By Randy Lawrence
The older I get in wingshooting, the more I Like Things The Way They Are. That's because, for the most part, I Have Things The Way I Like Them.
I have a favorite hat, shooting glasses and vest. I like my boots. I shoot doves from a battered lawn recliner. The dogs that hunt for me, I trained myself. I know their faults and foibles because they mirror my own. And for many years, what I knew I didn't want was a new shotgun. I was comfortable missin' 'em close with the short stable of good birdguns already on hand.
Then came The Lockdown and too much time to think...and I started grieving the various 28-gauges I have owned in the past. I regretted parting with a 5 and 1/2 lb. Grulla that Bill Hanus swore would be the firearm I'd choose to put in my casket for the Afterlife. I mourned the too long, too heavy SKB 28 that I hauled around in a saddle scabbard for almost a decade, hunting and training dogs from horseback.
My brother is fond of saying, "'Need' is the language's weakest word," suspicious as he is of virtually anything that smacks of "f-u-n." But that's my brother - the sensible one. I "needed" a 28-gauge because I wanted one; not just ANY one, but 28" barrels fronting a straight hand stock, built on an actual 28 gauge frame...just like the one I stumbled across on gunbroker.com one night during a bout of insomnia-fueled web surfing.
There it was: a sleek, purpose-built Rizzini box lock over-under, 28" barrels, good stock architecture with a schnabel* forend, slight perch belly to the butt and, glory of glories, double triggers!
"Boy howdy!" I cried, or something to that effect to the various dogs arrayed where I could trip over them in my sleepless perambulations.
I plunged into research about Rizzini guns and was quickly reminded that there are various brothers, nephews, cousins, etc. putting their surname to Italian firearms. Add to this one of the Rizzinis being married to a Fausti, and stuff gets really confusing.
This particular gun was being sold under the F.A.I.R. style: Fabrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini. I had handled enough of the company's side-by's manufactured there in Northern Italy's Val Trompia, ancient home of Spaghetti Gun Making, that I trusted this "Isi Rizzi" O/U to be of quality.
Then stuff got serious.
The fences were sculpted, there was a cut-away design to the top-lever's thumb, and the sides of the receivers were computer etched with Bobwhite Quail in flight on one side and a Gambel's Quail strutting on the other. Ho hum...til the photo came up of the action's underside...and the beautiful Woodcock there was hand cut, the work signed, and the darned image actually LOOKED like an honest-to-Labrador Twister woodcock!
That matters to me. I loathed that the SKB 28 I shot maybe better than any gun I've ever owned had (Heaven forfend!) ditch parrot pheasants in flight on the receiver. And yes...I shot wild pheasants with that gun, sharptails, too, but doggonit, that was my quail and woodcock and ruffed grouse gun!
"Who cares?," any sensible person would ask. I wouldn't raise my hand on that query where anyone could see it, but not very deep inside, I care very much. The art is part of the deal.
(PS: I can overlook the fact that the Woodcock image is of Scolopax rusticola, the barred breasted Eurasian Woodcock. It was an Italian artisan at the graver after all...)
I sweated through three auction cycles before I had the money to make a bid on that shotgun. When I finally took delivery, the bird season was already over, so the little gun has stood empty by my bed where I can fondle it, throw it to my shoulder, explain its virtues to the dogs, and dry fire on a covey of bobwhites flushing in an old print hanging on my bedroom wall.
Yesterday marked my first chance to shoot the dove patch we keep on the hilltop, three acres of mowed, then disked, sunflower, millet, partridge pea and wheat in the middle of my hayfield that absolutely horrify my no nonsense Amish farmer. Boots the Labrador and I set up our water jug, chair, and two boxes of Fiocchi cartridges under a tree, and spent the next two and a half hours getting acquainted with the little Rizzini.
This morning, Lynn Dee Galey texted, "How did you like the new gun?"
Without thinking, I replied, "OK."
That's the truth, actually. It was "OK" shooting a new gun after any number of years standing pat on the firearms that I've loved, fitted, carried, and shot for thousands of rounds of game and clays, including the Beretta that's due for a refitted hinge pin.
The stock is a bit longer than I like. The toe needs rounded and turned slightly out. When that work is being done, I'll have my guy install an ultra thin rubber English pad to replace the plastic one there now.
Those are details for another time. For now, when I did my part, the gun felt great between my hands. I missed some gimmes early, but by the shank end of the afternoon, "Isi Rizzi" and I let the air out of a couple of high fast ones that got the old dog some exercise on deep retrieves.
But doves are a dalliance. If that little 28 and I do manage to form a new partnership beyond "OK", it'll be in October and November when the woodcock come through and the setter puppy Cool Hand Luke takes reps in front of the shotgun that was originally marked as "his."
When he does his part, which he will, and if I do mine, I'll accept the retrieve and match the warm, setter-mouthed form to the hand cut one just forward of the trigger guard...and once again, we'll have Things Just The Way I Like Them.
* Under the heading of "Did You Know?" comes the fact that the word "schnabel"is derived from a German word meaning "beak"? I, of course, did not know this...