Shigyo Sakaba worked as a gunsmith in Japan in the mid-1800s and is considered to be the founder of the SKB (SaKaBa) Arms Company. In the early 1960s SKB began to produce a complete line of competition and field guns. By 1966 the guns were available in the US under the Ithaca Gun Company aegis. By 1970 modern CNC production had helped the company increase productivity, and SKB guns were being sold worldwide.
When Ithaca failed, in 1978, SKB guns started to be imported by Mitsui; but that also went south with the declining gun market. SKB was sold to the Mira family in Japan, and the company was reorganized. In 1984 SKBs started to be marketed by Weatherby in the US, and in 1987 Guns Unlimited became SKB’s importer. All went well until the 2008 national and global financial downturn lowered gun sales, and in 2010 the SKB Japanese factory was closed.
Guns Unlimited, Inc., bought the inventory of parts, the plans and the brand name and began searching for European manufacturers who could make the guns. When the company was unable to find any, it went to two major producers in Turkey—and that has worked out well.
Our SKB review gun is the 720 Field over/under. It is made by AKUS, in Turkey. It is identical to SKB’s 690 Field O/U series except that it comes with nicer wood, slightly different stock dimensions and some gold in the laser engraving. The 720 is available in 12, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 for $1,529. That is $200 more than the plainer 690 models. For an additional $500 you can get a two-barrel 28/.410 combo set. Receivers are sized to the gauge and come in 12, 20 and 28/.410. Barrels are available in 28" or 26". Our test 720 is a 12-gauge with 28" tubes.
The action is just about as simple as can be. The receiver is made from one solid chunk of chrome-moly steel. This includes the triggerplate and top tang. The vertical bar at the rear is also an integral part of the one-piece receiver. You simply can’t make a stronger action. There is a separate bottom plate for assembly access.
Inside there are just the basics. Hammers pivot on the bottom. They are pushed by coil springs with center braces that run horizontally. Sears are suspended from the top strap. The sears and hammers are CNC machined. The mechanical trigger structure is molded metal. This interior is a great example of the KISS principle and should prove quite reliable.
Hinging is by the now almost universal setup where, according to Hallowell & Co.’s excellent firearms dictionary: “bifurcated lumps engage trunnions on either side of the knuckle, just above the cocking rods.” Translation: Barrels are fitted with semi-circular hooks on the sides of the monoblock that engage pins that stick out on either side of the receiver like so many of today’s guns. Lockup is like the Browning, with a full-width bar located in the base of the action that fits into cut-outs in the bottom of the monoblock. There are two passive locking lumps on the bottom of the monoblock that engage recesses in the bottom of the receiver. The ejector cocking rods are located on the receiver floor.
The trigger is mechanical. It drops a hammer with each pull no matter what. Trigger pulls on our gun were 5.0 pounds for the lower barrel and 6.25 for the upper. Pulls were consistent and delightfully crisp. There was almost no take-up or slop before engagement.
The safety is the usual fore-and-aft lever on the top tang. It is manual, not automatic like on so many other field guns. This means that you have to remember to engage it after firing the gun. The barrel selector is built into the safety. It copies Browning’s in that the safety must be moved back to “Safe,” and then slid sideways to select the barrel and forward to fire. In the field the safety is just as important as the trigger, and this one required just the right amount of force to release.
Make & Model: SKB 720 Field
Action: Boxlock over/under
Chambering: 2¾" and 3"
Finish: Chrome finish with laser engraving
Barrel length: 28"
Weight: 7 pounds 7.7 ounces
Chokes: 5 flush-mounted screw chokes
Stock: 14¾" x 1½" x 23⁄8", 4° pitch, slight cast-off and toe-out
Accessories: Chokes, wrench, choke box, manual, two-year warranty
Price as tested: $1,529
The outside of the receiver on our 12-gauge sample and on the 20s has a brushed white-chrome finish with laser engraving depicting a gold duck on the left side, a pheasant on the right side and a ruffed grouse on the underside. The 28 and .410 have a gold partridge on one side and a quail on the other. This is more-involved engraving than on the 690 and is one of the things you get in the 720 upgrade.
The barrels looked pretty standard. Our 28" barrels had full-length solid side ribs and a nice flat untapered ¼"-wide vented top rib. There is a simple brass bead up front. This is a proper setup for a field gun. The barrels are hot blued, and I could detect no flaws or skips in the solder joints. At the rear, the barrels are joined by the usual monoblock. The sides of the monoblock are engine turned for better oil retention and snappy looks.
The interiors of the barrels are chromed. Our 12-gauge had 3" chambers and modest forcing cones of 5⁄8" in length. Both bores measured .737" in diameter. That’s a bit overbore from the standard .729" and quite popular today.
Five flush-mounted screw chokes come with the gun. They are 2" long, threaded in front and in the taper/parallel-constriction format. An adequate wrench is included to engage notches in the front rims. There are no choke-designation notches on the rims to tell you what you have in place, so you will have to remember.
The chokes are listed as Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified and Full. Don’t believe everything you read. These were a lot tighter than what they said, but do note that our test gun was a very early production gun of this model. The Cylinder choke mic’d at .011" constriction, which is about a normal Improved Cylinder. The Improved Cylinder measured .025", or a snug Modified. The Modified choke mic’d .032", which is almost Full. The Improved Modified was .043", which most would consider quite Full. The Full was off the charts at .047". Extended chokes are available at extra cost.
The wood on the 720 is a step up from that on the 690. Ours was a nicely figured walnut. The polyurethane finish was properly applied, fully filling all the wood pores. Many European gun companies do not do this. The inside of the forend and the head of the stock did not seem fully finished to protect against oil seepage. If it were my gun, I’d give those parts a few coats of TruOil to seal things up just in case.
Checkering is high-count lines per inch and appears to be done mechanically. I might have preferred it a little coarser, to provide additional grip, but everyone I showed the gun to felt that it looked classy.
The stock’s pistol grip is hand-filling and a bit more upright like a target-stock grip than relaxed like on some field guns. The butt of the stock sports a simple ½" black recoil pad, which fits nicely with the looks of the gun—though it doesn’t offer much protection from recoil. The forend sports a modest Schnabel beak and is hand-filling without being clumsy. Stock dimensions are given as 14½" length of pull, 1½" drop at comb and 2½" drop at heel. The drop at heel is listed as being just a touch lower on the 720 than the 690. I measured the test gun with my faithful Combo Gauge and got 14¾" x 1½" x 2 3⁄8". Pitch seemed to be the usual 4°, or 2" of stand-off, and there was a slight amount of right-hand cast. All in all, these were pretty normal dimensions.
The SKB 720 comes in a plain cardboard box. The barrels and stock are packed in cloth sleeves. Along with the gun comes a trigger lock and a small plastic box containing the chokes, wrench and a little tube of oil. The manual is extremely basic but does contain a most welcome parts diagram for those of us who want to know what goes where when we take the gun apart and end up with extra pieces. There is no mention of a warranty, but when I contacted SKB, I was told that the gun carries a two-year mechanical warranty.
Shooting the gun was certainly interesting. At a weight of just less than 7½ pounds, this 12-gauge field gun is no lightweight. It isn’t ridiculously heavy, but less weight would be nice for carrying while chasing pheasants. That said, the gun did balance very nicely, teetering right around the hinge pin.
At first, shooting was problematic. The opening lever would not automatically spring back into place when the gun was closed. It had to be pushed back. I was surprised at this, because it snapped back into place perfectly when the stock was not attached. This must have been a break-in thing because, after digesting a few boxes of shells, it shaped up and performed properly. Go figure.
The gun smoothly shot some pretty firm field loads. Point of impact seemed fine as did barrel convergence. The manual safety was easy to use. The trigger pulls were delightfully crisp. Balance and handling seemed very natural when shot low gun. In all, you get a lot of gun for $1,500 in the SKB 720. It might be particularly intriguing in one of the smaller gauges.