King of the bush: brand new Fratelli Poli 16 ga Essential over-and-under!

After years and years of hunting all over the place with my dogs and my Poli side-by-sides (Lapis Lusso in 20 gauge and Lapis ICE in 16 gauge), I don't know why, but I had gotten a craving for... over-and-unders!

It is the oldest two-shot gun type in the world, to begin with. It has its own unquestionable intrinsic appeal and particular ballistics – a tad more "logical" and linear than the side-by-side, to be technical.

The truth? All lies!

It's just that at the age of 57 years, after 30 years of hunting mostly woodcock, I felt like a new "toy", period! Something to strengthen the anticipation and thus the enthusiasm in facing the next and other seasons (God willing). And the choice was logically toward what I didn't have: a nice over-and-under. But not just any one: something ultra-technical and essential, without frills or easy concessions to aesthetics, for in my hands they would only be wasted. In short, a working tool for those who also conceive of hunting as a job.

To the table with Tiziano, the concept came naturally. To express it In an almost Michelangelo-esque way: remove everything that was not needed, to leave precisely the essentials at their state of the art in terms of efficiency and robustness!

All of this, to be made around what – together with the 20 gauge – for me is the gauge of choice for woodcock hunting: the 16 ga, that is, the perfect combination of ammo weight, bulk and ease of transport (for those like me who hate cartridge belts), and effectiveness! The result was this thing...

Video: 16 ga Poli Essential over-and-under

Receiver: tailor-made for 16 gauge

The beautiful round body receiver scaled to 16-gauge and with a very elegant color case hardened finish, for a touch of class that doesn't hurt and has always been the trademark of the Poli Brothers.

No, it is not a 20 ga receiver on which 16 ga barrels have been adapted (to the detriment of sturdiness), and just to clarify it is not even a 12 ga receiver which, while providing comfortable "accommodation", would have irreparably compromised two key factors in a shotgun for hyper-dynamic hunts such as ease of swing and bulk. Instead, it is a 100 percent dedicated, specially made 16 ga receiver, around which the entire shotgun was then built: no gimmicks, in other words.

 Yeah, around. Never was the term more fitting, for the receiver is as "round" as it can be – actually, an all tri-alloy steel round body of the highest quality.

I know, fashions requires lightweight aluminum alloys like Ergal. But we don't care about fashions: and so we preferred a few more grams to the benefit of gun robustness and full functionality with all kinds of ammo.

For the finish, we decided: nothing! Oh God, that was what I wanted. Tiziano, on the other hand, insisted on a significant engraving. In the end, the compromise was a very minimal floral engraving, barely discernible under the beautiful color case hardening made in a truly masterful manner on all metal parts, ensuring a sleek appearance as superfine as it is understated. Essential, again.

The barrels of the 16 ga Poli Essential over-and-under

The muzzle, with battue-type rib perfect for spot shots in the woods, and in the countryside.

Barrels are the ballistic part and the very soul of a gun. In a specialized gun then, they are more than anything else what really makes it so.

Well, the Essential was designed as a woodcock gun from the start, for a hunter who has made hunting with hounds the main passion of his life. Barrel chambers, length and chokes, with the understanding that we are talking about a 16 gauge, were derived as a logical consequence.

We start from the assumption that the 16 ga Magnum does not exist and that in such a gauge it would make no sense to use increased loads when hunting with dogs of any kind. So on our over-and-under we have 70 mm chambers.

As for barrel length, we are helped by Robert Churchill, the English gunsmithing genius, who once and for all established 25” (63.5 cm) as the perfect length when hunting with pointing dogs. And such are.

To be clear, it's not that a longer barrel would spoil anything, it's just that you don't need it and therefore you can subtract a few inches to the benefit of speed of swing, ease of pointing in spot shooting, to which is added – among other things – a fair weight saving on the whole as well. All to the benefit of the gun's ease of carry.

A very well-made forend with hand-made fine-pitch checkering for extreme grip in all conditions.

I know, sometimes you see wood hunting shotguns with carrels as short as 60 cm. Beyond the fact that break-action guns configured in this way are quite ugly (especially side-by-sides that end up looking like ... sawn-off shotguns!), it has to be said that very fast ammo with little or no progressive powders must be used, otherwise the ballistic yields of many cartridges become quite erratic, with huge muzzle flashes and punishing recoil that really serve no purpose. I mean, let's be serious: I can conceive of 60 barrels in a semi-automatic; in a break-action, absolutely not.

On the other hand, as far as chokes are concerned, once again the guiding star was essentiality with two fixed chokes, Cyl. and 3-star respectively. The whole, with full central rib and battue-type upper rib, full only on the breech and at the muzzle.

As in all my shotguns, sights consisted in a very small brass bead, and that was it.

Stock: simply solid

The beautiful English-style stock, made from a grade 2 wood, very rugged and suitable for the gun's intended use: hunting mainly woodcock in the woods.

In the version that is the subject of this article, they opted for oil-finished grade 2 dark wood, chosen for its solid grain at the expense of any idea of aesthetics. The result is something truly fascinating. With English-style buttstock embellished by a salmon-colored rubber recoil pad, with a strictly double trigger, with anatomical or full grip in order to provide a super firm grip, especially when firing follow-up shots or moving the finger from the first to the second trigger, and vice-versa.

The rounded and finely checkered forend, like the buttstock, follows the same philosophy of functionality and essentiality, helping to provide compactness and ruggedness.

Technical notes and purchasing advice for the Poli Essential

Instead of the usual first test at the shooting range, we took the new 16 ga Essential straight to the hunting grounds with our dog – quail hunting, of course.

The Poli Essential over-and-under now in my possession and described here is not a mass-produced firearm, but an entirely custom-made shotgun, i.e. fully built to my own specifications, size, and shouldering style, and by conceptual extension to the specifications of each individual customer. It means that, as such, the shotgun does not exist, and must be ordered deciding the gauge and all the details.

It can then be made from 20-gauge up to 12-gauge through 16-gauge, putting in and taking out whatever you like. Example: do you want it with a selective single trigger and a pistol grip stock? It can be done, for sure. Do you want it with automatic ejectors? It already has them. Do you want the ejectors environmentally friendly, i.e. manual? Just remove two plates, and you have the eco-friendly ejectors. You don't like the salmon-colored rubber recoil pad and want it in wood? Zero problems. Tiziano and Pier Antonio Poli are there specifically to tailor-made it for you according to your specific needs.

Now, mine is 2.9 kg in 16 gauge – in my opinion the perfect compromise between ease of carry, ease of swing and shooting comfort especially in follow-up shots, and especially with woodcock cartridges, which – if such they are – always have a "muscular" behavior.

On the 20 and 12 gauge, using barrels without a center rib you can obtain an even lower weight, but does it pay off?

In any case, play your game, and to each his own...

First impressions

A compact, easy to swing, beautiful firearm in its essentiality, The Poli Essential is a most effective shotgun for any kind of hunting with dogs, as shown by one morning's results.

In an old video with Tiziano I promised that I would first try it out in a skeet shooting range, in a few series between the sporting and skeet courses. I didn't get the chance, and the first test of the new Essential was instead directly in the field, in late August, quail hunting in Croatia.

For the occasion I loaded it not with typical quail cartridges, but with woodcock cartridges, however with lead shot as small as possible, exactly like the one I normally use in the middle of the season, when trees have now lost their leaves and woodcocks show up better to our eyes. So I am talking about the ALG Silver Queen shotshells with No. 10 shot for the first barrel, and No. 8 for the second barrel. Very fast, "nervous," tough cartridges, also suitable for testing recoil and muzzle flip.

I'll put it bluntly: while experiencing mild recoil and muzzle flip, I have to admit that I still have no idea of where the second barrel hits and what a follow-up shot means!

Okay, I don't shoot bad, but the behavior of the gun and the feeling we immediately "created" between us was perfect, absolute, total: as if it had been my shotgun all my life!

Ten shots, ten quails hit, at ranges of 15 to 25 meters. None spoiled by shot, perfectly shot down, even those less close. "Only" nine collected because environmental conditions did not allow the dogs to find them.

They say there is no such thing as perfection. Perhaps. But the important thing is to have in our hands the essentials to always try to reach it. The rest will be told by the next hunting days, up to pheasants, partridges and then to the final and ultimate test: that of the bush and its queens.

With our king in hand!

The fantastic 16 gauge Poli Essential over-and-under!

Poli Essential specs and price

16 (also available 20 ga and 12 ga)
Barrel Length:
25”/63.5 cm
Fixed cylinder and 3-star
Traditional double trigger
Automatic, convertible to manual
Manual slide
Turkish walnut grade 2, oil-finished, English buttstock with beavertail forend
2.93 kg
From 3,500 euros
Delivery time:
8/10 months
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