October 2009

Over/Unders: Caesar Guerini, Ruger, Browning, & Winchester

Could the $3200 Caesar Guerini Tempio be thousands of dollars better than an engraved Ruger Red Label, a modern-looking Browning Cynergy, and the Winchester 101? Read on to find out.

This over/under match-up has a distinctly international taste to it. We recently pitted a Belgium-made gun with an American name—the Winchester 101—against the all-American Ruger Red Label engraved model, the increasingly popular Caesar Guerini representing the Italian trigger-plate actions, and Browning’s most recent stackbarrel, the Japanese-made Browning-branded Cynergy. All are marketed as general-purpose models suitable for hunting and casual clays use.

In more detail, they were 3-inch-chamber 12 gauges that would likely be the most expensive shotgun 95% of us might own. The smallest price tag came on the Winchester Model 101 Field No. 513046361 3-inch 12 gauge, $1739. It is Belgium-made by F.N., the country and manufacturing facilities that J.M. Browning turned to originally when he was dissed by the old Winchester in the very beginning. This "101" is related to the Olin-Kodensha 101 is its name and styling attempt only.

Next up was the Ruger Red Label Engraved No. KRL-1227-BRE 3-Inch 12 gauge, $2180. This Red Label comes with scroll-engraving and gold-inlaid pheasants adorning both sides of the stainless-steel receiver. What we quickly noticed about this model was both the engraving and the wood. Contrasted with the sleek, smooth look of the base model’s stainless receiver, the engraving dresses the gun up. Also, the well-figured wood elements in the forearm and the buttstock matched in color and tone, and the checkering was deeply and crisply cut, making the furniture functional as well as visually appealing. If this were an import, you might have to add an "E" or an "L" to describe its wood quality. You also won’t have to worry about a plated finish chipping off or flaking, nor will you ever see any receiver bluing wear. Stainless steel has its benefits.

The next step up in price was the Browning Cynergy Euro Field 3-inch 12 Gauge No. 013297304, $2609. To oversimply the reason for the Cynergy, it is Browning’s effort to produce the lowest-profile over-under shotgun ever made. There’s a very good reason for pursuing this design—the lower barrels are set into the receiver, the less muzzle rise you are going to have. In our view, Browning succeeded in its goal of producing a low-profile design.

The most expensive gun in the test was the Caesar Guerini Tempio, $3195. It had a low-profile receiver, Prince-of-Wales grip, and schnable fore-end. The receiver’s "French grey" metal finish is a nickel alloy underlying full-coverage scroll engraving featuring Bulino-style gold game scenes. The Tempio also features a deluxe grade of Turkish walnut with a hand-rubbed oil finish.

With the stage set, we set out to find if the Tiempo could possibly be worth a $1400 price premium between it and the Winchester, worth $1000 more than the Red Label, and almost $600 more than the Browning. Here’s what our team found:

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