Following my post about the Brno ZKM-611, Reader JohnF asks in an email: “The 611 is a non-starter because it’s so expensive. If you like CZ’s semi-auto rimfire rifles so much, why not just go for the newer 512 model?” (I should add, for those who don’t know, that CZ eliminated the “Brno” brand, but the CZ/Brno labels are essentially the same gun, e.g. Brno 602 = CZ 550 Safari.)
Good question. Here’s a look back at the 611, followed by the 512 (both in .22 WinMag):
Fact is, if I were looking to buy a semi-auto .22 WinMag rifle, I’d give the CZ 512 a long, hard look simply because it’s a CZ. But if I wanted to add a beautiful rifle to my meager collection, gimme the Brno any day of the week. Is the 611 hundreds of dollars better than its successor? Nope, but that’s not the question.
And the 611 is a takedown rifle, whereas the 512 isn’t. That feature also points to the ZKM-611 as the better choice.
I should also point out that new semi-auto .22 WinMag rifles other than the CZ 512 are like hen’s teeth, simply because Ruger stopped making their 10/22M line, the idiots. Apparently they claimed unsolvable feeding issues for the decision, but I never had that problem, not once. I wish I’d never sold mine.
As far as I can see, the only other manufacturer currently making a .22 WinMag semi-auto rifle is Savage, with their A22 Magnum. Predictably, being Savage, it’s pig-ugly:
But on the other hand, the A22 features Savage’s excellent Accu-Trigger, so it should be a worthy alternative to the CZ 512. (I’ve never fired the A22 before, so I can’t say.) Savage also claims to have fixed the .22 WinMag’s alleged feeding problem by making it a delayed blowback action. Typically, the A22 sells for just over $400 as I write this, compared to the CZ 512’s $500+ (although it’s discounted by $100 at Cabela’s).
And here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two. The CZ 512 wins, hands down, in just about every department. Clearly, the $100 premium is worth it.
Back in the days of yore (when I still lived in Seffrica that is), I had occasion to rent a cottage in what was then bush country, somewhere between Johannesburg and Pretoria. While sorta-developed, the area still had dirt roads, and the property sizes were of a type called a “smallholding” — anywhere from five to twenty-five acres, as memory serves. It looked something like this:
…and yes, people still rode horses around, either for recreation or to go shopping for groceries and such at the little general dealer on the main road.
The problem with living out there, as anyone who’s done it can attest, is that the place is alive with critters — even though you’re thirty or so miles away from Johannesburg and a little more from Pretoria, Africa can turn from city to bush very quickly in terms of its wildlife. (I remember a leopard once being trapped in the Wanderers Cricket Ground, which would be like finding a mountain lion in the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.)
So on the far outskirts of Kyalami (just south of the Formula 1 track, as it happens), a night-time drive along the dirt roads would often reveal anonymous glowing eyes in the darkness on either side, and only in the next day’s light could you see in the dirt the tracks of jackals, rabbits and so on, but especially the former. Jackals (larger than foxes but smaller than coyotes) were a particular pest, and while usually solitary scavengers, sometimes also hunted in small family groups.
And while skittish about humans, that didn’t stop them from preying on other small animals like, say, household pets, which they regarded pretty much as candy, and they would wreak havoc in the chicken coops, of which there were many in the area. Only large farm dogs like ridgebacks or boerboels were more or less safe…
…unless, of course, the jackal had rabies (very common) in which case nothing was safe. Shooting them, in other words, was very much a public service at that time and in that area.
So of an evening I would sometimes sit on the little front porch of my cottage armed with a six-pack of Castle Lager, a lantern and my faithful old .22 Winchester Model 63, and shoot at them as they scampered through the fence and onto the property. (I should add that the ground sloped down towards a stream called the Jukskei River, the trees and dense bushes forming an impenetrable backstop at the property line.)
The only problem with hunting in Africa is that the animals are tough as nails, and no matter what caliber you’re using, it never seems to be quite enough. And this was the case with jackals and the .22 LR. Unless you got a heart shot (and a jackal’s heart is not large), all you’d end up with was a yelp and a puff of dust. Shit. Now to track a wounded animal through tall veld grass, in the dark, across a stream and over property fences into the neighbors’ plots of land, which were guarded by the aforementioned ridgebacks and boerboels.
Not an optimal situation, I think we can all agree.
Then on a business trip to Bloemfontein down in the Orange Free State, I was sitting having a sundowner with a client in his office one evening. He was an older man, an Afrikaner who’d grown up on a farm; and when the subject turned to shooting, as it often did with him, he just shook his head when I told him about shooting jackals with a .22 LR.
“Use a .22 Magnum,” was his advice.
So the next day I stopped in at a gun store in downtown Bloemfontein on my way to the airport and looked for something in .22 WinMag. And there it was, on pegs just behind the counter, an exact replica of this Brno 611 semi-auto.
And it had been sold only a half-hour before I walked into the store. (Back then in Seffrica, there was a waiting period while your license application was being processed by the police, so you had to leave the gun behind in the store.)
Shit shit shit.
I’ve had occasion to shoot the Brno 611 several times since then, and to this day I’ve always wanted one. Only the nosebleed prices thereof have stopped me — and the magazines are almost as costly as the damn guns themselves, because CZ stopped making them many years ago. The one in the pic is at Collectors, and runs for just over a grand. If you have a spare G lying around, treat yourself to this beauty for Christmas. And by the way, it’s a takedown:
…so you can carry it in your truck as an almost-ready-to-go varmint killer.
And should you have buyer’s remorse — you shouldn’t, but hey — console yourself that you still have the perfect rifle for hunting the South African black-backed jackal.
Postscript: the area I described in the above tale is now a bunch of housing developments, office buildings and a fucking golf course.
It has long been my desire to own a matched pair of shotguns (yea even unto consecutive serial numbers), and this little missive from Mr. Free Market pretty much encapsulates my feelings on the matter:
The problem is that this kind of thing is, as the Brit expression goes, beastly expensive, as evidenced by this offering (click to embiggen):
Now, while the list price ($13,500) for this delectable twosome from Arrieta is perilously close to nosebleed level for my Readers, it should be realized that <$7,000 per gun is not a bad price for a handmade (albeit secondhand) shotgun — in fact, it’s almost too cheap. Compare and contrast with this pair of the abovementioned William Evans’s own guns, at $16,000 (also secondhand):
Ummm where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by an attack of massive drooling?
Nope, it’s gone. I’ll have to go in another direction.
Look, I know that one may question the perceived value of a matched pair of shotguns: yes, it’s a Good Thing that if one is going to shoot them serially (e.g. on a high bird shoot somewhere in, say, Dorset) that the guns should feel the same when one brings them to shoulder, and the triggers should be identical. But say, for the sake of argument, if one were to find two shotguns from the same manufacturer of identical chambering, such as these two L.C. Smith 20-ga beauties costing all together just over $4,100 :
…one has to query the value of the “paired” guns versus a couple thereof, assuming the condition is moot. Of course, the latter are not going to look identical (as the pics above show), and of course there’s that serial number mismatch — but (comparing the two L.C. Smith guns to the Arrieta pair) is the pairing really worth an extra ten grand? And we will not even speak of the cost of a pair of matched Purdeys…
As Longtime Readers know full well, I have fairly set opinions when it comes to firearms: .45 ACP good, 9mmP bad; Browning High Power good, Glock Mod [anything] bad; mil-surp bolt-action rifles good, poodleshooter rifles bad; and so on. Sometimes an exception to all this may come up, to be sure, but not that often that I have to change my opinions.
One of my prejudices is in the area of shotguns — and it’s purely a personal one — where I firmly believe that shotgun barrels should be side by side (like a man and his dog), and not over and under (like a man and his mistress). It’s a very old-fashioned viewpoint — like so many of my others — but I have to tell you that in this case, I may be steering newcomers to the field in a direction that may not be the better.
However, this is based on my own preference and shooting habits. Truth is that unless I’m Over There, blazing away at clays with Mr. Free Market, I hardly if ever shoot shotguns. Once again, this is just a preference, or even a habit. Not having grown up with shotguns (as many have), shotgunning is more of an occasional indulgence than a regular outing. This is not true of any other firearm type, where I can be found at DFW Gun Range most weeks, burning out the barrels of my Springfield 1911, AK-47 and any number of .22 rifles or pistols.
And this is where I may have led some astray, because pithy throwaway comments like the shotgun barrel-orientation one above are fine as far as they go — but they’re not appropriate. How so?
The plain fact of the matter is that if you shoot shotguns a lot — never mind people like Kim Rhode, I’m talking people like Mr. Free Market, who orders shotgun ammo by the pallet every year for his birdshooting escapades — that amount of shooting is going to destroy your side-by-side shotgun’s action, as any competent gunsmith will tell you. The firing of an off-center barrel puts a great deal of torque onto the action, and even guns made with the most modern steels and alloys are going to deteriorate more quickly than their over-and-under cousins.
The proof of the above statement can be seen, quite simply, in Olympic- and championship skeet and clay competitions, where everybody uses an over-and-under gun for the simple reason that they expend tens of thousands of rounds in practice; and that amount of shooting would reduce any side-by-side shotgun to tangled metal in short order.
So if you’re a keen nay even rabid shotgunner, I’m saying, you may be better off with an O/U gun than the old SxS bangstick. Even more telling, if you’re going to shoot off that many rounds each year, you need to spend maybe a bit more than you expect on your shotgun — right now, that might be $1,500 and preferably more for a second-hand model, and a great deal more to be on the safe side. Rule of thumb: shoot more rounds, spend more on the gun.
All that, so I can show you pics of beautiful O/U shotguns.
Now when it comes to brands, you pays yer money and you takes yer choice. As the title of this post suggests, I’m way out of my comfort zone talking about this part of The Gun Thing, so let me just post a couple of unsolicited testimonials.
The aforementioned Mr. Free Market shoots the Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon exclusively. He wore out one pair of 686s after a few years. After his second set, he had to quit shooting 12ga because he was sick of having shoulder repair surgery every three or four years, and simply replaced his guns with the same model in 20ga. Here’s what we’re talking about:
Right now, you can get this gun at Collectors for just under $2,500. If your preference is for Moar Beretta, there’s the 695, at $4,250:
Another guy who shoots the hell out of his shotguns is former POTUS George W. Bush, who publicly announced his preference for the Weatherby Athena:
Collectors price: just under $2,000 (although this particular piece is an older one — the more recent vintages can be quite a lot more expensive).
And speaking of Dave Carrie, here’s a side-by-side shoot. (Good luck with the accents… and I should point out that shoots like those of the Dave Carrie type are as yet unchecked on Ye Olde Bucquette Lyst. That’s just in case Mr. FM happens by this part of the front porch…)
As with all things pertaining to shotgunnery, you can get guns priced out to the stratosphere, e.g. the usual suspects such as this mob, these guys and of course the Germans. Here’s a Perazzi SCO Galeazzi:
How much? Well, as they say, “If you have to ask…”
These are the guns which sold as a lot for a total of $1,100 at a recent auction.
Now granted, they all look rather well-used (rode hard and put away wet, as the saying goes), and I suspect most will require some serious gunsmithing to get up to snuff. Nevertheless, I for one would welcome any one of them into Ye Olde Gunne Sayffe (especially the 1897 pump at the top), let alone all six.
Advance notice: tomorrow’s GGP post will contain MOAR shotguns. You have been warmed.