September 23, 2010
Though I primarily write about rifles and handguns, I am an avid shotgunner. In fact, I live for the few days I get to spend each year behind good dogs with a trim, fast-handling gun with knock-your-socks-off wood. One such shotgun I have been working with is the Magnus combo by Caesar Guerini.
At my local gunshop, the extraordinary Magnus initially caught my eye because of its obvious quality yet surprisingly low MSRP of $5,160 for a combo set. My curiosity piqued, I contacted Caesar Guerini USA, and requested a loaner gun in both 20 and 28 gauge for review.
The receiver is machined from a solid-steel forging and shaped in the classic "Boss" pattern. It is a solid boxlock design that is common among Brescia makers but differs in that its hardened steel trunnions are easily replaceable in the event the owner is lucky enough to shoot it that much.
The most obvious difference between the Magnus and other Brescia makers' boxlocks is the addition of sideplates. The screwless, pinless sideplates are perfectly fitted. They allow more room for engraving and the rich, color-casehardening that attracted me to the Magnus. The laser-engraved sideplates have delicate scrollwork borders and game scenes with a gold-inlaid grouse scene on the left side, a quail on the right, and a pheasant on the underside. The engraving is nicely executed and eye-catching yet conservative.
Some of the more interesting mechanical features include a conical locking lug, so the gun wears in as you shoot it; an action-tension adjustment, so the gun always feels tight; rebounding hammers for easier action opening and longer firing-pin life; oversized ejectors; a manual, selective safety; and a single, gold-plated trigger that consistently breaks at a crisp, clean 3 pounds, 15 ounces.
My test gun also has very nice wood. The buttstock is rich, dark, Turkish walnut with a fair degree of figure. The cut-checkering is very well done, and the wood-to-metal fitting is perfect. The stock has a Prince of Wales-style grip and a wooden buttplate.
Each set of barrels has its own fitted fore-end, and both matched the buttstock nicely. The fore-end is released via an Anson pushrod latch on the fore-end tip. I prefer that style because it is clean-looking and self-adjusting, and it allows the checkering to wrap around the fore-end.
I also took some time to mount the gun to test its ergonomics and handling qualities. Though these are subjective tests, hitting with a shotgun is all about "feel." Your mileage may vary, but with either set of barrels installed, the Magnus was quick to the shoulder and swung well despite its light weight. Of course, I only shoot field guns, so the weight difference between the Magnus and my other guns was negligible--a sporting clays competitor may have trouble keeping the little field gun swinging.
I particularly liked the feel of the Prince of Wales grip. Though I'd never tried one before, I also liked the wooden buttplate, which seemed to slide effortlessly into place even when I came up with a less-than-perfect mount.
The receiver felt great in the hand and looked nice and trim. In fact, I would say it is just about the perfect size for a 20 gauge. But there is always some compromise with combo guns; in this case, it is a 20-gauge receiver with 28-gauge barrels. Still, the receiver is trim enough, and it's far from clunky for a 28 gauge. It's just not quite as dainty as I would like.
The Magnus really made a believer out of me on the range. I was a bit out of practice, but I only missed three birds in three rounds of skeet with the 20-gauge barrels attached. With the 28-gauge barrels, I shot a solid 23. As I expected after my empty-gun practice, the Magnus came to the shoulder easily and swung smoothly, though I did have to work a bit to keep it moving.
I didn't bother going to the patterning board because the Magnus seemed to hit perfectly for me with both sets of barrels. I attribute my few misses to lack of practice, but I flat-out smoked the majority of the birds I hit.
A few weeks later, I took the Magnus back out for a bit of sporting clays. Once again, I shot pretty well, shooting two birds under my regular 20-gauge average, and I came away impressed with the new gun. The Guerini performed admirably in the mechanical department, too, ejecting empties smartly and locking up smoothly with the solid feel of the proverbial bank vault. I was also impressed with the crisp, light trigger and grateful for its manual safety.
I'm not about to try and convince anyone that a $5,000 shotgun is cheap. But as a lover of fine shotguns, I have to say that Caesar Guerini's Magnus combo is a whole lot of gun for the money. Now, if I can just get the wife to wait a while to get those new blinds...