Photos by Michael Anschuetz
“Invictus” was a poem published in 1888 by William Ernest Henley. Its final stanza is still known, if only as source copy for tattoos: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Unfashionable sentiments these days, but no matter. Invictus makes a smashing name for an expensive shotgun, especially one intended for competition.
Caesar Guerini is a relatively new Italian maker, though it has deep roots in the gun making Val Trompia region through membership in the Rizzini family. It was founded in 2002 with the express purpose of serving the United States’ competition market.
This is more of an innovation than it sounds. An old boss of mine, Pete Dickey, imported Italian guns for years, and this was his watchword: “Italians don’t want to make what you need; they want you to sell what they already make.” If that was 16-gauge, double-trigger, side-by-sides with sling swivels, well, everyone in America can own a gun, right?
As a new company, Guerini had no legacy products stacked in warehouses. So, its guns could be designed from the ground up with the American shooter — especially the competitor — in mind.
The Invictus line is simply designated with Roman numerals, starting with the (relatively) modest Invictus I. The Invictus III adds extensive decoration and higher-grade walnut, while the Invictus V and VII add false side plates with increasing levels of gold inlay. You can have them in sporting, trap or unsingle trap configurations, and you can specify left-hand and adjustable buttstocks.
Lavishness Guns & Ammo was provided with an Invictus III Sporting and by no means does it short the buyer on luxury appointments. The wood is a dark, well-figured Turkish walnut and extensively checkered in a point pattern at 26 lines per inch (LPI).
The buttstock has a high, straight, trap comb that has come to dominate the other target sports. The pistol grip has a comfortable palm swell and the forend is plenty big to do its job, but was in no way bulbous — a mark of fine design.
The coin-finished frame is decorated by the Cesare Giovanelli studio, a firm that has integrated hand and machine engraving to produce extravagant scrolls and inlaid mythical figures on a dark background.
“So, it looks great. What’s on the inside?” you may say. That’s a very legitimate question because I have opened up many a well-decorated, Italian over-under whose inner workings were indistinguishable from the same maker’s inexpensive hunting guns.
That’s not the case, here. What’s under the hood is just as intriguing as the exterior. You immediately notice that the frame itself is unusually wide at a bit over 1.7 inches, with an inside width of more than an inch and a quarter. I put the caliper to my old Krieghoff Model 32, and it measured 1.6 inches. A tenth of an inch doesn’t sound like much, but you see and feel it immediately.
The extra size gives more bearing surface between the frame front and the forend iron and provides room for an extra-wide bolt, which engages a Browning-style bite at the bottom of the monobloc. You might expect the larger frame to look heavy, but careful shaping at the top of the standing breech maintains a light, attractive appearance.
What you’ll also find inside is an unusual part designated the “Invictus block.” This straddles the central cocking rod about a half-inch forward of the locking bolt. Its function is to locate the barrels against the standing breech, both vertically and laterally. It’s easy to spot, thanks to a distinctive gold PVD coating.
The block is held by a pair of Torx screws in its recess located in the bottom of the frame. It can be removed and replaced should the Invictus start to shoot loose. You are much better off not removing it just for curiosity’s sake.
The active target shooter is further catered to by an unusual hinge system. Over-unders usually hinge on a transverse pin or a pair of trunnions at the bottom front of the frame. Either of these are subject to wear and makers have come up with a variety of methods for renewing them.
At Guerini, they have adopted the “Invictus cam,” which engages a recess inside the frame wall. Each of the two cams is retained to the turned monobloc by a pair of Torx screws, allowing it to be removed and replaced with a larger cam in case of wear to cam or frame. Again, don’t try this at home.
Since the ejector trip rods run inside the frame walls, the frame interior is clean and uncluttered. The trip for the top lever is a lever below the bolt rather than the usual button at the top of the breech.
Guerini clearly assumes you are going to shoot this shotgun a lot, because there is a further adjustable feature in the forend. Called the DTS Action Control system, you can increase or decrease engagement of the forend iron against its loop under the barrel by turning a hex socket screw inside a graduated dial. If your forend gets a bit floppy, just turn the dial a notch or two and tighten it back up. The cocking cam at the rear of the forend is numbered, indicating it can be replaced by a longer one to also take up wear.
Guerini says the Anson-style, push-button, forend latch has an elastomer bushing to prevent contact with the wood, and it certainly operates smoothly. To have a look under the wood, the Invictus is provided with a T-handle stock wrench.
Inner Workings No detail is overlooked with the Invictus. Even the internal hammers are highly polished. Not a big deal for me, but they do make you feel more confident in the shotgun.
Firing is controlled by a pair of sears pivoting from the upper tang. It’s easy to see their engagement points on the hammers. In the unlikely event they slip, interceptor hooks in the sears will catch notches in the hammers, preventing them falling.
As you would expect on a competition shotgun, the safety is manual, with a Beretta-style sliding button for barrel selection.
Something you might not expect on this gun is an inertia trigger. Competitive shotgunners can be pretty snobby about using mechanical triggers. While both styles exist to prevent doubling, the main argument for a mechanical trigger is that you can still touch off the second barrel if there has been a dud round in the first. How important is that with today’s ammunition? You’ll have to judge for yourself.
The hammers and sears are chrome-plated for a smooth and durable let-off. Trigger pull was 3 pounds for both barrels, with a sharp break that can only be described as rifle-like. Guerini says the trigger can be adjusted for takeup, pull weight and overtravel, but the process requires returning the gun to the importer.
Shotgunners whose activity is limited to opening day in the dove field are prone to pooh-pooh the importance of a good trigger pull, but avid clay target shooters are not. The trigger blade is adjustable fore and aft within about .6 inch by use of the supplied Torx key.
The chrome-lined barrels measured .731 inch of inside diameter, a bit above the standard .729 inch. Italian shotguns commonly have tighter-than-nominal bores that avoids the craze for overbored barrels. Forcing cones are quite long at 5 inches for smooth, gradual compression of the shot charge.
The barrels are topped with a ventilated rib that tapers from 10mm at the breech to 8mm at the muzzle. It is fitted with a .075-inch, steel mid-bead and a .114-inch white bead at the muzzle.
The Invictus III is provided with six Maxis choke tubes rather than the usual five: Cylinder (.733 inch), Skeet (.728 inch), two Improved Cylinder (.723 inch), Light Modified (.718 inch) and Modified (.713 inch). This assortment will cover you for anything short of the back yardages of handicap trap. If you want to use your Invictus III there, you can order Improved Modified, Light Full or Full tubes at $63 per tube.
If you are shooting at a club that requires steel shot, Guerini makes tubes up to Modified.
The tubes are 3.19 inches long with a conical-parallel inside configuration to constrict the shot charge very gradually. They extend .88-inch past the muzzle and are knurled on the outside for quick and easy removal and replacement.
If a tube happens to get stuck, the Invictus III is provided with a fancy choke tube tool. Flip open the hook spanner and engage one of the coin-slotted notches to remove the offending tube. The steel-bodied tool provides plenty of leverage for the job. Then turn off the knurled cap to expose a tap you can use to clean the threads inside the barrel. Put a bit of grease on the tube, reinstall and you’re ready to keep breaking targets.
Shooting Grandeur I patterned the Invictus III and function-fired it on trap, skeet and sporting targets. There were no failures of any kind and operation was very smooth with ejected shells falling together every time.
My first impression of the Invictus III was that it is a very big, heavy gun. The buttstock is high and thick, which made me fear the usual syndrome of shooting high and left. Further perusal showed that the butt had about a quarter-inch cast-off, and that number was perfect, as it shot as close to right down the middle as any shotgun I’ve patterned recently. Point of impact was about 8 inches high for both barrels, which is just fine in a target gun.PERFORMANCE
When shooting skeet from the low-gun position, I would have liked a hard insert at the top of the recoil pad, but a little electrical tape will provide the same effect. The long, high buttstock made the mount a bit tricky. About a week of 100 gun mounts a night in the living room would solve that.
As I suspected, the 26 LPI checkering is too fine a measure for mid-summer shooting. It looks great, but you will want to use a glove if your palms tend to sweat.
While we were considering this point, a sharp-eyed squad member who is a carpenter pointed out a knot about 3/8-inch in diameter, half-concealed by the checkering in the wrist just behind the tang. This is the last place you would want to find a wood imperfection, since it’s the spot that takes a greater part of the recoil. It emphasizes the point that you really need to eyeball highly figured wood at stress points. Boring grain at the wrist is just what you want.
With that single exception, shooting the Invictus III sporting was a pleasure, especially with Kent’s new Elite low-recoil loads. These drive a 7/8-ounce shot charge at 1,200 feet per second, and proved very effective, even on trap targets. If you can get past the notion that you are throwing a quarter-ounce less shot at the target, you will savor recoil that’s diminished almost by half.
Guerini’s Invictus III is a great-looking, great-shooting shotgun with some innovative features that make it a credible alternative to some of the traditional German and Italian names in target guns.
Caesar Guerini Invictus III Sporting
Type: Over-under, shotgun
Gauge: 12, 2¾-inch chamber
Weight: 8 lbs., 3.2 oz.
Overall Length: 49 in.
Barrel Length: 32 in. (tested), 30 in.
Length of Pull: 14.875 in
Drop at Heel: 2.125 in.
Drop at Comb: 1.375 in.
Trigger Pull: 3 lbs., both barrels (tested)
Accessories: Hard case, stock wrench, Torx key for trigger blade, hook spanner for choke
tubes, Cylinder (.733 in.), Skeet (.728 in.), Improved Cylinder (.723 in.), Light
Modified (.718 in.), Modified (.713 in.) tubes w/ case.
Manufacturer: Caesar Guerini, s.r.l.,
Importer: Caesar Guerini USA,