Review: Barrett Sovereign Rutherford
December 21, 2017
There's a long history of gun manufacturers expanding from their original product lines. Among other things, FN made cars and CZ built motorcycles, for example. Winchester's expansion into consumer goods such as roller skates after World War I produced mainly red ink and future collectibles. If you visit Savage's factory, the little museum at the entrance includes lawn mowers and exercise belt machines. Smith & Wesson once offered bicycles, and Remington was an important manufacturer of bicycles, cash registers and typewriters as early as the 1870s. Those undertakings are mainly of historical interest.
If we agree that going outside your normal stock in trade is risky, what about importing guns and selling them under your own name? Weatherby has done that successfully since 1945, and Springfield Armory has gone from a company that primarily offered M1As and 1911s to one that predominately imports striker-fired XD pistols from Croatia.
When a U.S. manufacturer of rifles and pistols hooks up with an Italian shotgun maker, the results can be cloudier. Both Magnum Research and Springfield Armory tried to make a go of it with Bernardelli, to their regret. The results were similar when HK tried importing Renato Gamba shotguns. We will hope for a happier outcome with Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, which is offering a line of Italian shotguns under the Sovereign trademark.
Even teenage boys who play video games and gobble action-adventure flicks know Barrett for its big-bore rifles, such as the M82 and M107 series. These have been thoroughly proven in Afghanistan and Iraq and, in the last decade, Barrett has made its mark with a line of fairly costly ARs in 5.56mm, 6.8 SPC and .300 Blackout. To these, Barrett has added the Fieldcraft line of lightweight bolt-action rifles for 2017, which weigh as little as 5 pounds, thanks to carbon fiber stocks and trim barrels.
So, short of joining the current stampede to make plastic-framed, striker-fired pistols, where's a line extension to be had? Barrett decided it was double shotguns and teamed up with Fausti Stefano s.r.l. of Marcheno, Italy. (That's just down the road from Gardone, where Beretta and other famous Italian makers are headquartered.)
Fausti primarily makes medium-priced double guns and is best known for being run - in a famously male culture - by three sisters, the daughters of founder Stefano Fausti. It has a U.S. affiliate in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and offers guns under its own name that are distinct from the Barrett doubles.
The Sovereign line comes in three hunting ranges, all named after famous quail plantations, and a sporting range with the less melodious handle of B-XPRO.
The top of the line is the Beltrami, a side-by-side double with false sideplates and a single selective trigger. Fausti makes double-trigger guns, but Barrett surmises, probably correctly, that only the most moss-backed traditionalists or the purely eccentric insist on them. They're still popular in Europe, but the U.S. got over them in the 1930s.
You can have one in 12, 20 or 28 gauge. The 12 gauge comes with 26- or 28-inch barrels, while the 20 adds a 30-inch barrel. Both have 3-inch chambers. The 28 gauge is strictly a 28-inch barrel proposition and strictly 2¾-inch chambered. It has a straight, English-style grip and splinter forend, and the receiver is nicely covered with traditional scrolls. Price is $6,150, except for the 28-gauge, which is $6,550.
Next in line is the Albany, an over-under, also with false sideplates, also well covered in scroll engraving. It has a round-knobbed semi-pistol grip, whose Turkish walnut is nicely checkered. It can be had in 12 and 20 gauges with 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels, or in 28-gauge with a 28-inch barrel. Price is $5,700; $6,150 in 28-gauge.
The B-XPRO is a dedicated 12-gauge competition gun, though it does have 3-inch chambers if you're determined to slay ducks with it, while an adjustable cheekpiece regulates comb height, and an adjustable trigger blade accommodates all trigger finger lengths. It comes with six extended choke tubes ranging from full cylinder to full. These are knurled for easy installation and removal. The B-XPRO is priced at $3,075 for either 30- or 32-inch barrels.
That brings us to the subject of this article, the Rutherford. If you are familiar with the Fausti line, it looks a lot like the Silvery model, though with blued, rather than coin-finished, triggerguard, safety and top lever. The Rutherford's top lever is also checkered rather than filigreed.
The frame is nicely sculpted and etched with a bobwhite quail on either side and tasteful scrolls, which are carried onto the top tang, as well. Shadow lines on either side of the top lever give it a light profile.
The Rutherford has an inertia-style single selective trigger. Some will sniff at the inertia trigger, since competition guns have largely gone to mechanical triggers that will touch off the second barrel regardless of what happens when the trigger is pulled on the first. If you're trying to win the Olympics or the Grand American, that probably matters; if you're dove hunting, probably not.
Inertia triggers have worked satisfactorily for years, and they reliably perform their main function: preventing doubling. The Rutherford trigger resets easily. I dropped it on its butt from a half-inch over a carpeted floor and it reset every time.
Barrels are selected using a Beretta-style tab in the safety button. The safety is manual, which will be a huge relief to anyone who plans to use the Rutherford both for hunting and for sporting clays competition. Automatic safeties are fine in a pure hunting gun but will eventually cost you a target in a tournament, which is why many competition guns come with no safety or have a provision for locking it out.
Ejection is automatic and selective. The cocking and ejector trip functions are combined in a pair of rods that run along the floor of the Rutherford's frame. When the barrels are lowered, a cam in the back of the forend iron presses them rearward to cock the hammers.
When the hammer falls, it returns its rod forward. A projection at 90 degrees to the rod presses up an ejector sear in the side of the heavily engine-turned monobloc that engages a hook at the front end of the ejector. When the barrels are lowered, the sear holds the ejector back against spring pressure until the barrels are fully opened. When the barrels reach the fully down position, the ejector sear impacts a ledge inside the frame that draws it out of contact with the ejector, allowing the latter to spring rearward and eject the empty hull. It's a very simple and reliable system proven in thousands of moderately priced Italian shotguns.
The barrel bores are chrome-lined and measured .624 inch inside diameter. Outside diameter was .694 inch at the midpoint and .770 inch at the muzzle, so there is relatively little visible flare to accommodate the choke tubes. The maker provides five choke tubes, all threaded at the muzzle end: full (.595 inch), improved modified (.600 inch), modified (.605 inch), improved cylinder (.618 inch) and cylinder (.627 inch). The side ribs extend all the way back to the monobloc, and the top rib is parallel-sided and 6mm wide. There's a .135-inch brass bead at the muzzle.
The stock is straight-grained Turkish walnut with a satin finish. My feelings would not have been hurt by a little more wood filler, but it was an attractive overall medium brown. Checkering was in a bordered point pattern at 20 lines per inch (lpi), a visually appealing, if not aggressively grippy, measure. A 3/8-inch rubber recoil pad capped the butt. The Rutherford is supplied in an ABS plastic carrying case with combination locks, a carrying case for the choke tubes and Barrett-marked socks for both the receiver and barrels.
I pattern-tested the Rutherford with results shown in the accompanying table and function-fired it on a clear spring day at targets thrown from a Trius trap. There were no malfunctions of any kind. The usual practice when shooting a shotgun like this is to use very open tubes, the better to support your ego with lots of breaks. This time, an assistant and I stuck to the modified and full tubes with which I'd fired patterns. That was a good choice, since with this ammunition, patterns were quite open, and we scarcely missed.
The Rutherford shot high with both barrels, which is no great problem and even an asset on rising birds. You will need to keep it in mind when shooting rabbit targets on the sporting course. Windage was pretty close to dead-on.
At 6½ pounds, the Rutherford is about right for a 20 gauge intended for hunting. You'd prefer more if you were using it primarily for sporting competition, but that's the function of the B-XPRO line.
If you do some preserve shooting, hit the dove field on Opening Day and shoot some charity sporting clays events, the Rutherford will suit you well, and you'll have fun explaining that it comes from that famous maker of .50 cals.