September 09, 2021
By Craig Boddington
On a fine February morning, son-in-law Brad Jannenga and I headed up through the cacti on his Cross-Y Ranch in the Arizona desert. Desert quail are always strong runners, but this was the end of season, with birds scattered after needed rain, acting crazy and flushing wild. This was expected and didn’t matter; it was great to be out, and I was carrying a brand-new shotgun. Not just any new gun, but a light, fast-handling 20-gauge side-by-side, the most traditional of all upland bird guns: CZ’s all-new Bobwhite G2.
Classic & Complete
The side-by-side was once the dominant shotgun action. In the 1890s, effective repeaters, first slide-actions and, after 1900, semiautos, began to erode the market. John Browning’s last design, the Superposed (1931), was the first effective over/under. Today, over/unders with a single sighting plane are more available than side-by-sides.
This leaves the side-by-side the least common shotgun action, but it retains a following today. Not all shooters like the two side-by-side barrels but, properly, one looks down the rib, not the tubes. If the gun fits, the rib, bead and target are all a shooter should see. And there are advantages! All double guns will be 4 inches shorter than a repeating shotgun with the same barrel length. The side-by-side opens through a smaller arc than an over/under, and the action is trimmer top-to-bottom. Side-by-sides can be made lighter, and those who love them find the balance and handling qualities superior.
There will always be shooters who prefer side-by-sides, and those who don’t. I was still in high school when I used some trapshooting winnings to buy my first side-by-side, an inexpensive, Spanish-made 12-gauge that handled like a dream. I’ve been a side-by-side fan ever since. Even still, I consider a side-by-side the classic upland bird gun.
One of the drawbacks to the side-by-side is they have often been more expensive. Many have been fine-grade guns with much handwork. Their manufacture has rarely taken advantage of modern machining. CZ’s Bobwhite G2 bypasses this — for only $675! The Bobwhite G2 is affordable, and amazingly complete.
Available in 12-, 20- and 28-gauge models, Guns & Ammo’s test guns were provided in 20 gauge. Simple, the new Bobwhites all have 28-inch barrels with 3-inch chambers. Historically, and unusual for side-by-sides, all have interchangeable screw-in choke tubes, with five tubes supplied: Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, Improved Modified, and Full.
Actual weight of our test guns was 6¼ pounds, balancing a half-inch forward of the hinge pin. Such a shotgun is a classic upland gun and, with choice of chokes, complete. It’s also a basic double gun, meaning it’s a boxlock with extractors. I don’t mind this at all. The days are over when we should be strewing the landscape with plastic shotshell cases. You’ll quickly learn to pluck cases from the chambers and put them in your game bag, easier than scrabbling in the brush.
All Bobwhites are double-trigger guns, with an English-style straight grip. Double triggers are very much my preference, offering immediate choice not only of choke, but also shell. Yeah, for upland bird hunting I’m unlikely to use different shot sizes in the two barrels, but there are times and places! For turkey hunting, I like to put fine shot in one barrel for head shots, and the coarsest shot the law allows in the second barrel. In double rifles, I almost always hunt buffalo with a soft-point in one barrel, and a solid in the other. Only a double trigger offers this versatility.
Double triggers go with the straight pistol grip just like “peas and carrots.” Although which barrel is fired first can be decided on the spot, the traditional way to use double triggers is front trigger first. The entire concept of the English straight grip was to minimize hand movement. During recoil, you simply slide your hand slightly back on the grip and the rear trigger is right there. Now, a pistol grip allows a firmer grasp, and I wouldn’t want a heavy recoiling double rifle with a straight grip! But for shotgunning, the straight grip is fast and comfortable, and it’s a proper match for a double-trigger gun.
The “G2” is a reintroduction of CZ’s popular Bobwhite side-by-side, which was introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2015, but there are differences. Metal finish is black chrome, which is attractive and both tougher and more rust-resistant than bluing. More important, the receiver and various parts are now made by the latest CNC machining. This allows a gauge-specific frame. With actions sized to the gauge. The 28 gauge is rated as 51/2 pounds; the 20 gauge, 6 pounds; and the 12 gauge at 7.3 pounds.
The 20-gauge measured 1.538 inches across the bar (bottom of the action), and 2.033 inches across the face. Just for fun, I took these measurements on a Winchester Model 21 in 20-gauge. The bar on the old Winchester was .142-inch wider and .002 (two-thousandths)-inch wider on the face. Yep, the Bobwhite G2 20-gauge is built on a true 20-gauge action. (The 28-gauge is even trimmer!)
CZ-USA, headquartered in Kansas City, is no stranger to rifles and handguns, as well as shotguns. Their parent company is Ceská zbrojovka Group (CZG) in the Czech Republic. (They’ve made headlines by acquiring Colt.) The Bobwhite G2 is manufactured for CZ by Huglu in Turkey. Huglu is internationally known for producing excellent shotguns. I’ve hunted in Turkey several times, and here’s a factoid easily missed: Turkey has a large and avid hunting public. The native chukar partridge is the most common game bird. Not to my surprise, Turks know shotguns. And side-by-sides remain popular over there.
The specific shotgun I tested was the rare shotgun with a true left-hand stock, dubbed “Southpaw,” which is engraved on the bottom of the action. And the stock was cast for left-hand use!
Most long guns have stocks that are straight from action through center of comb. Ideally, and mostly the province of custom makers, a right-handed buttstock is “bent” slightly to the shooter’s right, bringing the action closer to center when the gun is shouldered. For right-handed shooters, we call this “cast off.” For left-handed use, this is reversed; the butt is left of the line of the barrel. Properly, this is called “cast on.” Besides knowing shotguns, Turkey is also one of the world’s greatest sources for good gunstock walnut.
In custom stock making, the amount of cast for a perfect fit is determined by precise measurements. Right-hand cast (“off”) is common in older guns of good quality; I’ve passed on a lot of good guns because they had too much of the opposite cast. In my entire life, I’ve seen few stocks with cast-on for lefties. So, the Bobwhite G2 Southpaw felt wonderful to me; it’s amazing what a bit of cast in the right direction does! As closely as I could measure, the Southpaw Bobwhite had about three-eighths of an inch of left-hand cast (“on”), nicely centering my left eye down the rib.
There are two other features that could be reversed for right- or left-handed use. On almost all break-open shotguns, the opening lever goes from left to right. Traditionally, this is right-hand operation, done with the side of right thumb. As a lefty, I push the lever to the right with my left thumb. Custom guns have been made with opposite right-to-left opening, but I’ve never handled one. (Nor have most lefties!) I have enough leverage to easily open a left-to-right lever. Although I’m very left-handed, I wouldn’t want a gun with an opposite lever; if I learned how to use it, it would render other break-open guns useless for me, so I’m quite happy CZ didn’t reverse the lever.
The other item is the trigger arrangement. Standard for two-trigger guns, the front trigger on the right, operating the right barrel and back trigger is to the rear and left, operating the left barrel. This is technically a right-hand arrangement. I asked the CZ folks if they’d reconsider reversing the firing order to make it more of a true southpaw gun. From a gunsmithing standpoint, triggers on most double guns can be reversed. I had to laugh at myself, because I was thinking about older guns and double rifles. On the Bobwhite G2, the rear trigger is a full 1 inch behind the front trigger, which is lots of space, and the rear trigger is narrower. These factors reduce accidentally slapping the rear trigger during recoil, which is unlikely with shotguns anyway.
I missed the most important point: With interchangeable chokes, the firing order no longer matters! Typically, we put a looser choke in the barrel we intend to fire first, tighter in the second barrel. But, with two triggers, you can fire first either barrel (and choke) you want. Although not “proper,” some shooters use the rear trigger first. Bordering on egregious, I have one buddy who shoots a double gun quite well using two fingers. That’s the beauty of two-triggers: Free choice!
I’d love to say that I sacked up Gambel’s quail that first outing, but that’d be a lie. Desert quail hunting is tough, often steep with terrible footing. Add late-season birds flushing wild beyond 40 yards, and I shot horribly. I went about it exactly wrong: I took the gun out of the box and took it quail hunting with the ammo I had, and no idea how the gun shot except that it felt good. I hit a few birds, but I missed more.
Later, I reversed the order and did it right. The first step with any double gun is to make sure the barrels are regulated together. Unlike rifles, shotguns are somewhat “approximate,” but some over/unders have one barrel printing higher or lower; and some side-by-sides have one barrel that leans to one side. I used a Thompson target, with a good aiming point, a 24-by-24-inch circle, and initially shot at 25 yards from a good rest. The old trapshooter that I am, I like a gun that patterns slightly high for rising birds. Using a six o’clock hold, both barrels were spot-on. Then, to the pattern board.
Patterning is a lot of work, but it’s foolish to hunt (or shoot clays) with a shotgun until you know how it patterns with the ammunition you have. On my range, I’ve got a steel pattern board, but a roll of butcher paper works just fine. Either way, you need to describe a 30-inch circle and pace off 40 yards, the standard for checking patterns and verifying chokes. On the board, I use white spray paint, then shoot and count pellets, and repaint the board. Always shoot from a rest to remove aiming error. Counting pellets is a pain, especially with small shot sizes; I take a felt tip and, after a shot, divide the circle into quadrants. This also helps in determining if some shells pattern to one side or another, which is not uncommon. The pattern board showed me why I missed some birds. We consider shotgun shells a commodity, paying attention to shot size, payload and little else. This is especially true in these pandemic times, where everything is in short supply. All major manufacturers have various grades of shotshells. The least costly are loaded with less expensive shot, usually fine for informal practice and close-range, but not for longer, tougher shooting.
I went quail hunting with what I had: Winchester’s universal load of 7⁄8-ounce of 7½. It’s a good shot size and a normal payload, but these were generic shells. With the season running out, I didn’t check patterns. I screwed Improved Cylinder in the first barrel and Modified in the second. On those far-flushing, fast-flying desert quail it was like hunting sheep with my rifle not zeroed. Lesson learned.
The pattern board showed that this shotgun has a loose IC pattern with finer shot. Of the loads available, none were “premium” shotshells, which is what I should have had for the long, tough birds I was up against. The shotgun did like Kent’s Upland load of 1 ounce, No. 6 Bismuth. It’s expensive stuff, but I keep it on hand because I am obligated to use unleaded in California. With that load, patterns were right on the money: 55 percent for Improved Cylinder; 62 percent for Modified, and 72 percent for Full. The chokes I hunted with (IC/M) would have been fine with that load. Had I known the gun shot loose patterns with some loads, I could have gone to tighter chokes. Well, the season closed, the opportunity lost, and not as many quail made it into my freezer.
Percentage is one thing, but pattern distribution is more important. Forty yards is the traditional standard for pattern testing, but that’s a long shot with a 20 gauge, especially with light loads. Densities were loose with two of four loads tested but, throughout, patterns were evenly distributed, and densities were excellent with Kent No. 6 and Winchester’s AA low-noise, low-recoil light-target load.
Those quail humbled me. I remember the late Gen. Chuck Yeager recounting the day he got shot down in 1945, saying something like, “Well, I thought I was Hotel-Sierra!” It doesn’t matter, and the quail weren’t shooting back! I had a wonderful time carrying that light little gun; it was quick and responsive. Later, armed with knowledge of how it shot and what loads it shot better, I spent a day shooting Five Stand on my friend Kyler Hamann’s property. It would be incorrect to say I distinguished myself. “Extinguished” would be more accurate. Fortunately, I figured out it was me, and not the gun — just before I ran out of my scarce supply of pandemic-purchased shells. I saw a major improvement.
The Bobwhite G2 handles well, and comes up smooth and fast. Cast-on stocking is rare in my experience, but I felt the difference; it cheek’d smoothly and positively. I wish our bird seasons were just starting, but it will be months before they roll around again. I have a couple of very good side-by-sides that I shoot well, but I’m going to buy CZ’s new Southpaw Bobwhite G2. I’m going to shoot more clays with it, and I’m going to lay in some good shells as I can get them. When next season comes around, there will be vengeance!
CZ Bobwhite G2 Specs
- Type: Side-by-side shotgun
- Action: Boxlock; extractors only
- Chamber: 20 ga., 3 in.
- Capacity: 2
- Barrel: 28 in.; screw-in chokes (C, IC, M, IM, F)
- Overall Length: 44.5 in.
- Weight: 6 lbs., 4 oz. (tested)
- Stock: Turkish walnut, checkered; Southpaw model tested with 3⁄8-in., left-hand cast on \
- Grip: English-style, straight grip
- Length of Pull: 141/2 in. (front trigger)
- Finish: Black, hard chrome (steel)
- Trigger: Dual; 5 lbs., 4 oz.
- Rib: Stippled and tapered 10.3mm to 7.4mm
- MSRP: $675
- Importer: CZ-USA, cz-usa.com
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