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The Field-Grade Combination Gun

or, "How to Be Obsessive and Spend Too Much Money"

by L. Adamson.

With special thanks to: Richard Carson, Mika Apajalahti, the Denizens of BCUSA (vdeal, 1773, swissarmy67, cloudraker, and Dimner), and the Denizens of Savage24.com (bigkelly).

This is Revision 10.1 of this document, published on 2017-02-21.

If you wish to suggest any additions or corrections, the author may be reached at lee@mrpolecat.com.

I am in the process of adding photos. One gun every day or two. We'll get it all done eventually! :)

An ongoing video series that roughly parallels this article may be viewed here: (insert link here).

Top to bottom: (1) Savage 24V .30-30/20ga fixed Mod, (2) Savage 24C .22LR/20ga fixed Cyl Bore, (3) Savage 24S-C .22LR/20ga fixed IM, (4) Chiappa Double Badger .22LR/.410 fixed Full, (5) "Remington"/Baikal SPR-94 .308/12ga screw-in choke, (6) Baikal MP-94 7.62x39mm/12ga aftermarket screw-in variable choke, (7) Baikal IZH-94 "Sever" .22WMR/20ga screw-in choke (with aftermarket peep sight), (8) Tikka/Valmet 412S .223/12ga fixed IM, (9) Valmet 412 .30-06/12ga fixed IM, (10) Valmet 412 12/12 fixed Mod/Full, (11) Valmet 412 (barrel only) 12ga/12ga screw-in chokes, (12) Valmet 412 (barrel only) .308/12ga fixed IM (with Leupold VX-3 1-4x scope on QR mount)

Introduction

"Do not ridicule the man with only one gun, for he will surely be able to shoot it remarkably well."

This statement was made years ago by my ninth grade English teacher, as we sat in class one day talking about guns instead of studying literature. It may seem a little strange to some folk, but keep in mind that I live in a place that is deeply steeped in the American gun culture. At the time, I owned four guns myself. So it seemed ridiculous to me, at the time, that anyone would own only one gun. Heck, the thought of owning no guns at all was unimaginable.

(This was also during this time in my life that I assumed that everyone all over the country thought of Squirrel Gravy as a delicacy, which led to some interesting embarrassments later in life. But that is a story for another day!)

That teacher’s statement stuck with me, though, and eventually led down the rabbit hole of combination guns, in search of that one perfect gun to do everything

What is a "Field Grade" Combination Gun?

A combination gun is a firearm with two or more barrels of different calibers. Most are of a break action design, like a double-barreled shotgun. They almost always comprise a rifle caliber and a smoothbore shotgun caliber, but rare and oddball examples exist in multiple rifle or multiple shotgun calibers.

The vast majority of combination guns, both new and old, are of the two-barreled over/under variety, and are simply called "combination guns" or "combinations". The two most common configurations are a rimfire rifle barrel on top with a shotgun barrel beneath, or a shotgun barrel on top with a high-powered centerfire rifle barrel beneath.

Side-by-side variants exist, but are fairly rare. These are called "cape guns". They were most popular in the northeast USA, in previous centuries when black powder was still in common use.

Excessive variants exist, both new and old, mostly of German manufacture. Some have three barrels (called "drillings"), four barrels (called "vierlings"), or even five barrels (called "funflings"). Most drillings are comprised of two side-by-side shotgun barrels with a centerfire barrel beneath. Vierlings are usually like a drilling, but with a rimfire barrel added above. And funflings, well, they are just very rare and extremely weird, typically comprising side-by-side shotgun barrels, with centerfire rifle barrels above and below, and a rimfire barrel in the middle. These types of guns came about as a result of gun laws that allowed only one firearm per household, and for their utility in european driven hunts. I certainly wouldn’t want to carry such a gun on any sort of extended hike, though!

Most of these guns, other than some of the two-barreled O/U combinations, are far outside the price range of a regular person’s field gun. Every now and then, you will find a very old drilling or cape gun for sale at what seems like a somewhat reasonable price. But most of these guns are not safe to use with modern ammunition. They are often chambered for obsolete shotshell lengths of 2 1/2" or 2 9/16", and may even have Damascus shotgun barrels that are only safe to use with black powder shells. These older guns are also often chambered in weird obsolete european rifle calibers that are very difficult to obtain brass for and no longer available as factory-produced ammunition. These become a handloading-only proposition.

There are also a few guns that, while they fall into our specifications of what comprises a "regular person’s field gun", were made in such limited quantities that finding them for sale at all is purely a matter of luck that no amount of persistence will overcome. Such models include some of the old Winchester and Marlin combinations, and there are surely others that I have never heard of.

It may also be worth pointing out that we are looking for guns that will allow a shooter to leverage the advantages of both a shotgun and a rifle at the same time. So we are excluding the single-shot rifle/shotguns with a set of swappable single barrels (like the H&R/NEF, Rossi, or Thompson/Center sets) from consideration. I don’t have anything against such guns, and actually like them a great deal. But they serve a subtly different purpose and are not the focus of this article. Though it would be quite interesting to do a piece on that sort of setup in the future!

The higher-end versions of these guns often have fancy woodwork and heavy engraving. They can be extremely expensive, from $5000 upwards into the tens-of-thousands. Too expensive for us regular people to be buying at all, much less dragging through the woods! So we’ll set a price limit of $2500 for the guns we’ll be looking at. Even $2500 may be excessive for most of us, but if you consider a person who is a very avid hunting enthusiast, who might use such a gun for the rest of their life and then pass it down to their children, then maybe that’s not such a bad investment after all. I mean, you pay far more than that for a decent car, and it is typically worn out after only 15 or 20 years, right? Such is the rationalization, anyway!

So, in summary, we are focusing on combinations that are:

  • Affordable (or at least barely quasi-affordable, in the <$2500 range),
  • Not so ridiculously rare that they cannot be realistically found for sale even with excessive persistence and patience,
  • Capable of firing modern factory-loaded ammunition without having to resort to hand-loading or trimming and forming one’s own brass from something else,
  • And of course, as always, we’re looking for that one perfect gun to do everything… I’m sure we’ll find it! There’s no way that could just be an unrealistic utopian ideal, right? Right?!?

The Advantages of Combination Guns

The combination gun is extremely useful for hunting a mixed-bag of game. In states with widely overlapping small and large game seasons, a centerfire combination can be used to hunt large game, while small game can be taken opportunistically with the shotgun barrel. Likewise, in small game only seasons, rimfire combinations are very useful for making precise shots on stationary small game, so as to spoil less meat, while still having the shotgun available for flushed game. Or if you happen to miss your first shot, the shotgun barrel makes for an excellent follow-up shot once the game has been spooked. And in a pinch, you can even hunt large game inside of 50 yards or so, with slugs from the shotgun barrel of a rimfire combination!

Combinations are also well-suited to certain types of specific game. A lower-powered centerfire and 12 gauge combination with a tight choke makes an excellent turkey gun. Combinations chambered in small, fast, flat-shooting cartridges (such as .222 or .223 Remington) excel at long-range coyote hunting, and the shotgun barrel can be employed when the the quarry has been called in close and then spooked.

Of course, the utility of a combination is of great advantage if, for whatever reason, you can only own one gun. Or if you are just obsessive like the author and wish to have that one perfect gun to do everything

And finally, combinations are fun, unusual, and interesting. They have a certain baroque mystique about them, and are almost always a conversation starter, if you are into that sort of thing.

The Disadvantages of Combination Guns

The combination is, primarily, a hunting arm. The single-shot break-action design is just not at all conducive to self-defense. And although these guns can be exceptionally accurate, there are other guns out there that are far better suited to the tasks of sport and match shooting. (As a possible sporting exception, the Valmet and BRNO combinations that we will be looking at later do have O/U double shotgun barrels available. While I suppose they can’t really be considered a combination while set up in that configuration, they do excel at skeet and sporting clays when set up as double shotguns.)

These guns are expensive for what you get, when compared to a single-barrel, single-shot rifle or shotgun. It's like buying two guns for the price of three, when you discount the combination’s ability to act as a rifle and a shotgun at the same time. So unless your shooting needs can specifically take advantage of the combination’s ability to act as a rifle and a shotgun at the same time, you would be better off financially to buy a separate dedicated rifle and shotgun, or a swappable single-barrel setup like the H&R/NEF or Rossi sets (or the Thompson/Center, if you are a high-end shooter).

And of course you’re looking for that one perfect gun to do everything… Right?

Well, the cold hard reality of combinations is that, while they can do everything, end up doing everything in a mediocre fashion.

A dedicated shotgun for half the cost of the combination will almost always be a better shotgun than the combination. A dedicated rifle for half the price of the combination will almost always be a better rifle than the combination.

And it is easy to get sucked into a vortex of "if only something, it would be the perfect gun." "If only it had this other choke." "If only it was chambered in X instead of Y." And before you know it, you’ve chased your tail into buying a whole pile of combinations (see title page illustration), and still don’t have that one perfect gun to do everything.

The secret is, there is no perfect gun, because that is an impossible utopian ideal. The combination is what it is: a jack of all trades, but master of none. If you can work with that, then a combination will serve you well. But if you need the perfect gun for the specific task at hand, then you will be sorely disappointed.

The author's biggest frustration with combinations is whether to mount a low-powered scope or use the iron sights. Obviously for shotgun work, the iron sights are very preferable. But for rifle accuracy and distance, a scope can’t be beat. It always seems like whenever I have one, I want the other. See-through mounts don’t work very well on most of these guns, as the bore axis is already pretty far from the sight axis on most of the centerfires (we’ll talk more about that later). A quick-detach return-to-zero mount with low rings helps a great deal, but it is still a source of frustration. Perhaps a reflex sight of some kind would work very well on a combination, but I’ve never tried it. Or maybe one of those old flip-away scope bases that they haven’t made since the 1980s, if you can find one that will hold zero. Once again, jack of all trades, master of none.

When mounting a scope, one must also be careful to select a scope with enough eye relief to avoid contracting a case of "scope eye" from the shotgun recoil. This is of particular significance on rimfire combos, as rimfire scopes typically provide very little eye relief.

With a double-barreled gun, the barrels must both shoot to the same point of aim (or close to it). This is called "barrel regulation", and when it’s good, we say that the gun is "well regulated". The vast majority of these guns are permanently regulated (or permanently badly regulated, in some cases) at the factory. Only a very few provide mechanical adjusters to allow the user to change the barrel regulation. Many of the less expensive combinations are not regulated very well. The higher end combinations, while regulated well, are only regulated for a specific load. This is generally more of an issue with double rifles, which are not the subject of this piece, but it does come into play when you are using slugs in the shotgun barrel, either as a follow-up shot with a centerfire combination or to hunt larger game with a rimfire combination.

Additionally, combinations can be heavy. Centerfire rifle barrels need to have a good bit of metal in them in order to withstand the pressures involved. Combine that with a shotgun barrel, the additional mechanical bits to run the two separate actions, and a scope, and you have some heft. After a full day, this can start to make your sling shoulder and neck a little sore from hauling the thing around. While I love combinations, I won’t take a heavy centerfire combination on a hunt that requires a great deal of continuous relatively fast movement, such as hunting with hounds.

Most varieties of combination have a gap between the barrels, which are fastened together at both ends. As you shoot the gun repeatedly, one barrel can heat up more than the other, which will cause your rifle shots to start stringing vertically. This isn’t an issue when you are out in the woods, but when shooting repeatedly while trying to sight in a gun or adjust the regulation, you must go slowly to ensure that everything is cool between each shot to avoid throwing your adjustments off. Some of the guns have a rib soldered between the barrels that helps to counteract this, but unfortunately any gun with the barrels soldered together like that cannot have any regulation work done on it without a significant outset of cash for gunsmithing work, and the job certainly cannot be done in the field by the user.

And finally, most of the centerfire combinations place the rifle barrel on the bottom, where the action is strongest. This has the effect of putting your sight axis a good distance from the bore axis, making the bullet’s trajectory less flat. The effect is compounded when you mount a scope, spreading the axes even further. And if you are using tall see-through scope rings, it starts to get really ridiculous!

The Combinations, Reviewed

Chiappa Double Badger

The Chiappa Double Badger is the most affordable current-production combination gun on the market. It is available in .22LR or .22WMR over .410 bore, as well as .22LR over 20 gauge. (Update this photo!)
The Double Badger folds in half, for easy storage. (Update this photo!)
The rear sight is a Williams ghost ring with a fiber-optic insert.
The front fiber-optic sight is molded into the barrel band.
For the .410 bore model (left), the upper barrel is available in .22LR or .22WMR. The upper barrel of the 20 gauge model (right) is only available in .22LR. (Update this photo!)
The gun uses a standard tang safety, but it does not engage automatically when the action is broken open.
The trigger guard doubles as a breakopen and cocking lever. Also note the double triggers, an unusual feature on a gun at this price point. (But see notes on the triggers of the 20 gauge version, in the text.) (Update this photo!)
Spent shells are removed via a standard extractor. (Update this photo!)

The Double Badger is manufactured by Chiappa Firearms of Bresica, Italy. Chiappa is best known for their reproductions of historical firearms, but they also make a handful of very odd modern sporting rifles and handguns.

At the time of this writing, the Double Badger is in current production, so you can buy a brand new one with a warranty if you want to, instead of having to gamble on the vagaries of the used market. If you patiently shop around, prices for a new .410 model hover around $300, while the 20 gauge model seems to tend to sell for around $400.

The gun doesn’t take down without tools, but it does fold almost in half for a total length of 18" for compact storage and transport. When folded, it easily fits into a modest hiking-type backpack.

It features wooden furniture (which is rare on a gun at this price point nowadays), with pressed checkering. The barrels are of a separated, non soldered variety. The very first .410 models were drilled and tapped for a scope base, but the base had to be purchased separately. Chiappa stopped doing this very early in production, however, and the vast majority of these guns cannot have a scope dropped on without some gunsmithing work. The iron sights are comprised of a rear ghost ring sight and a front fiber optic sight.

The lower barrel is available in .410 bore or 20 gauge. For the .410 model, the rifled upper barrel can be had in either .22LR or .22WMR. However, the rifle barrel of the 20 gauge model is only available in .22LR. The shotgun barrels for both models have a 3" chamber. The .410 has a fixed Full choke, while the 20 gauge is threaded for screw-in chokes, using the Remington thread pattern, and comes with a single Modified choke installed in the gun at the factory. No extra chokes are included.

The action is of a hammerless design, with a nonautomatic safety on the tang. Double triggers obviate the need for a barrel selection mechanism. The action breaks open via pulling down on the extended trigger guard, and spent shells are removed from the chambers via a standard extractor.

Pros

This gun has a lot of nice features, despite being the lowest priced of all the guns we will be looking at in this article. The double triggers and ghost ring/fiber optic iron sight configuration, in particular, are very nice features.

Since the rear sight is a Williams unit that uses standard-sized Williams parts, it is fairly easy to replace the rear sight with a notch or screw-in aperture from about any other Williams unit, to suit the preferences of the individual user.

Additionally, since the 20 gauge model is threaded for screw-in chokes, a variable choke (such as the Polychoke II) can be installed without permanently altering the gun. This can add the sort of shotgunning utility you would find in a differently-choked double shotgun or drilling.

Cons

As with most combinations, this gun lacks a regulation adjustment mechanism. However, since the barrels are separated and not joined in the middle by a rib, there may be ways to kludge your own regulation adjustments if you have to. We will talk about that later.

The triggers are a bit too far forward of the pistol grip, resulting in the gun requiring a rather weird grip to avoid bending one's wrist at an uncomfortable angle (even for the author, who has huge pianist hands). This does not affect one's ability to shoot the gun accurately, it is just… Well, weird.

The fiber-optic front sight seems to be a bit large, and covers a great deal of one's target. I am not sure if the element is just large, or if perhaps it just seems that way since the barrels are so short (or maybe a combination of both). Regardless, the size of the front bead just isn't really conducive to fine accuracy. However, I bumped the front sight of one of my Double Badgers, breaking the fiber-optic element out of it, leaving just a little open circle where it used to be. After this happened, I discovered that my accuracy with the gun was greatly increased. This is not a reversible modification, though, so the reader is urged to beware before doing something that might void their warranty.

These guns can be a little rough from the factory, and may need a break-in period and some polishing before they start operating smoothly. One of the author's personal guns was very gritty and opened very hard from the factory, and required a deep cleaning and a polishing of the locking bolt face. It also had a burr around the inside of the muzzle of the .410 barrel that had to be carefully worked off, because it was deforming the shot and causing the gun to throw a poor pattern. A second .410 model that the author bought was just fine other than a little stiffness, but the author's 20 gauge model came with an internal screw cross-threaded at the factory (which admittedly wouldn't have been an issue if I hadn't completely disassembled the thing and pulled those threads out).

The 20 gauge version's triggers fire the barrels in the wrong order. All other models of double-trigger combination guns in the world (including Chiappa's other models, even the .410 Double Badger) use the front trigger for the shotgun barrel and the rear trigger for the rifle barrel, regardless of the actual physical arrangement of the barrels on the gun. With the 20 gauge Double Badger being backwards from this standard, it is extremely easy to accidentally dry-fire the rimfire barrel, which can easily damage the rim support surface that the firing pin strikes, which could eventually lead to inconsistent ignition of the rifle barrel.

However, the triggers from the .410 version are a direct swap into the 20 gauge version, and fix the "backwards triggers" issue. At the time of this writing, they can be ordered from Chiappa for $15 each, plus $12 shipping, for a total of $42 (which seems a little excessive to fix what I consider to be a design flaw). Chiappa will only ship the parts to a licensed FFL dealer, and their customer service is extremely poor, perhaps even abysmal. It took them a full month and a great deal of nagging to get them to finally ship the author's parts (which they said were in-stock the whole time and kept insisting would ship out "within the week").

The Bottom Line

Despite my complaints, I feel like this gun is a really great deal for a person who wants an affordable combination, and doesn't want to worry about tearing up a collectible firearm in the woods. It has nice features that many of the more expensive guns lack. However, the potential buyer must be aware of Chiappa's reputation for questionable machining and abysmal customer service, and either ensure that their gun is problem free before buying it, or be prepared to correct a problem or two themselves.

While I do very much enjoy shooting and hunting with a .410, I personally do not feel that the .410 bore shotgun round is appropriate for a general purpose combination. I feel that the .410 is kind of an "expert" cartridge that is best suited for a particular challenge or very particular hunting circumstances. However, the strength of a combination lies in its "do-it-all" nature. Therefore, I believe that unless the prospective combination shopper is specifically looking for a .410, I would recommend the 20 gauge model despite the extra cost.

Savage Model 42

(I don't own a Savage 42, and unfortunately I don't have any plans to buy one. So I don't have access to any photos that I am sure are not infringing on anyone's implied copyright or whatever. If any of you own a Savage 42 and would like to take some pictures similar to the others in this article, and release them under some sort of Creative Commons license so that I can use them here, that would be really awesome. I can't pay you anything, but I will certainly put your name in the credits at the top of this document, and be extremely grateful!)

The Model 42 is manufactured by Savage Arms of Westfield, Massachusetts. Although the Savage name goes back to 1894, the current incarnation of the company (under which the Model 42 is produced) has only really existed since 1988.

At the time of this writing, the Model 42 is in current production, so you can buy a brand new one with a warranty if you want, instead of having to gamble on the vagaries of the used market. Prices for a new gun hover around $400, if you patiently shop around.

The gun doesn’t take down without tools. You’ll have to carry it around in a full-sized rifle case.

It features plastic furniture. The handguard is molded around the barrels and is non-removable. The barrels are of a separated, non soldered variety. There is a scope mount available, but installation requires removing the rear iron sight, and the scope mount must be purchased separately. The iron sights are comprised of a standard adjustable notched rear sight and a flat black front sight which is permanently molded into the barrel band.

The rifled upper barrel can be had in either .22LR or .22WMR, while the lower shotgun barrel is only available in .410 bore. The shotgun barrel has a 3" chamber and a fixed Cylinder Bore choke (or lack thereof).

The action is of the exposed hammer design, with a half-cock safety. There is also a second crossbolt safety in the frame. The gun features a single trigger with a barrel selector on the hammer. The action breaks open via squeezing a lever in front of the trigger guard, and spent shells are removed from the action via a manual extractor.

Pros

I really want to say something nice about the Savage 42, because I really like Savages in general. But unfortunately, I can’t think of any pros for the Model 42.

Cons

As with most combinations, this gun lacks a regulation adjustment mechanism. However, since the barrels are separated and not joined in the middle by a rib, there may be ways to kludge your own regulation adjustments if you have to (though the molded-on handguard may interfere with this). We will talk about that later.

The plastic manual extractor is just plain goofy. It takes cheapness to whole new levels.

The anti-lawyer crossbolt safety is completely superfluous. It always offends my sense of gun safety to not use a secondary safety if it is available, and all this does is add another action to the already time consuming procedure of cocking the hammer and flipping the barrel selector to where you want it, all while the game you’ve just unexpectedly flushed is getting away. Sadly, these useless anti-lawyer gadgets are rife on firearms of newer manufacture, and don’t show any signs of going away.

As mentioned previously, I feel that the .410 is a poor choice of shotgun chamberings for a combination. Further crippling the .410 bore is, in my opinion, the Cylinder Bore choke. Most fixed-choke .410 bore shotguns use a Full choke, for good reason. There is very little shot in a .410 shell. If you want it to be effective, it needs to stay in a tight column. The Cylinder Bore choke cannot do this effectively. Even with the larger gauges, the Cylinder Bore is at best marginal for a general-purpose shotgun.

The Bottom Line

Unless you absolutely must have a brand new US-made combo for less than $400, well… The Double Badger seems like way more gun for less money. In my opinion (and I feel bad for saying this about a product from a company that I generally quite like), the Model 42 is overpriced junk.

Chiappa M6-22 and X-Caliber

(I don't own an M6-22 or X-Caliber, and unfortunately I don't have any plans to buy one or the other, either. So I don't have access to any photos that I am sure are not infringing on anyone's implied copyright or whatever. If any of you own either of these guns and would like to take some pictures similar to the others in this article, and release them under some sort of Creative Commons license so that I can use them here, that would be really awesome. I can't pay you anything, but I will certainly put your name in the credits at the top of this document, and be extremely grateful!)

Like the Double Badger, the M6-22 and X-Caliber are manufactured by Chiappa Firearms of Bresica, Italy. These guns were inspired by the old M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon from the 50s and 60s, but are distinctly different. They share many design elements with both the Double Badger and the Little Badger (both also manufactured by Chiappa).

The two guns are identical, the only difference being that the X-Caliber has the option of coming with a set of subcaliber adapters for the shotgun barrel (at an increased price). But we’re not going to discuss the adapters here, as they are available for, and will work with, any 12 gauge shotgun, and are not essential to this gun’s nature as a combination. We’ll only be looking at the gun, and the prices without the adapters included.

At the time of this writing, both the M6-22 and X-Caliber are in current production, so you can buy a brand new one with a warranty if you want to, instead of having to gamble on the vagaries of the used market. Prices for a new gun hover around $400-$500 (depending on caliber options), but at the time of this writing they are being bought up as fast as Chiappa produces them, so they are a little difficult to find.

The gun doesn’t take down without tools, but it does fold almost in half for a total length of 18" for compact storage and transport. When folded, it easily fits into a modest hiking-type backpack.

It features a weird polypropylene foam buttstock, which according to the internet is much sturdier than it appears in pictures. The foam buttstock has an open-top ammunition trap built in, with spaces for five .22LR cartridges, two shotgun shells, and a field cleaning and maintenance kit.

The barrels are of a separated, non soldered variety, and include picatinny rails for scope and accessory mounting on the top and sides. The iron sights comprise a rear aperture sight and a front fiber optic sight.

The upper shotgun barrel is available in 20 gauge or 12 gauge for the M6-22, or 12 gauge only for the X-Caliber. Both have a 3" chamber. The fixed choke is either Improved Cylinder or Cylinder Bore, but it is not clear from my research which gauge has which choke. The rifled lower barrel can only be had in .22LR.

The action is very similar to that of the Double Badger. It is of a hammerless design, with the safety on the tang. Double triggers obviate the need for a barrel selection mechanism. The action breaks open via pulling down on the extended trigger guard, and spent shells are removed from the action via a standard extractor.

Pros

It is a very lightweight gun, so it should be a pleasure to carry around.

The ammunition trap in the buttstock is kind of neat, if it is legal to transport the ammunition in the same case as the gun in your state.

The available shotgun chamberings are far more effective and versatile for a general purpose shotgun than the .410 bore guns that we have discussed previously.

Cons

As with most combinations, this gun lacks a regulation adjustment mechanism. However, since the barrels are separated and not joined in the middle by a rib, there may be ways to kludge your own regulation adjustments if you have to. We will talk about that later.

It is a very lightweight gun, so the recoil with full-house shotgun loads may be excessive, especially in 12 gauge.

The ammunition trap does not have a latching lid. I assume that the ammunition is held reasonably tightly by the foam buttstock, but the lack of a lid still concerns me a little. Will the foam continue to fit tightly enough over the long term as many many rounds are removed and inserted?

I feel that the fixed Improved Cylinder and Cylinder Bore chokes are a poor choice for a general-purpose shotgun, as it severely limits the effective range of the shotgun barrel. For a fixed choke gun, I personally feel that a Modified choke is most versatile for a 12 gauge, whereas a Full choke is preferable on a 20 gauge (so as to get about the same pattern density at a given range as one would get from the Modified choke 12 gauge, albeit with a smaller pattern, requiring a tiny bit more accurate shooting).

The Bottom Line

Although a new M6-22 costs about the same as a used Savage Model 24 in 20 gauge (which we will look at next), I believe that (even though the 20 gauge and 12 gauge are both good general purpose shotgun chamberings) the choke on the M6-22 is just not tight enough for general-purpose hunting. If you are enamored of the M6-22, I would go for the 12 gauge rather than the 20 gauge, for the larger shot load and correspondingly denser pattern at longer ranges. But the recoil may be excessive.

A Savage Model 24 in 20 gauge tends to cost slightly more on average, but not very much more if you shop around (indeed, the Model 24 can sometimes be found for less), so the only reasons I personally would go for this gun over the Savage 24 are if you absolutely must have a brand new gun or just really like the "tactical survival rifle" look of it.

Savage Model 24 and Stevens 22/410

The Savage 24 is an American classic, but hasn't been produced since 1988. As a result, mint condition examples are often expensive and therefore unsuitable for use as field guns. But less cosmetically desirable examples still abound, at fairly reasonable prices.
The Savage 24 takes down easily without any tools, for compact storage and transport.
The Savage 24C "Camper's Companion" features an ammunition trap in the buttstock. While interesting, it ends up being less than useful in practice.
While all but the earliest rimfire models come with a 3/8" scope dovetail cut into the upper barrel, the centerfire models 24V and 24F require the installation of a Weaver #74 scope base.
All Savage 24s, even the centerfire varieties, place the rifle barrel on top. Also note the thicker crowned shotgun barrel on the earlier fully-soldered models (right).
All but the earliest Stevens 22/410 place the barrel selector on the hammer. Most models place the release lever on the tang, as shown here.
For a short time in the 1950s, the Savage 24S was produced, featuring a release lever on the side of the frame instead of on the tang. Later 1980s models placed the release in front of the trigger guard (not shown).
Note the use of a single extractor on centerfire models, but two separate extractors on rimfire models.
Rimfire models featured a standard bent sheet metal rear sight.
Although this one is shown mounted to a rimfire model, the centerfire Savage 24 variants came from the factory with a fairly nice Lyman #16 folding leaf sight installed.
Early models with fully soldered barrels feature a nice narrow front sight that is fairly precise.
Later models with separated barrels feature a wider front sight molded into the barrel band. The orange paint was added by the author; these sights can be hard to pick up sometimes otherwise.
Even with a hammer extension, the Savage 24 can be a little fiddly to use with a scope. The shooter must still squeeze their finger under the scope to operate the barrel selector.

The Savage Model 24 was manufactured by the older incarnation of Savage Arms of Westfield, Massachusetts. It may be worth noting that Savage filed for bankruptcy in 1988, and was subsequently reorganized and manufacturing processes were changed significantly to reduce costs. The character of the firearms produced by the company before and after the reorganization are distinctly different.

This gun came in many different submodels, designated by a letter code following the model number (24S, 24C, 24V, 24F, etc). It began life as the "Stevens 22/410" in the late 1930s, manufactured by Stevens Arms of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. This gun was only available in a .22LR over .410 shotgun, with barrels fully soldered together for their entire length. After the Savage/Stevens merger was completed sometime in the 1940s, the gun was renamed to the Savage Model 24, but it was still the same gun.

Over time, the .22WMR was added as a rifle option, along with the 20 gauge shotgun chambering. Several different letter-designation 24s were made during this time, but they were all very similar, with fully soldered barrels and a .22 rimfire over a .410 or 20 gauge shotgun.

In the 1970s, the fully soldered barrels were phased out in favor of separated barrels. In some cases, the breech end was held together with a monoblock (centerfires), while in other cases the barrels were just soldered together at the breech (rimfires). A barrel band joined the barrels at the muzzle end. Also at this time the first centerfire Model 24 was introduced, the Model 24V "Varminter". It featured a number of centerfire calibers over a 20 gauge shotgun barrel.

In the 1980s, the Model 24F "Predator" replaced the Model 24V. It chambered the same centerfire cartridges as the 24V, but over a 20 gauge or 12 gauge shotgun barrel which was threaded for screw-in chokes. It also added the .17HMR as a rifle caliber option.

Since the Model 24 has not been produced since the 1988 reorganization, a prospective buyer must gamble on the vagaries of the used market to get one. Prices vary widely, from perhaps $300 up to perhaps $700, depending on the firearm’s submodel, condition, and caliber.

Most models feature wooden furniture. There were "field grade" models with plain wood, as well as "deluxe" models with checkering. The guns take down easily without any tools, for compact storage and transport.

The last iteration, the Model 24F Predator, came with plastic furniture.

Models produced during World War 2 used tenite (a type of odd celluloid bakelite) furniture instead of wood. These have become very brittle over time and have a tendency to fall to pieces. They should probably be avoided unless you are a collector.

The Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" came with a sliding-cover ammunition trap in the buttstock that held ten .22LR cartridges and two 20 gauge shotshells.

Early models of the 22/410 did not have any provision whatsoever for mounting a scope. However, the vast majority of rimfire models have a 3/8" dovetail for mounting rimfire-style scope rings. Centerfire 24V and 24F models were drilled and tapped for a Weaver #74 scope base, which needed to be purchased separately. Some used models will come with one, but most will not. However, the Weaver #74 scope base is still widely available.

All Model 24s, even the centerfire varieties, are configured with the rifle barrel on top. All of the models except the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" feature 24" barrels. The Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" features a shorter 18" barrel.

Rimfire models were manufactured in .22LR or .22WMR, while centerfire models were manufactured in .22 Hornet, .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .357 S&W Magnum, and .30-30 Winchester.

Shotgun barrels are available on the rimfire configurations in .410 bore and 20 gauge, with either 2 3/4" or 3" chamber lengths. Centerfire models came with 20 gauge or 12 gauge shotgun barrels, with a 3" chamber length.

All .410 bore models came with a fixed Full choke. All 20 gauge models except the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" were advertised as Modified chokes, but tend to run a little tighter, somewhere between Modified and Improved Modified, with the earlier guns tending to be a little tighter than the later ones. The Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" came with a fixed Cylinder Bore choke (or lack thereof), while Model 24F "Predator" was threaded for screw-in chokes. The Model 24F "Predator" uses the same choke thread pattern as the Mossberg 500.

The action is of an exposed rebounding hammer design, with a half-cock safety and a hammer block linked to the trigger. All models incorporate a single trigger with a manual barrel selector, but the location of the selector varies between models.

The earliest 22/410 models had a barrel selector button mounted in the frame, which was later found to be prone to breakage. Later models, comprising the vast majority of the guns, have a barrel selector built into the hammer instead. Earlier guns with a broken frame-mounted selector may be easily retrofitted with the later hammer and hammer-mounted selector, but doing so leaves an unsightly empty hole in the frame.

All models utilize an extractor to remove spent shells from the action, but the location of the break-open lever varies depending on the model.

Most models have the break-open lever located in the usual location on the tang. The latching mechanism of the Model 24 is different than most O/U designs, however, in that the lever can be pressed in either direction to release the barrels.

For a short time in the late 1950s, a Model 24S "Side Release" was produced that placed the break-open lever on the side of the frame.

The 1980s models changed the break-open lever to a plastic assembly built into the front of the trigger guard.

Rimfire models come with a standard bent sheetmetal rimfire-style rear notch sight, adjustable for windage via the barrel dovetail and adjustable for elevation via a ramp. Centerfire models came with a very nice Lyman #16 folding leaf sight. Redfield and Williams produced aftermarket receiver-mounted peep sights for these guns, but they are no longer produced and are difficult to find and expensive.

Earlier models with fully soldered barrels feature a nice narrow fixed front sight that screws into a hole tapped in the top barrel. Later models with separated barrels utilize a wider front sight which is permanently molded into the barrel band.

Pros

The Savage Model 24 is a classic American rifle available in a wide variety of chamberings with nice wooden furniture, blued steel, and color case hardening (unfortunately worn away by this time on any gun that doesn’t command collector prices). It is as Quintessentially American as apple pie, baseball, and distrust of the government.

Despite being out of production since the late 1980s, millions of these guns were made and they are still fairly easy to find on the used market, though there are a few exceptions of rare chamberings. The .357 S&W Magnum versions are nearly impossible to find, and the .223 Remington and .30-30 Winchester versions are somewhat rare. Rimfire models, however, abound.

With the exception of the .223 Remington version coupled with heavier bullets, the rifle barrels on these guns tend to be very accurate. The earlier rimfire models with the barrels soldered together for their entire length tend to be ridiculously accurate, and do not string vertically as the barrels heat up.

Since the centerfire models locate the rifle barrel on top instead of beneath, the problems inherent with having too much space between the bore axis and sight axis that other centerfire combinations exhibit are not an issue with the Model 24. They shoot flatter than other combinations in comparable calibers, and tall see-through scope rings can be employed without as much trajectory spoilage.

The 24F "Predator", being threaded for screw-in chokes, can accept a variable choke (such as the Polychoke II) without permanent alteration to the gun. This can add the sort of shotgunning utility you would find in a differently-choked double shotgun or drilling (albeit at the cost of slightly uneven patterns, due to the Polychoke's lack of a parallel section at the end of the bore).

Some of the rimfire models (especially the 24C "Camper’s Companion") are fairly lightweight (compared to most other combinations, anyway), and can be a pleasurably carried around all day without making one’s sling shoulder and neck sore.

The ammunition trap in the buttstock of the 24C "Camper’s Companion" is kind of neat, if it is legal to transport the ammunition in the same case as the gun in your state.

Cons

To my knowledge, none of the Savage 24s came with sling studs from the factory. One must install their own sling stud in the stock, and use some kind of half-clamp style bolt-on sling stud on the shotgun barrel. Or use a tie-on type sling.

As with most combinations, these guns lack a regulation adjustment mechanism. However, on the models with separated barrels, there are ways to kludge your own regulation adjustments if you have to. We will talk about that later.

In my opinion, the fixed choke on the 20 gauge models could stand to be a shade tighter, but they do run on the tight-side of Modified, with earlier models closer to Improved Modified. So they’re really not too bad at all, and this is really just a nitpick rather than a real negative.

However, I am also of the opinion that the Cylinder Bore choke (or lack thereof) on the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" makes it fairly useless for general-purpose shotgun work. It’s great for flushing grouse and shooting slugs, but terrible for anything else.

Due to its design, the ammo trap in the buttstock of the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" is less useful than it first seems. It’s very fiddly to get the ammunition out one at a time, and it ends up being far faster to pull rounds from a belt slider (or even loose from a shirt pocket) than to fiddle them out of the ammo trap.

The later models with the separated barrels are not as well regulated as the earlier fully-soldered ones. Some of them are so far off that they cannot be brought anywhere close when "wedging" to adjust the regulation in an improvised manner (we will talk about this more later). According to my research, the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" is especially bad for this. These are guns that you definitely want to "try before you buy", if at all possible.

The models with fully soldered barrels cannot be "wedged" at all. The regulation on these older models was fairly good from the factory, but this is a used gun… You don’t know how it’s been abused over time, so the regulation may be way off. Again, you definitely want to "try before you buy".

Some of the later guns have very heavy triggers. According to my personal experience and reading, the Model 24C "Camper's Companion" is the worst for this. However, if you are a fairly competent shadetree gunsmith, you may be able to do your own trigger job, as detailed here on the Savage 24 Forums.

The action is weak compared to the the combinations that chamber higher powered centerfire cartridges (which we’ll be looking at in a bit). This, combined with the rifle barrel being on top where the already weak action is weakest, prevents the guns from being chambered in anything hotter than the .30-30 Winchester.

The Model 24F "Predator" is extremely heavy. Even the 20 gauge version of the Model 24F uses the same excessively heavy frame as the 12 gauge version. The Model 24V is far lighter, but still difficult to carry around all day without getting a sore neck and sling shoulder. But the Model 24F just too heavy to be a field gun.

The models with .223 Remington barrels have a very slow 1:14 twist rate, which prevents them from properly stabilizing heavier bullets. They are pretty much a varminting proposition only. When selecting ammunition, you must force yourself to think of them as being exactly the same as a .222 Remington.

Some of these guns like to pierce shotgun primers every now and then. It doesn’t present a safety hazard or anything, but it does build up soot in the firing pin channels over time and can eventually cause ignition failures if you aren’t a little proactive in keeping that stuff cleaned out of there.

On the rimfire models, the standard rimfire-style scope rings that mount to the 3/8" dovetail can sometimes pop loose under heavy shotgun recoil. This can be corrected by using two sets of scope rings, for a total of four, instead of just two. There are also some special "tactical style" rimfire scope mounts that can engage the entire dovetail for extra strength, too.

Well-loved examples tend to exhibit cracks in the wood where the stock joins to the receiver, caused by the shotgun recoil with heavy loads over many years. A little glue or some cloth tape will fix it right up, though.

These guns are getting a good bit of age on them. Many of them have been kicking around behind the seat of someone’s pickup for the past 40 or 50 years. If at all possible, give them a really thorough shakedown before you fork over the money, or make sure the seller will take it back if you decide you don’t want it after the shakedown. Make sure the bores are passable. A dark bore can still shoot decently, but a nice shiny unpitted bore is preferable (but also watch out for bores that have been "polished" by unscrupulous sellers, as this will wear the sharp edge off the lands and affect accuracy). Blast plenty of CLP through the channels housing the firing pins to get any junk out of there that might cause misfires, then clean and lube the action fully. Fire least 50 rounds of mixed ammunition through each barrel to uncover any particular brands of ammunition the gun doesn’t like, or other problems (for example, my ratty old Model 24V in .30-30 Winchester fails to fire Remington Core-Lockt about 1-in-7 rounds, but the Federal Power-Shok functions flawlessly in it).

Weak hammer strikes can often be fixed by slightly bending the head of the guide rod that rides inside the mainspring, but be aware that too much will prevent the half-cock safety from engaging. For details, see this page on the Savage 24 Forums.

Buy some proper hollow ground gunsmithing screwdrivers and use plenty of PB Blaster if you need to remove the set screws that hold the firing pins in the frame. They will likely be seized in there after all this time, and it is very easy to strip the heads off of them if you use a bad screwdriver or forget the penetrating oil.

These guns are becoming collector’s items. Therefore, models in excellent cosmetic condition go for premium prices, and even the dinged up ones can sometimes go for more than they are worth as a field gun.

This seemingly long list of cons is not meant to imply that all of the Savage Model 24s out there are in need of work. Most of them function just fine, and the long list may just be a result of the author's larger body of experience with these guns, compared to some of the others. But these are used guns, and you have to exhibit some self-reliance to solve problems with them, rather than falling back on a warranty program.

The Bottom Line

These guns can be a little fiddly sometimes, mostly due to their age, but they are still a fairly decent gun. Rifle barrels (with the exception of the .223 using heavier bullets) may be the most accurate of all the combinations discussed here, especially the rimfires with fully soldered barrels.

Personally, I go back and forth as to whether I think that the Savage Model 24 or the soon-to-be-discussed Baikal MP-94 (with some work) is the "better" budget combination. The Savage is definitely the prettier gun to my eye, but I think at the end of the day it all comes down to what you can find for sale, what you’ll be using the gun for the most, and whether or not you want to put the elbow-grease into getting a Baikal into shootable shape (yes, a new Baikal still takes a lot more work to get into shape than even a heavily used Model 24).

I think it’s safe to say that I definitely prefer the Savage 24 rimfires with the fully-soldered barrels over the Baikal rimfires, as long as the Savage is regulated well. But if a fully soldered Savage is regulated badly, well… There’s nothing you can do about it. Without the accuracy and lack of stringing that come with the fully soldered barrels, I think I’d have to go with the 20 gauge Baikal and put the work into getting it into shootable shape, just to get the hammerless action, double triggers, and screw-in chokes.

As for the centerfires, I think it comes down to whether you will primarily be using it as a rifle or as a shotgun, and if the game you will be hunting requires something hotter than a .30-30. To me, the Savage feels more like a rifle that just happens to have a shotgun barrel on it, while the Baikal feels more like a shotgun that just happens to have a rifle barrel on it, if you know what I mean.

It’s really kind of a toss-up, I guess!

Baikal MP-94, IZH-94, and Remington SPR-94

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The the MP-94, IZH-94, and SPR-94 are all the same gun, but were imported into the US by different companies (EAA/USSG and Remington). They are manufactured by Izhevsky Mekhanichesky Zavod (Izhevsk Mechanical Works), aka "IMZ", of Izhevsk, Russia. IMZ has been a well-known eastern-european firearms manufacturer since the early 1940s, but they also manufacture all sorts of things, including but not limited to microelectronics, food processors, motorcycle and car parts, power tools, and oil drilling equipment.

At the time of this writing, the MP-94 is in current production, but is not currently being imported into the USA. IMZ is owned (or was formerly owned, depending on what random internet jabber we choose to believe) by the Kalashnikov Concern, and so the guns were banned from importation by presidential executive order preventing imports from Kalashnikov and subsidiaries.

But Kalashnikov supposedly sold IMZ in September of 2014, and as a result IMZ products supposedly no longer fall under the executive ban. But at the time of this writing, nobody has yet resumed importation. The author sent an email to EAA about this. The response was brief, and seems to indicate that EAA has no plans to resume importation.

At the time of this writing, Kalashnikov is in the process of setting up production inside the United States, to get around the sanctions. They will be (or probably are, by the time you read this) producing all of the Molot and Saiga semiautomatic rifles and shotguns for US consumers, but not the Baikals. So unless the import ban is lifted by a future US president, it is extremely unlikely that any Baikals will ever again be imported into the USA.

Prices seem to hang around $500-$600, but are slowly rising. All varieties have become extremely difficult to find for sale in the USA, the 20 gauge rimfire variants most of all.

However, if you live in Canada you can apparently buy them from the Canadian Baikal distributor all day long in as much quantity as you like.

The models imported into the USA feature surprisingly decent wooden furniture, with cut checkering. The guns take down easily without any tools, for compact storage and transport.

The MP-94 is built on three different frames, depending on chambering. The three configurations are different enough that they probably ought to be considered to be three entirely different guns, even though they share the same model number. A "large frame" is used on the centerfire combinations, while a "medium frame" is used on the 20 gauge rimfire combinations, and a "small frame" is used on the .410 bore rimfire combinations.

The barrels are of a separated, non soldered variety, housed in a monoblock at the breech. All models include a European-style 11mm dovetail for scope mounting. This is a little wider than the 3/8" rimfire dovetail that we are used to here in the USA, and is intended to have an 11mm European scope base mounted to it rather than the far weaker 3/8" US-standard rimfire rings. But most 3/8" rimfire rings will fit the 11mm dovetail. Most, but not all.

The centerfire model of the MP-94 is somewhat unique in that it features mechanisms intended to allow the user to adjust the barrel regulation. The only other combination to offer this feature is the Valmet 412. The MP-94 mechanisms are more primitive and fiddly than the Valmet’s, but they are far better than nothing!

At the muzzle end, a barrel-band-like device is solidly attached to the rifle barrel. The shotgun barrel rides in a slightly loose ring. Shim material may be inserted into this ring to make windage adjustments to barrel regulation.

Right in front of the handguard is a little mechanism between the barrels designed to accommodate different thicknesses of "adjusting rod" sort of threaded blocks, to push the barrels apart to make elevation adjustments to barrel regulation.

The regulation adjustment mechanisms are only found on the centerfire models. Both rimfire variants lack this mechanism.

The shotgun barrel on the centerfire variants is manufactured in 12 gauge, with both 2 3/4" and 3" chambers. However, it would appear that only models with the 3" chamber were imported into the USA. Rimfire variants are available in .410 bore and 20 gauge, both with 3" chambers. Most (but not all) of these guns are threaded for screw-in chokes, and use the common TruChoke thread pattern. It would appear that the few examples that are not threaded for chokes are older models, from when the guns were first starting to be imported.

The rimfire variants place the rifle barrel on the top, while the centerfire variants place the rifle barrel on the bottom. This is because the centerfire variant is chambered in some pretty hot calibers, and the action is stronger the closer it is to the pivot fulcrum, where there is less leverage trying to pop the action open when the gun is fired.

The rimfire variants are manufactured in .22LR, .22WMR and .22 Savage High-Power (5.6x39mmR), but only the LR and WMR variants were imported into the USA. Currently only the .22LR/20ga, .22LR/.410, and .22WMR/.410 models are offered by Baikal Canada.

The centerfire variants are manufactured in .222 Remington, .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm, .308 Winchester, 7.62x53mmR, 7.62x54mmR, .30-06 Springfield, 9x53mmR, and 9.3x74mmR.

All centerfire calibers were at one point offered for sale by Baikal Canada, but currently only the .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield centerfire models are being offered.

Only the .222 Remington, .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield were imported into the USA. Of these, the .222 Remington and 7.62x39mm were only imported into the USA for a very short time, and can be quite difficult to find. The .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield variants are far more common.

The centerfire and 20 gauge rimfire variants feature a hammerless action with an automatic tang safety, and break open using a traditional lever on the tang. Breaking open the action automatically engages the safety.

The .410 rimfire variants, however, are equipped with a locking/cocking lever behind the trigger guard (somewhat similar to the Chiappa Double Badger) and a button-style safety located on the trigger. All three varieties are equipped with extractors.

The centerfire and 20 gauge rimfire variants feature double triggers, while the .410 bore rimfire variants offer a single trigger and a manual barrel selector on the tang.

The rear sight on the centerfire variants is a clunky notched affair, and is mounted unusually far forward, as part of the vertical regulation mechanism. The rimfire variants instead place the rear sight farther back as part of the scope dovetail. The rear sight on all variants can be drifted left and right to adjust windage only. The front sight on all variants is very similar to a standard AK-47 or SKS post (though not a direct replacement, the MP-94 post is a little shorter and has a finer thread pitch), and is adjustable for elevation only by turning it in and out with a standard AK-47 front sight adjustment tool (or a pair of pliers, if you don't mind scratching up the bluing).

Pros

The centerfire and 20 gauge rimfire variants of this combination stand out among the other combinations in this price range as having some great features that the the others lack. The regulation mechanisms on the centerfire variants, while not great, are still a huge plus. The double triggers are also a great feature. Additionally, being threaded for screw-in chokes, a variable choke (such as the Polychoke II) can be installed without permanently altering the gun. This can add the sort of shotgunning utility you would find in a differently-choked double shotgun or drilling (albeit at the cost of slightly uneven patterns, due to the Polychoke's lack of a parallel section at the end of the bore).

Although the centerfire variant is a bit on the heavy side (as can be expected with centerfire combinations), the rimfire variants are fairly light, and are a pleasure to carry around all day.

This is the only budget combination chambered in the more powerful centerfire calibers.

Cons

The fit and finish are a little rough. Many of these rifles are extremely tight from the factory, to the point of having to break them open over your knee.

The rear sight on the centerfire variants is absolutely terrible. Not only is the notch much too wide, but the sight itself is way too far forward on the barrel, causing the sight radius to be very short. It’s rather more like trying to aim an AK-47 than a precision hunting rifle. This can be corrected fairly inexpensively though, which we will explore later.

The centerfire variants are not very well regulated from the factory, but at least they can be adjusted in a non-kludgy fashion. But you will have to regulate it yourself. This is complicated slightly, however. The guns were supposed to come with a set of different sized regulation pin-block thingamabobs, but apparently EAA lost all of them during import. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to make your own or shim the one that comes with the gun.

These guns were once plentiful and inexpensive, but have become nearly impossible to find (with the exception of the .410 models) since the US executive issued its questionable import ban against certain Russian companies. The 20 gauge rimfire variant is extremely desirable, and impossible to find for sale anywhere currently, at any price. The centerfire variants can be found in limited numbers with enough digging, but often command higher prices than what they are worth. The .410 rimfire variants remain available in limited quantities on the usual internet gun auction sites, but also command a high price (at least compared to other more featureful rimfire/.410 combinations).

The Bottom Line

Out of the box, these guns have several problems. But they can be a real gem in the rough if you are willing to put in the elbow grease to get them broken in and set up nicely. We’ll discuss getting these things set up later on.

The .410 rimfire variant is a neat gun. But if you like a .410, the Chiappa Double Badger will give you more/better features at a lower price. Also, it seems somewhat silly to have screw-in chokes in a .410, rather than just a fixed full choke, but perhaps having an IC choke would make the .410 a fairly accurate and effective medium-game gun with Brenneke slugs.

Personally, I go back and forth as to whether I like this gun (in the centerfire or 20 gauge rimfire variants) or the Savage Model 24 better as a budget combination. They seem to have exactly opposite advantages and disadvantages, and balance each other out. I think the Baikal is a better more featureful design, but the Savage Model 24 was manufactured to a higher level of fit and finish. In the end, I guess it’s pretty much a toss-up, unless you need a centerfire rifle caliber hotter than the .30-30! If that is the case, then the Baikal is the only game in town at this price point.

… If you can find one.

Springfield M6 Scout

(I don't own an M6 Scout, and I probably won't be buying one unless I run across a really killer deal somewhere. So I don't have access to any photos that I am sure are not infringing on anyone's implied copyright or whatever. If any of you own an M6 Scout and would like to take some pictures similar to the others in this article, and release them under some sort of Creative Commons license so that I can use them here, that would be really awesome. I can't pay you anything, but I will certainly put your name in the credits at the top of this document, and be extremely grateful!)

The Springfield M6 Scout was made by the Springfield Armory Corporation of Geneseo, IL (not to be confused with the US Government armory formerly located in Springfield, Massachusetts, which closed in 1968). It is a non-NFA civilian variant of the old M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon from the 50s and 60s.

This gun is no longer produced, and has definitely attained collector status. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Prices on the used market range from $600 to $900.

The M6 Scout features rugged all-metal construction. It takes down easily without any tools for compact storage and transport. The buttstock contains an ammunition trap with hinged lid and space for four rounds of .410 shotshell and either 14 rounds of .22LR or 8 rounds of .22 Hornet. It has no handguard. Wrapping the barrels with parachute cord as an improvised handguard is popular.

The two separate barrels are held together by a breech block at the operator end, and a barrel band at the muzzle. The gun is drilled and tapped for a Weaver #50 scope base. The iron sights are comprised of a flip-up rear peep sight (adjustable for windage only) and a fixed front sight machined into the barrel band. There is no provision for elevation adjustment whatsoever, other than manually adding or removing material from the front sight.

The upper rifled barrel is chambered in either .22LR or .22 Hornet, while the lower shotgun barrel chambered in 3" .410 bore with a fixed Full choke.

The action comprises a single exposed hammer with a half-cock safety, and a barrel selector knob built into the hammer. The trigger is a long squeeze-bar affair, quite different from a traditional trigger. The action breaks open via pulling upwards on a latch attached to the rear sight block, and spent shells are removed from the action via a standard extractor.

Pros

This is a very durable and simple gun that packs up nicely into a small space.

Cons

As with most combinations, this gun lacks a regulation adjustment mechanism. Additionally, the forearm paracord wrap that many folks like to do can squeeze the barrels together and throw the regulation off if you do it improperly.

As mentioned previously, I feel that the .410 is a poor choice of shotgun chamberings for a combination. It’s just not a very versatile round, and combinations are supposed to be all about versatility.

This gun is extremely expensive for what you are getting. In the distant past, these guns were fairly affordable, but today’s collector and prepper markets have pretty much priced them out of the range of a field gun.

The trigger is a big weird flat squeeze-bar affair instead of a regular trigger. This may be handy for shooting while wearing mittens. Some folks claim to be able to shoot them with decent accuracy, but I can’t see how you would squeeze a trigger like that without pulling your shot some. But I’ve never personally shot one, so I can’t speak with any authority about it.

The pin that joins the barrels to the receiver is easily lost. Many M6 enthusiasts like to replace it with something that latches, or attach it to the frame with a lanyard.

The Bottom Line

I think these are pretty neat and interesting little guns. I often kick myself for not buying one for my collection back when they were more affordable. But even though the M6 Scout falls within the budget range of this comparison, the Double Badger is a far less expensive and more featureful combination in these calibers for use as a field gun.

And as a survival gun as they were originally intended, they are definitely priced out of the range of something to have kicking around in your truck toolbox or canoe. Many people love these guns, but in this day and age I just can’t see buying one, at the prices they are going for, as anything other than safe-queen collection piece.

Valmet 412, Tikka 512, Marocchi 612, and Savage Model 2400/330/333

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The Valmet 412 was manufactured by Valmet Oy at the former Valtion Kivääritehdas armory in Jyväskylä, Finland. The Valmet Corporation itself dates back to the 1750s, but they did not begin manufacturing civilian firearms until 1946.

The action that eventually became the Valmet 412 began in 1948 as a 16 gauge O/U shotgun called the "Suomi Leijona" ("Finnish Lion"), based on a patent by Damon Petric of St. Etienne, France, and redesigned by Valmet technician Paavo Narinen.

Petric and Narinen’s design utilises a comparatively unique sliding top-lock, similar to that used in the Remington 32 and some of the Krieghoff designs. This results in an incredibly strong action, allowing the gun to accommodate very powerful rifle chamberings even in the topmost barrel where the action is weakest in other O/U designs.

In 1971, the Valmet 312 was introduced (itself based on the Valmet 212, whose beginnings are lost to the depths of time, at least for we non-Finnish speakers) with a variety of O/U shotgun configurations available.

Valmet decided that they wanted to start offering double rifle and combination barrels for their guns, but unfortunately the action of the 312 had some problems that caused it to pierce the primers of some cheap varieties of centerfire ammunition. Initially they built a separate double-rifle in .308 Winchester that used a shorter hammer fall distance to prevent this problem, but in 1976 the Valmet 412 was released with some kind of new patented mechanism (I had trouble translating the entry in Finnish Wikipedia at this point) to prevent the problem. The new action was able to chamber some of the hottest commercial loadings available in an O/U double rifle format, without piercing the cheap thin-walled primers.

The Valmet 412 sales were very strong, and many of these (and the later Valmet/Tikka 412S) were imported into the USA and sold at a comparatively reasonable price throughout the 1980s. As a result, the 412 is by far the most common of the Valmet variants to be found on the used market here in the USA.

Eventually, Valmet’s management decided to shift focus to building industrial machines and tractors, and the firearms branch was sold off to Sako, Ltd in 1986. The gun was produced at the Sako plant in Riihimäki, Finland, first as the Valmet/Tikka 412S, then later as the Tikka FinnClassic 512.

Some time later, perhaps in the late 1990s or early 2000s, production was sold to Marocchi Arms of Sarezzo, Italy. The gun is currently produced there as Marrochi Finn 612, with some slight changes.

There were far fewer 512s and 612s imported into the USA as 412s, so the 512 and 612 are far less common on the used market.

The Valmet 412, Tikka 512, and Marocchi 612 are, aside from some minor differences in appearance and materials, essentially identical guns. The 412S supposedly incorporated a new anti-doubling mechanism that is not found in the earlier 412, but other than they they are apparently all essentially mechanically identical. Barrels and receivers between all of them typically swap around with no (or very little) fitting (though there is some argument about the fit of 412/512 barrels to 612 receivers, so I am not 100% sure on that; but the 412 and 512 parts definitely swap around).

So, for the purposes of this discussion, I’ll be referring to all of the 412 through 612 guns as simply the Valmet 412.

The Valmet 212 and 312 were imported to the US as the Savage 330 and 333 O/U shotguns. Additionally, the Savage Model 2400 centerfire combination gun was a rebadged version of the Valmet 312.

Barrels from the Valmet 212 and 312 will not fit on the 412. Although the author has no experience with the earlier Valmets, folk on the internet say that all the barrels between the Savage 2400, Savage 330, Valmet 312, and Valmet Lion will interchange. It is unclear exactly where the Savage 333 fits into all of this.

You will very occasionally see an ancient Tikka combination (manufactured long before the Valmet tooling was sold to Sako) listed for sale as a Valmet; this seems to be a common mistake. The old Tikka combination has a barrel selector on the left side of the receiver instead of on the trigger. Additionally, it has an exposed hammer. The barrels from the Tikka combination will not fit the Valmet (or vice versa). They are entirely different guns.

Used prices for these guns seem to range from $700 to $1500, depending on condition and calibers. Brand new 612 models seem to go for $1500-$2500, again depending on calibers, though there is apparently only one company in the USA (Whitworth Arms of Canby, Oregon) that sells the 612.

In general, the O/U shotgun configurations tend to be the least expensive, followed by the double rifle configurations. The combination configurations seem to be in highest demand and tend to be most expensive and most difficult to find.

The double rifle and double shotgun barrel sets can sometimes be found for sale by themselves on the usual internet auction sites. Prices seem to range from $200-$500 depending on caliber and condition. Combination barrel sets seem very rare to find separately from the rest of the gun, but seem to range from $300-$700 depending on calibers and condition.

These guns have very nice walnut furniture with cut checkering. The fit and finish is superb, and the guns take down easily without any tools, for compact storage and transport.

These guns were intentionally manufactured to extremely tight tolerances, so that most Valmet barrel sets (that don’t have worn out hinge or locking lugs) will work on any other Valmet receiver (that also doesn’t have worn out hinge or locking lugs) with no fitting (or very little). However, all barrel sets require close inspection with gauges to verify proper fitment, to prevent improper fitment from prematurely wearing out the receiver. This is especially important when fitting used barrels to used receivers, as will almost always be the case these days.

The double shotgun barrel sets are joined the full length by a between-barrel rib. The double rifle and combination barrel sets utilize separated barrels. They join at the breech in a monoblock and are joined together at the muzzle by the horizontal regulation mechanism.

The 412 and 512 barrels that were made in Finland are claimed to have been made of better steel than the 612 model. The 612 has lighter barrels and Marocchi definitely knows a thing or two about making excellent shotgun barrels, but the weight savings is accomplished by using carbon-fiber barrels with a steel liner instead of solid steel. Whether this affects the life and accuracy of the rifle barrel, I do not know. However, given Marocchi’s excellent reputation, I would expect that the 612 barrels are just fine and dandy.

The double rifle and combination barrels sets feature excellent mechanisms to adjust the barrel regulation.

A mechanism between the barrels under the handguard is used to adjust the vertical regulation. A sliding ring around the lower barrel engages a ramp attached to the upper barrel. When the sliding ring is moved back and forth on the ramp, it bows the barrels slightly together or apart to adjust vertical regulation. The mechanism is held tight with a set screw once it is positioned where you want it.

A mechanism at the muzzle is used to to adjust the horizontal regulation. An adjustment screw moves the barrels relative to each other in the horizontal plane. A jam screw on the other side keeps it tight once the adjustment is accomplished.

A little bit goes a long way when using these adjusters, but with very careful work (and a great deal of test ammunition), double rifle barrels can typically be regulated to within an inch of each other at 100 yards. Shotgun slugs from combination barrels are of course inherently less accurate at such ranges, but I’ve been able to get slugs and the rifle barrel shooting roughly on top of each other at 50 yards. The barrels are regulated at the factory and the mechanisms are marked as to the position of factory regulation, so you can easily return the gun to those settings if you get things all out of whack.

Most barrel sets are manufactured with a dovetail and a notch to which a strange (and proprietary) tip-off return-to-zero removable scope base can be attached. This mechanism works surprisingly well and returns to zero with a high degree of accuracy.

Very early (rare) barrel sets were equipped with a Sako-style scope mount, rather than the Valmet QD setup.

Combination barrel sets feature a non-adjustable folding rear notch sight and a non-adjustable front blade built into the rib. The regulation mechanism is used to zero the lower rifle barrel to the sights. Since the shotgun barrel is of significantly larger diameter than the rifle barrel, it is far more rigid. This causes the regulation mechanism on the combinations to only change the point of impact of the rifle barrel, while the shotgun barrel’s point of impact remains fixed in place (or at least moves very very little).

Double shotgun barrel sets feature a standard shotgun bead at the muzzle, as well as a mid-bead on the rib. Some barrel sets have steel beads, while others feature a high-visibility mid bead and a fiber optic front bead.

Double rifle barrel sets use the same non-adjustable rear sight as the combination barrels sets, but feature a spring-loaded front sight which is adjustable for elevation and windage.

Double shotgun barrel sets are available in lengths from 24" to 36", chambered in 12 gauge with a 2 3/4" or 3" chamber, or 20 gauge with a 3" chamber. They were manufactured in a wide variety of fixed choke setups, as well as with screw-in chokes. All double shotgun barrels have the same dovetail for the QD scope base, but some do not have the notch, which prevents installation of the scope base. The screw in chokes use the Valmet thread pattern. They do not swap with any other manufacturer’s choke threading.

Combination shotgun barrels are all chambered in 12 gauge 2 3/4" or 3" chamber, with a fixed Improved Modified choke. The shotgun barrel is always on top.

There was a very rare single-barrel trap set made in 36" 12 gauge with a 2 3/4" chamber and a Modified choke. I’ve only ever seen one of these for sale, ever. There were also astoundingly rare .410 bore, 16 gauge, and 28 gauge double shotgun barrels made in the very early years of the gun’s manufacture. They are rare even in Finland and were never exported to the USA to my knowledge.

The double rifle barrels imported into the USA were chambered in .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .375 Winchester, and 9.3x74mmR. Additional double rifle chamberings that never made it into the USA (to my knowledge) include 7x65mmR, 7x57mmR, and 7.62x53mmR

The combination rifle barrels imported into the USA were chambered in .222 Remington, .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and 9.3x74mmR. Additional combination chamberings that never made it into the USA (to my knowledge) include .22 Savage High-Power (5.6x52mmR), 7x65mmR, 7x57mmR, and 7.62x53mmR.

The action is of a hammerless design, with the traditional arrangement of a break-open lever on the tang with an automatic safety behind it. Breaking open the action automatically engages the safety.

Double rifle and combination barrels chambered for rimless cartridges (.222 Remington, .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield) feature extractors.

All other barrel sets (chambered for rimmed cartridges), including the double shotgun barrels, feature ejectors. Only barrels that have been fired eject. Barrels that have not been fired act like extractors when the action is broken open.

According to the internet, receivers came with different diameters of firing pin, depending on the intended purpose. Large firing pins were used in shotgun receivers, medium firing pins were used in combination receivers, and small firing pins were used on the double rifles. Small firing pins are claimed to be most desirable. However, this is unsubstantiated by the author (whose firing pins in three different receivers are all the same size), who makes no claims as to the validity of this claim.

Most of these guns have a single trigger with a barrel selector button on the trigger. Double triggers were available as a dealer option, but are very difficult to find.

The selector button chooses which barrel fires first. Pressing it to the right selects the top barrel, while pressing it to the left selects the bottom barrel. Once the selected barrel has been fired, a second pull of the trigger will immediately fire the other barrel. This automatic barrel switching mechanism is fully mechanical (rather than recoil operated like some doubles) so it is absolutely reliable, even with very light shotshells or gallery loads.

Pros

The barrel regulation mechanism on these guns is excellent.

The ability to swap barrel sets between actions without any fitting (in most cases) allows the shooter to easily customize the gun to the specific sort of hunting to be done. Having a double shotgun barrel set available alongside a centerfire combination barrel set allows the gun to be made lighter and better suited to waterfowl hunting and times when larger game is not in season.

The return-to-zero tip-off scope base works exceedingly well.

The sights on the double shotgun barrels are excellent.

The fit and finish in general are extremely fine, and (when properly maintained) should far outlive the owner. Guns produced in Finland, before the move to Italy, are made of extremely hard, very high-quality steel.

The shotgun barrels are tapered beautifully without any excess metal anywhere. This makes them surprisingly pleasant to carry in a double-shotgun configuration, though the combination and double rifle configurations are still rather hefty (as can be expected with a centerfire combination).

Even though these guns are pretty much only available on the used market, they seem to be in far better condition on average than the lower-tier used combinations. Perhaps the fact that they are a fairly high-end gun prevents them from being abused and encourages previous owners to take good care of them.

Cons

This gun is fairly pricey, even on the used market. If you get into collecting multiple barrel sets, your wallet can be flattened more quickly than you expect.

The front sights on the double rifle and combo barrels are fairly wide and not very precise, and the iron sights on the combo barrel sets can’t be zeroed for the shotgun barrel.

The shotgun barrels, though beautifully tapered and lightweight, are too thin to thread for aftermarket chokes. Although some of the double shotgun barrels came threaded at the factory, all of the combination barrels came with a fixed choke.

The Valmet choke thread pattern is proprietary, and (to my knowledge) Trulock is the only company that makes chokes for these guns. And even then they only offer one variety, a bright silver extended sporting clays tube.

The rings on the scope base are very low, and would need to be replaced if you wanted to mount a scope with a large objective lens.

The Bottom Line

The only really objectionable thing about this gun is not being able to zero the sights to the shotgun barrel on the combination barrel sets. The quality of the return-to-zero scope mount negates this somewhat, but it would be nice if the combination barrels used the same adjustable front sight as the double rifle barrels.

It’s a fairly expensive gun, but it is also an extremely excellent and finely crafted gun. Indeed, I believe that mine are among finest guns I have ever owned. It may be too much of an investment for some. But for someone who is into combination guns, hunts a great deal, and will be using this gun as their primary hunting arm for many years, I feel that the price is worth it.

CZ BRNO Combo

(I don't own a BRNO Combo, and probably never will unless I run into a really killer deal somewhere. So I don't have access to any photos that I am sure are not infringing on anyone's implied copyright or whatever. If any of you own a BRNO Combo and would like to take some pictures similar to the others in this article, and release them under some sort of Creative Commons license so that I can use them here, that would be really awesome. I can't pay you anything, but I will certainly put your name in the credits at the top of this document, and be extremely grateful!)

The BRNO Combo is manufactured by CZ in (insert city) in the Czech Republic. (Insert a little something about the company.)

The BRNO Combo is produced on and off in limited runs, so you can buy a brand new one with a warranty if you want to, instead of having to gamble on the vagaries of the used market. Prices for a new gun seem to range from $2000 to $2500, and may need to be special ordered.

It features really fancy walnut furniture, with moderate to heavy engraving on both wood and metal parts. The gun takes down easily without any tools for compact storage and transport. The barrels permanently joined by a between-barrel rib, and hence there is no barrel regulation mechanism. Double shotgun barrel sets are available.

Combination barrels feature a european standard 11mm dovetail for scope mounting. The shotgun barrel is located on top, and is available in 12 gauge with a 3" chamber and a fixed Improved Modified choke. The lower rifle barrel is available in .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield.

The action is of a hammerless design, with the safety on the tang. Double triggers obviate the need for a barrel selector mechanism, and the front trigger is of the single set trigger variety. The action breaks open via a traditional lever located on the tang, and spent shells are removed from the action via a standard extractor.

Pros

It’s a really pretty gun, and is manufactured to the highest of standards.

Cons

As with most combinations, these guns lack a regulation adjustment mechanism. This is a very fine gun, and is surely regulated very well at the factory. But the fact remains that it will only be regulated for one particular load.

Setting aside the fancy engraving, which has little meaning for a field gun, the BRNO Combo costs twice as much as the Valmet 412, but the Valmet 412 has more features.

The Bottom Line

Even though this gun is (barely) within our price range, I can’t consider it a regular person’s field gun. It’s certainly an extremely fine rifle that would surely be wonderful to own, but I feel like it is an expensive engraved piece meant as more of a luxury rifle than a field gun. This all being my personal opinion, of course! The Valmet 412 costs half as much, and gets you more features and a far wider choice of chamberings.

Choosing the Right Combination for You

There are a lot of options to weigh before purchasing your first combination. The deciding factor for me, however, seems to be the chokes available in the shotgun barrel. For general purpose hunting, I believe that a Modified choke for a 12 gauge or a Full choke for a 20 gauge are the best choices. If you buy a .410 bore, I highly recommend that you stick to a Full choke only, as this caliber shoots a very small shot load to begin with, and you need to keep it in a tight column in order remain effective out at reasonable ranges.

I also want to make it clear that I feel that gun choices are a very personal thing, and that I think you should get what you want despite what I may think the best choices are. I am certainly not trying to tell anyone what to do, just what I think. But if you haven’t yet decided what gun you want, I urge you to consider the opinions that I am about to put forth, in hopes that your decision will be as informed as possible.

But still keep in mind that much of this chapter may be heavily influenced by my own personal opinions and hunting style.

Rimfire or Centerfire?

The first step in choosing the right gun for you is to determine whether your needs are more suited to a rimfire combination, or to a centerfire combination.

I believe that a rimfire combination, with a 28 gauge or larger shotgun barrel, will get you the most versatile combination for the money. Although it is not an ideal gun for larger game, such game can be effectively hunted inside of 50 yards with slugs of 28 gauge or larger. Additionally, the comparatively low cost of rimfire ammunition will allow you to get in plenty of target practice and plinking on a small budget.

Alternately, a centerfire combination will get you the long range power needed to more effectively hunt larger game and varmints, while the shotgun barrel with an appropriate shot load can be used to take smaller food with minimal damage to the meat.

Choosing the Right Model

Once you’ve decided between rimfire and centerfire, we can more easily drill down to the exact model that will serve you best.

If you like a .410 bore...

… then the Double Badger will probably get you the best .410 bore combination for the money.

That being said, my personal opinion is that unless you are a particular fan of the .410 bore, you should eschew this chambering in favor of something in 20 gauge, for the added utility and less expensive ammunition.

If you want a rimfire combination...

… then it all comes down to which models have an appropriate shotgun choke!

I believe that good deal on a rimfire model of either Savage 24 or a Baikal MP-94, with a 20 gauge shotgun barrel, will get you the most versatile gun for the money.

The earlier models of the Savage 24, with the fully soldered barrels, will give you the best rifle accuracy and resist vertical stringing as the barrel heats up. Compared to the Baikal MP-94, it will also require less work to get set up nicely to begin with.

But the Baikal with it’s double triggers and screw-in chokes will aid in snap-shooting and give you a more versatile shotgun setup.

I think it’s really a toss-up, depending on what you can find and how you expect you’ll use the gun most often. Both the Savage and the Baikal have their fans and detractors. To me, the Savage feels more like a rifle with a secondary shotgun function, whereas the Baikal feels more like a shotgun with a secondary rifle function. But a good deal on either one (and the elbow grease to get the Baikal up to snuff) will get you a decent gun either way.

FIXME: This new .22LR over 20 gauge Double Badger might just be the bee's knees, too! But we don't know much about it yet….

If you want a centerfire combination on a budget...

… then you will be well-served by either a Savage Model 24V or a Baikal MP-94, depending on your exact needs. Personally, I believe that the Savage Model 24F "Predator" is to be avoided, as its excessive weight makes for a poor choice in a field gun.

If you don’t mind putting the work into getting the Baikal set up well, then its double triggers, hammerless action, and the ability to use screw-in chokes are major points in favor just by themselves. But the regulation mechanisms on the centerfire Baikal, while primitive, are a huge advantage over the Savage, outweighing all else in my opinion. The Savage is also not available in any chamberings hotter than the .30-30 Winchester, so the Baikal has a distinct advantage for hunting game on the larger end of the spectrum.

However, the Savage will take less work to get set up initially. It will also tend to shoot flatter compared to the Baikal in a similar chambering, due to the rifle barrel being on top instead of on bottom. However, adjusting the regulation on Savage is more work and more of a kludgy proposition.

Something to keep in mind for both is the twist rate of the .223 Remington barrels. The Savage 24 in .223 Remington has an extremely slow twist rate of 1:14, while the Baikal MP-94 in the same caliber has a marginally faster (or perhaps we should say "less slow") twist rate of 1:12. Neither are particularly suitable for the heavier bullets, but the marginally faster twist rate of the Baikal has a small advantage in this area. Personally, I believe that the .223 Remington caliber is to be avoided for both guns, unless you specifically plan to use the .22 caliber pellet converters for small game (in which case the Savage’s twist rate is more appropriate) or if you want something chambered in the same caliber as your AR-15 (in which case the Baikal’s twist rate is more appropriate, but it will still not shoot the heavy stuff nearly as well as a modern AR’s 1:7 or 1:9 twist barrel).

If you want a high-end setup that will last the rest of your life...

… and be passed down to your kids someday, then hold out for a used Valmet or fork out the dough for a new Marocchi 612. They really are that much better than the less expensive combos, lacking the "fiddliness" inherent in both the Savage Model 24 and the Baikal MP-94. The regulation adjustment mechanisms are excellent, the quick-detach return-to-zero scope base works exceedingly well, and the ability to fit a double shotgun barrel to use in small-game-only seasons and for waterfowl hunting greatly increases the gun’s utility.

That being said, if you haven’t already owned a combo for a year or two, I would highly suggest looking instead for a good deal on a Savage Model 24 or Baikal MP-94 first, keeping in mind that the Valmet isn’t nearly as fiddly as either of them. I’ve read many internet tales of people buying their first combo, being thrilled for a year or so, and then realizing that they would rather be using a dedicated rifle or shotgun after all. The Valmet is just too expensive to buy on a lark and then decide later that you don’t really want it. Be sure you really are a combo gun person before you fork out the money for a Valmet.

If you still can’t decide...

… then go for a rimfire combination with a 20 gauge shotgun barrel (see above). That will get you the most versatile gun for the least amount of money, and it will still be useful during small-game-only seasons even if you decide to purchase some variety of centerfire combination later on.

Shopping for your New Combination

These guns can be very difficult to find if you limit your shopping to brick and mortar stores. But the internet can bring them within easy reach, at the cost of not being able to handle them in person before buying.

The best time to buy is in early summer, as far away from the popular hunting seasons in fall and winter as possible. During this time, you will tend to find the lowest prices and widest selection. When hunting season draws near, however, prices will go up, people will start buying more aggressively, and the selection will be more limited.

Don’t rely on the prices listed in this essay. Point your web browser at GunBroker.com and do a search for the gun you want in the "Completed Auctions" section (you’ll have to have registered an account and be logged in to do this). Sort the results by number of bids, so that you can more easily ignore the overpriced items that nobody ever bids on. Using only these results that have actually had bids placed on them, you can figure out what price range you should actually expect to pay for the gun you are looking for.

Brick and Mortar Stores

Although you can find some good deals in the online auctions, you will sometimes get burned. These losses tend to cancel out the savings, bringing your total expenses more in line with what you would end up paying at a brick and mortar store, anyway.

Every town has a Friendly Local Independent Gun Store or two. Choose your favorite FLIGS, build a good relationship with them, and they will take care of you. Tell them what you are looking for and ask them to keep an eye out. You may pay more at the FLIGS for some run-of-the-mill items than you would ordering from the internet, but when your FLIGS man hands you a nice perfectly regulated 1950s era Savage Model 24 in 20 gauge and says he’ll give it to you for $250, you’ll not regret having overpaid a little for that cheap nylon holster, cleaning jags, aerosolized oil, and whatever else.

Online Auctions

Be willing to pay a little more at a brick and mortar store where you can handle the gun first, but always be patient and wait on a good deal when you buy a gun from an online auction. If you get burned on an online auction, your only ethical choice is to relist the item accurately, take the hit by selling it off for (probably) less than you paid for it, and continue the search.

This is not to say that online auctions are full of scumbags or anything, just that it is far harder to accurately judge a gun without being able to handle it in person. Look for sellers who are willing to take the gun back for a modest restocking fee if there is something wrong with it that you can’t deal with.

The online auctions that seem the best to me are GunBroker, GunsAmerica, and GunsInternational. GunBroker tends to have a far wider selection and the best search facilities, but also a higher ratio of wildly overpriced items clogging up the search.

When you bid, determine beforehand what your maximum bid will be. I don’t like to go past the average of the prices from the "Completed Auctions" search. If the gun you are looking for is a bit rare, you may want to raise your maximum a little bit (perhaps 20%), as the rare items do tend to take a good while (sometimes several months) for another one to appear for sale.

Stick to the maximum bid that you determined beforehand, and do not get into a bidding war! Also, do not bid immediately. Some auctions will last for days, so wait and bid on the last day of the auction to avoid driving the price up prematurely. Some would say to even wait until the last fifteen minutes, but I personally feel that this is poor form. Again, stay calm and do not get into a bidding war! You may lose a few auctions before you get a good deal. But once you do win the gun you are looking for, you will not face the regret of having overpaid in a moment of excitement.

Don’t forget about the completed auctions search. You can find items there that are overpriced and have never had a bid placed on them. They just keep getting automatically relisted over and over again. If you send a message to the seller and make them an offer that isn’t too lowball, they will sometimes give you a counteroffer that is far more reasonable, and you can proceed to bypass the whole auction completely and avoid the wait and possible bidding war. Often the seller will quote some outlandish price, and you should move on. But sometimes you will get a surprise. I landed a new-in-box Valmet 412S combination for $700 like this once…

Remember that you will still need to have the gun shipped to your Friendly Local Independent Gun Store. Before you even bid on anything, stop in at your FLIGS and get a copy of their FFL (Federal Firearms License) to send with the payment. Also remember to ask your FLIGS if they will accept transfers from an out-of-state individual without an FFL. If they will not, either find another FLIGS or make sure that you buy from a seller who has an FFL.

When you pay, send the seller a money order drawn on your bank. It takes longer, but it is safest for both you and the seller, and avoids the credit card surcharges.

Don’t use PayPal to pay for guns, gun parts, or ammunition. In fact, it is my opinion that we should not use PayPal at all. PayPal has anti-gun policies, and will actually cancel your account if they discover that you have used their service to pay for guns or ammunition. So don’t give PayPal any of your money, even if the seller advertises that they will accept "discrete PayPal".

Along with the money order, don’t forget to enclose a copy of the your local dealer’s FFL. Also include a note thanking the seller, listing the auction number and the item you are paying for, and asking them to enclose a copy of their driver’s license if they themselves do not have an FFL. Treat them right and get their payment in the mail quickly, and most of the time they will do the same for you when it is time for them to ship your gun.

Once your FLIGS gets your gun, you’ll have to stop by and submit to a Form 4473 background check with the FBI as usual. If you buy a lot of guns and keep getting delayed on the background check, call the FBI center in Martinsburg, WV and ask them to send you the information on getting a UPIN. This will allow them to keep records about you on file, and speed you through the background check. Your FLIGS will have the phone number you need to call for that.

And finally, once you have given your new gun a good cleaning and shakedown, be sure to leave some feedback for the seller. But if your transaction hasn't been a positive experience, contact the seller and talk to them about it before you leave any negative feedback. Positive feedback is what helps them keep selling, so they will often give you a partial refund or do something else to try to make you happy if there are any problems.

Yard Sales

As much as it pains me to pick through other people’s detritus at yard sales, you will very occasionally land an amazingly good deal on an old gun if you get there early. Sometimes people just don’t know what they have. So if you can stand to shop at these things and can get there early, look around when you have the time.

Estate Sales

I’ve never been able to get even a remotely fair price on guns at estate sales. Not only do they take up the whole day before getting to the guns, but the auction format just encourages bidding wars, and so the guns tend to sell for far more than they are worth. Maybe estate sales are different in your area, so go to a couple if you don’t have anything better to do with your day. But don’t be afraid to forget about the estate sales if the guns tend to sell for too much.

What to Look For on Specific Models

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough experience with certain of the aforementioned guns to feel comfortable offering first-hand advice on what to look for. If you have any suggestions, please contact me at lee@mrpolecat.com.

Savage Model 24

Look for:

  • On rimfire models, an older model at a good price, with decently regulated fully soldered barrels. We’re talking regulated within like 3 to 5" or better at 50 yards here, and you may have to experiment with different brands and weights of slugs to find out what prints closest to the rifle barrel. But make sure you test-fire for regulation on the fully soldered guns before buying, even if it seems like too good a deal to pass up! There is nothing you can do to fix the regulation on the fully-soldered guns if it is bad, and nothing is more frustrating than repeatedly missing snap-shots because you have to apply more kentucky windage than your brain can process in that instant.
  • If you are looking for a rimfire Savage Model 24 and can’t find a decently regulated one with the fully soldered barrels, you may be happier with the Baikal – if you don’t mind putting in the work to get it set up nicely.
  • If must purchase a later model with separated barrels, look for one that is regulated within 6 to 8 inches or better at 50 yards. Again, you may have to experiment with different brands/weights of slugs to find out what prints closest to the rifle barrel. It is possible to improvise some regulation adjustments on these things, but only if it isn’t too far off to begin with. We will look into that shortly.
  • Look for guns that are mechanically sound and have good bores, but are dinged up externally. This will let you avoid paying collector prices, but get you a good, functional field gun.
  • Be on the lookout for (and avoid) guns with ridiculously heavy triggers. Some of the later examples of the Model 24 are notorious for having incredibly heavy triggers that are impossible to shoot accurately. From my reading, it seems like the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion" was the worst for this. Mine has a pull weight of around 12 pounds, no joke.
  • Unless you absolutely must have the cool ammo trap in the buttstock of the Model 24C "Camper’s Companion", I believe that this model is best avoided unless you are a collector. It seems really cool when you first look at it, but the cylinder bore makes the shotgun unsuitable for ranges beyond 15 or 20 yards. While it does group slugs slightly better than the models with a tighter choke, it is not worth giving up the ability to shoot passable shot patterns to reasonable hunting ranges. And even though the ammo trap in the buttstock is handy for always having some ammo with the gun (if it is even legal to transport the gun and ammunition in the same case in your state), its design does not lend itself to getting single rounds out quickly. It’s way faster to just pull cartridges out of a belt slide or even a shirt pocket.

Expect to:

  • Blast plenty of CLP through the firing pin channels occasionally. Some of these guns like to pierce shotgun primers every now and then, and after a while the blowback will crud up the firing pins and lead to ignition failures. It’s not a dangerous problem or anything, but you do have to take a little proactive maintenance against it if you have one of the guns that tends to do this.
  • Be careful of the muzzle crowns on the models with fully-soldered barrels. If you ding one and change the point of impact of one of the barrels, there is nothing you can do to fix the regulation. Always clean from the breech, not the muzzle.

Baikal MP-94

Look for:

  • These days, any MP-94 at all, even if it's a little on the rough side. The rimfire/.410 is still fairly easy to find, but the rimfire/20ga and centerfire/12ga have all but vanished. Indeed, I am seeing more Valmet combinations for sale recently (though most of them are overpriced and aren't selling) than (non-.410) Baikals! If you want the rimfire/20ga variant, expect to wait a long time, jump on it as soon as you see it, and pay a great deal of money. I have only seen two for sale in the past 12 months (and I check the auction sites every weekday). One disappeared via "Buy It Now" within 10 minutes of being listed, and the other one went for far more than it ought to be worth… If you want a rimfire/20ga these days, a Savage 24 may be a more realistic choice.

Expect to:

  • Have to break the action in if you buy one that hasn’t been used much. If you’re a competent shadetree gunsmith, you can soot and polish the receiver and monoblock a little and get everything working smoothly. If you’re not comfortable with that, just oil it up good and sit there and fully break it open and closed 500-600 times while you watch Hickok45 videos on YouTube, and that will wear it in just the same. Then give it a complete cleaning and lube job as described in the "Care and Feeding" section.
  • On centerfire models, make your own regulation pin-block-thingies (or shim the one that comes with the gun) and regulate the barrels. These guns were supposed to come with several different sized blocks, but EAA seems to have lost most of them during import, and they were not regulated for elevation at the factory at all, as far as I can tell.
  • Also on centerfire models, get rid of the awful factory rear sight, cut a crossways dovetail in the 11mm scope rail, and install a peep sight hanging back over the breech. Then your factory front sight can still be used. Alternately, a rear peep sight for a 3/8" rimfire dovetail can be installed, and the front sight replaced with a plastic AK/SKS front post (though you will have to cross-thread the plastic to install it, and then chase the threads out with a tap if you decide to go back to the stock front sight). The rear sight on the rimfire models are not as far forward, so they may not need any help (though, in the author's opinion, a peep sight with screw-out apertures is the best type of sight for a combination).

Valmet 412

Look for:

  • A reasonable deal. The combo versions of the Valmet fetch a premium and are somewhat difficult to find. Make a budget and stick to it as you search, but be realistic in your budgeting. Don’t expect to luck into one for a song and a dance, or you’ll be searching for 15 or 20 years like I was.
  • A gun that comes with the return-to-zero scope mount. These are hard to find and expensive to buy alone. You’ll want a scope when hunting larger game at longer distances, because the iron sights have a fairly wide front blade and therefore are not as precise as they could be.
  • Look for (and avoid) worn out hinge and locking lugs. If the break-open lever is left of center when the gun is closed up, avoid it unless it’s a really killer deal. Ideally, you want a break open-lever that sits to the right of center. As the gun wears, they move to the left and keep the lockup tight. These guns use a pair of lugs instead of the straight-through pin that most break-action guns use, and this makes it more expensive to have them gunsmithed back into spec if they are worn out and the headspace is off. Additionally, the more worn the hinge and locking lug on a barrel set is, the less likely it is to fit any other receiver without fitting by a gunsmith.

Expect to:

  • Take a scope with you if you are primarily hunting larger game with the intention of just taking small game opportunistically with the shotgun barrel. The sights on the O/U shotgun barrels are excellent, but the irons on the combo barrels are just not very precise. You’ll have to give up a snap-shot every now and then while the scope is on there, but the return-to-zero mount works very well. We will discuss this further in the section on hunting with a combination.
  • Invest in an O/U shotgun barrel for dedicated small-game hunting. Not only does it make the gun far lighter, but the shotgun beads are a major improvement over the iron sights on the combo barrels for snap-shooting.
  • Pay out the nose for chokes, if you get an O/U shotgun barrel that is threaded for them. The Valmet thread pattern is different from everything else, and TruLock is the only outfit that makes aftermarket chokes with the Valmet thread pattern. They are only available as extended sporting clays chokes, but you can paint the shiny part that sticks out if it matters to you that much. The factory flush chokes are impossible to find, but the aftermarket TruLock chokes work great and pattern excellently.
  • Keep the hinge and locking lugs well greased (but not over-greased). With proper care, they will last longer than you. With improper care, they will wear out and your gun won’t lock up tightly anymore, and your additional barrels may develop fitment problems. This can be expensive to fix. A gun like this is too much of an investment to wear out through lubrication neglect!

Care and Feeding of your New Combination

Routine Cleaning and Lubrication

Proper cleaning and lubrication are important for ensuring the reliability of your new combination, and for protecting the value of your investment.

Any gun that gets used will wear, and will eventually wear to the point where something will need to be shimmed or replaced to keep the gun in spec. But if you start with a gun that isn't too worn out, and maintain it well, you can use it hard and rest assured that it will still be functioning fine long after you are dead and gone.

Detail Cleaning

You needn't perform a detail cleaning every time you use your combination. Indeed, over-cleaning in some areas can accelerate wear. But you should perform a detail cleaning on every new gun, as well as whenever the gun gets dirty or wet, or if you ever spot even a tiny speck of rust beginning to form anywhere.

Even with guns that do not get used, I like to perform a detail cleaning every 6 months no matter what. I know people who do not do this, and their guns are fine. But especially with the more rare and valuable firearms, I believe that it is wise to take these opportunities to inspect for rust and renew the protective coatings of oil and grease, to protect your investment.

The first step in a detail cleaning is to choose a clean workspace and take down your gun. I like to lay out an old (but clean) bath towel on the kitchen table, to lay the parts out on. First, you will need to remove the front handguard. On most combinations, the handguard is either held in place by a spring and can be popped off by hand (Savage Model 24) or a small latch on the bottom of the handguard (most others). Some, however, may require the removal of a screw, which sometimes doubles as a mounting point for a sling swivel.

You may also wish to remove the buttstock, although this is not strictly needed every time, if there are no action parts beneath it that you need to get to. You should remove it whenever you plan to use any solvents on the frame, though, as these solvents can damage the finish on the wood.

Once you have removed the handguard and buttstock, you can break open the action and remove the barrels.

Unless something is broken and needs replaced, you should not disassemble the gun any further.

  • The Savage Model 24 is a possible exception. Since some of these guns like to pierce shotgun primers, soot can build up in the firing pin channels. So with these guns, I like to completely remove the firing pins (by taking out the grub screws in the side of the frame), wipe them down, and blast some CLP through the firing pin channels in the frame. The shotgun firing pin on most Model 24s does not have a return spring, but be careful not to lose the return spring on the rifle firing pin.

Next, you should remove any dirty grease or oil. Both oil and grease like to attract dirt, which will start to act as an abrasive and wear out your gun if you let it collect. It is usually sufficient to wipe away the dirty oil and grease with a rag and/or q-tips, but hardened or inaccessible dirt may require a solvent.

Light dirt in inaccessible places can usually just be blasted away with an aerosolized gun oil. But when that isn't sufficient, I like to use an aerosolized brake cleaner (available at any auto parts store). With the tube attached to the nozzle, you can blast away hard-to-reach crusted dirt. Be careful not to get solvents on the wooden parts, though, as it can damage the finish. You should completely remove all wooden parts if you plan to use a solvent. Do not use a solvent unless you really need to, though, as it will remove all of the protective oil coating, which may cause flash rust on older guns whose bluing is worn through. If you use a solvent, wait for it all to evaporate before you re-oil.

If you will be detail cleaning the bore, you'll want to do that now. But personally, I believe this should only be done when it is truly needed (We will talk about this more in a bit).

Once the parts are clean, you can apply oil. For external surfaces, you can wipe a thin coat of oil on with a rag. You should also run an oil patch down the bore to keep it from rusting. To coat the hard-to-reach places, an aerosolized gun oil or a spray bottle is useful.

Make sure that you get all of the internal moving parts and contact surfaces lubricated. However, if you will be using your gun in extreme cold weather, you may wish to lubricate your firing pins with graphite rather than oil. Oil thickens in the cold, and in extreme cold it can thicken to the point where it can cause misfires.

Wipe as much excess oil from the parts as you can, using your oil rag. Ideally, you want a thin coating over everything, but not soaked and dripping.

After your parts have been oiled, stand them up on your oil rag to drain, and take a break. If you have sprayed excess oil into the action, you want to drain out as much of that excess as possible before reassembling the gun. Otherwise the excess can soak into the wood, which will weaken it (especially if the gun is kept on a rack with the muzzle pointing up). In the worst case, this can eventually cause the wrist of the buttstock to crack under recoil.

When the excess oil has drained out sufficiently, you can reattach the buttstock if you removed it earlier.

Next, apply a thick-ish sort of grease (such as choke/gun grease, wheel bearing grease, or well-rendered bear grease) to the hinge/hook and locking lugs. These are the areas of highest wear on break-action guns. Don't over-grease, just coat the contact areas. Some people just use oil on these areas, but I prefer grease, as it stays in one place better and won't migrate into the wood.

  • The Savage Model 24 is an exception. You should grease the hinge and allow oil into the parts of the locking lug that move inside the frame, but the face of the locking lug and its contact surface on the barrels should not be greased (a very light coat of oil for rust prevention will do). Greased locking lug surfaces on these guns can sometimes cause the action to open when the gun is fired.
  • The Valmet 412 uses a pair of lugs in the receiver instead of a straight-through pin like most other break action guns. For it, you should grease both the hinge lugs and the surfaces that they mate to on the barrels, as well as the lower locking lug on the barrels and the latch that it mates to in the bottom of the receiver. Special care should be taken to keep these areas lubricated, because excessive wear in these areas can cause fitment issues with your accessory barrel sets.

Now you can reassemble the gun (you shouldn't have to force anything) and give it a good wipe-down (including the wood) with an oil rag. The detail cleaning is complete!

Wipe-Down

In most cases, if the gun has not gotten dirty or wet during use, it is sufficient to wipe down the exterior of the gun (including the wood) with an oil rag and run an oil patch through the bore. You should also check your greased areas for dirt, and wipe away and re-grease these areas if needed. Some people like to re-grease after every outing or range session, but I believe that this is only needed when the grease has collected dirt (including excess dust).

Cleaning the Bore

I believe that many people over-clean their bores, leading to premature wear. Modern primers and smokeless powders are non-corrosive, and most barrels shoot more accurately when lightly fouled. Therefore, a complete brushing of the bore is not needed unless excessive fouling is having a negative effect on accuracy.

But you should always clean your bore if you shoot older surplus ammunition with corrosive primers. This is generally only an issue with old Soviet and Chinese military ammunition, such as 7.62x39mm and 7.62x54mmR, but do some research on the internet if you are unsure of your ammunition's age and corrosive properties. There isn't much of this kind of corrosive ammunition in the USA anymore, due to import restrictions that our nanny-state has put into place in the past, but every now and then you can still run across a cheap old batch of this stuff (especially in 7.62x54mmR).

When it does come time to clean your bore, always clean your bore from the breech end. Cleaning from the muzzle can prematurely wear the muzzle crown and decrease accuracy.

First, run a well-soaked copper/powder solvent patch down the bore, and leave the bore to soak for a few minutes. Do this with the barrels removed, and be careful not to get any solvents on the wooden parts. After the solvent has soaked in, you can dip a bronze brush jag into your solvent bottle and brush out the bore to break loose all the fouling. Next, push solvent patches through the bore (in one direction only) until they come out clean. Then run dry patches through the bore to remove all the solvent. And finally, run an oil patch through the bore to protect it from rust.

Again, most guns shoot more accurately when the bore is lightly fouled (this is especially true of rimfire calibers), so it is counterproductive to clean the bore until it is truly needed. Excessive unneeded brushing will just accelerate the wear on the sharp edges of the lands of the rifling, and decrease accuracy. I have several guns, which I have owned for years, that have never needed a brush down the bore. Rimfires and shotguns seldom need any bore brushing whatsoever. Higher powered centerfire rifles usually only need the bore brushed out when the copper fouling starts to cause a degradation in accuracy.

  • Even when you do not scrub the bore, you should still at minimum lube it with an oil patch after each outing or range session (along with an exterior wipe-down), to keep it from rusting.

Initial Setup

(Under Construction)

Breaking in an Ornery Action

(Under Construction)

Regulating the Barrels

(Under Construction)

Choosing and Mounting a Scope

(Under Construction)

Model-Specific Tips

(Under Construction)

Hunting with your New Combination

(Under Construction)

Additional Materials

Changelog

Click: Changelog

Todo

Click: Todo

articles/the_field_grade_combination_gun/index.txt · Last modified: 2017/02/21 18:24 by polecat

Copyright © 2014-2017 by L. Adamson, unless otherwise stated.