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…
…and well-regulated ejectors.
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.
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
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
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.