Strip away the romance, the aura and the snob appeal from the classic double gun and you see it for what it is: a pared-down, efficient tool for shooting birds; a hunting machine as perfectly refined for its purpose as any synthetic-stocked Benelli or Beretta semi-auto.
Developed as a gun for driven shooting, the classic double gun fits perfectly into our American style of walk-up upland hunting. It is light and easy to carry all day. Twin triggers offer absolute reliability. And it’s the only barrel-selector system that truly offers an instant choice of chokes. The straight grip and slender fore-end put your hands in line and close to the axis of the barrels. A trim double gun points like a deadly extension of your finger when a bird flushes. The walnut stock and engraved receiver don’t help you bag birds, of course, but they add to the hunt aesthetically.
Hunters who want the advantages of a classic double without the price tag have turned to Turkey in the past decade as a source of affordable field guns. The Dickinson, imported by Interstate Arms Corp. of Massachusetts and sold through Cabela’s, is the latest choice in Turkish doubles. It is a solid value that comes in at a price point and level of finish above the competition. Made by Akus, generally recognized as Turkey’s finest double-gun maker, the Dickinson bears a strong resemblance to the short-lived, Turkish-built S&W Elite of a few years ago. The S&W was here and gone before most of us recognized it as a nice gun and a great buy. In fact, it was awarded American Rifleman’s Golden Bullseye Award for that magazine’s Shotgun of the Year. Now we get another chance at it, or, at least, at a gun almost exactly like it.
The Dickinson is built on a trigger plate action, meaning all the lock parts are attached to the trigger plate, a design that allows the receiver to be rounded and slender. The receiver is color-casehardened using the bone-and-wood-charcoal method, which gives the steel an attractive finish of swirling blues, browns and olives. The light scroll engraving is nicely done and it is cut deep enough to be clearly visible, unlike a lot of the laser engraving on guns today.
The barrels are deeply blued, and a look along their length reveals no ripples as you’ll see on poorly struck barrels. There is no bulge at the end to accommodate the choke tubes. In fact the thin wall tubes have no notches in the ends (an included friction wrench removes them), so you have to look hard at the muzzles to even see that this gun has choke tubes. The 12- and 20-gauge models have 3-inch chambers, the bores are chrome-lined and the five choke tubes are steel-compatible, which is an important consideration as more of the uplands seem to be limited to non-toxic shot every year.
The walnut is fairly straight-grained, finished with a gloss coat, and the checkering has just enough tiny overruns that prove it was done by a person, not a machine. The butt also is checkered. It has a straight-hand stock and splinter fore-end with the little semi-schnabel ending that afflicts many Turkish guns. Wood-to-metal fit is very good. Like many doubles, the Dickinson is stocked a little longer and straighter than we are used to: the 16-gauge’s stock measured 1 1/2 inches at the comb, 2 1/8 inches at the heel with a 14 3/4-inch length of pull to the front trigger and a little bit of cast off. You see a bit more rib when you mount a double gun, which is intentional, as in theory they shoot slightly lower than an over/under. Of course the best thing to do is keep your eyes on the target and not worry about how much rib you’re seeing.
Last winter I had a chance to hunt with the 12-gauge Dickinson and shoot targets with the 16-gauge (I know, it should be the other way around). The gun carried easily and pointed surely whenever I crossed paths with a rooster. The 16, built on a 16-gauge frame, comes in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces. The 12 weighs right at 7 pounds. Both guns have a weight-forward balance that makes them swing smoothly, although they didn’t feel quite as lively in hand as I might like when I first picked them up. That said, they both proved to be easy guns to shoot.
The trigger pulls on both guns have been very heavy. It’s not a problem for a ham-fisted trigger smasher like me, but those pulls would annoy more refined shooters. The gun comes in 12-, 16- and 20-gauge, with 28-inch barrels. There are some single-trigger guns available, too. The Dickinson is a good-looking gun built tough enough to handle any shot you put through it. It’s an old-style classic gun tough enough to last a long time.