From the vault: An inside look at the history of Italian shotgun manufacturer Perazzi. As published in the June 2007 issue of Shooting Sports USA.
The Perazzi Pride
By Nicola Bandini
In the light brown, gold-streaked eyes of 73-year-old Daniele Perazzi, you can still see the spark and vision of a dreamer. Despite a half-century of solid, relentless work in the shotgun industry, the man still works 10-hour days in his fortress in Brescia, Italy, surrounded by his beloved family members and more than 100 skilled workers. (Note: Sadly, Daniele Perazzi passed away in 2012, five years after the original publication of this article.)
Daniele, with his son Mauro and daughter Roberta, representing the second generation, has built an icon of quality, strength and beauty in the shotgun industry, which has become a symbol of Italian style across the continents. The strong, yet romantic character driving the Perazzi family forward for five decades has been the key to international sporting success. The Perazzi over/under shotgun has placed shooters on the medal stand in every international shotgun discipline, including 12 medals at major matches, with the most recent being at the 2004 Olympic Games.
This Italian dream was not made a reality overnight, but is a rich and beautifully complicated story like any major Italian saga.
A Stubborn, Young Boy
Daniele was just 16 and was already dreaming in the "gun valley" of Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, of one day becoming a shotgun maker. After knocking on many doors, he finally found a job as a warehouse assistant in a gun factory.
He was young and hungry, stuck in postwar Italy where most families struggled to put food on the table, but Daniele as determined. He begged the factory owners to let him assemble a single gun after work one night. This first attempt was a disaster, however on his second try, Daniele got it right creating his first hand-finished shotgun that later became a hallmark and legend in the Italian guncraft.
Soon afterward young Daniele became restless to find a true gunmaker job, and quickly found it in another company, Franchi—now owned by the Beretta Group. This new job seemed to be the crowning of all his dreams and after just one year at Franchi, already a legendary name in the trade by then, Daniele designed his first shotgun patent. But when he presented the new design to Franchi, they turned it down.
Disappointed, Daniele resigned from his post and sold the patent to his former employer's direct competitor shotgun manufacturer. With money in hand, Daniele set up his own workshop at his parent's home. He began making shotguns at all hours of the day, five days a week, and spent his weekends on the shooting fields in northern Italy, selling his precious hand-crafted products to shooters and hunters.
In 1957, only two years after setting up his own shop, the Daniele Perazzi brand was born. Little did he know that fame and success were right around the corner.
Perazzi's first major break came when Ennio Mattarelli, a famous Italian shooter, commissioned Daniele to make a hand-crafted over/under for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. Daniele agreed, using careful skill and generosity, while driving his hands and vision to the limits, knowing that a lifetime chance had arrived. With that shotgun Mattarelli won the Olympic gold, starting Daniele on a path to fame.
That event took the Italian and European shotgun manufacturing trade by storm. Other manufacturers were shocked that this 32-year-old "son of nobody" dared to step up against names like Beretta and Browning, with four centuries of gun making and some 20 generations of skilled workers in the history books, sweeping the competition away.
From there, the rest is history. Shooters from around the world dream to one day have a Perazzi in their hands—the perfect, ultimate tool, offering each individual the chance to stand upon the highest step of a world class or Olympic podium. The Perazzi over/under competition shotgun has become a synonym of unmatched quality, design and perfection.
An Industrial Method Like No Other
Many other gun manufacturers have tried repeatedly to copy Perazzi's unique industrial method of serving shooters with a true, tailored and custom-made shotgun, but no one else has managed to master the Perazzi way.
These shotguns are made industrially and then hand crafted one-by-one to strict specifications and individual wishes, in a time span which is simply impossible to master for any other manufacturer. Any shooter can walk into the factory at Botticino Mattina, Brescia, in the morning and leave with his or her own finished, Olympic-class over/under shotgun in the afternoon.
Many still wonder how this can be achieved, and the answer is simple—the factory must run like clockwork. Every morning, Daniele and Mauro are the first to arrive on the premises, and the last to leave, often working 10 to 12 hours a day, catering to clients and shooters' delegates from all over the world.
The procedure is simple, but extraordinary. A shooter arrives at the factory and has a brief discussion with Mauro about the model of the gun, the style of the stock, barrel length, finish and so on, browsing and comparing throughout the vast showroom. The client is then escorted to the stock measurement department, where a complicated machine-stock system takes all the fundamental biometric parameters of the shooter.
The adjusted machine stock will then receive the combined action and barrel set of the shotgun model chose. With this "mock gun" the shooter will proceed to the underground testing facility where corrections to the point of impact and shooting posture in relation to the shotgun will be taken and introduced to the mock gun.
After this, the doors of the atmosphere-controlled wood vault will be opened for the client—here, hundreds of top quality walnut stock and fore-end blanks worth millions sit for the client to choose from, in a range of prices for all budgets.
When the stock and fore-end blanks are chosen, the real magic starts. Both the blank and the mock-machine stock are set on a parallel, computer-controlled woodworking center, which will make a rough stock in approximately 30 minutes. This is normally when Mauro and his client take a coffee break.
From there, the stock is mounted on the real model gun chosen at the beginning of the process, for a second test fire—minor adjustments are again made at this stage if needed. If there are no changes, the gun will be taken to the finishing department where it will receive find cross-checkering, be sanded to a velvet touch, have the recoil pad installed, receive lacquering of the wood parts and be packed for transport.
If an oil finish, applied by hand, or further non-standard engraving and gold inlaying is required, the gun will be left at the factory for a time frame ranging from one week to a few months. This is necessary in order to allow staff to coat the stock and fore-end with over 100 hand-applied layers of True Oil, or for a complicated hunting scene or floral motifs to be hand scrolled on all surfaces of the metal work.
If the selected gun is chosen with standard finishes, the shooter can walk out of the Botticino Mattina facility with a new, custom-fit Perazzi over/under the same day.
The Tight Gulf Connection
In 1991, the Perazzi brand gained a strong Gulf connection when members of the Kuwait National Shooting Team were convinced by Massoud Hayat, a professional hunter and hobby shooter, to try the Perazzi MX8 over/under. Soon after switching to the Perazzi brand, the competitors saw results. The team's success in competition was so overwhelming that Hayat became the official Kuwait distributor of the Perazzi line.
This led to high visibility of the brand name in the Gulf area, which was heightened when His Highness Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, who was then shooting a Browning-Miroku, became a Perazzi user. He won gold in both trap and skeet in 1997 with an MX8.
With this success, the "fever" soon spread to His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also became a Perazzi shooter and secured a silver medal at the 2001 World Cup in Brazil, also using an MX8. Sheikh Ahmed has since alternated between shotgun brands over the years, while Sheikh Saeed has been a consistent Perazzi user.
Since becoming the owner of his first Perazzi, Sheikh Saeed has been to Italy to visit Daniele and Mauro many times, establishing a close relationship with the family and the company. His Highness has been a winning shooter for nearly a decade, contributing enormously to the visibility of the great Italian brand in the Arab world. Another native of Kuwait, Khaled Al Mudhaf, has since won a gold medal in Olympic trap, while his teammate, Ahmed Alafasi, took home a gold in double trap.
At present, over 20 Perazzi guns are marked as official "tools of the trade" for the Qatar National Shooting Team. Skilled team marksman Al Athba won a bronze medal at the 2003 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt, using his Perazzi MX2000.
The Next Half-Century
It is difficult to say what a giant brand name and company like Perazzi has planned for the future. It has reached legendary status, winning all there is to win in every shotgun discipline. Perazzi shotguns exemplify Italian style and beauty to the world, standing tall in the most exclusive collections of Hollywood stars such as Tom Selleck and Arnold Schwarzenegger, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and King Juan Carols of Spain.
It is believed that the secret to the Perazzi success lies in the family values of a truly extraordinary group of people. Mauro now leads the company with a contagious energy and an enlightening enthusiasm for all who surround him in giving shape to metal and wood like no other can do in the trade.
The image and visibility of the company is remarkable, with the "race red" color that has become a trademark, and the, perhaps not so casual, connection to another four-wheeled myth of Italian design and tradition. Today, the Perazzi name means success—from the ashes of World War II destruction, from famine and the ideological emptiness in which the young Italians of the early 1950s were grasping for a chance. The Perazzi saga proves that in the brief turn of one generation, nothing is impossible. It is a great lesson of achievement, strength and pride.
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