By Bruce Buck
One of the most encouraging things about clay target shooting is how welcoming it has become to women. More and more ladies are participating, and the sport is better for it.
The addition of more lady shooters has opened up an entirely new opportunity for gunmakers. Caesar Guerini’s Syrens, Franchi’s Catalyst line, Beretta’s Vittoria, Rizzini’s Vertex 3, various guns from Blaser, CZ, Fausti, Perazzi, Ithaca and others all are made to cater to the distaff side of shotgunning.
These guns are adaptations of guns already in the lineups, with changes in three basic areas. The first is fit. Ladies often have more slender faces, longer necks and shorter arms than most men, so ladies’ stocks generally are cut somewhat shorter and with higher combs. Monte Carlo stocks can be used to account for the proportionally greater distance from cheek to shoulder. Since their hand sizes can be smaller, ladies’ pistol grips are a bit tighter and forends tend to be slimmer. Ladies also often require an increased pitch angle of the butt, to suit their shoulders.
The second area of change in ladies’ guns is weight and balance. Generally women’s guns tend to be lighter than those designed for men, as women have different upper-body strength. A more neutrally balanced gun is also often more appealing, because it moves more easily than one that is nose-heavy.
The third area of change is appearance. No longer is a woman’s gun defined by a pink stock. Many makers try to make their ladies’ guns more attractive to women. This can take the form of more elaborate checkering or engraving in a style felt to be more engaging. One thing is for sure: Women are a growing part of the shotgun market, and manufacturers want to make sure they offer appealing choices.
Our test gun is a Krieghoff K-20 Victoria, and it is a perfect example of how nice a woman’s gun can be. It is an over/under 20-gauge based on the Krieghoff K-20 action but with lighter Parcours barrels. The K-20 Victoria with standard engraving and wood quality lists for $12,395. The gun we were sent is the Victoria with upscale Vienna Scroll engraving, and it lists for $16,395.
I normally start a gun review by discussing the action, but this one has to start by mentioning looks. Ladies deserve pretty guns, and this Vienna Scroll Victoria is a doozy. From the 100-percent-coverage floral engraving with silver-nitride finish on the petite 20-gauge frame to the gorgeously grained walnut stock and forend with elaborate foliate border checkering, this gun stands out. Of course, looking good is only part of it. A gun needs to perform.
All said that the stock fit made the gun very comfortable to shoot.
The current Krieghoff action has been around for years. Yes, it has more little pieces than a jigsaw puzzle and springs of every size from large to minuscule, but German engineering sees to it that everything fits properly and works correctly. Krieghoffs have good reputations for reliability after heavy target shooting. Everything in the triggerplate action is solid steel. The top tang is integral with the receiver, while the bottom tang is part of the separate triggerplate. Lockup is by the sliding top latch, courtesy of the original Remington 32, which Krieghoff drew heavily upon when it designed the forerunner K-32, in 1957. The updated K-80 model came in 1980, and our test gun’s smaller 20-gauge action emerged in 2000. The K-80 always seemed to have a large action, but perhaps that was due to its length, not the height or width. Our K-20 action was just a few thou taller and wider than that of my wife’s Beretta 686 28-gauge, though the K-20 action was 1¼" longer.
Make & Model: Krieghoff K-20 Victoria
Action: Break-action O/U
Finish: Engraved silver receiver, blued barrels
Barrel length: 30"
Weight: 7 pounds
Chokes: Fixed, Modified/Improved Modified
Stock: Pistol grip, adjustable comb
Accessories: Case, wrenches, Allen keys, lubricants, manual, 5+5-year warranty
Price as tested: $16,395
Krieghoffs are famous for their mechanical triggers. The pull weights on our sample were about perfect for a target gun at just less than 4 pounds for each barrel. There was a fair amount of take-up in both sears before release, but the release was crisp. After the release, the trigger blade has to return a good bit forward before engaging the second sear, but it wasn’t really noticeable when shooting. The old K-32s required an exceptionally long trigger return after the first barrel fired, and sometimes a shooter would fail to release it enough to engage the second sear. This issue was corrected by a redesign in the K-80s and hence the K-20. The trigger blade is adjustable about 1⁄8" forward and back, to accommodate different hand sizes. The barrel selector is a little tab just in front of the trigger blade.
The standard Victoria has a blued receiver with minimal engraving. Our Vienna Scroll test gun has its silver receiver fully engraved in a most attractive pattern. The engraving appears to be done by laser, but it looks quite good. Krieghoff offers a wide range of engraving patterns at varying prices.
The barrels on our Victoria are of the new Krieghoff Parcours style. Normally Krieghoffs come with separated barrels with no side ribs and tend to be rather heavy. The new Parcours barrels are much lighter. They have conventional soldered side ribs but thinner barrel walls for less weight. This results in more facile handling and is most appropriate in a lady’s gun. The barrels are joined at the rear by a monoblock containing only the basic ejector slides. The ejector activation and connectors are in the receiver.
The 12-gauge Krieghoffs were always noted for overbored barrels and long forcing cones. The 20-gauge nominal bore is .615", but our test Victoria had the bottom bore at .620" and the top at .618". That is a little more overbore than standard but not much. The chambers were 3" with long forcing cones. The Victoria comes with fixed chokes. The brochure says that they are Modified (½) and Improved Modified (¾), but our chokes mic’d closer to Improved Modified and Extra Full. The manual says that Briley Thin Wall screw chokes are an option, if you wish.
Our test gun’s barrels were 30", but 32" tubes are available. Another option is 28 gauge in addition to 20. The barrels were nicely blued, and the solder seams were flawless. The top rib was flat and unobtrusive, tapering from 7mm to 6mm, with a center bead and Bradley bead-on-a-block front sight.
Since women require different stock dimensions than men, Krieghoff paid particular attention to the Victoria’s wood. The forend is slimmer, to better fit a lady’s hand. The buttstock is the focal point of fitting a lady. Our Victoria’s stock measured 13¾" length of pull, 1¼" drop at comb and 17⁄8" drop at heel. A typical men’s stock might be 14¾" x 1½" x 2¼", so the Victoria’s stock was noticeably shorter and higher. The stock comes with an adjustable cheekpiece in case more height is needed. It also has about twice as much right-hand cast as a standard stock as well as a smaller pistol grip with a right-hand palm swell. A lefty stock is available too. Pitch and toe-out also have been increased. All these variances were carefully thought out, to better suit the shorter arms, thinner faces and longer necks of female shooters.
On the appearance side, the walnut was certainly up to standard, with very nice grain befitting the high-end package. The unique foliate checkering borders tied in nicely with the engraved receiver’s décor. The lacquer stock finish was well applied but with the grain left slightly unfilled, as is often the European custom. Wood-to-metal fit was generally quite good but a little proud on the top tang.
The Victoria comes in an upscale Negrini takedown case. The outside is covered in a tan leatherette over a textured off-white PVC base. The off-white part certainly will pick up dirt, but it seems easy to clean and sure looks classy. Along with the gun, the case contains a case shoulder strap, trigger lock, stock and cheekpiece wrenches, Allen keys, lubricants, snap caps, a Teutonically explicit manual and a five-year warranty with another five added if the registration is sent in.
Several ladies shot the gun at sporting clays, and their comments were universally positive. Although they differed somewhat in stature, all said that the stock fit made the gun very comfortable to shoot. The modest 7-pound weight, neutral balance at the hinge pin and lightweight Parcours barrels helped the gun swing easily without being whippy. While the gun might be a bit heavy for a woman to take upland hunting, it would do nicely for doves and driven shooting as well as clay target sports. Everyone who saw the gun commented on how attractive it was. As you might expect from Krieghoff, the Victoria was mechanically correct in all respects. The company’s reputation for reliability is a good one, and the Victoria should be consistent with that.
The Krieghoff K-20 Victoria is quite a gun. It is expensive, but you get what you pay for. It certainly is a gun for a very lucky lady.