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There’s no tool in a hunter’s arsenal as timeless as the side-by-side shotgun. The most popular modern side-by-side design, the hammerless boxlock action, was first unveiled in 1875. And even in the face of more modern repeating shotgun designs, there are still grouse, rabbit, and duck hunters who still go afield with a double gun in their hands.
One of the primary reasons that side-by-sides fell out of favor here in the states is their price. They are more complicated and expensive to manufacture than many pumps and semi-autos. Indeed, if you’re looking for a top-end double, there are models available today that cost as much as a good used car, and a few that cost as much as a modest home.
But double guns aren’t just for those with deep pockets. There are a number of solid working side-by-sides that don’t cost much more than a mid-level over/under shotgun or semi-auto. If your budget is limited, you aren’t excluded from enjoying the sensation of swinging on a flushing woodcock or rising covey of quail with a side-by-side. Here’s a look at four modern side-by-sides for less than $2,000.
The Uplander is a working side-by-side with very few frills, but this gun is functional and one of the most affordable entries into the world of double guns. The Field model comes with double triggers, an A-grade satin walnut stock with pistol grip and beavertail fore-end, screw-in chokes (IC and M) and is available in 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge and .410, at just $449 MSRP. There’s also a youth version with a shortened stock that’s available in 20-gauge and .410. For those who prefer the look and feel of the classic duck hunting double, the Waterfowler model comes with 30-inch barrels. The Uplander Supreme, available in 12- or 20-gauge, is built with a single gold-plated trigger and upgraded AA-grade wood and carries an MSRP of $549. All of the Stoeger Uplander guns offer exceptional value, and they’re a great field gun for hunting upland birds, doves, waterfowl, and small game like rabbits.
Tristar’s Bristol family of side-by-side shotguns are well-built and stylish, but don’t cost a fortune. The Bristol SxS model comes with several features rarely found on doubles at this price point, including a laser-engraved receiver, chrome-lined chamber and bore, five flush-fit Beretta style chokes, ejectors, and a case-colored steel receiver. The English stock and splinter-style fore-end are made from select grade walnut and there’s a single-selective trigger and tang-mounted safety. New from Tristar is the SxS Silver model featuring a nickel finish receiver and 24 carat gold inlay. Both of these guns are available in 12-, 20-, 28-gauge, and .410, and neither gun will cost you more than $1,100. Bristol shotguns are also relatively light, weighing from 5.08 to 6.74 pounds (depending on the gauge), so they’re ideal for hunts where walking and climbing steep terrain (think mountain chukar and quail) are required. If you’re looking for an affordable double gun with superb balance, solid build quality, and a robust features list the Bristol guns are an excellent option.
3. FAIR Iside
It’s rare to find an Italian side-by-side that carries a starting MSRP below $2,000, but the FAIR (Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini) ISIDE is an exception. These guns are built in Italy’s famed Valtrompia region, which is known as the “Valley of the Gun” and is the cradle of fine European shotgun manufacturing. Italian Firearms Group in Texas imports these guns from Italy, and ISIDE shotguns give up very little in terms of styling, features, and build quality to more expensive guns from rival companies in the region. The basic ISIDE carries an MSRP of around $1,600 and comes with a Turkish walnut European stock with matching splinter fore-end, a scalloped color-case receiver, extractors, double triggers, and three screw-in choke tubes. These guns are extremely elegant and have a trim round-body receiver that keeps weight at a minimum (5.5 to 6.4 pounds). Twelve-, 16-, 20-, and 28-gauge, plus .410 models are available with barrel lengths of 26.75, 28, or 30 inches.
Some hunters shy away from side-by-sides because they’re afraid that the finish won’t stand up in over years of hard use in heavy brush or the duck blind, but CZ’s Bobwhite G2 All-Terrain alleviates those concerns. This boxlock 20-gauge features a muted OD green Cerakote finish on the metalwork that protects the steel against the harshest elements, and that means you’ll never have to worry about bluing that fades or scratches. Despite the contrast of a Turkish walnut-stocked side-by-side with Cerakote finish, the Bobwhite G2 All-Terrain offers a classic look that should suit all but the most rigid double gun purists, and that Cerakote armor certainly helps these guns stand up the punishment you and Mother NAture will inflict upon it. Another cool feature on these guns is the inclusion of earth magnets on the extractors that prevent the shells from dumping out when the gun is opened, even if the Bobwhite is upside down. The straight stock, splinter fore-end, and double triggers are all classic side-by-side features found on this gun. It includes five screw-in choke tubes., and retails for $855.
You can spend thousands on a side-by-side shotgun, that will look pretty, but won’t shoot better than the four in this review. For most of us, $500 to $2,000 is a reasonable budget. In that price range the Stoeger Uplander, Tristar Bristol, FAIR Iside, and the CZ Bobwhite G2 All-Terrain are the best side-by-side shotguns.
Side-by-sides are timeless, and in my opinion, the best looking shotguns. Due to the complexity of making them, they’ll never be as cheap as a pump shotgun, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend $5,000 to get a really good side-by-side. Check out the above four options from $500 to $2,000, choose the one that best fits you, and hit the field with a gun that you’ll enjoy for years to come.
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