The Dame is a solid-frame double gun, there’s no dropping down of the barrels, released to open by means of a top-snap lever. For this reason the stock can be — and is — a one-piece affair. If the inletting at and around the receiver is examined it’ll be obvious that here is a hell of an inletting job. I don’t think there are a dozen stockmakers here who’d want to replace a busted Darne stock — not without an aggravation bonus!
The Darne breechblock is a sliding one; the side-projecting “ears” are grasped between the thumb and first fingers, drawing it back, and the operating lever — swinging vertically in a central channel in the block — is pulled smartly upward and backward. That movement pulls fired cases fully out of the chambers; unfired cartridges are extracted only for a short distance. A roll of the gun to either side, after fired-case extractions, lets the empties fall to the ground or, if you’re a reloader, into your hand. Darne calls this “automatic ejection,” but cases are not kicked clear and away, as we know happens with the usual ejectors. Semantics, maybe, nevertheless their system works.
All double-gun barrels converge from breech to muzzle. In all other doubles but Darnes, as far as I know, the loaded shotshell lies in a slightly cocked position because the standing breech is not at 90° to the long axis of the barrels. In the Darne this has been fixed — each half of the standing breech carries an obturating disk, these angled a small amount, just enough to bring them into exact square with each converging barrel.
Not very important? These flanged disks, completely encircling the shell rim, are an aid to gas containment if a rim lets go. In addition, and because Darne guns are carefully gauged to have minimum chambers and headspace, Darne claims reduced recoil, increased gas thrust on the shot charge for more velocity, and better patterns. In fact, Darne fully guarantees that their barrels, in whatever gauges and lengths, will pattern 72% to 82%. That “warrenteed” performance, note, was made before the advent of plastic shotshells and their enhanced patterning qualities.
All Darne guns, by the way, are fully guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship for 5 years! They’re also approved by “Quality France” (an honor not lightly obtained), an organization which makes sure that French products live up to their manufacturer’s claims — sort of an industrial ombudsman.
The single trigger is not highly regarded in Europe, so Darne guns, like the others, have two triggers, but with the front one hinged. Trigger pulls are, in my experience, crisp and of moderate weight. I snapped some 7 or 8 guns during the factory visit, none of which showed any drag or excess heaviness. My sample Darne (which I’ll describe later) has triggers that weigh, consistently, about 4–5 lbs. rear and front — and they’re snappy.
Darne barrels are sleeved, that is, mounted into the breech sections via the “monobloc” system, a long-tested technique that offers various advantages — greater strength because the breech sleeve can be heat treated to better properties than conventional systems, and for less heat in assembly than is the case with brazed lumps.
Two styles of top ribs are furnished — a normal raised rib (not ventilated) and their “Plume” rib, the type sometimes called “swamped” also. This one drops away from its level position at the breech to lie between the barrels all the way to the muzzle — in effect, there is no top rib. The Plume rib is the type to specify if you want the Darne gun to be ultra light. As you’ll see, you can get them that way from Darne — no problem.
Darnes are made in all gauges extant — 10, 12, 12⁄3″, 16, 20 and 28, plus one you won’t want — 24! I don’t think the 24s are very popular in France, either. Barrel lengths — standard is 27.6″ (70cm), but lengths in 25.6″ (65cm), 26.8″ (68cm), 28.4″ (72cm), 30″ (75cm) and 32″ (80cm) can be had. All Darne barrels, price range regardless, are given the heaviest French proving — the Triple Proof Test — equal to 8¼ tons psi, and the fully finished guns are again proved at chamber pressure ranging from 5.4 tons to 7.7, the exact psi depending on chamber length.
All of the specs cited apply to standard Darne guns — those that can be bought over the counter from any of Darne’s world network of agents. However, Darne has long been geared to a custom gun setup — they’ll make one up with virtually anything the customer wants — stock woods, engraving, barrel lengths and chokes, whatever. All you have to do it name it — and, of course, pay for it!
As I’ve said, Darne guns are elegant and graceful, light and excellently balanced — yet they’re tough, too, and made to take it. The V22 grade gun loaned to me (while my special order Darne is being made) weighs just 6 lbs., and that’s a standard weight for them.
Heavier ones can be had, of course, and lighter ones as well in the smaller gauges. The Model V22 has Darne’s standard stock dimensions — 1½” at the comb nose, 2¼” at heel, and a pull of 14¼”-15¼” to the rear and forward triggers. I need a pull of 14¾”, and I like a comb cut to 13⁄8″ or a hair less, hence my special order — it hasn’t arrived yet, unfortunately, so there won’t be any pictures of it here.
The V22 has 27.6″ barrels, and for that reason it hasn’t been as handy as I’d have liked in the woodcock thickets I got into last fall. The one on order will have their 25.6″ tubes, which I think will help in like conditions. On the other hand, managing to get in a few days of pheasant hunting last year, I found the Dame a delight to carry and to shoot. I’d worked up some 2¾ dram loads, using an ounce of 6s, and when I was on ‘em they fell.
That light load produced no bothersome recoil, either, but I had slipped on a Pachmayr rubber pad to lengthen the pull. That doubtless helped. Recoil, it seemed to me, felt about like a 3¼-1¼ load would in a gun of 7–7½ pounds.
Stoeger marketed the Darne until recently — and they may still have some on hand — but now there’s a new importer — Firearms Center, Inc., 113 Spokane, Victoria, TX 77901. They’ll have basic models in stock, they say, but any of the many grades may be ordered. FCI hasn’t established firm prices, so far, but they are selling the Darnes on the company’s standard 5-year warranty. How can you go wrong?
This article is an excerpt from the Greatest Guns of Gun Digest. Click here to get your copy
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About the Author: John T. Amber was the Editor of the Gun Digest annual book from the 1951 through 1979 editions, and served as Editor Emeritus from the 1980 through 1986 editions.
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