I’ve wanted to add a side-by-side shotgun to my collection for a long time, but I just couldn’t connect with a purchase that would leave me feeling good. Since the market was almost empty of current production models, I turned my attention to gun shows and the like. In this arena, I found one of two types of weapons for sale:
One: Shotguns that were so beat up that I wouldn’t feel safe shooting them.
Two: Shotguns that were so pristine I wouldn’t feel right shooting them.
After going through table after table full of examples of these two options, I finally abandoned the idea and began the search for my next firearm in another category (there is always another). Several years passed without this classic double-barreled design crossing my mind, until Rock Island Armory unveiled a new product for SHOT Industry Day 2022 at the Range Event. Called simply “Side by Side,” this Turkish import combined modern features with contemporary styling, all for a price that made these tools as popular as they were in their heyday. After sending a few projectiles through one into a sea of clay pigeons, I knew instantly that I wanted to spend more time with him.
So, after signing a little paperwork and waiting a few weeks, one showed up in my FFL, and I cleared my schedule to put it to the test right away. The first feature that attracted me to Rock Island Side by Side was their low RRP of just $599, which means that in the right market, these could easily hit shelves for under $500. of my budget for a “funny gun” instantly qualified it for review, I proceeded with my general checklist. At the top of that list is equipment, as there is literally no wiggle room allowed in this department.
When I chamber an emergency action firearm, it has to be rock solid. Otherwise, there’s no way I’m going to put my face up against him and pull the trigger. Needless to say, this shotgun was built exceptionally well, and its tight tolerances passed every type of bending and twisting test I was able to impart to it. The same tolerances were also applied in the furniture, as the oil-rubbed walnut stock and forend sat firmly against their adjacent metal components.
Moving on to functionality, I liked that the Side by Side was built with proven barrels that are chambered for 3″. This means the Rock Island Armory part can handle not only your favorite target loadout, but plenty of magnum shells as well. This would open it up for much more use and take it out of the “shoot only on special occasions” category and place it neatly in the “let’s go turkey hunting” category Also based on extended use the RIA comes standard with threaded barrels and a set of chokes to vary the pattern.This is certainly not the case on most older models as the buyer had to learn to accept the fact that they got what they got.
The aesthetic part of the exam overlapped the functionality to a great extent, something I always appreciate. Looking at the exposed hammers and dual trigger system, it should be a bit easier to understand this statement. On the one hand, these are features we look for when we buy a display to hang over our fireplace, but on the other hand, they also help tremendously in the field. Exposed hammers have a certain degree of safety, as there is no error when cocked.
Also, there is a bit of safety associated with this design, as one has the option of leaving it depressed until ready to fire, as they do not sit on the firing pin. Of course, as it is designed to be modern, the cocked and locked method is also on the table, as this side-by-side also features a push-to-fire safety tang. Turning our attention to dual triggers, most will agree that there is no quicker method of barrel selection than simply remembering that the front trigger fires the right barrel and the rear trigger fires the left. Combine that with an interchangeable choke system and you have a handy bird gun that can be adjusted to handle two completely different shooting scenarios.
I decided to test the Rock Island Armory Side by Side by shooting a casual round of clays using Winchester’s #6 Super Speed Game loads along with Browning’s #8 BTP Light target load. In preparation for this activity, I bolted on the included improved cylinder and modified choke tubes as they would give me my best patterns for these close range targets. Before I made orange dust, however, I needed to see how this double-barreled shotgun stacked up against its natural enemy: a shared point of impact.
One problem with the side-by-sides of old was that one barrel fired straight and the other fired its pellets slightly to the side. This was usually remedied with a touch of filing to help correct the draft pattern (another reason they rarely throttled). So, on a 40″ by 40″ piece of plywood set 35 yards apart, I fired a shot of the #6 Winchester from each barrel and was pleasantly surprised. The modified barrel laid a pattern perfectly around my 2″ pin with four pellets hitting the point, and the improved cylinder added another two and widened the overall pattern proportionally.
As you might have guessed, it was a bad day for the clays, as I was able to rack up as many breaks with this side-by-side as any other shotgun in my cabinet, and I had a blast. , also. I loved feeling the inherent roll ability these guns are known for, as well as pulling empty shells out of a cracked breech. The gun worked as it should and digested all of our ammunition without so much as a jammed case or misfire. Admittedly, I forgot to cock the hammers a few times, because years of firing conventional breakaway cannons will do that to you, but I can’t blame the hardware for what’s obviously a software issue.
At the end of the day, I wiped the gun down with a lightly oiled cloth to preserve the anodized finish on the case, as well as the high-gloss polish that was applied to the barrels. From here, my only dilemma was whether to remove the hammers and hang it over the fireplace in our new home or keep it locked in the safe for the bird and squirrel hunts that were to come. On the other hand, at this price, nothing stops me from buying one for every purpose. For more information, visit armcor.com.
rock island side by side
Receiver: Anodized Aluminum
Barrels: Blued Steel
Action: Break action
Barrel length: 24”
Overall Length: 40”
Pull Length: 14.3”