By Terry Wieland
Skeet is not, and never has been, my game. For reasons no one has ever satisfactorily explained, some shooters love trap, others take to skeet, and rarely do the twain meet in one person who is good at both.
My preference is trap, with a few side trips into sporting clays, box-pigeon (in Spain) and colombaire. Of the bunch, I’m best at trap shooting, although that comes and goes.
Last year, Tony Galazan’s Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co. (CSMC) introduced a variation on its well-established RBL boxlock side-by-side. The new gun is called the Super Bird, and it’s configured as a trap gun, or perhaps a sporting-clays gun for the eccentric. My test gun has 30-inch barrels and came fitted with full and full choke tubes, although more open chokes are available. At 8 pounds, 14 ounces, it’s certainly a handful. Like most modern doubles, it has 3-inch chambers, so it could also serve as a waterfowl gun.
If the Super Bird resembles any side-by-side familiar to Americans, it’s the Winchester Model 21 as we usually saw illustrated in the 1960s: pistol grip, beavertail forend, ventilated rib and a selective single trigger.
For reasons I can’t explain even to myself, I decided to try out the Super Bird shooting skeet and did so with the full and full chokes. (Actually, I probably thought shooting trap with it would mess me up with my Blaser trap gun, whereas nothing could make me shoot skeet worse than I do.)
To complete the anomaly, I used 24-gram International Trap loads — slightly less than 7/8-ounce of No. 7 1/2s.
At various times in the past, I’ve shot skeet with a trap gun, more as an experiment than anything else. It gets a little tricky when you’re using a 100-year-old Ithaca 4E with a 34-inch barrel choked fuller-than-full. But when you hit ’em, you smoke ’em.
Shooting skeet with a side-by-side, I usually shoot gun-down because that’s what I’m used to. Michael McIntosh and I had some long discussions about this, and found we had the same affinity: We could shoot an over/under with the gun mounted, using a single trigger, with no problem; we could then switch to a double-trigger side-by-side and shoot gun-down. Trying the reverse, however, was difficult for us both. We finally concluded it was a result of long practice programmed into our brains. Pick up an O/U and our brain switched to that mode; pick up a SxS and it switched back.
At any rate, the CSMC Super Bird is intended to be shot with the gun pre-mounted — at least, that’s how it feels to me — but having the ventilated rib and a bead helped me trick my subconscious into thinking it was an O/U, and it transitioned smoothly into pre-mount, single-trigger, etcetera-mode. I should add that, while the Super Bird does not have a Monte Carlo stock, the comb is high and straight, and a pre-mount allows you to align your eye straight down the rib.
Details on the Super Bird are available on the CSMC website www.connecticutshotgun.com and the options are many and varied. The base price is $5,000, and you go up from there. Near as I can tell, the specific model I shot would retail for about $6,000.
After a half-dozen sessions with the Super Bird on a skeet field, getting used to its flatter-shooting qualities and difference in weight and balance, I managed to shoot a 20/25. Throughout, I was treated to all sorts of well-meaning advice about what I was doing wrong, as if I and the unusual gun had never seen a skeet field before. (I should use No. 9 shot? Really?) but my scores gradually improved from 12/25 to 20/25 and, most important perhaps, I’d stopped thinking of it as anything but a skeet gun with which I should shoot in the twenties.
No thought of choke or shot size: It was simply a gun I should be able to shoot as well as any other. Whether I’ll hit 25 with it before the season ends, who knows? But I’ll give it a shot.
Terry Wieland is a writer specializing in fine firearms. He has written for Safari Times for 25 years. His latest book is “Great Hunting Rifles — Victorian to the Present.” Wieland’s biography of Robert Ruark, “A View From A Tall Hill,” has been reprinted in paperback by Skyhorse.