Gun Review: Verney-Carron Azur SD Eloge Grade 20 Gauge Shotgun

The origin of the firm name, Verney-Carron, goes back to 1830. The hyphenated name that arose following the marriage of Claude Verney and Antoinette Carron is an appropriate metaphor for the exquisite double-barreled firearms for which the company is known.

The firm actually opened for business in Saint-Etienne, France a decade earlier, following Claude’s securing a first-prize from the prestigious Concours d’Armurerie gunsmith competition.

However, the Verney and Carron families’ work in gunsmithing preceded all of these events and awards. Both husband and wife belonged to lineages replete with firearms manufacturers. In fact, Claude was able to trace his gunsmithing ancestry to Guy Verney who was producing shotguns by the year 1650.

Looking across the years, from 1650 to the present, reveals lineages and a firm that has had an unbroken reputation of producing high-quality firearms. This exceptional Verney-Carron SD Eloge grade side-by-side shotgun reflects a modern-day link to this rich heritage.

A True Work of Art

I have been extremely fortunate to be given the chance to review many excellent firearms, including guns from Nosler, Blaser, MG-Arms, Turnbull and more. Some of these were custom-built, but even the ‘mass-produced’ firearms have been extremely well manufactured, which was reflected in their accuracy, reliability and beauty.

With all of these wonderful products in mind, I can say without hesitation that the Verney-Carron SD Eloge Grade 20-gauge shotgun ranks among the most beautiful firearms I have ever encountered. Of course, there is something about handling side-by-side rifles and shotguns that makes many of us feel like English/European royalty. But the fact of the matter is that Verney-Carron used only the highest quality materials to produce this lovely firearm.

Case in point: the grade VI Turkish walnut that was used for the English styel stock and forearm. This exquisite wood was the base for some of the finest relief carving and hand-checkering I have ever seen.

A real surprise, not only to me, but also a gunsmith friend, was the construction of the butt-plate (a.k.a skeleton heel) from a piece of checkered walnut.

The craftsmanship that went into the construction of this shotgun is also reflected in the beautiful case coloring and engraved metal work.

The scroll work includes all of the ‘normal’ planes used for such engraving – barrels, action, trigger-guard and trigger guard tang.

However, the Verney-Carron craftsmen didn’t stop with these platforms to display their artwork. The metal cap and inlays on the forearm…

…the top lever, the top lever screw and the safety button were similarly embellished.

This model was fitted with a traditional gold bead front sight…

double triggers…

…and well-regulated ejectors.

Field Trials

Before moving on to the analysis of how the shotgun performs, I must highlight one last feature: the uniquely-designed receiver. It includes a front closure, an interior cross brace, and a double interior longitudinal brace.

This configuration is also used in Verney-Carron’s side-by-side rifles, including those chambered for Nitro Express loads. In such calibers, this receiver configuration yields added strength in areas affected by the incredible pressures Nitro Express cartridges produce.

Though comforting to see this same chamber design in Verney-Carron’s shotguns, given the much lower chamber pressures generated, I would think this is somewhat overkill.

For example, a Verney-Carron double rifle I reviewed recently was chambered for .450 Nitro Express. The ammunition used would have produced pressures in the range of 40,000 p.s.i. In contrast, 3 inch, 20-gauge shotshells produce chamber pressures of only about 12,000 p.s.i.

At 6 pounds and change empty with 28-inch barrels the Azur has the extremely slim outline and English-style grip of a classic field gun with the finish and details of a bespoke shotgun. It swings naturally and has been extremely easy to handle on the sporting clays course.

I’m used to handling much beefier shotguns — typically 12 gauges — and was uncomfortable at first with the Azur’s lighter-handing attributes. But that didn’t last long. After approximately 20 birds, I found my balance and found that this perfectly balanced gun is a natural pointer, swinging beautifully through targets.

At the end I was scoring >90% and anyone who has seen me on the sporting clays course, knows that’s a very good percentage.

One other important point about this higher grade of Verney-Carron shotgun. It’s usually custom-fit to the purchaser. This particular shotgun, however, is one that’s taken to shows, etc. So, I was able to achieve excellent results on the clays course, in spite of using an ‘off-the-rack’ product.

Conclusion

With a fine shotgun of this grade, it’s important to address the 1000-pound gorilla in the room — the price. I suspect that some will question the MSRP and whether it’s worth the price. I am not someone who believes in the adage, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it.”

Instead, I would argue that the level of craftsmanship that results in a firearm such as the Verney-Carron Azur SD Eloge Grade shotgun necessarily results in a price commensurate with a true work-of-art.

While I own a very nice Browning Citori shotgun, there’s simply no comparison between the two firearms. Is the difference and aesthetics of the Verney-Caron worth from four to eight times the price of a Citori? That’s up to the individual buyer. And to many it’s worth every penny.

I am also not someone who would invest in a firearm — any firearm — that I won’t use for its intended purpose – in this case, shooting clays and game birds. This shotgun is truly magnificent in its appearance. But it’s equally good at its job of breaking clays and bringing home birds.

Specifications: Verney-Carron Azur SD Eloge Grade Side-By-Side Shotgun

Gauge: 20
Chamber: 2 ¾ inch
Length: 44 ½”
Barrel Length: 28”
Weight: 6 lbs 6 oz
Stock: Grade 6 walnut with a hand-rubbed oil finish
Front Sight: Gold Bead
Ejectors: Yes
Trigger: Double
MSRP: $12,000 (upgraded model reviewed is $24,000)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
This shotgun has few peers in firearms I have handled. Its beauty is exceptional.

Fit and Finish: * * * * *
The shotgun reviewed is a demo, one that’s used for gun shows, and so was not custom-fitted to the author and it’s seen some use. Even so, the quality of the case hardening, the depth of the figuring in the stock, the beauty of the engraving and the perfect wood to metal joins are exceptional. Only master craftsman are used in the finish Verney-Carron firearms and it shows.

Ergonomics * * * * *
As stated above, I had to adapt to the shotgun’s slimness and relatively light weight. But now that that’s been accomplished on the clays course, I can only imagine how nice it will be to get this shotgun into the field after upland game. This is an ideal wingshooting shotgun.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect. Not even a blip.

Overall * * * * *
This shotgun is indeed a work of art. But as beautiful as it is, the craftsmen who produced it intend it to be used on shooting courses and for hunting. To that end, they have constructed an excellent working gun that’s as effective in the field as it is pleasing to the eye.

 

Mike Arnold writes about firearms and hunting at his blog Mike Arnold, Outdoor Writer

I want to thank the following individuals and businesses who made this review possible: Ken Buch of Kebco LLC (North American Representative for Verney-Carron firearms) and Jérôme Lanoue of L’Atelier Verney-Carron; Tom McElwayne (owner of Shooters Den); and Tracy Ledbetter (owner of Gun Racks for Less).

All photos courtesy the author. 

comments

  1. avatar Ted says:

    Oh good, a review for an over priced pipe with a hammer on one end. Can we get back to reviews for things regular people can afford?

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      And then people will complain about another AR or plastic pistol review.

    2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Ted, even though I can’t afford one things like this motivate me buy a lottery ticket occasionally. $2.00 ain’t going to break me and the daydreams are entertaining. Besides, everything is relative. I was at SHOT a number of years ago. Perazzi had a four barrel set on display. $300,000. I remember thinking that they had better throw in the two Italian models flanking the display. On the other hand, a friend once told me, “I don’t care how good looking she is. Somebody, somewhere is tired of her shit.”

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      If you are irregular I’d suggest less whining and more fiber.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Ba-zing….

    4. avatar Bcb says:

      Sometimes those things that can’t be afforded are fun to read about precisely because right now it’s the only way to learn about them.

      If you want to whine that someone else has pricier things then you just think about how you come across.

  2. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Thanks for the nice review.

    Not much interested in shotguns, but the history survey and the great pics made the article worth reading.

  3. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Thank you. Beyond my price point … but I do appreciate reading about nice things even if I won’t be buying them myself; it’s nice to have a “lottery list.”

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      “Lottery list”. I like that term.

  4. avatar DesertDave says:

    A lovely piece of artwork that is also a superb firearm! This likely as close to one as I’ll ever get, let alone purchase, but it is nice to look at!

  5. avatar Wes says:

    Before all the haters who are angry chime in:

    I can’t afford as $24,000 shotgun, but I’m glad such things exist and am happy for those who can afford them. Thanks for the well done review.

    Now onto the normally scheduled complaining below

  6. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’ve handled a V-C SxS gun that was shipped to a fellow gunsmith in the white. He was going to do all the embellishment and finishing, and this brought the price down considerably – to something like $6K as I recall.

    V-C’s products are top-shelf – they’re in the category of “best guns.” Best guns can cost between $8K to $100K, depending on the embellishment, finish, features, provenance, etc.

    Between $1200 to $2000 of this gun’s price is contained in the wood. Turkish walnut is very expensive stuff. For people who would like to make or refurb a high-end shotgun, I can say that you can save significant cost by going with a nice English or American black walnut stock. Turkish wood is very expensive, and always has been. They often have some of the best figure, but you can get nice figure at a more reasonable price from here in America.

    The metalwork on the V-C gun I saw was perfect. The screws were done perfectly, there was no unfinished metal – inside or out.

    Another French shotgun that is very nice, a bit less spendy, but has a very unique action is the Darne’, which have a sliding breech block. They don’t hinge the barrels, the breech slides back to expose the chambers.

    The French gunmakers are like the Belgians, Italians and Germans – their gun makers are often concentrated into a small geographical region. Overall, the French shotguns I’ve seen were all very high quality products.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      I’d be interested in your opinion on the color-case hardening, it seems to have a smaller grain or ‘structure’ (?) to it, could that be from using smaller bits of the charcoal ‘packing’ than usual?

      And, looking at above the bead on the muzzle, is that a bit of rust on the right side of the rib?

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Without better resolution photos, it is very difficult for me to answer either one of those questions.

  7. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Beautiful shotgun.
    Thanks for another nice review Mr. Arnold.

  8. avatar Johnny Go Lightly says:

    Waiting for HiPoint to come out with a knock off for 300 bucks that I can leave in a wet barn stall over the winter. Doesnt look like that stock would let me use it for shoveling pig slop around.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      It’s really too bad the Hi-Points are of zinc-potmetal crap construction, because it would be entertaining as hell to see a nice, colorful color-case hardening on one.

      Well, I suppose someone *could* one-off machine a slide for one out of steel, if they felt so inclined…

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “…it would be entertaining as hell to see a nice, colorful color-case hardening on one.”

        Given some of the pistol reviews in my favorite magazine, “case hardening” may only be in the eye of the beholder, as in, the color can be applied without actual hardening.

  9. avatar jwm says:

    Bingo! Found my Bug Out Bag gun. Might as well get 2. I need a new truck gun.

    Man, those are gorgeous. When it has 2 barrels I prefer 2 triggers. When I lived in that area my favorite rabbit and grouse gun in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia was a spanish made double 20. Light weight and easy handling in the thick stuff.

  10. avatar enuf says:

    MSRP: $12,000 (upgraded model reviewed is $24,000)

    It’s very pretty and I’d sure love to be living in that rarefied income bracket that I could afford a $24,000 scatter gun.

    Oh well.

  11. avatar dlj83544 says:

    …beautiful piece of kit! Thanks for the review.

  12. avatar Steven Lynch says:

    I can’t even say the name of that gun

  13. avatar Ogre says:

    Beautiful gun, but above my budget. I was looking at some English gunmakers online – Purdy, Greener and the like – and their guns are priced right on up there with this Verney-Carron Azur SD Eloge Grade gun, and I’m confident there are others that cost much more than this. I note that Purdy is now making both Damascus and sidelock hammer guns, along with their more modern styles. I could go for that (depends on the lottery). Being a muzzleloader, I once saw a gun at a rendezvous to die for: a completely handmade reproduction of a 12-bore Manton flintlock side-by-side, complete with gold-lined waterproof pans, damascus barrels, engraved metal, deluxe wood and other features. It was $12K, and I didn’t have the money! It was tough to walk away from…

  14. avatar bh28ga says:

    I think this is a question of priorities, I do not give a hoot about vehicles, they are strictly transportation but nice guns make me feel better. I would be more inclined to buy this than spend my money on trading my truck every few years..

  15. avatar Mandrake Richardsonschirer says:

    I had a pair of Varnets back when designer sun glasses where all the rage. They were nothing special just expensive. I never saw the big deal then and I don’t see the big deal now. Looks like pretty spotty blueing work like they had problems with it. And a little color variety with a synthetic stock would be nice touch.

  16. avatar oldguy says:

    Sorry kids! No college for you. I’m buyin’ a purty shotgun.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Old guy, I paid for my college. No student debt when I finished. And I owned a few cool firearms too.

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        Of course. I spent a few years in the military and saved some money. What a concept.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          Had some small student loans from the college. Entered service immediately after, and kept the school notified of my location. No contact from the college for ten years. Then one day at the squadron office, a call from the university came in. They were all about delinquent loan payments, etc. When the caller stopped talking, I asked how much was owed. Given a number, I said I would drop a check in the mail that afternoon. The guy on the phone was so startled that full payment was coming immediately he dropped all the interest charges.

  17. avatar Will Drider says:

    A good read on an exquisite shotgun. It is unfortunate that some “alleged” firearm enthusiasts are so narrow minded. They can’t comprehend that you don’t need to buy one to appreciate the perfection of mechanical craftsmanship that expands into the artistry of the piece. The World passes by while they fiercely maintain their heads in the sand, their choice and their loss.

  18. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    I’ll add this onto my bucket list of guns I ‘d like to shoot someday…owning one…prolly not gonna happen.

    Thank you Mr. Arnold for the 5 minute daydream.

  19. avatar Benzo says:

    This article is just like checking out the latest Lamborghini – as close as a poor man like me will ever get to one, and daydream inducing at it’s finest. Keep it up, TTAG, I love reviews of the stuff I’ll never personally be able to afford!

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