By Sheppard Kelly
‘FOCUS’ – Concentration, Purposefulness. An apt description for Battista Rizzini’s Model BR440 International Trap gun. From the moment the gun is removed from its case, assembled and shouldered, its function is apparent – to serve a shooter as the instrument by which he or she can win Gold medals at the highest levels of International Trap competition – World Cups and of course, the Olympics. Every facet of its design – from barrels to rib to stock, is built with this singularity of purpose – to win!
Battista Rizzini and His Gun
For those of you who subscribe to our sister publication – ClayShooting USA – you’ve read in the June-July 2013 issue my review of the Rizzini Round Body 20 ga. ‘Crossover’ game and clays gun. The history of Battista Rizzini and his entry into the firearms trade is chronicled in that article. By way of review, Battista is one of several gunmakers in the Brescia region with that name – his two brothers and now one Uncle – who have or do now produce both over under and side by side shotguns. The surviving Uncle makes only bespoke side by side shotguns, and when his brother was alive, turned out no more than 20 guns a year. Of the makers bearing the name ‘RIZZINI’, save the Uncle’s firm, Battista is acknowledged as the maker of the most refined guns bearing the name. The basic over under is a hybrid design unique to the Italian trade – think Beretta style hinging with Browning lockup. Battista’s guns invariably have the highest grade wood, are the most skillfully finished and have refinements – design, function, balance – that set him apart from the others. Your reporter contacted John Mogle of Rizzini USA and asked for Rizzini’s offering for the rarified competitive environment of Olympic Trap, the BR440.
The Rizzini BR440
The old adage to ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is generally sound but in the case of our test gun, my first impression on seeing the case was “nice – a Negrini”. Tougher than woodpecker lips, the Italian maker Negrini is a benchmark in the gun trade for design coupled with utility. The cases aren’t cheap and the guns packed inside aren’t either. When a maker uses a Negrini to house their guns consider it like a second olive in a Martini – not necessary but greatly appreciated. It tells the buyer what the maker thinks of their guns.
Inside the case reposed a shotgun that if you needed a picture to go with a caption reading “International Trap gun”, the BR440 would do nicely. It is almost stereotypical of what we in the U.S. view such a gun to be – 30” barrels, tight fixed chokes, straight comb stock, tightly radiused pistol grip with palm swell, beavertail forend and balanced so the shooter can make the swift move necessary to break that small, hard, fast International clay pigeon, and yet controllable to allow if necessary, the second shot. That, in a nutshell, is the BR440. BUT there is much, much more to this Rizzini. Ivan Obesalini, Rizzini’ s Export Manager and no stranger to International Trap competitions, described the BR440 as a variant of the basic design used by B. Rizzini, incorporating features asked for by Olympic trapshooters. Conducting the usual and customary gun examination, we find some similarities to those offerings from makers of the ‘P’ and the ‘B’ guns – but also some significant and functional differences.
Barrels - The BR440’s chromed lined barrels read a true 30” and while no weight was marked, weighing indicated about 1.54KG in heft – a nice marriage of weight to length for Olympic Trap. Bores were blessedly .724” in diameter (18.4 metric) – extensive testing by Italian shotshell manufacturers, the Italian National Olympic Trap team, and Italian shotgun makers showed that the ‘tight bore’ produced markedly better patterns with the required 24 gram payload through all choke designs and constrictions. Our gun revealed .028 constriction bottom barrel and .041 top – corresponding with the generic Italian choke marking of ‘00’ bottom (modified to improved modified) and ‘0’ top (full and beyond). The non-tapered ventilated rib measured .432 in width, nicely serrated and ended with a plastic red rectangular front sight – a design found on legacy Italian Olympic trap guns.
Receiver - Here we have a variation from the normal receiver design used on the majority of Battista Rizzini’s guns – while the replaceable trunions are utilized, the Browning full width locking bolt is dispensed with. If you do a quick look at the Rizzini BR440 barrel monoblock and locking cuts, and the receiver with its complimenting locking recesses and through the breech face bolting you could easily mistake it for a Perazzi or other similar Boss/Woodward design. The locking bolt cuts are higher on the monoblock and instead of the ‘Browning tongue’; two extensions emerge from the breech face to engage corresponding cuts high up on the barrel monoblock. This allows a reduced receiver height compared to guns using the Browning lock up, and results in a gun more easily balanced with a svelte profile.
Trigger - Another innovation in the BR440 is a removable trigger group. Moving the safety button all the way to the rear allows the trigger housing to be pulled down out of the receiver, revealing a lovely jeweled frame for the trigger group parts. Robust in design, the hammers are powered by coil springs encapsulated in protective sleeves – if they break the gun still fires albeit with a slower hammer fall. Some will argue that coil springs do not provide the ‘glass shattering break’ of leaf springs – Balderdash! – trigger pull weights on our test gun measured 3 ½ and 4 pounds respectively bottom and top. The trigger is non-selective and those who shot the gun concluded no perceived difference in lock time or ‘crispness’ compared to a leaf spring gun.
Stock/Forend – The stock was a nicely straight grained piece of walnut – Turkish I suspect – with dark streaks that ran fore and aft. If there is such an animal, the stock would be described as “Generic Italian International Trap” – palm swell (our gun is for a right hander), thick comb, tightly radiused pistol grip ending in a ventilated black recoil pad. While most ATA shooters expend considerable effort to find the softest pad possible to reduce the recoil effects of the heavy loads we hold near and dear in our domestic games, with the mandated 24 gram (7/8 oz.) loads in International competition, even when driven at the Warp speeds normal to these shells (1350 fps. and beyond) – recoil mitigation is not as great a factor as controlling gun ‘bump’. With the second shot allowed in all trap competitions save shootoffs, too soft a pad allows the gun to bounce in the shoulder – while the Rizzini’ s pad could not be considered ‘soft’ by any measure, a 100 target day with an embarrassing large number of second barrels and using the B&P 1360 fps. F2 Mach loads were not in any way punishing.
Our quickly removable stock – a stock wrench is provided – measured Drop at Comb 1 3/8”, Drop at Heel 1 7/8”, Length of Pull 15” and Cast Off at Toe ¼”. When checking with catalog specs, our stock was a little longer and straighter than what was listed – I found it fit very well and, through their Custom Shop, Rizzini will make a stock to your dimensions if ‘out of the box’ doesn’t work.
Italian makers sometimes get ‘dinged’ for poor finish, checkering and wood quality on the competition guns – you won’t find B. Rizzini on that list! We mentioned the stock was nicely streaked – the wood pores were well filled with a semi-gloss finish. The checkering – I’ll guess at least 26 LPI and maybe closer to 28 or 30 – was well executed and as hard as I looked, I couldn’t find runs into the borders.
The beavertail forend matched the stocks grain nicely, was equally as well finished and checkered and also revealed another variance from other Rizzini guns – our BR440 used a Deeley fastening latch – like those ‘other ‘ guns, where the other Rizzini models employ the Anson push button.
On the Range
Our gun arrived in time to be taken to the U.S. Northeast International Trap championships at the Fairfield Sportsman’s Association club in Harrison, Ohio. Passed around amongst the shooters the general consensus was the gun served its purpose well – very well in fact. At 8 lbs. gun weight, everyone pleasingly commented on balance and recoil control. I patterned the gun before the shoot with the B&P Mach F2 Olympic loads with 7.5 shot and found the barrel regulation to be ‘on’ for both windage and elevation. And the patterns, oh the patterns! There is not a lot of 7.5’s in a 24 gram load and what is there needs to be spread evenly and yet retain as much density as possible – an almost mutually exclusive function. It is a given that the B&P Olympic loads are universally known to be excellent – in our BR440 the patterns were the next superlative beyond. What I saw on paper from the BR440 was simply superb. With 24 gram loads you rarely ‘smoke’ a target, even with a centered hit. The best you can hope for is usually lots of tiny pieces – that was the result with our gun and loads on first barrel hits. BUT where the rubber really meets the road are the 50+ yards second barrel shots – here far too often you see the effects of a diminishing pattern with one or two piece breaks – but not with the Rizzini. When the second shot was needed – frequently by your reporter – the breaks were satisfyingly ‘chunky’.
Everyone who shot the BR440 was impressed. In the ‘looks’ department, the metal was finished to a high luster deep blue, and the name RIZZINI gold filled on each side of the receiver bolsters, along with BR440 similarly highlighted on the receiver bottom. This gun simply exudes quality.
The overwhelming first comment after shooting was “Very little recoil – surprising because the gun seems lighter than my…………” The Junior shooters at the match – Emily Hampson and Ryan Osborne – both who shot the gun and well, said almost in unison “the gun is lighter than what I shoot and I thought the recoil would be greater – it wasn’t, and this gun is FAST to the target.” Following was the consensus that the chokes were ideal for Olympic trap – using a variety of brands and speeds, the breaks were confidence builders. Many were not aware that Battista Rizzini offered such a superbly executed in design and manufacture, International Trap gun – in Europe and naturally Italy, Rizzini is the choice of many shooters. One of the most prestigious trophies offered – the Grand Europa Perazzi Cup - was won by Rizzini shooter Luigi Viscovo in 2011.
While the number of this disciplines shooters in the U.S. is unfortunately small (compared to ATA participation) they are VERY DISCERNING and recognize quickly guns whose performance distinguishes them from the others – the BR440 is one of those guns.
Retailing at $7595.00, for more information on the BR440 and other Rizzini offerings, contact Rizzini USA at www.RizziniUSA.com.