Naturally, all of us want the perfect bird gun, which is why some folks write six-figure checks for pedigrees from Holland & Holland, Purdey, and a handful of neighboring marques. Having shot bird guns from some of those British institutions, I can honorably say that experiencing one with your own two hands will thoroughly alter your view of the sport.
For far less than you’d pay for a British Best, though, you can now buy one of the nicest bird guns I’ve ever shot. With a base price of $16,950, the British-Italian mash-up blends English antiquity with Olympian prowess. And while at first glance, the shotgun’s sleek lines grab attention, what’s most striking is what’s not there: the typical rib on the top barrel.
Available in both 12 and 20 gauges and suitably called the Perazzi Ribless Game gun, it was designed by Edwin Tattam and Kevin Phillips at the British purveyor Sportarm. For starters, Tattam and Phillips opted for an MX over-and-under from Perazzi—the Italian gunmaker that has dominated Olympic shooting sports for forty years. But they drew their main inspiration from a British 1930s ribless Boss & Co. over-and-under that came through their shop. “That gun was perfectly balanced, and everyone who handled it said it was fantastic,” Phillips says. “We wondered if it was possible to get that balance and handling at a lower price point and for modern use.”
Shotgun ribs emerged in the eighteenth century in part to raise the shooter’s eye for a better view of the target and soon became standard. They also act as a heat sink that reduces barrel temperatures. But the ribless school of shotgun design postulates that a thin nub the length of a man’s pinkie tip at the breech forms a virtual rib when the hunter looks down the naked barrel at the front bead.
In addition to Boss, over the past one hundred years, ribless game guns have come from such notable U.K. names as Alex Martin, Westley Richards & Co., Charles Lancaster, and more recently Longthorne. But new ribless bird guns are rare.
I shot the 12-gauge Perazzi Ribless on sporting clays at Orvis Sandanona in Millbrook, New York, and, unobstructed by a rib, the targets sailed clearly into view while gun swing, minus the quarter-pound rib, was surprisingly balanced. Fitted with Perazzi’s responsive trigger, the shotgun transmitted a giddy sense of control, though regrettably you do quickly learn how hot the barrels get without the heat dissipation from the rib—a reminder that it was intended as a true game gun, optimal for a bird-hunting tempo. During walk-up hunts over dogs, the Perazzi Ribless should promote lightning reflexes and easy pointability when coveys scatter. So far, U.S. distribution is exclusively through British Sporting Arms in Millbrook and Pacific Sporting Arms in Azusa, California, both of which can ship it to other licensed Perazzi dealers.
“The gun has got its place for somebody who wouldn’t think of carrying a Perazzi as an upland game gun,” says the South Carolina–based British shotgun authority and instructor Chris Batha. “You get an Olympic-pedigree gun with the dynamics you require for a field gun.”