A major Turkish gunmaker Istanbul Silah ve Sanayi uses the latest in fully automated, robotic CNC machinery to produce a handsome range of very fine straight-pull Impala shotguns. Offered in nine different versions, they feature machined aluminium receivers and synthetic stocks in traditional grip configurations with a choice of finishes and barrel lengths. All receivers are drilled and tapped to enable scope use with a slug barrel and the 28-inch (720mm) barrels have a high vent rib.
A wide range of accessories includes spare barrels, comb raisers, a part pull handle and open hand pull handle, and clip-on front sights in red and green, as well as a picatinny mount set.
On my Combo test gun the receiver, buttstock and forearm boast a matte-black finish that contrasts sharply with the highly polished blued barrel. lmpala barrels are drilled and honed, chambers are chrome-lined and the finish is dazzling.
The Combo came in 12-gauge with a 28-inch barrel with 10mm wide high vent rib and long red fibre-optic front sight backing up a brass bead. The slug barrel had no rib, was 20 inches (500mm) long, and fitted with a U-notch rear sight on an angled ramp, adjustable for windage and elevation. The front sight is a ramped red fibre-optic unit.
The Impala Combo was accompanied by five screw-in choke tubes which fit flush with the muzzle.
The gun’s pistol grip and forearm have rubber inserts, the butt has a slot for a sling and is capped with a thick recoil pad. The high-grade polymer used in the stocks has adequately thick cross-sections for long term durability.
Outwardly, the Impala is a handsome shotgun. It melds a well-shaped stock with a beautifully finished receiver and barrel. The receiver is streamlined and has alternating panels of dull and shiny black finish. The bolt body visible through the ejection port is a matching black. The barrel has a mirror-like blued finish whereas the unusually long magazine cap, which extends 75mm ahead of the forearm, is less shiny and houses a swivelling sling stud. When set up for use with slugs, it’s handy to be able to carry the Impala on a sling.
The fit of the forearm on my test gun was tight without the least sign of any looseness. Included with the gun are a set of five stock shims which are inserted in the rear of the receiver to allow the individual shooter to adjust drop and cast – cast down, cast left, cast right and a pair of cast uppers.
The intention of cast is to facilitate the positioning of the shooter’s eye so that it aligns properly behind the front sight when the stock is correctly cheeked. This is a pious idea since it allows the gun to be customised to put its patterns relative to where it is pointed. Small, almost insignificant changes in stock dimensions result in dramatic differences in the way a gun points.
Personally, I like my shotguns to pattern a little high so I can always keep a bird in sight just over the top of the rib.
The Impala’s loading system consists of a skeletonised carrier with a triangular-shaped thumb latch handily located on the right side of the receiver. The shotgun must be loaded with the safety engaged and bolt locked open to allow the carrier latch to retain cartridges pushed into the magazine tube, which holds five shotshells (six with one in the breech). When loaded, the carrier latch button is pressed to close the bolt.
The angular-shaped trigger guard is an integral part of the trigger housing and has the carrier attached to the front of it. When the shotgun is fired the hammer pushes a disconnector in the trigger assembly upward and frees the carrier latch, and the cartridge already waiting on the carrier is lifted and the rotary bolt feeds it into the chamber. A crossbolt safety button located in the rear of the guard is pushed through to the right to engage the safety and to the left to put the gun in the firing mode, when a red ring becomes visible.
The action has a snakelike operating handle on the right side to cycle the straight-pull bolt. The bolt has a six-lug rotating head that locks behind seats in the rear of the barrel. The breech section with the seats is a separate piece of specially hardened steel into which the barrel is inserted. This barrel extension allows close and unbroken encirclement of the bolt head, broken only by the extractor slot.
As the bolt is manually pulled back the head rotates just far enough to the left to disengage the lugs from their locking seats, allowing room for the narrow hook extractor to extract a fired shell, which is ejected by a blade in the floor of the receiver as the bolt travels to the rear. When the bolt is retracted, it compresses a strong recoil spring, which re-cocks the action before driving the bolt forward
to feed the next cartridge from the magazine into the chamber.
The Impala can be field-stripped for cleaning about as quickly as I can write about it. Unscrew the magazine cap, remove the forearm, pull the barrel out of the receiver, take off the bolt handle by removing the two small T15 torque screws that attach it to the bolt body (using the Allen key supplied) and slide the bolt out through the front of the receiver.
The firing control system is removed from the receiver by punching out two pins from the side of the receiver. The carrier comes away with the trigger.
The bolt slide group is pushed out through the front of the receiver. Reassembly is in the reverse order, but take care when you install the bolt that the link is seated in the tube in the back of the receiver.
For now the Impala is offered in only 12-gauge with 3-inch chambers. Every gun (except the fixed choke model) comes with five screw-in chokes in Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder and Skeet. All physically measured a little tight for their respective designated choke marking.
On the patterning range, I took the opportunity to compare the patterning percentage of the Cylinder and Improved Cylinder choke tubes against how they were marked and how they physically measured.
When patterned with Bushman Field 34-gram loads of No. 6 shot, the Cylinder and Improved Cylinder chokes performed within the specs for shot percentages in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. That kind of pattern percentage is what I was looking for when I took the Impala after rabbits in a paddock dotted with blackberry bushes. It gave me up-close and personal flushes as bunnies darted between the blackberry clumps.
I was pleased with the Impala’s responsiveness in the field for snap shooting. There was just enough weight out front to keep the muzzle moving whenever a rabbit got out a little way before I could shoot.
The Impala provided reliable and pleasant shooting which showed that the gun’s mechanical and ergonomic characteristics are sound. With the slug barrel installed, the gun’s rubber-clad forearm and pistol grip and recoil pad helped mitigate felt recoil and keep it on the shoulder. The red fibre-optic sight is quick to acquire on the shotgun barrel and when combined with the fully adjustable rear sight on the slug barrel gives good, practical accuracy for pig hunting out to 100 metres.
The Impala had the modified choke installed and my son shot a couple of boxes of shells at clays with nary a miss, after which he tried it out on rabbits. He used Winchester Super Ranger 70mm shells throwing 32 grams of No. 6 shot and really hammered the rabbits.
The Impala delivered repeat shots as quickly as any of the lever-action shotguns I’ve tried in recent years and is a more rugged design than any of the other straight-pull shotguns I’ve seen to date.
Cosmetically, the Impala has a lot to like. It is well-made, nicely balanced and comfortable to shoot.
Impala Plus Combo 12-Gauge Straight-Pull Shotgun
Manufacturer: Istanbul Silah ve Savunma Sanayi, Turkey
Model: Impala Plus Combo Operation:Straight-Pull bolt-action
Gauge: 12 gauge
Barrels: 20″ and 28″, threaded for chokes
Weight: 3.3kg (7-1/2lbs) with 720mm barrel; 3.175kgs with 500mm barrel
Overall length: 1240mm with vent rib barrel;1020mm slug barrel
Weight: 3.3kg (7-1/2lbs) with 720mm barrel; 3.175kgs with 500mm barrel
Safety: Trigger blocking crossbolt through trigger guard
Sights: Vent rib barrel with red fibreoptic front sight; slug barrel with fully adjustable rear and fibreoptic frontsight
Stock: Black synthetic
Finish: blued steel and blackened aluminium
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
Accessories: 5 screw-in, flush-fitting choke tubes
Distributor: CR Kennedy, www.huntingdepot.com.au