by Terry Wieland - Thursday, March 17, 2011
Over the past two decades, Tony Galazan and the Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company have become America's preeminent manufacturer of double-barreled shotguns.
Double-gun lovers who bemoan the demise of the great American double can take heart from the fact that Galazan is not only keeping alive some fine names (A.H. Fox, Winchester 21, Parker) but is making guns of his own design that can hold their own against shotguns made anywhere in the world.
With the A-10 American over/under, Galazan is manufacturing a world-class shotgun unlike any seen here before. His ever-expanding factory in New Britain, Conn., is unlike any other U.S. gunmaking facility.
Galazan has an operation with about 85 workers, producing some 2,000 guns per year, using a combination of highly skilled hand craftsmanship, computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machinery, innovative production techniques and a refreshingly original assessment of features for which American shooters are willing to pay.
Every operation, from barrel boring, to stock shaping, to engraving, to metal finishing, is done at the New Britain factory, giving Galazan control over every aspect of production. During a visit there last July, I found three German gunmakers in residence, sent by their parent companies in Germany to study how Galazan does things. This is the reverse of the usual practice, and shows how highly regarded Galazan is among the world's best gunmakers.
The A-10 American, Galazan's latest creation, is rare even among the finest European names. It's a genuine sidelock over/under, with hand-detachable locks. In England, you would be looking at about $150,000 for such a gun, and, in Europe, you would be lucky to find one for less than $50,000.
Connecticut Shotgun's marketing techniques are as innovative as their designs. The Fox, Parker and Winchester 21s are made to order, but the A-10 and side-by-side RBL are marketed as limited-production numbers. To promote sales, Galazan uses a sliding scale of discounts, with breaks for early orders, returning customers and so on. When it was first announced, a buyer eligible for all the discounts could have purchased an A-10 for the bargain-basement price of $3,999. For an over/under with detachable sidelocks, that is unbelievable anywhere; for a gun of this quality, it is once-in-a-lifetime.
Orders have been such that all discounts have now been discontinued, leaving a base price of $7,995—still a bargain. The base A-10, called the "American Standard," has plain sideplates and lesser wood grade, but all the functionaly of the A-10 "Rose and Scroll" model above. As befits an almost-custom shotgun, the A-10 is offered with a wide range of options in engraving, lengths, wood grade and other features.
Galazan is fanatical about quality control, and every single gun is extensively range-tested and adjusted before it is shipped. Not only does Galazan shoot the guns himself, all employees in the production department test-shoot its products continuously. This ensures not only that every gun functions perfectly, but also that all craftsmen are familiar with how a gun should operate. I would think this would go without saying, but it's remarkable how many gun-company employees never shoot a firearm.
For that matter, it is remarkable how many guns are shipped from factories without ever having been handled by a gunmaker. This is why so many new guns are stiff, clunky and difficult. When a gun is put together and its various operations tested, a gunmaker can carefully fit and polish parts until they work together smoothly. Over the course of weeks of testing, a gun is gradually refined until it is functionally perfect. This is the way the great European gunmakers finish their masterpieces, and it is an approach that Galazan has adopted.
Needless to say, my test shotgun functioned well and felt lovely. The barrels (with interchangeable chokes) shot to the same point of impact at 40 yards, the trigger was crisp and reliable, the ejectors perfectly timed to throw the hulls within inches of each other. It opened and closed without resistance, but did not feel loose.
The inertia-style single trigger broke at 4 pounds, 11 ounces, on the first shot, and about a half-pound lighter on the second, regardless which barrel it was set to shoot first.
Interestingly, Galazan fits the A-10 with an English-style automatic safety. An enthusiastic shotgunner himself, on both game and clays, Galazan does most of the gun-testing personally and fits his shotguns with features he believes to be the best. For those who prefer non-automatic safeties, it can easily be disconnected.
The locks are the center of a double gun, and the A-10's locks are Galazan's own design-simple, with few moving parts to ensure reliability. The moving parts are plated to prevent corrosion which also makes them look nice (along with a touch of scroll engraving inside).
To make the gun thoroughly modern, it comes equipped with detachable weights in various combinations for fitting to both the barrels and inside the stock, allowing the owner to adjust the weight and balance for his particular type of shooting.
Overall, the Galazan A-10 American is the most impressive-and refreshing-American-made shotgun I have seen in many years. It shows what can be done, and at a price that is competitive with imported boxlock over/unders.
Specs: 860-225-658, connecticutshotgun.com
Type: over/under sidelock shotgun
Gauge: 12; 20- and 28-gauge barrels can be fitted to the 12-gauge frame (also available in 20-gauge with a smaller frame)
Trigger: inertia-type, single-selective
Sights: single bead
Safety: tang-mounted, automatic
Stock: two-piece, American black walnut (upgrades available); choice of pistol grip or straight hand; length of pull adjustable via trigger position
Overall Length: 47" (w/30" barrels)
Weight: 7 lbs., 13 ozs. w/30" barrels
Metal Finish: varies by grade
MSRP: $7,995 and up
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