John Jeffries HPX 20 bore 34"Review by Mike Yardley
John Jeffries has done well with his range of HPX Perazzi guns. He has won a place in the history of the modern sporting gun, moreover, in that he was essentially the man who invented the dedicated 32” sporter. I campaigned, quite successfully, with one of his 32” DG (Diamond Guns) 2, 32” 12 bores for many years. I bought it, almost new, from a friend, BBC cameraman, John Rosenberg. That gun suited me just fine; it taught me to shoot serious targets with its precise pointabilty and fantastic handling and shooting dynamics. At least it did until someone accidentally shot the tip of my barrels in a flush! A sad day, I then went over to a 32” Beretta 303 and a series of 32” KM4 Kemens for competitive purposes.
Anyway, as ever, I digress. In recent years, John J has been experimenting with very long guns for both game and clay shooting. One of his latest creations is a reverse ramp 12 bore (with a rib deeper at the muzzles than at the breech). This test, however, concerns his 34” HPX 20 bore game gun. First impressions are that it is VERY long indeed – the apparent length exaggerated by the smaller bore size. The HPX 20, which has a plain black, but smart, action, is based on Perazzi’s MX8 20. It has a detachable lock action and is powered by leaf springs.
Perazzi also make a fixed lock gun – the MX12 (see review here)– which John uses occasionally as a basic HPX gun when customers specify a selective trigger. On the MX12 the selector is positioned on the safety in the manner of a Browning, but with the MX8, if a selector is fitted, it is placed behind the trigger which is not as convenient. Nevertheless, many, myself included, regard the MX8 as the non plus ultra of over and unders. A fixed lock design has one other advantage over a detachable type we might note in passing, it is not as wide at the back because it requires no box for the trigger lock mechanism. As a consequence, less wood needs to be taken from a potentially weak area of the stock. John has created over 125 MX 8 based guns and has had only one cracked stock. I have to say I have had a few more, but I still prefer the MX8. It's just a fabulous design with great trigger pulls, little vibration, and plenty of weight between the hands.
In all its modern variants the Perazzi over and under dispenses with a full width hinge pin and replaces it with stud pins at the knuckle in the manner of a Woodward or Beretta. Perazzis also have Boss style ‘draws and wedges’ on the inside of their action walls and monbloc. The primary locking system is Boss inspired as well, with square section bolts emerging from the action face and mating with bites either side of the chamber mouths. It’s all good and much copied.
The monobloc barrels of the test HPX are equipped with an 11-7mm tapered and ventilated rib of special design incorporating an unusual ramp. Unique to John's latest guns, this consists of a flat section near the breech extending 13cm forward before rising through a discrete 2cm ramp to an elevated rib that goes for the rest of the length of the barrels. Joining ribs are a bespoke no cost option, though. They make the gun slightly heavier. In the form tested, it weighs 7lbs 5 ounces, joining ribs would add another 6 ounces because the stock must be balanced out to compensate for them.
John likes to keep the balance point on the HPXs very slightly forward of the hinge pin. This is certainly a nice handling weapon. By traditional standards, the gun is quite heavy for a 20 at 7lbs. 5 oz.. It is well balanced, though. As a consequence, it did not feel heavy (properly balanced guns rarely do). The fixed choke barrels on this specimen keep the muzzles relatively muzzle light too even though they are so, so long. The trend, one I follow myself, has been towards longer barrels and increased all-up weight in 20 bores.
The barrels which bear Italian proof marks for 2 ¾ (70mm) shells - are well presented. Internally and externally, they impress. Blacking is good, the machining and fitting on the sighting rib is A1 – no one makes a better set of barrels or a better rib than Perazzi. The barrel bore diameter is marked 15.9mm top and bottom – around the industry average for a nominal 20 - but John will offer tighter options for those that want to use felt wads.
Regardless of cost, there are few designs which can trump a Perazzi (no doubt why Purdey base their Sporter on the now generic design). The aesthetic qualities of the compact, well-proportioned, low-profile design are, meanwhile, all the more evident in a 20. The action also benefits from precise, cleanly finished, machining. The gold-plated trigger blade was comfortable. The top lever and sliding-safety-cum-selector were well styled and positive in use.
The stock of the HPX20 is made in the Perazzi factory to John's spec but left unfinished (he finally fits and finishes them himself to his and the client's exact requirements). That on the test gun bears the usual characteristics of John's recent creations with a near parallel comb (there is only 5mm difference front and rear). John also makes cast adjustments by offseting the comb rather than twisting the stock out at heel and toe. Both in terms of drop and lateral offset, he likes to keep recoil in a straight line and promote constant face to stock contact. The grip in the case of the 20bore HPX is inspired by English shapes with a rounded semi-pistol configuration (although this was not yet introduced on the test gun which still had a full pistol with palm swell). John has put a lot of effort into developing his. The forend is of fairly slim schnabel pattern (with a simple field style option too), bringing the front hand quite close to the barrels and facilitating good pointing.
The Perazzi MX8 design was originally developed by Ivo Fabbri and Daniel Perazzi. It owes much to British over and unders of the early twentieth century. The gun has bifurcated lumps (i.e there are no lugs projecting beneath the barrels) and stud pin hinging. The low profile and consequent low point of intertia at the shoulder reduces barrel flip. There is Boss style locking - both in respect of the main bolting system (where radiused protrusions either side of the bottom chamber mouth engage in slots on the action face) and the draws and wedges on barrels and inner action walls.
This was an interesting but rather different gun to shoot as might be expected – it just feels soooo long. It shot well and pointed superbly, but, frankly, for me 34” is just a bit too long for a 20. John would not agree here of course. He happy customers and told me of case recently when a game shooter borrowed one for an afternoon and did not miss a bird. This is an impressive fire stick. I am very fond of John's 33 and 34” 12 bores, and as George Digweed uses a 34” 12 bore, there must be something to the ulta-long concept. Indeed my own game shooting is significantly more consistent with a 32" 20 than a 30. I would very much like to try this gun in 33” form with side-ribs. Meantime, one has to respect John not just for all the work he has done in development, but for the effort he puts into every gun. He will only sell a gun to a customer if he configures and fits it himself. It does not get much more bespoke than that and I have heard of very few – in fact no – unhappy customers. The price at a fiver under 9K is only a very small premium above the price for a normal Perazzi that does not come with the JJ experience.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for providing the cartridges used in this test.
Make: HPX Perazzi
Barrels: 34” (_All other options available)
Chamber: 2 1/2
Rib: 11-7mm taper
Chokes: fixed, fixed or Multichoke options
Weight: 7lbs 5oz.