by Terry Wieland
Every so often, the question arises, “If you could own only one shotgun, what would it be?” My answer to that question would not be the same today as it was in 1990, or in 2000, or, for that matter, 2010. Tastes change, as do your interests, both in guns and what you like to shoot with them.
Usually when you’re sitting around a table and someone asks the question, the goal is not to hear your answer, but to set the stage for the interlocutor to deliver a long dissertation on why this gun is better than that gun. It all quickly becomes a complete waste of time.
Another approach begins with, “When I’m 85 and down to one gun, that’s the gun it will be,” pointing to an open case and a worn and patina-ed old veteran, often the speaker’s father’s gun — in which case, he probably sees himself carrying it lovingly under his arm, but not hitting much with it. Believe it or not, you do reach an age where the main object of going out with a gun is simply going out with a gun, for which Dad’s old favorite serves admirably.
In light of that, what I am about to write relates solely to a gun that will fulfill every purpose I might have for a shotgun, regardless of age, infirmity, skill, or the absence thereof, or the gun’s pedigree or emotional attachment. The answer — and this will surprise some who believe I am so in love with side-by-sides that I can’t see straight — is the Blaser F3 over-and-under.
This is not a sudden decision; I’ve been shooting an F3 since about 2008, mostly for trap, but occasionally for Skeet and sporting clays. I’ve hunted with the gun, and shot live birds, although for those uses I do favor a side-by-side. Right now, I have half a dozen side-by-sides — two Spanish, the others English — that I shoot semi-regularly, and all are either made to my measurements or have been altered to fit.
My problem is that I simply love to shoot, and for much of the year that means trap, Skeet, sporting, or just moving around behind a trap machine in a field and calling “Pull!”
Two of my side-by-sides (built a century ago for box-pigeons) can deal with most clays shooting, and one or two of the others are good for Skeet. And, since I customarily insist on shooting gun down, safety on, in practice for live birds, the others will serve at Skeet as long as no one’s keeping score. But this is simply making do with what you have, and I always prefer using a gun intended for the purpose.
This is where the Blaser F3 shines, because its system of readily interchangeable parts allows you to alter everything from the buttstock, to the gauge, to the barrels, barrel length, chokes and ribs, to suit exactly what you want to shoot. Within that range, I can alter length of pull, height of comb, and even cast (including moving the trigger back and forth) to fit as closely as possible.
Speaking of the trigger, and admitting that no, I have NOT tried every one on the market, the F3 has the best trigger pull and fastest lock time I’ve ever experienced. You don’t notice it when you first start shooting. Only after you’ve gone back to another gun and found the trigger feeling slow and muddy do you realize just how good the F3 is. After which — sorry, pal — you’re spoiled for life.
Since acquiring my first F3 a dozen years ago, in an “unsingle trap combo” configuration, I’ve added another frame, two more buttstocks, a second forend, and six (!) sets of barrels in four different gauges. The one you see here was my first, set up to shoot Skeet, although it would certainly serve as a field gun.
Much as I admire the gun and love to shoot it, however, when I’m “85 and down to one gun” my Blaser will have gone to a good home, to continue its career with someone else who loves to shoot, and I’ll be going out with my restored E.M. Reilly double. Sentimental reasons. And yes, I’ll likely be wearing a tie.
Gray’s shooting editor never met a fine gun he didn’t like, from a vintage Woodward to an Ithaca trap single to a well-crafted over/under.