mark-1: Tough call for me too as my " friends " have NEVER let me shoot them ...... Both are superb weapons and should make any true grouse hunter drool :)
Good luck to both of you !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 8 weeks 1 hour ago

I'm with wittsec on this vote!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 8 weeks 44 min ago

Wow, these are some class shotguns. Four grand and eight grand? Whew.. yeah Phil, you and Springerman can take the week off.

I guess I like the looks of the Arrieta more, plus the 16 and 20 gauge options. I have never hunted with a 28 gauge, I am thinking it would be a challenge. Congratulations on two extremely fine pieces gentlemen. I am sure you are both very happy with what you have. Do it right or don't do it at all... I don't feel so bad about having an $800 scope on my .22 now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jhjimbo wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

I like the options on the Aspen and the attention to detail.
28ga is not my first choice but like the owner says once you get used to how it shoots you are fine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

There have been some close ones before but this is the first time I cannot even begin to choose between such fine shotguns. All I can do is congratulate both owners on their fine taste and good fortune and wish that I could lay my hands on either gun. It would be disrespectful to shoot either without wearing proper tweed and accompanied by a Gordan setter.
One question -- both guns have checkered butts, but do they also wear skeleton plates? Seems like it would be difficult to avoid marring the checkering without that rim of steel protection.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

There a Fine Set of Shotguns, I Bought a SxS 20Ga Antonio Zoli Golden Snipe 26" Bbls VR Single Trigger,Auto Ej,Engraved,Choked Imp/Mod $565.00(1967).The worst gun i have ever owned for Grouse & Woodcock Hunting...Just not for me, Went back to my Old Browning Sweet16! When your want to put birds on the Table.Their Great looking Shotguns, but not worth a Dam in NY Woods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

Very nice guns. I would vote for both if I could. But I can't so I'm not going to cast a ballot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ITHACASXS wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

Both are incredibly beautiful and made to be used. I vote for the 20/16 Arrietta because I think the 16 could come in handy when things may get tough with wild pheasants. I respectfully disagree with my fellow New Yorker Treestand, though he no doubt, has killed more grouse than I.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

@SxS: Think Treestand was referring to his Golden Snipe not being worth a damn.

The Browning Sweet 16 is a great shotgun built on a dedicated small frame, but it's still too heavy for Upland Grouse for me. Just My Opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

Additional: Isn't it something serious shotgunners specialize somewhat in their shotguns. e.g. It seems when a gunner has fairly good idea of targets path they will opt for an o/u, but when the target's unpredictable in flight the s x s is the choice in double barrels.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 7 weeks 3 days ago

Some folks have very nice looking guns and can't hit the broad side of a barn with them ....... others shoot them very well which adds to the allure of owning them ! One reason to shoot them before the season to see if you can hit anything with that gun !
Shooting a shotgun is all about how you swing that thing vs. looks, I know folks that harvest plenty of game using a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500 !
MReeder: know both of these gentlemen, you will never see them in the woods wearing tweed and definitely not using a Gordon Setter :)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Mark-1 wrote 8 weeks 11 hours ago

Slurp!!!!

I can't decide. Both guns are the REAL DEAL for grouse...and for any other upland bird [as an after thought].

May both owners be proud and use these wonderful functional art pieces for many years and hours in the field.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

There a Fine Set of Shotguns, I Bought a SxS 20Ga Antonio Zoli Golden Snipe 26" Bbls VR Single Trigger,Auto Ej,Engraved,Choked Imp/Mod $565.00(1967).The worst gun i have ever owned for Grouse & Woodcock Hunting...Just not for me, Went back to my Old Browning Sweet16! When your want to put birds on the Table.Their Great looking Shotguns, but not worth a Dam in NY Woods.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 7 weeks 3 days ago

Some folks have very nice looking guns and can't hit the broad side of a barn with them ....... others shoot them very well which adds to the allure of owning them ! One reason to shoot them before the season to see if you can hit anything with that gun !
Shooting a shotgun is all about how you swing that thing vs. looks, I know folks that harvest plenty of game using a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500 !
MReeder: know both of these gentlemen, you will never see them in the woods wearing tweed and definitely not using a Gordon Setter :)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wittsec wrote 8 weeks 11 hours ago

I like the interchangable barrels of the Arrietta, plus I think it has the edge on looks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 8 weeks 5 hours ago

Mark-1: Tough call for me too as my " friends " have NEVER let me shoot them ...... Both are superb weapons and should make any true grouse hunter drool :)
Good luck to both of you !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 8 weeks 1 hour ago

I'm with wittsec on this vote!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 8 weeks 44 min ago

Wow, these are some class shotguns. Four grand and eight grand? Whew.. yeah Phil, you and Springerman can take the week off.

I guess I like the looks of the Arrieta more, plus the 16 and 20 gauge options. I have never hunted with a 28 gauge, I am thinking it would be a challenge. Congratulations on two extremely fine pieces gentlemen. I am sure you are both very happy with what you have. Do it right or don't do it at all... I don't feel so bad about having an $800 scope on my .22 now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jhjimbo wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

I like the options on the Aspen and the attention to detail.
28ga is not my first choice but like the owner says once you get used to how it shoots you are fine.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

There have been some close ones before but this is the first time I cannot even begin to choose between such fine shotguns. All I can do is congratulate both owners on their fine taste and good fortune and wish that I could lay my hands on either gun. It would be disrespectful to shoot either without wearing proper tweed and accompanied by a Gordan setter.
One question -- both guns have checkered butts, but do they also wear skeleton plates? Seems like it would be difficult to avoid marring the checkering without that rim of steel protection.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 7 weeks 6 days ago

Very nice guns. I would vote for both if I could. But I can't so I'm not going to cast a ballot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ITHACASXS wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

Both are incredibly beautiful and made to be used. I vote for the 20/16 Arrietta because I think the 16 could come in handy when things may get tough with wild pheasants. I respectfully disagree with my fellow New Yorker Treestand, though he no doubt, has killed more grouse than I.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

@SxS: Think Treestand was referring to his Golden Snipe not being worth a damn.

The Browning Sweet 16 is a great shotgun built on a dedicated small frame, but it's still too heavy for Upland Grouse for me. Just My Opinion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 7 weeks 5 days ago

Additional: Isn't it something serious shotgunners specialize somewhat in their shotguns. e.g. It seems when a gunner has fairly good idea of targets path they will opt for an o/u, but when the target's unpredictable in flight the s x s is the choice in double barrels.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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