FAMILIAR NAME; NEW GUN
SKB 590 Over/under Field/Sport Shotgun
By Garry Girvan
The announcement in early 2010 that the well-known Japanese firm, SKB, was ceasing operations came as a blow to many Kiwi shotgunners. SKB shotguns, over/unders, side-by-sides and autoloaders, had built up a loyal band of followers here, and it seemed incomprehensible to them that this prestigious firm should shut up shop after over 150 years of firearms manufacture. However, these enthusiasts were heartened by the news that a group of American investors had purchased SKB and had set up operations in Omaha, Nebraska. Were the revered and familiar models to be continued in manufacture there
Well, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. No, to the disappointment of die-hard supporters, these new guns are not the familiar SKBs that enthusiasts had hoped for. They are a brand new gun that bears no resemblance to their former over/unders – no characteristic bolsters flowing from the top of the receiver; no Kersten top-bolt locking system.
Now, the good news. These new models incorporate a very conventional, time-proven design, they are manufactured to a high quality by the Turkish firm, AKDAS, and they are offered in a price range that will appeal to many shooters looking for a versatile and reliable shotgun at a moderate cost.
This new SKB family is an extensive one. It offers over/unders in field and in dedicated competition models, as well as autoloaders – also in field and competition versions. Most are available in 12 and 20 gauge models. Our testfire gun, the Model 590, is designated as a field/sport firearm, suitable as a game gun and also capable of being used for some of the clay target sports.
It’s a well-presented over and under, stocked in a good quality, straight-grained walnut with an oil finish.
Although the walnut doesn’t have much figure, it has an attractive colour which could easily be enhanced. In my experience, most oil-finished stocks in this price range benefit from the careful application of a few extra coats of good quality, linseed-based stock oil being rubbed in – just a few drops at a time – and being allowed to dry between coats. This process seals the pores properly, making the finish more waterproof, and it certainly brings out any colour or figuring in the walnut.
The pistol grip and fore-end feature extensive and well-executed chequering, and the dimensions of the stock will suit most shooters, although it does have a small degree of cast to suit right-handers.
The metal work is finished to a good standard. Its receiver and the action frame are milled from a single billet of steel, to create a very strong unit. The raised panels on each side of the receiver are decorated with game scenes – pheasants on one side, ducks on the other, and finished in white to provide a striking contrast against the matt black of the receiver. As you can tell by the photographs, these laser-engraved bird scenes have been very well executed and will appeal to any who appreciate this form of embellishment. The jewelled finish on the sides of the monobloc reinforces the impression of quality you get with this gun.
The barrels also confirm this feeling of strength and quality. They are heavy units – ours weighed 1,700 grams – and are chrome bored. Following modern trends, the barrels are over-bored to 0.735” with lengthened forcing cones, both features designed to achieve optimum patterning. Of course, they have interchangeable choke tubes. As is usual these days, only three are supplied, and they represent an interesting selection: Skeet, Modified, and Improved-modified. The Skeet choke has 0.0005” constriction, which makes it the equivalent of a UK Improved-cylinder, a versatile choke for close-in game shooting. This selection gives the hunter a choice of Skeet and Modified for close work, or Modified and Improved-modified for more distant targets. All these tubes are approved for use with steel shot. The 590 uses the same tubes as the former SKB Big Bore competition chokes. Agents, Kilwell Sports Ltd, have a stock of all constrictions so that you can purchase additional chokes to tailor the gun to your particular requirements.
I described the design as being conventional. Anyone who is familiar with well-known makes of Italian shotguns such as Rizzini, Guerini, Fair, and Fausti, or the Turkish-manufactured W&C Scott over/under, will recognise it immediately. It’s a moderately shallow action whose barrels hinge on trunnions mounted towards the bottom of the receiver walls. Lock-up is achieved by a full-width bolt that slots into bites located at the bottom of the monobloc, and by twin lugs that engage recesses in the action floor. This system is so commonly used that it has become regarded as almost a Brescian standard action. It’s time-proven, and it works.
As is appropriate for a field gun, the trigger system is mechanical; twin cocking levers mounted in the bottom of the action floor arm each striker when the gun is opened. If the first cartridge doesn’t discharge for any reason, the second can still be fired – it doesn’t rely on the recoil of the first shot to cock the action for the second, as is usually the case with dedicated competition guns. The system is powered by coil springs (another difference from the original SKBs which used leaf springs).
The top-tang-mounted safety is manual rather than automatic and the barrel selector is incorporated into it – another difference from the trigger-mounted barrel selector of the original SKB.
October is not a good month for game shooting in my district, so this testfire had to be conducted with simulated-game clay targets: 5-stand and Sporting Clays. However, each of these disciplines gives a good indication of a gun’s likely performance in the field.
Weighing 3.57kg, our 30-inch barrel version of the 590 is relatively heavy for a field gun, and it is markedly muzzle-heavy. Its balance point lies 50mm in front of the hinge pins. These two factors mean that the gun is not fast-pointing, but it has a very steady swing. If you were shooting ducks or geese using high-velocity 3-inch steel loads, this weight would contribute to reducing the felt effects of recoil. The trial shots we fired using such loads demonstrated this. If you’re walking long distances chasing pheasants though, the gun’s weight and responsiveness might not be so desirable – the 28-inch barrelled version would be a better choice. On the Sporting Clays field, once we got used to the particular feel of this gun, its smooth swing contributed to many spectacular breaks. Several shooters commented favourably on this steady aspect of the gun’s handling. During our testing, everything worked as it should. The action worked flawlessly, the ejectors throwing out the empties with gusto.
Unless you are on a dove-shooting trip to Argentina, you’ll shoot many more rounds on a Sporting Clays match than you’re likely to fire on a typical day’s hunting. Over two days of extensive target shooting, this 590 demonstrated that it handles recoil well. That’s a result of several factors.
The shotgun’s weight is probably the most important one, but the over-boring and lengthened forcing cones also contribute, as do the stock dimensions. The Pachmayr recoil pad contributes, too. With high-volume target load shooting, the 590 handles recoil comfortably. If you’re waterfowling: shooting high-velocity, 3-inch steel loads, the felt recoil is less punishing than you might expect. It will handle your typical upland game load comfortably.
With a retail price of $1,899, this shotgun seems to me to offer good value for money. It has a sound design and is manufactured to a high standard; and, as a bonus, it comes in an attractive carry case with a distinctive brown suede finish. It’s an interesting new entry into what has become a highly competitive market. Turkish manufacturers are now producing many shotguns of good design and quality at a price that makes them most attractive for a shooter with a limited budget. In price, the SKB 590 sits towards the top end of this price bracket, but its qualities stand comparison with any of its competitors. It adds an interesting choice for anyone in the market for a versatile over-and-under shotgun priced under $2,000.
SKB 590 Over/under Field/Sport Shotgun
12 gauge (also available in 20g)
30-inch (also available in 28-in); multi-choke; 0.735” chromed bore; lengthened forcing cones; 3-inch (76mm) chambers
Ribs & sights:
7mm ventilated top rib; solid side ribs; single brass sighting bead at muzzle
Black anodized steel with game scene engraving
Single selector, mechanical set for second shot. Gold plated.
Manual, mounted on top tang; incorporates barrel selector
Oil- finished walnut; pistol grip and Schnabel fore-end tip
Length of pull: 375mm
Drop at comb: 35mm
Drop at heel: 55mm
Cast for right-hander
Black Pachmayr rubber recoil pad
Suede-finish carry case; 3 choke tubes with case and wrench; socks for barrels and stock; handbook
Kilwell Sports Ltd
Copyright 2017 NZ Rod&Rifle Magazine