Seven Guns From Seven Makers

Shooting Sportsman - Seven Guns from Seven Makers

The guns of top clays shooters

By Ed Carroll

When Shooting Sportsman launched in 1987 and experienced its initial growth into the early ’90s, the magazine’s rise rode two powerful trends in shotgunning: growing appreciation for better double guns and enthusiasm for the latest clay-target discipline: sporting clays. The earlier, more casual “hunters’ clays” format was by then becoming the formal and competitive sporting clays we know today, with dozens of major competitions every year and top shooters whose consistent feats of skill and competitive grit have earned them true “pro” status and busy coaching schedules.

While many Shooting Sportsman readers are diehard sporting clays competitors and many more shoot at least a few rounds of sporting a year, we don’t devote much attention to the upper end of the competitive sport. Other magazines cover competition exclusively, while our focus has remained on sporting clays as more “gentlemanly” recreation: year-’round practice for game shooting and competitions featuring the guns that many readers collect and carry afield during hunting season.

But we thought that a glimpse into the world of top clays shooters might offer some insight regarding their guns and shooting methods that could benefit aspiring competitors and the “weekend warriors” among us. In talking with them and considering the specs of their gun setups we found plenty of consistency—and a few surprises.

COMMONALITIES

• The seven top shooters we spoke with fire tens of thousands of rounds each year in competition and practice—as well as in the field. They all use long-barreled over/unders built to withstand millions of rounds, and while they all started young and most have shot a lot of different guns, once they found the gun that worked well they were reluctant to change. Three-time US Open Champion Wendell Cherry has shot his Perazzi for 17 years. When Anthony Matarese Jr. switched to the Beretta DT-11 after 18 years shooting semi-autos, “It probably took me two years, about 50,000 rounds, before I was completely comfortable. Your brain gets used to what you’re shooting over time.”

• Good gun fit is a given, with some getting it from the gunmaker, while others get it through the most talented gunfitters and stockmakers plying the craft. Matt Fisher, a young shooter for Blaser, altered his F3 only by adding an inch to the stock. That’s it. “No one ever believes that the stock dimensions provided by Blaser fit me to a ‘T.’”

• Flat ribs, tiny beads and a low-gun approach. The change allowing pre-mounted shooting in competition scandalized traditionalists and still separates some “vintage”-type shoots from the contemporary sport. But it’s not much of an issue to these guys: From high stocks to flat ribs, they are set up for adapting their low-mount guns to the occasional targets shot better from a pre-mount. One reason is that they shoot the same guns for the international variant FITASC, where low-mount is still the rule.

SURPRISES

• There’s a divide between heavy-gun “swing-weight” shooters and those who prefer “light and lively.” Their guns vary from 8 pounds to a hefty 9¼. As much as they shoot, as many times as they raise these heavy guns, you can see the results in their physiques. Brad Kidd shoots a 9¼-pound Zoli and used to shoot as much as 40,000 rounds a year. “There are times when I practice the gun mount hundreds of times a day,” Kidd said. “I could probably hold a shotgun up longer than the world’s strongest man.”

• For all of the technology available with sophisticated multi-choke sets, three of these seven shooters use guns with fixed chokes—from Wendell Cherry’s 17-year-old Perazzi to Richard Faulds’ first-ever fixed-choke Caesar Guerini Invictus model. Will Fennell’s Krieghoff K-80 Parcours has Improved Modified chokes bored by Briley in both barrels. He said it helps keep the gun light and neutral, and he never has to think about choke tubes or which barrel first. “I like the simplicity,” Fennell said, “and the patterns are great. Once you get used to shooting tight chokes you can start to take advantage of pattern density past 30 yards.”

So here they are—seven guns from seven makers, set up for seven top shooters who will campaign them at the highest level of sporting clays this year.

Brad Kidd Jr.

Sugar Land, Texas, born 1982

bradkiddjr.com

Brad Kidd Jr.

Zoli Ambassador

  • Weight: 9 1/4 pounds
  • Barrel: 32″, not ported
  • Stock: Fixed comb, pistol grip, 15 1/4″ LOP
  • Rib: Standard Zoli flat rib; no mid-bead, tiny front bead
  • Patterning point: 60/40, fixed
  • Choke: Rhino extended chokes. The weight balances my gun perfectly and they pattern great.
  • Balance point & adjustability: Balances at hinge pin.
  • Trigger: 3-pound pull. Very sharp and crisp, adjustable mechanical trigger
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

1) Trigger, 2) barrels, 3) how well it points. The rest I can customize. Zoli has the best trigger and points great. They put a lot of research into ballistics—it would be hard to find a better barrel.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

I chose Zoli because I felt like it’s the best and the support from Zoli USA and International is unbelievable. They really go the extra mile to take care of their customers. That simple.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

Custom stock. Rhino chokes. Mid-bead removed and put on the end. That’s it.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

I have beautiful engraving and wood and like having a nice gun, but it hasn’t always been that way. For years I shot stocks that I carved with Bondo and tape, etc. At the end of the day it’s about how it shoots—that’s what really matters.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

Zoli built the gun as a present commemorating my national championship in 2010. It’s got some special engraving referencing the win.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

I used to shoot a lot more—40,000 rounds a year. I’m shooting a lot less now. But Zolis can handle whatever number you want to run through them.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

I have used it in the field. I usually don’t, but I didn’t bring a hunting gun to Florida on vacation this Christmas and used it for wood ducks with my brother and our kids.

Richard Faulds

Longparish, Hampshire, England, born 1977

owlslodgeshootingschool.co.uk

Richard Faulds

Caesar Guerini Invictus V Supersport

  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Barrel: 32″ not ported
  • Stock: 15.5″ LOP, fairly flat comb, non-adjustable stock, slimline pistol grip
  • Rib: tapers 10mm to 6mm, no beads
  • Patterning point: 60/40, non-adjustable
  • Choke: Fixed factory chokes, 3/4 and Full
  • Balance point & adjustability: Balances at hinge pin.
  • Trigger: 3-pound pull, inertia trigger
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

1) Balance, 2) pointability, 3) gun fit!

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

I’ve shot Guerini for four years, and this is a new fixed-choke model, as I rarely ever change chokes. This gun balances so well without the weight of the multi choke.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

Custom stock, everything else is standard.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

Yes, I like a pretty gun.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

This is the first fixed-choke competition model from Guerini.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

About 20,000 to 30,000 per year.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

Yes, I use my old competition guns: a pair of Ellipse Evo RF1s if I’m double-gunning on game, or just my new Invictus V if I’m only using one gun.

Wendell Cherry

Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, born 1964

wendellcherry.com

Wendell Cherry

Perazzi, MX2000

  • Weight: 8 pounds 3 ounces
  • Barrel: 34″, not ported
  • Stock: 15 3/8″ LOP, standard Schnabel forearm
  • Rib: Non-adjustable flat-tapered 11mm x 7mm with half mid-rib, standard white Perazzi bead with mid-bead
  • Patterning point: 55/45
  • Choke: Fixed, 26° bottom, 32° top
  • Balance point & adjustability: 1/4″ in front of hinge pin with no adjustability.
  • Trigger: Drop-out inertia triggers set at 3 pounds each
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

1) Balance and feel, 2) pointability, 3) durability and low recoil.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

I feel Perazzi builds the best gun in the world with the best combination of speed, pointability and durability. Each gun is built custom to your specifications. They are the only company that offers truly custom competition guns.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

I shoot it right out of the box. If Perazzi builds you a gun, there are no alterations to be made.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

For my taste the Perazzi MX2000 has the right blend of engraving and wood.

Name something about your current gun(s) that people wouldn’t know or expect.

On the left side of the chamber it says, “Custom built for my friend Wendell Cherry. Daniele Perazzi.”

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

35,000 per year.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

I use it on doves and pigeons.

Derrick Mein

Edwardsville, Kansas born 1985

psca.com/derrick-mein

Derrick Mein

Kolar Max Lite Sporting

  • Weight: 8.5 pounds to 8.75 pounds
  • Barrel: 32″ with pro porting
  • Stock: Custom stock from Wenig Custom Gunstocks with an adjustable comb; 15″ LOP; Schnabel forend
  • Rib: Fixed-ramp tapered rib with small mid-bead moved to the end.
  • Patterning point: Standard point of impact. Can be adjusted by a Kolar gunsmith.
  • Choke: Factory titanium chokes
  • Balance point & adjustability: Just behind the hinge pin, only adjustable using weighted tape.
  • Trigger: 3 1/4 pounds pull, mechanical.
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

The first thing I look for is feel: If the gun doesn’t feel good when you first pick it up, it takes a lot of work to get the gun to feel right. Feel includes balance and how the gun swings along with fit, although fit is the easiest thing to correct. The second thing I look for is trigger pull: The weight of the trigger can be adjusted by a good gunsmith, but a clean, crisp break of the trigger is harder to achieve. The Kolar had both right out of the box. The third thing is recoil. There are things that can be done to help soften recoil, but if your gun kicks when you first get it, it’s harder to get the recoil under control with gun fit and other reduction devices.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

The gun was extremely fast to the target without putting a lot of effort into it. Second, the Kolar Max Lite is the softest-shooting over/under I have ever used, and the people at Kolar are some of the nicest, most helpful, in the business.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

The only things I have done are get a custom-fit stock from Wenig Custom Gunstocks, replaced the white bead with a small mid-bead, and had the barrels ported.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

I enjoy shooting a pretty gun. It’s important to think your gun looks good—it gives you a little extra confidence. I prefer a hard, clear finish similar to what Kolar and Wenig use, because it seems to be more durable.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

My gun is set up to shoot a little higher than most, mostly because I want to be able to see what I’m shooting at.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

1,500 to 2,500 per month, depending on how many big shoots there are.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

The only time I use my competition gun in the field is for a European-style driven shoot. Other than that it isn’t very practical for most hunting applications.

Matt Fisher

San Antonio, Texas, born 1994

psca.com/matt-fisher

Matt Fisher

Blaser F3 Competition Sporting Luxus

  • Weight: 8 pounds 9 ounces
  • Barrel: 32″ Barrels, Rhino porting
  • Stock: Standard Blaser stock lengthened to 15.5″, Schnabel forearm.
  • Rib: Flat rib.
  • Patterning point: I have my POI at 50/50 as I shoot the flat rib; non-adjustable.
  • Choke: Briley Titanium sinoid chokes, both Improved Modified.
  • Balance point & adjustability: A tad barrel-heavy to aid in a smoother swing.
  • Trigger: 3.3-pound pull, mechanical striker fire system.
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

1) Balance and feel, 2) looks—the physical aesthetics, 3) how the gun recoils.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

Blaser provides a gun that is perfectly engineered in Germany. I have put 100,000 rounds through it without one malfunction. The pointability is second to none. It is unlike any other product in the competitive market.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

The only change is that it was lengthened from the stock 14.5” length of pull to my 15.5”.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

I am a firm believer in the saying “You have to look good to be good.” Blaser offers an endless amount of different engravings, so there is never an excuse to shoot a standard blue receiver. The beauty of our upgraded engraving and wood is that the guns will operate just as perfect as the standard package. You don’t lose any functionality.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

No one ever believes that the stock dimensions provided by Blaser fit me to a “T.” Most competitors have custom dimensions—that wasn’t necessary for me.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

I typically shoot 25,000 to 30,000 rounds a year—usually 5,000 to 8,000 in competition and the rest in practice or on the field.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

Rarely, the only exception would be on a dove field.

Will Fennell

Sharon, South Carolina, born 1964

willfennell.com

Will Fennell

Krieghoff K-80 Parcours

  • Weight: 8 pounds 4 ounces
  • Barrel: 32″, not ported.
  • Stock: Custom stock by Jim Greenwood, longer, with a higher/straighter comb.
  • Rib: Standard Parcours rib, 8mm wide tapering to 6mm; mid-bead removed and replaces front bead.
  • Patterning point: Prints approximately 60/40.
  • Choke: Fixed choke, set by Briley at Improved Modified in both barrels.
  • Balance point & adjustability: Neutral balance. I used one factory barrel weight to achieve the balance I wanted.
  • Trigger: 3 pounds on both barrels, mechanical triggers.
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

1) Dependability/durability, 2) fit, 3) pattern performance.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

I am at heart a low-gun shooter because of hunting and FITASC. I work best with guns in the 8- to 8.5-pound range with a neutral balance.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

Custom-fit stock by Jim Greenwood and barrel work performed by Briley to give me the long-range patterns I wanted. Both barrels are the same, so that I’m not distracted by deciding which barrel first in a pair.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

I love engraving and wood, but for my tournament gun standard-grade guns are fine. I do like custom-fitted guns, and if you are building a custom stock, it might as well be pretty wood as long as strength at the head of the stock is not sacrificed. I love hand-rubbed-oil finishes, but for a tournament gun a poly-based finish that seals the wood more effectively has advantages.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

The barrels are fixed choke and purposely choked exactly the same.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

35,000 +/- per year.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

I use my Parcours hunting, especially with my 20-gauge barrels, quite a bit. It went to Argentina with me this year…20-gauge barrels for doves and 12-gauge barrels for pigeons. I’ve also used my sporting gun in the UK for driven birds quite a bit. I have on order a K-20 Parcours with 32” 28-gauge barrels for doves and quail.

Anthony Matarese Jr.

Pennsville, New Jersey; born 1984

clayshootinginstruction.com

Anthony Matarese Jr.

Beretta DT-11

  • Weight: 8 pounds 15 ounces.
  • Barrel: 32″ ported.
  • Stock: Non-adjustable custom stock with 15.5” LOP, palm-swell grip; beavertail/custom forearm.
  • Rib: 10x8mm tapered, non-adjustable rib with a very small mid-bead and the stock mid-bead used as a small end bead.
  • Patterning point: 60/40.
  • Choke: Extended Briley Plasma Series chokes; lightweight to reduce barrel weight.
  • Balance point & adjustability: Neutral and non-adjustable balance.
  • Trigger: 3-pound custom-tuned detachable inertia trigger by Ed Anderson.
What are the top three attributes you look for in a sporting clays gun?

Reliability is the most import aspect when I am looking at a competition shotgun. Then it comes down to overall feel and pointability. I have my stocks custom-built, so gun fit is a non-issue.

What led you to choose the guns you shoot now?

I’ve shot Beretta shotguns my entire life, so the DT-11 was the obvious choice for me in an over/under model.

Describe the customizations made to your gun.

Porting, hand-tuned trigger, custom stock made by Jim Greenwood of Kansas, Briley Plasma chokes.

Do you like nice engraving and wood in a competition gun, or is your gun a purely utilitarian tool?

To me, my gun is a tool. I do have a very pretty wood stock, but it’s a tool first.

Name something about your current gun that people wouldn’t know or expect.

I think that most of the world’s top shooters shoot a much higher comb than the average gun fitters suggest. In other words, seeing the entire rib is not a bad thing.

How many rounds do you fire in a typical month or year?

I shoot about 25,000 rounds per year if I include both practice and competition.

Do you ever use your competition gun in the field? If so, for what type of hunting or shooting?

Yes, I will use my sporting gun for shooting high-flying driven pheasants.

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Ed Carroll

Ed Carroll is Shooting Sportsman's Associate Editor.

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  • Bragi

    It would be more interesting to learn what these guys shot early in their careers. I bet most put thousands of rounds through Miroku/Brwoning Citori guns. I can remember pictures of a young Digweed and a younger Faulds with Miroku guns.