PUBLISHED: 13:55 05 March 2021 | UPDATED: 13:55 05 March 2021
William Powell’s new Sovereign side-by-side combines traditional elegance with Rizzini’s modern innovation; Mike Yardley reviews
WILLIAM POWELL SOVEREIGN SIDE-BY-SIDE – BRIEF OVERVIEW
WE LIKE: The elegant lines; The acanthus engraving; The quality of presentation and finish
WE DON’T LIKE: It’s a little low and slim in the comb
WILLIAM POWELL SOVEREIGN SIDE-BY-SIDE – IN-DEPTH REVIEW
This month’s test gun looks traditional (and rather beautiful), but is unusual on a number of fronts. It’s a 12-bore side-by-side and bears an English name, a good one – William Powell – but it is made in Italy in association with B.Rizzini, one of Italy’s most innovative makers. The aesthetics of the laser-engraved acanthus scroll action are excellent. The square-bar action has elegant beaded edges as well as fine engraving. At this price point, you would struggle to find a prettier gun.
A close inspection (many wouldn’t notice this) reveals this is a side-plated boxlock rather than the sidelock it appears to be (Powell also offers a sidelock made in Italy to British spec – the Viscount). I have no problem with side-plates, though. My attitude to them has changed. It used to not be considered quite the thing to have side-plates on a gun. But, I own half a dozen or more doubles – over-and-under and side-by-side – that boast them (all Italian guns too). They put a bit of extra weight between the hands, and provide extra space for engraving. They also allow for the use of a simpler boxlock or trigger-plate action, which can be an advantage as such guns are easier to service and fix than traditional sidelocks. Moreover, it is my experience that if you opt for a single-trigger (a no-cost option here), boxlock, machine-made mechanisms are the most reliable.
Let’s return to the spec of the test gun. It has 30” barrels (with 28” and 32” options – the latter at slight extra cost) and is proofed for superior steel shot, even with 3” (76mm) magnum loads. The gun weighs in at 7lb – usually a great weight for a modern game gun, but a little light for anyone contemplating the use of heavier payloads.
The gun is fixed choke at Half and Half for steel – and there is a multi-choke option, either fitted at the factory or with Teague thin-wall-type chokes added in England. Barrels are bored relatively tightly at 18.5” and 18.4” so are well suited to fibre loads. There is a very nice matt-finished, relatively wide but tapered and concave sighting rib with a conventional metal bead at the muzzles. Again, I thought it especially good. Indeed, all boxes are ticked in this department and the superior steel proof will be a boon to those looking for a gun that can do double duty on high birds or duck.
The Sovereign’s stock is of classic English straight-hand form, well presented, with an oil finish and excellent lasered chequering. The shelf dimensions for the well-figured stock are sensible: just over 15¼” for length of pull (with an extra 1/8” to heel and a Purdey-like ½” extra to the toe). This length covers 95% of men and might easily be reduced to 14½” or extended to 16” with a Silvers pad or similar.
My only query is on the drop, which is a classic 1½” to the front of the comb relative to the rib axis, but almost 2¼” at heel. This is just a little too low for me (and probably would be for anyone who shares my 5’11” build); with the slender comb, I can lose the bead when I mount. The shape of the grip is good, though, not too slim. The comb is elegantly tapered but just a little slimmer than my preference. The fore-end is a well-formed ‘splinter’ type with just enough bulk to fill the front hand and thus allow the muzzles to be directed efficiently.
As noted, this is a side-plated boxlock. The action is presented well (like the rest of the gun). Design wise, it is mostly conventional with traditional Purdey double lump bolting and familiar ejector work. The butt, however, is attached to the action by an over-and-under-style stock-bolt rather than a breech pin running vertically between top and bottom straps. The hammers are powered by coil springs like most over-and-unders (the mechanism looks much like an O/U turned on its side). The ejectors system is not the usual Southgate; it is Rizzini’s take on the Baker system with coil spring impulsion. General gunmaking is good in all departments. The engineering impresses.
The attractive engraving is worth extra mention. This style of quite deep scroll acanthus lends itself especially well to new laser production methods. The Italians have become masters of it, though we have seen it on some English guns as well (and much engraving is now initially laid out on guns by laser before a more conventional hand-chiselling process, even at higher grades).
I shot the gun at my usual venue, the Fennes Shooting Ground. It had no major vices. It handled well (if not quite as well as the Viscount sidelock model I tested the same day). It is of the nature of this style of gun to be quick, but you may notice the recoil too. The Soveriegn was well-priced for the quality presented. What Powells are offering with this new gun also has much potential for future development/refinement. If I could specify a gun, I’d have it with 30 or 32” barrels, a flat, file-cut rib, and a semi-pistol or open radius full pistol grip with a slightly fuller comb (in other words, a Soveriegn pigeon gun). Matched to the right load, the Soveriegn as it stands will be ideal for many. I will leave the last word to Luke Maud of Powell’s own Gun Room: “The Sovereign embraces the looks of an English gun with the advantages of [being] steel shot proof. It also has very pleasing lines, perhaps better than some of the other machine side by sides currently on offer”.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the Super Light 24 gramme cartridges used in this test.
WILLIAM POWELL SOVEREIGN SIDE-BY-SIDE – TECH SPECS
Action: Side-plated boxlock with coil spring power and OU type stock bolt
Bore: 12 (with 20 and 16 bore options)
Barrels: 30” (with 28 and 32” options)
Chambers and Proof: 3” (76mm) Superior Steel
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Rib: concave ‘game’ with matted top surface
Chokes: fixed, ½ & ½ with multi choke options
RRP: £4,995 (£750 extra for bespoke wood)