TriStar Bristol

The TriStar Bristol shotgun reviewed here is a 28" 20-gauge side-by-side made in Turkey by Khan Arms. Khan was started in 1985 and today is a large producer of all kinds of sporting shotguns plus rifles and tactical shotguns. The TriStar Bristol is basically Khan’s K-005. US importer TriStar Arms markets a wide variety of shotguns plus a line of pistols. What is most noticeable about the offerings in the TriStar line is that they are very modestly priced. Our test case-colored Bristol stands near the top of the price range at $1,100 in 12 and 20 gauge, while the 28 and .410 are $1,130. There is also a Bristol Silver, which is the same gun with a nickel-finish receiver, laser engraving and gold inlay for $1,040 and $1,070.

The Bristol side-by-side has a boxlock action. With the stock removed, the first thing you notice is that the main action body, top tang, triggerplate and rear vertical connection are all cut from the same piece of steel. I have seen this in the CZ Sharptail, made by the Turkish company Huglu. Typically, the triggerplate is separate in most guns. This one-piece frame would make the action very strong. The frames are sized to the gauges.

The interior of the Anson & Deeley-type action is about as simple as it can be. Sears are suspended from the top strap, while the hammers pivot on the bottom plate. Hammers are impelled by horizontal coil springs stabilized by an internal guide. Everything looks as though it is straight off the CNC, and that’s not a bad thing.

The single trigger is mechanical, so it does not require the recoil of the first shell to set the sear for the second shot. Unfortunately double triggers, so appropriate on a side-by-side, are not offered. That’s a shame. What wasn’t a shame was that the trigger pulls on our test gun both measured 4¾ pounds with little creep and over-travel. For a field gun they were just about perfect.

In the field the safety is just as important as the trigger, because it must be released before each shot. The Bristol safety is manual, not automatic, so it won’t drive you crazy when practicing on clays in the preseason. The safety has a fairly long travel and takes a good push. You might well get used to that, and it could get smoother with use. It is like the Beretta safety in that it incorporates the barrel-selector switch as a lateral toggle. The problem is that the barrel selector must be fully to the right or left to select the barrel, and there is no detent to keep it from staying in the middle. If it moves to the center or nearly so, the safety cannot be disengaged and the gun won’t fire.

The cosmetics on the receiver are minimal. The receiver, trigger guard and opening lever are case colored. The case coloring is a chemical cyanide treatment, not the old-school bone-and-charcoal, but it looks very nice. There is no engraving on the receiver except for the name “TriStar” in gold on the bottom. While things have been kept to a minimum, the lines of the nicely rounded receiver are attractive and classic.

All the Bristol barrels, regardless of gauge or model, are 28" long. That’s not a bad thing and should please most shooters. On the outside, the barrels are conventionally low-luster blued. There were some very slight ripples in the steel, but they would be noticeable only to some anal-retentive gun reviewer. There was no noticeable jugging of the barrels at the muzzle to accommodate the chokes. A simple single brass bead was up front. The solid concave top rib is swamped and down low between the barrels. Solder jointing was correct with no holidays until you got to the rear of the top rib. The jointure between the rear of the top rib and the segment of the rib built into the monoblock did not mesh perfectly, but it was close and not too noticeable. What was noticeable was that there was no bottom rib aft of the forend latch back to the monoblock. This leaves a 3" section between the barrels subject to collecting all sorts of dirt and detritus. On the plus side, when the gun is assembled, you can’t see it.

Inside, the barrels are pretty conventional. They are chrome lined and suitable for steel shot up to a Modified choke. The 20-gauge is chambered for 3" shells, which will be handy if steel shot is used. The forcing cones in front of the chambers are a normal 58" long, not the trendy elongated ones. Bore diameters were .620", a touch more than the nominal 20-gauge .615". Both barrels had identical bore diameters, and that is rarer than you might think. 

SNAPSHOT

Make & Model: TriStar Bristol
Action: Boxlock side-by-side
Gauge: 20
Chambering: 3"
Finish: Case colored, no engraving other than name on bottom
Barrel length: 28"
Weight: 5.9 pounds
Chokes: Five flush screw chokes: C, IC, M, IM, F
Stock: 14 38" x 1 916" x 2 1116", zero cast, 2° pitch
Accessories: Chokes, choke box, wrench, manual, 5-year warranty
Price as tested: $1,100

Five 2"-long flush-mounted screw chokes are included. The chokes are Beretta-style, with the threads at the front. Constrictions were Cylinder at -.003", Improved Cylinder at .007", Modified at .015", Improved Modified at .022" and Full at .030". According to the Briley choke chart, nominal constrictions for these chokes are all within a couple thou, except that the Full choke was about .006" tighter than nominal. The bases of the chokes are open to about .635", so there is a good jump from the .620" bore but no chance of the shot catching on the rear of the chokes if manufacturing tolerances vary. The chokes were of conventional taper/parallel design with about 58" of a stabilizing parallel at the front. Chokes are notched on the front edge, with the number of notches designating the constrictions. This is all well and good except for the wretched wrench that comes with the gun. It is a flat stamped thing that is just a little too thick to fit properly into the wrench notches in the choke rims. Five minutes with a file would solve that.

As to the wood, the Bristol Silver comes with a pistol-grip stock, but our case-colored Bristol sports an attractive English stock with a slender wrist and nice lines. My faithful Combo Gauge showed the stock dimensions to be: 14 38" length of pull, 1 916" drop at comb and 2 1116" drop at heel. This may seem a touch low, but it is measured from the sunken top rib, so the sight picture is actually a bit higher. There was very modest pitch and zero cast. At the butt there is a ½" hard-rubber, black recoil pad.

The forend is a 9"-long, slender field-style piece, just a touch wider and thicker than the absolute minimum. It will give your hand a little more protection when the barrels get hot. The forend is attached with a Deeley latch halfway back on the bottom. I like this better than an Anson button up front, as the button can get in the way if you extend your forefinger around the front of the forend when you shoot.

The TriStar Bristol has a one-piece frame and an Anson & Deeley-type boxlock action.

I would rate the quality of the walnut on our test gun as quite nice. It had some good figure. Wood-to-metal jointure was correct: just very slightly proud with no gaps. The trigger tang is a short one and not extended far into the stock. TriStar says that the stock has an oil finish, and it seemed nicely done in a rich brown. Unlike many more-expensive European guns, the Bristol’s oil finish fully filled all the grain in the walnut. The very-fine-lines-per-inch checkering appears to be laser cut and is borderless. The overall pattern is conservative. Very-fine-LPI checkering actually doesn’t do too much to help grip the gun, but it sure looks classy.

The total Bristol package was very basic. Packed in a cardboard box, the gun came in clear cellophane sleeves. Included were the little plastic box of chokes, the wrench and a very basic manual. What isn’t basic is that TriStar warrants the gun for five years. TriStar service has a good reputation.

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Shooting the Bristol was mostly very nice. TriStar’s website lists this gun as weighing 6.4 pounds, a decent weight for a 20, but our gun weighed a svelte 5.9 pounds. That is a great weight for an upland gun of that gauge. The balance point was about 1" in front of the hinge pin. It is nice to have a little forward weight bias in such a light double, as it adds some stability.

The gun functioned mostly correctly. I say “mostly,” because once it doubled on me. Only once, but that does get your attention. Other than that it was great. It swung well, the barrel convergence was spot on and the gun certainly shot where I looked. The ejectors pitched empties around 10 feet and were timed properly. The trigger pulls remained consistently excellent. I would be most confident taking this gun into the field. While it has some little flaws, the case-colored TriStar Bristol is quite a gun and well worth its modest cost.

For more information, contact TriStar.


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