Guns can be good deals for different reasons. The standard measurement is quality that exceeds price, but it’s not the only paradigm. Another sign of a good deal might be choice that exceeds price.
The thing that sets the Dewing Prestige Limited over/under apart from other guns in its $3,895 price range is choice. There are lots of field guns you can buy for four large, but none that I’m aware of comes close to the options that Dewing’s Fly & Gun Shop offers for this gun. This is truly a custom firearm for an off-the-shelf price.
Here are the decisions you’ll have to make. As to gauge, Dewing’s lists the Prestige as coming in 12, 16, 20, 28, 36 and .410. (The 36 gauge is just an imprecise European reference to the .410, though with a 2-3/4" chamber in this case. Still, it would be neat to have a gun marked as such.)
In other words, you can get any practical gauge you want. Here’s the good part: Dewing’s says that all of the guns come with proper gauge-sized receivers. No more mismatched 16s on 12-gauge frames or 28s and .410s on 20s.
There’s a Pinocchio’s choice in barrels too. Lengths can be 26", 28", 30" or 32"—in all of the gauges. The different barrel lengths not only let you alter your sighting plane, but they also permit you to influence your gun’s moment of inertia, the most critical gun-handling measurement. The rib options are standard vent, sporting vent or (drum roll, please) solid. I sure know which one I’d pick on a field gun. You get your choice of beads too.
Choke selection is as broad as it gets. You can have the barrels set up with five flush-mount screw chokes or five extended ones, choosing from Cylinder, Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified or Full. If you prefer the classic simplicity of fixed chokes, you may specify those instead of screw chokes. Then there are double triggers, a single non-selective or a single selective to suit your fancy. You can request a manual or an auto safety, as you prefer. No corporate lawyer will be making that decision for you.
Stock selection is infinite, because you order what you want. A custom stock will be made to your personal dimensions. Just relay your numbers and whether you prefer a pistol or English grip. You also can choose between a wood or rubber buttplate. You even can have a stock oval with your initials in block or script. The wood quality that comes standard with the gun is high-end “Grade 5” walnut too.
And now the best part: All of these options are free! No kidding. They are included in the $3,895 price with no up-charges, no nothing. The only two options are $250 more for Exhibition wood and $700 for an extra set of barrels of the same or a smaller gauge. That’s a deal, because extra barrels usually run around half the cost of the complete gun.
I forgot to mention that all of this comes in a classy Emmebi black-and-tan leatherette takedown case lined with green baize. It contains a three-piece wood-and-brass cleaning rod, barrel swab, good-quality snap caps, extra chokes, a decent choke wrench and nice green baize bags for the barrels and stock. If you order a two-barrel set, you’ll get a two-barrel case with it. Finally, there is the warranty. It’s lifetime. Just send it back to Dewing’s and it will get fixed. Period.
All of the above sounds like one of those breathless infomercials that the oddball TV channels carry during the wee hours. Well, it’s not. This is for real.
The gun firm that makes these O/Us for Dewing’s is FAIR, Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini. That’s Isidoro Rizzini’s company in Marcheno, Italy. Isidoro’s gunmaking brothers are Battista Rizzini (Rizzini USA) and Emilio Rizzini (now allied with Fausti Stefano gunmakers). All are related to “best” gunmakers Flli. Rizzini (cousins) and also the Guerini brothers (nephews of Battista Rizzini). It runs in the family. FAIR has been in business since 1971. For a while New England Arms marketed the company’s guns. Today Kalispel Case Line sells them as Cortonas, Savage handles the less-costly Premier line as the $1,714 Milano, and M. Padrone sells an upgraded selection for $6,795. Like most Italian makers, FAIR offers a wide selection of guns ranging from quite nice to basic.
Nothing is basic about Dewing’s Fly & Gun Shop. As seen in Terry Allen’s photo essay (July/August), the shop is deluxe in every sense of the word. Located in a state where most gun sales are made through pawnshops, Dewing’s West Palm Beach, Florida, location carries Fabbri, Purdey, Famars, F.lli Rizzini, David McKay Brown and Cosmi, plus the Perazzis and Berettas that have all the good letters and numbers. The shop’s fishing equipment is equally high end.
So when Dewing’s decided to do something special yet affordable, it caught my eye. The company plans a limited run of 1,000 Prestige Limited FAIRs. Some guns will be kept in stock for instant gratification, but the custom route will be offered for those who don’t mind waiting about 15 weeks for delivery.
Our test gun was from the first shipment that arrived from Italy. I asked for a 16, because it’s one of the sweetest guns when done right and a real grunting pig when it isn’t. Not to worry. FAIR got it right.
The FAIR O/U action is pretty standard. It’s a boxlock, and the Prestige has ornamental sideplates. Conventional bottom pivot hammers are driven by long coil springs. Sears are suspended from the top strap. The trigger connects to the inertia block, which engages the sears. The safety retracts the block to disconnect the sears. This is standard stuff. The safety is the Beretta-style, with a lateral barrel-selector button that moves the inertia block sideways to select the barrel. The inertia block is cast metal. The rest of the interior parts are smoothly machined but not polished. The firing pins are held in the standing breech by roll pins.
Active lockup is via a Browning-style full-width underbolt, engaging slots in the lumps in the bottom of the mono-block. Passive lockup is by the two modest monoblock lumps, which engage recesses in the floor of the action. The recesses go through the bottom of the action but are covered by a small plate in front of the trigger assembly so no grit can enter. The action could be a bit shallower if it used the Beretta-style mid-breech bolting rather than an underbolt, but the difference is slight and this action is definitely in proper proportion.
Hinging is by replaceable stubs per Woodward, Beretta, Perazzi et al. Most of the Italian makers use this approach today. The auto ejectors are built into the monoblock, so the only job that the forend iron has is to cock on opening by pushing the two large cocking rods on the floor of the action.
B. Rizzini and Caesar Guerini share this basic locking approach and have other similarities favored by the Rizzini clan. The FAIR action is similar to the B. Rizzini action. The Guerini uses more or less the same locking and firing system but different ejectors.
Our 16-gauge Prestige Limited came with 30" vent-rib barrels with five flush screw chokes. The chokes look like the old 2" Beretta Mobil Chokes. The barrel IDs were .670", just slightly overbore from the 16’s nominal .663". The bores are chromed, and the 11/4" forcing cones in front of the 23/4" chambers are a bit longer than I’m used to seeing. The barrels are OK for steel shot.
The barrels are joined at a traditional monoblock and have full side ribs. The narrow, untapered, 7/32" wide, vented game top rib has a simple brass bead in front, but you can order different ribs, front beads and mid-beads should you choose. The barrels are bright-blued and were completely free from untoward ripples, bulges or other evidence of miscues. Well, almost. When I first assembled them, I could hear a little piece of solder rattle down between the barrels underneath the side ribs. After a few shots, it got wedged somewhere and was not heard from again. The barrels rang like bells, so the soldering and jointure were correct.
Our off-the-shelf stock measured 14-1/2" x 1-3/8" x 2-1/4" with a tiny bit of cast. It had a relaxed flat-knob field grip and a solid 5/8" black rubber recoil pad. All of which means nothing, because you can order what you wish.
The forend was a slender Schnabel with an Anson button release protruding from the front. The option sheet offers no escape from what FAIR calls this “double-edged goose beak forend.” But don’t despair. A call to Dewing’s revealed that a modest “rounded taper” field forend is available if you ask. And I certainly would ask.
The checkering on our gun was flawlessly laser-cut in a conventional and tasteful double-border pattern. The oil finish on the stock had exactly the right rich deep walnut color, and the grain was better filled on the stock than on the forend. The wood grain was nice on one side and mediocre on the other. Dewing’s told me that our gun was a demo and that customers’ guns would have better wood. Wood-to-metal fit was absolutely first rate. Some of the best I’ve seen from a production gun.
The engraving on the muted-silver receiver and sideplates is what sets the gun apart visually. It is Dewing’s own pattern. It has about a 98-percent acanthus leaf coverage. The engraving is done by laser and is surprisingly nice for what it is. So often with mechanical engraving more is less, but this work is an exception. The 2 percent that is unengraved is on the slightly rounded lower edges of the receiver where it is more difficult for the laser machine to turn the corner. I was told that regular production guns would have a slightly darker engraving background to better set off the intricate pattern. If I had to find something to whine about, I did notice that the sideplate and bottom plate seams on the receiver had a visible small gap. But that is really nitpicking.
For test shooting, I picked 2-1/2-dram, 1-oz Winchester shells. As expected, the 16-gauge shells cost more and were available in a more limited selection at the local gunshop. That’s my main reservation with the 16. Of course a little preplanned mail-ordering should get you pretty much what you want.
The gun handled delightfully. It had a weight-forward bias due to the 30" barrels, but that’s easily remedied with the 26" or 28" barrels if you prefer a faster gun, or the 32" if you want something steadier. At a total weight of 6 pounds 10 ounces, our gun was certainly in the proper range for a 16. The relaxed pistol grip and thin wrist gave the gun a lithe feel.
Everything worked properly. There were no malfunctions of any kind. The ejectors ejected. At 4-1/2 pounds and 4-3/4 pounds with minimal creep, the selective-single-trigger pulls were very nice indeed. In fact, they were much nicer than those of most other guns in this price range. And the triggers are mechanical too, so you’ll always get a second shot. The chokes were in the ballpark for their markings, although FAIR’s .043" for the 16-gauge Full choke would classify as Mr. Full to me.
As usual, I loaned the test gun to shooters of various skill levels. There were two universal comments. One was that the gun kicked a little more than expected. Not a lot more, but it was noticed. For targets, this easily was overcome by using 20-gauge target shells in a pair of 16-to-20 Little Skeeters (www.littleskeeters.com) gauge-reducing chamber tubes. If you use a 16, a pair of these tubes will let you use 20-gauge shells in your gun in emergencies. For fieldwork, standard 11/8-oz 16-gauge shells would be quite manageable for the typical pheasant outing, if not for Argentine dove hordes.
The other comment was that everyone, with no exceptions, found the gun to handle brilliantly. Some guns just plain have “it” and some don’t. This one does. I particularly liked the svelte 16-gauge receiver, barrel balance, crisp triggers and attractive engraving. In a perfect world, I might prefer 28" barrels with a solid top rib, an English stock to my dimensions, fixed .005" and .015"chokes, double triggers, a manual safety, a wooden buttplate and my initials on the stock oval, but you can’t have everything. Wait a minute. Yes, you can. You have to love this deal. Well done, Dewing’s.
Author’s Note: For more information, contact Dewing’s Fly & Gun Shop, 877-DEWINGS; www.dewings.com.
- By: Bruce Buck