The cost of attaining a new shotgun license has increased in recent years from £50 to almost £80 as of the 6th of April 2015. Nonetheless, the number of legally held shotguns in this country has increased year on year, thanks to the popularity of both game hunting and clay pigeon shooting, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Buying a new shotgun can be a daunting task, particularly for those new to the hobby as there are many things to consider when shopping. Attributes such as gauge, barrel length and action can be easily assessed, but there are more personal concerns, such as the amount of recoil felt, or how well a shotgun fits into the shoulder, that can be hard to measure, particularly when buying online. Because of this I am putting two over and under shotguns to the test, and will attempt to guide you through the maze of terminology to help you make a successful choice.
Out of all the attributes to consider when buying a new shotgun, looks are perhaps the most personal and, in my view, the least important. By this I mean that, so long as the shotgun is accurate and reliable, it can look like an old log, and I would return to use it.
As it turns out, both of these shotguns are far better looking than that, and actually broadly resemble one another in terms of shape. These shotguns both utilise a walnut stock, but the colouration on the 900 is more clearly defined than the Premier with the latter using silk varnish that doesn’t enhance the grain as much as a simple oiled finish. This gives the 900 has a slight edge in terms of appearance, but also a more tactile feel in the hands.
The receiver of the 900 and the Premier are both manufactured from a single piece of steel and both feature laser inscription that is of a very high standard. The Premier features various patterns that while clearly inscribed, seem to be somewhat unrelated. The birds I understand but what is that medallion looking thing meant to be? A clay? In any case I prefer the simple branding on the side of the 900, with its clean lines and less clutter.
Winner: Webley & Scott 900 Game
The Premier weighs in at a shade over 3 kilos with the 900 weighing 2.6. This may not be too noticeable when first picking the shotguns up, but after a few rounds of shooting with shoulder fatigue playing a part, I assure you that this will become a noticeable difference. The chequering on the 900 seems to be deeper and better positioned as well, ensuring a secure grip at all times and providing better control between the hands.
This is also aided by the better balance that the 900 provides, although it worth pointing out that this particular 900 has 26” barrels, and still retains a positive bias towards them. Models of the 900 are available with barrel lengths up to 30” and it would be fair to assume that these models would be more top heavy than the Premier.
The 900 also features a far thicker recoil pad than the premier and with both shotguns capable of firing significant 12 gauge loads this seems to me to be somewhat of an oversight. Despite gun’s added weight, which should slow the gun down when firing, the Premier kicks particularly hard, like many Lincoln shotguns, and lacks the amount of rubber required at the butt to soften the blow, leading to increased fatigue and, in the hands of an inexperienced shooter, more flinch and worse accuracy.
However the Premier does have the edge when it comes to the trigger. The 900 features a trigger with a larger length of pull at almost 14 ¾” and a pull weight of 6lbs compared to the Premier’s 4 ¾lbs. This made the Premier’s trigger seem crisper and more responsive and gives better control over shot placement despite the increased recoil. Whilst the trigger is better I can’t understand the decision to forgo a rubber recoil pad on the Lincoln so I would recommend the 900. Trust me, your shoulders will thank you.
Winner: Webley & Scott 900 Game
The most important thing to consider when buying a shotgun is how well it shoots. This seems like somewhat of an obvious statement, but you would be surprised by the amount of people that are swayed by lasering on the receiver, or a goldplated trigger.
This has always seemed counter-intuitive to me and reminds me slightly of the heavily customised cars you see being driven around proudly that underneath all the Halfords body kits and stickers are still just a 1 litre Corsa bought on finance. After all, it is tight spreads and high pellet energy that kill birds, not how the prestigious the gun looks when nestled above the fireplace.
The action of the Premier seems somewhat stiffer and harder to use than the 900, but I put this down to it being a new gun and nothing that some repeated use and a little lubrication won’t fix.
The Premier and the 900 both produce tight spreads, with the Premier slightly edging it terms of shot pattern thanks to its longer barrels, and slightly tighter choke. This rewards good shooting and ensures more clean kills and less “wing” shots. The 900 also, while well centred, seems to shoot a little high compared to where the sights are pointing even when aiming as though the bird was perched on top of the front iron. This can be somewhat corrected with a full choke but never seemed to be as dead centre as the Premier.
All in all I think the Lincoln Premier wins this one, although I would like to see a test conducted between a Premier and a 900 Game with similar length barrels for comparison.
Winner: Lincoln Premier
Overall, I think that there are many things to like about both of these shotguns, the 900 is undoubtedly more comfortable to shoulder and fire but when it comes to all round performance I think the Lincoln shotgun just edges it. This was a particularly close run comparison however and it is easy to see why these shotguns are available for almost identical prices. Despite its heavy recoil, the Lincoln features a crisp trigger and better degree of accuracy and tighter spreads and no amount of stained walnut will make a shotgun better than that.