Over the years I have owned a few American-made firearms, both rifles and shotguns, and I have always come to the same conclusion: American rifles are built to do the job, rather than please the eye of the beholder.
Zoli might not be well known within the UK, but in Italy, it has a reputation for its quality shotguns. When it comes to rifles, it boasts a beautiful range of doubles, but it is the bolt-action variety that takes my interest. Zoli acquired the Husqvarna 1900 action and since then, this reliable design has been the kingpin of its development for many years.
When I think of Spanish-made guns, my mind immediately jumps to AYA shotguns. I have had one for years, and my bargain £80 buy is still my rough gun of choice to this day. Although this may be something of a workhorse, there are some fine-looking guns to have come out of Spain, although they are still better known for shotguns than rifles. Asked to name a Spanish rifle, I bet that the best most people could come up with is Cometa air rifles.
Before you say it, I know what you are thinking. This model of Tikka T3 is not really a traditional hunting rifle, what with all its adjustable gizmos, heavy barrel and bright laminated stock, but the Tikka Sporter concept has been around for many years. In Scandinavia, they are used for a range of shooting disciplines such as target, biathlon and hunting.
One of the most successful rifles I have owned was a Browning A-Bolt. It was reliable and superbly accurate, especially when shooting lighter ammunition. My local gamekeeper still uses it. I was hoping the newer Browning model, the X-Bolt, would be able to rekindle fond memories.
Merkel, based in the city of Suhl, Germany, has been making high-quality sporting guns since the 17th century. The company has a worldwide reputation for its unique engravings, along with a training school for engravers and a gun-making ‘technical school’.
Marlin is probably best known for its underlever actions and rimfires in the USA, rather than for hunting rifles. I have been told they are good value for money, and more importantly, that their accuracy is ‘just darn good’! With an RRP of £715, the X7 is an entry-level model, maybe for the first-time buyer of a centrefire – but does it punch above its weight?
Whereas a year or two back, the name Kimber would have drawn blank expressions from most hunters, the brand’s reputation has grown in the UK and it is now a top contender.
My introduction to Mannlicher rifles set the standard for how I would judge all rifles from that moment on. The Mannlicher Schönauer was a legendary piece of engineering with a magnificent history and hunting pedigree. This rifle, in the hands of ‘Karamojo’ Bell, reputedly accounted for 1,011 elephants during the era of the great ivory trade.