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CA Guns & Hunting: Dickinson Impala

CA Guns & Hunting: Dickinson Impala Plus shotgun crunches clays

BY STEVE COMUS/Cal. Guns & Hunting Guns EditorPublished: Nov 09, 2017

Dickinson is a brand that just keeps growing and growing in the number and variety of shotgun models it is bringing to market. The Impala Plus is still another line of semi-autos designed to fit into today’s shooting styles.

cgh_comus_authorgetsAUTHOR GETS INTO the swing of things with the Dickinson Impala Plus sporting clays shotgun.

At its heart, the Impala Plus is an inertia semi-auto with a six-lug rotary locking system. To explain, the inertia system is one of three major semi-auto shotgun designs. The other two are recoil and gas operation. All use the energy of the cartridge to cycle the action.

In the inertia system, recoil energy from the shell pushes back on the bolt face, which has rotated and moved forward to lock before the shot. At the shot, the recoil energy pushes back on the bolt face, causing it to rotate back. Then the bolt is pushed rearward, ejecting the empty cartridge case, and then picking up a new round from the magazine on its way back forward and into battery.

Recoil systems use the recoil energy to push the bolt back, ejecting the empty on the way back and then picking up a new round when it returns forward into battery. There are various ways that recoil systems harness the energy, but they basically just use the recoil energy directly to cycle the action.

Gas systems operate when a small hole or holes in the barrel bleed off the high-pressure powder gas pressure from a cartridge, using that pressure to move a form of piston that pushes rearward on rods that connect to the bolt, forcing the bolt rearward, ejecting the empty and then picking up a fresh round, etc.

There are benefits and limitations to all designs. For example, it is necessary to keep gas guns clean, because the powder gasses leave residue that can gum up the works.

cgh_comus_dickinsonimpalaDICKINSON IMPALA PLUS 12-gauge sporting clays shotgun is handsome and shoots straight.

All semi-autos are ammo sensitive in that there are limits to the range of ammunition they can use that will still cycle their actions properly. These limits are well within the standard range of hunting and target loads, so this need not be a significant concern. Those who do have such concerns can address the situation easily by opting for a pump action gun.

For this article, an Impala Plus sporting clays model was examined. Although the basic action could be used in hunting shotguns, this rig is setup for crunching clays.

The 32-inch barrel lends to handling dynamics that are superb. Overall balance is slightly toward the muzzle, which is nice for sporting purposes. Swings tend to be smoother while the forward weighting isn’t pronounced enough to interfere with quick, effective pointing. The same gun with 30-inch barrel likely would have a neutral feeing in this regard (I prefer the slight weight-forward). The blue/black finish on the outside of the barrel is super shiny and really smooth. This is the kind of finish one expects on top grade target guns.

A quick look at this sporting gun shouts out that it is not a waterfowling or turkey hunting shotgun. The red and black color scheme reminds me of my college colors. Literally, the gun exudes “fun” at first blush.

The shape of the synthetic stock and forend is sleek, with the Monte Carlo comb on the buttstock serving to put the eye in direct alignment with the top of the ventilated rib on the barrel. That’s the long way of saying that the gun shoots where the shooter looks. For some head/face configurations, it might result in a slightly high pattern, but probably not more than 5 percent or so. Put another way, it precludes needing to cover the target with the muzzle to hit the target. Traditionally, it was thought that sporting guns should shoot totally flat. More recently, many shooters prefer them to shoot just a tad high (not like a trap gun, but not like a vintage side-by-side either).

IMPALA PLUS IS easy to disassemble for cleaning and normal maintenance. It comes with interchangeable choke tubes and stock spacers that can alter cast and comb height.

The barrel comes with a standard bead front sight, but also includes a plastic wrap-around attachment for a fiber optic sight. This attachment is so light that it doesn’t noticeably affect handling, yet makes it easy to change fiber optic sight color, etc.

Also, the fiber optic part of that front sight is a bead higher than the plain bead sight. This is an interesting way of controlling pattern placement, either up or down.

The rather bulbous contour of the fiber optic base doesn’t impede anything – at least not for me. But then again, I have no trouble with guns fitted with Cutts compensators or PolyChokes. If that feature is a problem, simply slide it off and use the bead.

The Impala Plus comes with five interchangeable choke tubes (skeet, IC, Mod, Imp Mod and full), a choke tube wrench and spacer adjustment shims that go between the stock and receiver that can move the point of impact up, down, right and left. Handy when it comes to fine-tuning a gun to shoot just where the shooter wants it to shoot.

The magazine holds four rounds, and the gun comes with a handy magazine plug that limits capacity to two. For clay shooting where two is the most loaded, this is moot. Speaking of the magazine, however, it is significant to note that the follower is metal, not plastic. Plastic followers can work fine, but over time if they are soaked with solvent and/or allowed to get cruddy, they can interfere with the operation of the action. Metal followers pretty well preclude that problem from ever happening. Again, nice touch.

The barrel will chamber 2¾- and 3-inch shells. The smooth trigger pull had let-off right at 6½ pounds. Not bad for such a gun. Certainly, the trigger did not inhibit shooting.

cgh_comus_frontsightonFRONT SIGHT ON Impala Plus includes a plain metal bead as well as a fiber optic sight that is part of a slide-on clamp.

Disassembly and reassembly of the gun are both easy and intuitive. The owner’s manual is easy to follow for those not familiar with the mechanics of semi-auto shotguns.

Once disassembled, it is heartening to see that the inside of the alloy receiver is finished off as well as the outside. Nice touch, and something that reflects overall good workmanship. There are steel inserts on the left side and top of the inside of the receiver that serve as tracks for the cycling bolt. Again, nice touch and something that precludes wear.

There has been a lot of thought put into this model, both in design and execution. Use of CNC machines makes a lot of this possible, but the Impala Plus, as its name implies, goes the extra distance and offers more.

In the shooting, factors that popped out were how quickly the gun responds. This is a “quick” gun. That’s nice for close, fast-moving targets. Yet, it tracked the longer targets extremely smoothly – much like a high-end over/under.

The instruction manual mentions that sometimes it takes a few boxes of ammo through such guns to get them broken in. The test gun worked fine, right from the start. However, it might be noted that this particular gun didn’t like some of the lighter reloads, but did cycle all normal factory ammo without a hitch.

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