Gun Evaluations: Pair of William Evans Connaught Shotguns Review
William Evans worked for Purdey as well as Holland & Holland and, prior to his name change, for HJ Holland.
From its founding in 1883 to the present day, William Evans has survived as an independent company, which is no easy task given the many competitors that have fallen by the wayside over the years.
Like many manufacturers, William Evans subcontracts work – either semi-finished or complete weapons – to meet demand.
The Connaught 12 bores tested were no exception as they were manufactured to Evans’ specification by the renowned Grulla Armas company in Spain.
My first impression was of a lovely pair of guns housed in a desirable and sturdy double leather and wood gun case, carefully finished with a protective zippered canvas outer shell.
After assembly, the weapons are almost indistinguishable, apart from their consecutive serial numbers and the gold-inlaid “1” and “2” on the upper levers and ribs.
The stock wood comes from a pair of blanks, although Pistol 1 was my favorite because it had the slight edge with its beautiful wood.
Not only do the two guns look identical, they also handle the same thing a real pair should, and when you close your eyes you can’t feel any noticeable difference.
As far as assembly goes, they took a bit of getting used to due to the long, 15.3⁄4 inch pull from the front trigger.
This is not a criticism – the guns belong to a customer of William Evans who kindly loaned them out for this review, and they are in stock as per his request.
If anything, this highlights the lengths (no pun intended) William Evans is willing to go to for a custom fit.
What is striking is the sensible throw (for right-handers) and the flat curvature over the shaft side next to the face to the comb, which increases the comfort during recoil.
The gorgeous walnut wood (an optional upgrade for this pair) is greatly enhanced by the traditional oil finish.
A riot of dark veins, autumn colors and fiddleback, I can’t think of a better finish.
The fit of wood and metal is good and the rounded shape on the shaft head, without a bezel around the locks, creates beautiful, clear lines.
William Evans takes particular pride in the checkered pattern on these guns – a fine 24 lines per inch, which is roughly the practical limit to performing their primary function: providing a good grip.
The barrels are neatly finished and well blackened, while the bores are also flawless.
These two cannons are rated for 3 in. (76 mm) cartridges and come with thin-walled Briley chokes, but the choice is entirely up to the customer and fixed chokes are the standard option.
The chokes supplied with these weapons were marked “0”, “2”, “4”, “7” and “10”; there are none of the familiar notch marks, although they would be lost on these thin tubes anyway.
However, each tube is marked with the appropriate details on its side, although I found the information provided a bit confusing, so I resorted to the gunsmith’s direct measurement method.
For the record, the choke difference on these guns equals 0 = 0.003 inches (slightly improved barrel), 2 = 0.012 inches (nominal quarter), 4 = 0.02 inches (half), 7 = 0.033 inches (dense three-quarters), and 10 = 0.05 inches (extra full).
The Briley choke buttons are well made and convenient to use, and one of the advantages of having two choke sets has to be the other variations one can make, such as:
CLASSIC SIDE LOCK
The lock is the classic side lock, an evolution in design that has proven itself and is widely considered to be the ultimate ideal.
Five pin locks, target set hammers (the target holds the firing pin or firing pin in place), and gas valves (which also serve to lock the target in place) are all features you would expect from a good gun.
The vents were originally a safety device in case a primer should break, and while this is rare these days, it has remained as one of the enjoyable little features we’ve come to expect.
A rolled edge on the right side of the trigger guard – usually known as a “single bead” in the UK gun trade – adds a nice touch of style, but I found the finger guard on the back of the trigger guard was unnecessary.
Still, like the articulated front trigger, it’s a matter of choice and some shooters find adding such a feature appealing.
As for the flower engraving and the engraving, it follows a traditional pattern that could even be found on William Evans’ guns made about a century ago.
At 7 lb., with 30-inch barrels and long stock dimensions, this would never be a pair of quick-acting partridge rifles, but they proved more deliberate in use and could potentially make good high-bird rifles.
There are many options for other types of shooting, with barrel lengths of 25 inches and a selection of smaller calibers, including 16-bore and 28-bore.
The pulls fit well, were crisp, and clean, while the spent casing ejects were positive.
This was due to the strong ejector springs and was particularly noticeable when they were cocked again when the gun was closed after firing.
The target point on the pattern sheet lay with the bead exactly in the middle of the target in order to cast an evenly distributed pattern.
The cartridges used in the test included: Hull Imperial Game 26g No.6 Shot, Eley VIP 30g No.6 Shot, Eley Grand Prix 30g No.6 Shot, Fiocchi FL30 30g No.6 Shot, and for those possible higher birds Lyalvale Express Super Game 36g No.5 shot – all cartridges with fiber wadding.
The Briley chokes were found to be a bit sensitive to the cartridges used, although the Eley VIP and Grand Prix produced similar results that were in pretty good agreement with the Hull Imperial Game.
The Express Super Game worked well using the narrower chokes, and the Fiocchi FL30 did best with more than half a choke.
The Connaught gun range has something for almost every aspect of the sport, and since they are bespoke guns, there are a multitude of additional options to choose from – the most important being getting the right fit for the user.
It is common practice in the guns industry to charge more than double the price of a gun for a pair due to the extra work involved in matching two guns.
In reality, it means that the second weapon is effectively available at a slight discount.
The name of the weapon is intended to recall the fact that one of William Evans’ famous regulars in the past was HRH the Duke of Connaught.
Pair of William Evans Connaught shotguns
From £ 7,500 per weapon
Gun Reviews: Pair of William Evans Connaught Shotguns