Bird guns come in many forms, and most of them work just fine. The dog points, the bird flushes, the gun goes “boom,” the bird explodes in a cloud of feathers, a perfect retrieve follows, and everyone’s happy. Repeaters like pumps and semi-autos are well represented in the field, but over/unders hold the lead by a wide margin and are available from the Spartan to the sybaritic. But the classic side-by-side (S/S) holds a special place in the hearts of connoisseurs of fine guns, as they represent a specialized subclass of game guns.
Side-by-sides have numerous unique advantages for hunters. While many view the S/S as an artifact of a bygone era, a lot of folks see them as functional and aesthetic perfection. The classic S/S has a straight grip for easy manipulation of the double triggers, and slim, sometimes “splinter” fore-ends. Some users say that the broad sighting plane is more difficult to hit with, but most S/S shooters embrace it.
Probably the two most important attributes of a double-trigger S/S is that they provide the hunter with the instantaneous choice of choke, and two triggers are much more reliable than one, essentially giving the shooter two guns in one.
The supply of S/S has waxed and waned over the decades, but fortunately for purists, the supply of good guns is trending upward.
The Bobwhite G2
One manufacturer that has solidly supported the S/S for many years is CZ-USA, which offers a wide selection of scatterguns, both repeaters and break actions, that are all made in the ultra-modern factories of Huglu in Turkey. We’ve all seen guns from Turkey that were, well, just dreadful. The Bobwhite (or any other CZ gun) is not one of them. They are aesthetically pleasing and show the presence of modern machinery and skilled craftsmen. The metal work is excellent, and the wood-to-metal fit and finishing are top drawer.
CZ offers three S/S specifically designed for the serious bird hunter. The Sharp-Tail has false side plates, nice engraving, a color case-hardened receiver, and nice wood. There is also the Hammer Classic with exposed hammers, a colored receiver, and 30" barrels. Both are excellent choices, and are priced a bit north of $1,000.
A few years ago, CZ offered the Bobwhite, a solid workhorse S/S that filled its niche well. But all things can be improved upon, and thus, the Bobwhite G2 was born.
A year or two ago, CZ started using CNC machining on its over/unders, with the concomitant increase in precision. Now the Bobwhite G2 has been similarly enhanced with a totally CNC-machined receiver. It has traditional double triggers, and is priced at about half that of the other two models—well within the budget of most hunters.
The Bobwhite G2 is available in 12 and 20-gauge, and also (drum roll, please) the delightful 28-gauge. More importantly, each gauge is built on its own scaled receiver; no 28-gauge barrels on a 20-gauge frame, or 20 on a 12. The solid boxlock receiver and barrels have a super-hard black chrome finish that is close to rustproof, scratch-resistant, and makes the bores easy to clean. The barrels are made in the monoblock pattern, and a circle of discrete engraving around this joint cleverly disguises where the barrels meet the block.
The Bobwhite’s barrels are 28" in length for all gauges, and come with five screw-in choke tubes with constrictions from straight cylinder to full. The two barrels and screw-in chokes make specialized constriction combinations to fit just about any shooting scenario a snap.
In the distant past, when all shotguns came with fixed chokes, most doubles were improved cylinder and modified, or modified and full, and that was it. “Duck guns” usually were full and full. A few fringe manufacturers came up with much more usable combinations such as improved cylinder and improved modified for prairie grouse, two open chokes for quail or skeet, mixed chokes for mid-range birds or sporting clays, or improved modified and full or two full tubes for long-range shooting.
The G2’s stock and fore-end are of Turkish walnut—nicely figured but not gaudy. There is adequate, well-done checkering on the buttstock and slim fore-end. The wood-to-metal fit is excellent, and the wood has a subtle oil finish that complements the gun’s overall appearance. And, the stock has a slight cast off for right-handed shooters.
Performance on the Range
The skinny recoil pad is adequate for the 28-gauge and 20-gauge with field loads, but I’d hate to have to shoot many 3" magnum loads in either a 12 or 20. There were no live bird seasons open while I had the G2, but the season is always open on clay targets, so I did a little field-testing at the exquisite Ozark Shooters Complex north of Branson, Missouri, for some skeet and sporting clays. I used Federal’s standard field loads with 7⁄8 oz. of #8s on sporting, and my handloads with ¾ oz. of #9s for skeet. Needless to say, all loads functioned perfectly, and the empties were easy to gather off of the solid ejector—important for us reloaders. The right barrel with the improved cylinder tube was deadly on close-in clays, and the left, with a modified tube, smoked targets fairly well out to about 30–35 yards.
It is well known that doubles—including shotguns—must be “regulated” so that both barrels hit in about the same place. Thus, I am delighted to report that both barrels seemed to shoot right where I was aiming in most cases, except for the occasional “loose nut” shot (the nut at the end of the stock). The new Bobwhite G2’s overall handling qualities were quite good, it is well balanced, and the 28" barrels made for a nice, smooth swing.
The classic S/S is not for everyone, but it represents the epitome of shotguns for a distinct cohort of bird hunters. It is the brush with which the hunter paints pictures of beauty across the expanse of veldt that is the hunter’s canvas.