Working Over/Under Shotguns: 'Chernobyl Classic' Gets Our Nod
In jest, we said that Baikal's IZH-27 12 gauge was "radioactive" when it came to cooking up hits on birds and clays, but we'd Buy It anyway. We would pass on IGA's intermittently stiff Condor I.
The over/under shotgunner has a few pluses and minuses to deal with when he picks up his favorite fowling piece and either goes afield for game or heads to the range. Compared to the self-loading or pump shotgun at the range, a stackbarrel shotgun makes two choke patterns available in an instant, and the O/U’s generally heftier weight isn’t a factor since you don’t have to tote it up and down hills or hold it above your head during a wetland tromp. Capacity also doesn’t come into play.
In the field, however, hunters lean toward single-barrel guns because they offer more shots and less weight. Moreover, the repeaters are generally less expensive, and a waterfowler consequently won’t worry so much about soaking his 870 as he would his Citori.
But what if there was a class of over/unders that were good enough to hunt with yet weren’t so expensive that you fretted about getting them muddy? Such O/U’s do exist, and we recently tested two affordable stackbarrels that would seem right at home in a duck blind or a pirouge: Stoeger’s IGA Condor I 12 gauge ($559 MSRP, $395 retail); and the Baikal IZH-27, a $459 MSRP gun imported from Russia by EAA. Our test gun cost only $349 plus tax locally, however. Here’s what we liked, and didn’t like, about them:
This import, offered in the U.S. courtesy of Sharpes, Florida-based European American Armory, is one of two 12-gauge IZH-27 models, both of which employ 3-inch chambers. One model has 26-inch barrels, the other 28s. Here, we tested the 28-inch version, catalog number IZH271228TWEMC. The test gun came with three choke tubes, Full, Modified, and IC. It has a single selective trigger, auto selective ejectors, and a walnut stock. It weighs 7.7 pounds. Unlike many of our test guns, this gun has seen plenty of field action, accounting for 60 doves, about 30 ducks, and two Giant Canada geese in North Dakota. We have had no problems with the gun’s function in the field.
The Baikal was adequately blued and polished, though the blueing was thin at the muzzle. Game scenes were engraved into both sides of the receiver. The hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrels were joined from the monobloc to the muzzle. There was little side-to-side play in the trigger, and the forend fit tightly.
The stocks had matte finishes, and the stain was applied very lightly to the left side of the buttstock. The gun’s pressed checkering was sparse and flat, we thought. The top of the ribbed black-rubber recoil pad needed to be ground down.
In the hands, we found the Baikal balanced an inch in front of the cocking cam pivot. The gun felt short, but it pointed well. We would have liked more cheekpiece, since the shooter’s eyes tended to look at the tang instead of the rib. The gun’s sighting plane consisted of a ventilated 0.27-inch-wide barrel rib with a silver front bead. This rib’s anti-glare metal cuts did a better job of reducing reflected light, we thought.
The gun felt fairly agile at 7.2 pounds, and the squarish, long grip didn’t present any control problems. The 1.95-inch-thick forend had a channel for the pointing finger to ride on, a feature the IGA also presented. The 27’s controls were stiffer than the Condor’s, we thought. The top lever positively unlocked the action when the lever was pushed to the right, but the action didn’t work as easily as the IGA, in our view. Closing the breech also required a little more oomph from the shooter.
This gun had twin ejectors that kicked hulls out of the gun. The first pull of the trigger let-off at 6 pounds, and the second pull released at 7 pounds. Both triggers had a great deal of creep before breaking.
Stoeger IGA Condor I
The Brazilian-made Condor I 12 gauge over/under has an MSRP of $559, but we found numerous examples of the gun selling for substantially less, usually around $410. We bought our sample, which came with Modified and Full choke tubes, for $395. It had a 3-inch chamber and 28-inch barrels. A 26-inch version is also available. Additional choke tubes are available in IC, IC/Modified, and Skeet for about $20 apiece. Extra 12-gauge choke tube wrenches cost about $5.
The gun is similar to a more expensive IGA model called the Supreme, which has selective ejectors, a Brazilian walnut stock with matte-lacquer finish, and high-luster blueing. It sells for about $100 more than the Condor I, on average.
The Condor we tested was uniformly blued and polished. A flower engraving adorned both sides of the receiver. The chrome-moly barrels with polished bores were held together by a 1-inch-long piece at the front and the monoblock at the rear, but were otherwise separated. Two screws held the trigger guard in place. We noticed some side-to-side play in the trigger, and the forend was also a loose.
The two-piece stocks had satin finishes that looked nice, but weren’t flashy. The gun’s hand-cut checkering was sloppily executed at the endpoints. The ribbed black-rubber recoil pad was well fitted, but the top of the pad should have been ground down to ease mounting.
In the hands, we found this IGA balanced right above the cocking cam pivot. Shouldering the gun took some getting used to, mainly because the recoil pad stuck on shooting vests and field clothing. Still, the gun pointed well, with the shooter’s cheek coming to the stock firmly, and the eyes looking flat down the top of the rib. The Condor’s sighting plane consisted of a ventilated 0.38-inch-wide barrel rib with a brass front bead. However, under some lighting conditions, the top of the rib, which was supposed to be cut to reduce glare, bounced light right into the shooter’s eye.
The gun overall felt thick, less a result of weight (7.1 pounds) than girth at the grip (5.6-inch circumference) and the 1.75-inch-thick forend. Both of the Condor’s controls operated smoothly and could be manipulated with the shooter’s dominant thumb. The top lever, located at the front of the tang, readily unlocked the action when pushed to the right. The manual safety, a two-position sliding button on the rear of the tang, prevented firing when moved rearward. The single trigger always fired the gun’s bottom barrel first.
The pivoting movement of the barrels was very smooth and loose (more on this later). The extractor partially lifted shells from the chambers, but didn’t kick them out. For many shooters who save hulls, this isn’t an inconvenience. The first pull of the trigger let-off at 9 pounds, and the second pull released at 9.8 pounds. The second trigger was sloppier to break than the first.
If we were to stop there, we’d say the IGA Condor I was a reasonably priced over/under workhorse, but the gun’s action got to be sticky and hard to work. After we’d shot all the moving targets and patterning work, we were carefully checking the movement of the action and weighing the triggers. Inexplicably, during one motion when we were holding the action lever to the side to allow the action to close gently, the trigger didn’t reset. When we tried to open the action again, it wouldn’t do it. Despite assembling and reassembling the forend and monobloc repeatedly, we were unable to tell what had failed. Obviously, something in the action had been bent or was binding. We eventually pulled down hard on the forend and the action freed up, but we saw this flaw repeated intermittently afterward.
Gun Tests Recommends
Stoeger IGA Condor I, $559. Not bad overall, but the sticky action concerns us. For less money, we’d go with the Baikal.
Baikal IZH-27, $459. There’s nothing really wrong here, but there’s roughness in crucial areas that maybe you can adapt to, maybe not. The triggers need work, but we’ve felt worse on much more expensive guns. The cosmetics are plain Jane, but that’s okay on a field gun. If you need more stock height to see the rib properly, you can add a pad. Is the Baikal perfect? No, not by a long shot. But where else can you purchase a shotgun for about $175 a barrel? Buy It.