The Blaser F16 is a promise fulfilled.
[by Terry Wieland]
With any shotgun, what counts in the end is not how well it shoots, but how well you shoot with it. In today’s world of minutely detailed technical specifications, choke diameters measured to a thousandth of an inch, barrel weights and balance points analyzed and dissected, and virtually every variable feature adjustable by the user, this basic truth is too often lost.
When Steve Denny was with E.J. Churchill 20 years ago, he commissioned an expert on industrial measurement to take apart a Churchill matched pair from between the wars, and see how well they were made in modern terms. It was a spectacular pair in pristine condition. Everyone who shot the guns loved them, and they were indistinguishable, one from the other, by every person who had handled them blindfolded.
Denny is now director of the Holland & Holland shooting ground, dealing daily with shooters seeking to improve, using a wide variety of shotguns. It’s his business to know what works and what does not, and the lesson has stayed with him. “According to my friend, in terms of modern industrial production, that matched pair were laughable. No two comparable parts were the same, when you put computerized measuring instruments on them. Yet, they felt the same, and people shot them the same.” They may not have been “matched” in fact, but they were matched in practice.
“The shotgun community faced many of the same threats as the American auto industry, but in a different way. Our old world of small shops, hand labor, and consummate skill was fading away.”
The buzzwords of modern industry are computer, digital, CNC (computer-numerically controlled), robotic, and probably a dozen more I’ve yet to hear of. Formerly, they all came under the heading of advanced manufacturing, and I first became aware of them around 1980 when I was working in public relations. One of our clients was a technology company, fighting what seemed to be the irresistible tide of Japan, Inc., taking over the world. The savior of North American industry was to be CNC and advanced manufacturing.
The shotgun community faced many of the same threats as the American auto industry, but in a different way. Our old world of small shops, hand labor, and consummate skill was fading away. Even if such guns were still being made, by Holland & Holland or Purdey, who could afford them?
Who could ever afford them? In strode the modern industrialists. Don’t worry, they said, CNC is the answer. We can duplicate that Purdey down to the last micron, deliver it in a matter of weeks, and all at a fraction of the price. In the new world of guns made by CNC, everyone will be shooting a Holland & Holland. So they said.
They are still saying it today, and yet the promise of 30 years ago has yet to materialize. There are certainly guns around made entirely on CNC machinery, and there are still guns as good as Purdeys (they’re called Purdeys) but the two are not one and the same. What’s more, two of the guns most famously made on CNC equipment, Perazzi and Fabbri, of Italy, are certainly wonderful, but they are very, very expensive.
The economic premise of CNC was that because an ultra-fine gun could be mass produced in little time, the quality would be high but the price would come down. Unfortunately, bringing the price of a $100,000 gun down to $30,000 may be an economic breakthrough, but how big is the market for $30,000 shotguns?