Kevin’s Poli Plantation shotgun is made by Poli, in Italy, to the specifications requested by Kevin Kelly to sell in his gunshops in Thomasville, Georgia, and Tallahassee, Florida.
In addition to the standard new shotguns and high-end used guns he carries, Kelly was looking to market his own line of special guns. He felt that F.lli Poli Armi, in Gardone, was a good match. The company is located near Beretta, and Kelly had been having special models made by Beretta for a number of years.
Poli has been in business for more than 50 years, having been started by Paolo Poli and now being run by his sons Antonio and Tiziano. It is a small shop that does custom work. Kelly arranged to have a line of side-by-sides and over/unders made to his specifications, and these take up most of Poli’s production. In the November/December 2012 issue I reviewed Kevin’s Poli Plantation side-by-side. Now it’s time to cover the O/U.
Our test gun is the Kevin’s Poli Plantation Over/Under in a 30" 28-gauge model retailing for $11,995. The gun comes in the usual four gauges. All are carried in stock, but if you want one set up to your specifications, an eight-month wait will get you a fully customized gun from the factory.
The first thing you will notice about the gun is that it is gorgeous. That is, if you like fancy wood and lots of engraving. But there is much more to this gun than just looks.
The receiver on our gun was sized to the 28 gauge and slightly smaller than the 20’s. The solid steel action is a pretty typical O/U boxlock with a large low-mounted Browning-style lock engaging the lower part of the monoblock. This is backed up by two passive lugs on the monoblock engaging recesses at the bottom rear of the action. Hinging is by modern hinge stubs rotating in monoblock cut-outs. It’s all pretty standard and well-proven.
Inside is more of the same. Firing pins are driven by reinforced horizontal coil springs. The trigger on our test gun was not selective, always firing the bottom barrel first, which kept things even simpler, if less convenient. If you want a selective trigger, that can be ordered. As usual, the inertia block is cast, but all the other interior parts are machined. There was not a lot of handwork evident inside, but with modern CNC machining there is less need for that. To parrot a wiser gun reviewer: It really is only the last file stroke that counts.
The single trigger definitely got that last careful file stroke. The lower-barrel trigger release was a consistent 3½ pounds, while the upper was 3¾ pounds. There was no noticeable creep or take-up. These are great trigger pulls and clearly show an attention to detail. For those who wish them, double triggers are available. The safety was manual, requiring that it be put on after closing the gun. This should be instinctive for any hunter. On the plus side, it won’t drive you mad when practicing on clays.
And then there is the outside of the receiver. If you like fancy, here it is. Every bit of metal on the gun that isn’t part of the barrels is covered with laser engraving. The false sideplates just make the canvas larger. The engraving is in an acanthus-leaf floral pattern executed by the major engraving house of Bottega Incisioni di Cesare Giovanelli. The lasering has decent depth, and the new machinery was able to laser around some curves, so it probably was a five-axis machine. Not only are the receiver’s top, bottom and sideplates engraved, but so are the forend iron, opening lever, top tang, extended trigger tang and grip cap. In all the engraving doesn’t appear to have the three-dimensional depth that the Incisione Ri.Pa. laser engraving on the 2012 side-by-side had, but it is very nice. In keeping with Kelly’s love of quail hunting, there is the engraved figure of a quail in flight on the bottom of the receiver.
As mentioned, the barrels on our test gun were 30", but 28" and 26" tubes are available. The outsides are properly gloss blued. Near the rear of the barrels, in gold inlay, is written “Custom built for Kevin’s,” and on the other side is “Armi F.lli Poli Gardone V.T. Italy.” The top vented rib is an untapered 7⁄32" wide. It is low and flat, as it should be on a field gun. There is a simple brass bead up front and nothing cluttering up the middle. The rear of the barrels is joined by a monoblock, with the sides attractively engine-turned for better oil retention and good looks. The barrel ribs are silver soldered. That’s a real plus, as silver solder is much more durable than the usual soft solder.
On the insides both barrels measured .550", exactly the standard 28-gauge denomination. They are not chrome lined but are nicely polished. Our barrels were screw choked, but fixed chokes are available. There was no detectible swelling of the muzzles to accommodate the screw chokes. Five chokes come in the package. Their interior configurations are the typical choke tapers at the rear and then parallels for a bit toward the muzzle, to stabilize the shot. Choke constrictions in our set were: Skeet, .005"; Improved Cylinder, .005"; Modified, .015"; Improved Modified, .020" and Full, .025". (The IC should have had .010" constriction.) The choke designations are marked on the choke sides and also in notches on the front ends, so that you can see which chokes are in the gun without removing them. The steel choke wrench is a good one. It engages recesses on the front rims of the chokes and also has a threaded end to clean the choke threads when they soot up.
The wood on our gun was rated at four stars out of five. It certainly was attractive. Poli does a heck of a job finishing stocks by hand. There are many coats of a Tru-Oil mix—each hand rubbed. The inside of the stock head was properly finished, but the finish inside the forend was partially sanded away, to ensure a better barrel fit. The very fine checkering is done by hand, not laser. The checkering pattern is simple and fully covers the forend and both sides of the pistol grip.
Stock dimensions on our gun were: 15" length of pull, 1⅜" drop at comb, 2¼"drop at heel and ⅛" cast-off at the face. That’s the way Kelly orders guns for his stores, but any reasonable custom dimensions are available. Our gun had a relaxed Woodward-style pistol grip, which is so comfortable when carrying the gun in the field, but English stocks are available. The pistol grip is reinforced by a full-length trigger tang and capped with an engraved metal grip cap as a little extra touch. There is a brass oval on the bottom of the stock, should you wish to have your initials engraved. At the rear of the stock is a solid wood buttplate with a quail stamped in it. It is secured to the stock with engraved screws. The forend is simple, slender and fully checkered with a smooth rounded front to permit free placement of an extended finger. The forend latch is an Anson pushbutton.
Our test gun came in a cardboard box with cloth sleeves for the receiver and barrels. There was also a plastic box containing three of the five chokes, the choke wrench and a set of sling swivels. The warranty is for one year.
As good looking as a gun is, it’s really all about how it shoots. This Poli delivered. With the 30" barrels, the balance point was right on the hinge. The central balance along with the light 6-pound 4-ounce gun weight made for a very maneuverable shotgun, yet the long barrels gave it some welcome stability. Shorter barrels would make the gun even more agile, if that were desired for grouse and woodcock in heavy cover. Being a 28-gauge, this gun would have been superlative on quail.
During the testing at clays, the gun never missed a beat. The ejectors tossed empties eight feet and perfectly paired. The crisp triggers were delightful. Barrel convergence was correct. The long barrels helped precision on longer shots, yet they weren’t so heavy as to hinder closer shots. Handsome is as handsome does has never been truer. This gun would make quail quail.
Written by Bruce Buck