Sporting Rifle’s Nick Latus field tests a nifty little double from French rifle maker Chapuis Armes and is impressed with its performance in the field
The French Chapuis Armes company was founded in the 1920s by Jean Chapuis, the father of current owner René. The company’s success and subsequent growth saw a move to a new factory facility in Saint-Bonnet-Le-Chateau, just outside of Saint Etienne at the end of the 1980s. These premises enabled Chapuis to manufacture all the parts needed to produce its firearms itself, eliminating the use of outside contracting. In-house manufacturing meant exceptional quality control could be adhered to before final assembly by the company’s master gunsmiths.
UK importer York Guns kindly lent me a Chapuis Ugex double rifle from the Progress Series 3 range in .30-06 Springfield. It arrived in a nice motor case equipped with double combination locks. When I took it out, what first impressed me was the highly figured AAA-grade walnut stock. This woodwork comes from hand-selected, centuries-old trees where after rough planking, the rifle makers pay great attention to colour and contrast before the initial machine shaping. Once this procedure is finished, the company’s professional stock makers carry out the important final shaping, sanding and chequering by hand, taking care to ensure the stock and forend complement each other perfectly.
The scalloped and sculptured all-steel action is engraved with chisel-chased floral borders complemented by images of a roebuck to one side, a wild boar on the other and a red stag underneath the action. This superb engraving and flawless woodwork results in a very aesthetically pleasing double rifle.
The 600mm cold hammer forged barrels come with a quarter rib, on which a luminescent rear sight and a height-adjustable front sight have been seated. These had been regulated on the factory’s in-house range for use with 180-grain Federal ammunition, but more of that later. Also on the top of the glass-like finished but blued barrels is a facility to mount a pair of bases for a telescopic sight. Placing the barrels into the action and fitting the forend, I appreciated the attention to detail and tolerances that the craftsmen work to, as everything mated together perfectly.
Shouldering the rifle for the first time, I was impressed with how well it fitted me. My eye was drawn down the rib, lining up the sights perfectly. With an all-in weight of 3.2kg (7.04lb in old money), mounting this gun was an effortless process – it truly felt as if it had been custom-made to my dimensions. York Guns had also supplied a quantity of 180-grain Sellier and Bellot ammunition, so it was going to be interesting to see if I could replicate the groups on the two targets included in the rifle case (to prove it could shoot 1½in or less at 50 metres).
As I would be testing the rifle’s accuracy and not my skills at shooting freehand, I made comfortable on the zeroing bench after setting a target up at a measured 50 metres. Slipping two rounds into the breech, I closed the action and applied the safety, all in one smooth motion. So far, so good. Mounting the rifle, I adjusted the sandbags until the target centre was comfortably covered. Slipping off the safety and squeezing away the front trigger opened business.
I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect regarding the recoil from this rifle. However, I can say that this little double was a revelation, apart from the obvious muzzle flip. Recoil was very low for such a punchy calibre. Drawing a bead once more on the target, I squeezed away the rear trigger and sent a second round down-range.
As I broke the action, the powerful twin ejectors crisply sent the two spent cases over my shoulder. Inspecting them confirmed everything was as it should be, and I walked down to the target. I was impressed with a two-shot group of around 1¾in. Over the next half an hour I found that this initial grouping was no fluke as I constantly shot similar groups – good enough for the boar hunt I was joining the following week.
When I arrived at the Bavarian hunting ground seven days later, there was a definite chill in the air. Temperatures had dropped overnight, and we were told there was a possibility of snow later in the day. Unperturbed, the hunters were split up and shown to their respected stands by our German hosts. There were around 60 hunters, and expectations were high – hopefully I was going to get a shot at a fleeing pig. Unshipping the Chapuis, I dunked two rounds into the breech and made ready for action.
The hunt would be around four hours’ duration, but two hours in, all remained quiet. Light snow began falling through the forest canopy, but apart from the occasional roe deer, hoofed game was noticeable by its absence. Then I heard hounds speaking and seemingly approaching my sector. Judging by the numerous rifle reports I could hear, pigs were now on the move. A movement on the right caught my attention. Dropping my flask cup, I rose to my feet just as a biggish keiler burst out of the frosted briars, running full tilt some 40 metres out.
Shouldering the rifle, I swung through and pulled the trigger. The rifle report masked the sound of the 180-grain soft-point hitting flesh and bone as the bullet struck home, The pig dropped in a spectacular display of animal gymnastics, no doubt because of its forward motion.
Breaking the rifle saw the spent shells ejected positively, and I quickly replaced them with live ones in anticipation of some more action. Sadly, that was the only chance I had that day, but it had been a wonderful opportunity to test the Chapuis in the field. I was certainly impressed with this well made and affordable double. Its sheer ‘pointability’ was a revelation, it handled extremely well, and it looks as pretty as an English equivalent 10 times its monetary value. Plus it had secured me an 85kg keiler. What more can I say – it definitely does what it was built for. For any driven boar enthusiast who has ever flirted with the idea of buying a double, this rifle is well worth the investment.
York Guns is the UK importer for Chapuis Armes. Contact York Guns on 01904 487180 or www.yorkguns.com.