The Savage Milano O/U Shotguns

By Randy Wakeman

Savage Milano
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms

For some forty years I've enjoyed the shotgun sports, and I guess when you grow up with something, it tends to stick with you (or perhaps on you). Savage Arms made a surprise introduction of their new Milano line of over and under shotguns at the 2006 SHOT Show, and I'd like to tell you what I can about them.

Imported O/U guns have ruled the roost for so many years now it is easy to view the Over/Under market as strictly a Beretta vs. Browning affair. I've owned several Citori versions, along with Beretta 686/687's, Sig SA-5's, Winchester 101's, and a wide variety of lesser-known models, and used them in the field and on the clays courses alike. Naturally, I try to take a spin with most every new shotgun that appears, as variety is the spice.

The Miroku guns (older Charles Daley branded, and the Citori variants) have always given good service, as have my Beretta's. MSRP sits at $1875 for the Beretta White Onyx, and $1748 for similarly consumer targeted Browning White Lightning. Both of these shotguns have long represented the watershed of quality over/unders, with little serious competition.

The only pans that can be tossed, as far as I'm concerned are the heaviness of the basic Citori (eight pounds or so in 12 gauge), which is addressed in the more expensive models, and the canoe-paddle grade stocks found on basic Berettas--again addressed when the price goes up, way up. The standard Beretta's have a different feel, weighing in at about six and a half pounds, regardless of gauge.

Enter the Savage Milano. There is a wide gap in the Over/Under market for those who want more than the shoddily made "Fausti" (Traditions) or miserable "Spartan" Russian imports, but don't care to break the bank, either. So, there is room, and plenty of it, for a good balance of quality and affordability.

The Savage Milano was co-developed by Savage Arms and I. Rizzini. You might need a scorecard to keep track of the Rizzinis, which seems to be as popular a name as "Jones" in the Brescia region of Italy. The B. Rizzini's I've owned over the years have been absolutely first class shotguns. There has been a lot of confusion in the Rizzini area, as some shotguns have been built to a price point, not a specification, over the years. That seems to be why you can get cries of "fabulous" and "junk!" associated with the same name. Sometimes, both observations are completely correct. It is the same way with Spanish doubles; they can, and have, built the equal of any double-guns made, but they also have spewed out a lot of garbage over the years by OEM'ing to a price. You need a score card to tell the players.

When Sig Arms attempted to enter the O/U market, they just added to the confusion. The name of "Sig" meant nothing. The Zoli-made SA-3 models were very, very poor, while the Battista Rizzini SA-5 series guns were first rate. Rick Cole (Cole Gunsmithing), the Beretta King, imports some B. Rizzini's, as does Rizzini USA, as does William Larkin Moore & Company. The differences can be subtle.

The Artemis Classic (Rizzini USA) is a stunner. Kimber has also imported B. Rizzini's, and they seem happy to jack up the price beyond comprehension. The only real way to grade a Rizzini has been exactly model-by-model, as there have been all kinds of "exceptions that prove the rule."

Sig Arms tried again with their B. Rizzini made "Aurora" and "L.L. Bean" models, and my understanding is that attempt has ended. More history than you probably hoped for, but there is a lot of it to be told.

Examining the Savage Milanos at this year's SHOT Show, I was impressed in several ways. The wood on the display guns was very good, showing distinct mineral streaks. I saw no proud wood, and extremely good wood to metal fit in general. The triggers were crisp, and smooth with no take-up or grit in them that I could detect. The laser engraved checkering is both attractive and functional.

Savage CEO Ron Coburn explained that they were mechanical, not inertia, triggers as found on many Over/Unders. Both types can be produced superbly. The advantage back "in the day" was that mechanical triggers allow you to cycle past a dead round. I prefer them myself, as they reminded me of my Winchester 101's.

The vent rib barrel set has a red fiber optic sight at the muzzle, and a brass colored mid bead. I'm of the nickel bead school, but light pipes are trendy these days. The recoil pads are slightly beveled on top, so as not to snag in the field or when shooting low-gun.

The Milano's nickel receivers are tastefully roll-engraved, and the jeweled monoblock reminded me again of my old 101's. It looked like an engine-turned block to me.

As you might imagine, the Milano has a single selective trigger (safety appears as on a Beretta), auto ejectors, and comes in 12, 20, 28, and .410. Their balance was as close to perfect as I could have hoped for, and the approximately six pound 20 gauge was my personal favorite. Light and lively enough for upland, but enough stability for a smooth swing with its 28 inch barrels for some fun on the clays course.

All Milano's come with 28" barrels and screw chokes, for the moment, excepting the .410 bore. Gold triggers complete the tasteful and overall quite pleasing aesthetics.

MSRP for the Milano is an appealing $1433, showing Savage's continued commitment to both quality with affordability. I'm looking forward to reviewing one of these beauties in 20 gauge, and they are tentatively scheduled for general availability over the next three to four months. The proof is in the shooting, but based on everything I saw and handled, Savage has taken a savvy, high-quality approach to this brand new line and appears to be prepared to give Browning and Beretta a serious run for their market share.

Note: A complete review of the Savage Milano shotgun can be found on the Product Review Page.

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Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.