For sheer style as well as ingenuity, few can match brothers Elio and Remigio Bertuzzi who were the owners and entire workforce of the company that bore their name. Together they produced some of the most astonishing shotguns in the world, everyone a collector’s item from the moment it left the workshop. And a tiny workshop it was too, especially considering the quality of work that took place there. In a space scarcely bigger than the average garage, the brothers produced just a handful of guns each year – guns of a quality that leaves everyone seeing a Bertuzzi for the first time, speechless! Like so many in the valley, the Bertuzzi’s were following in a family tradition, the fourth generation of master craftsmen. They learned their skills alongside their father and grandfather, starting while still at school, and striking out on their own following the death of their grandfather in 1976. Sadly, with no offspring who wished to succeed them, they retired, their Italian manufacturing license surrendered and there will never ever again be another F.lli Bertuzzi sporting firearm produced!
Making all remaining F.lli Bertuzzi shotguns in existence today investments beyond currency.
In those early days, their output was fairly conventional – sidelock and boxlock side-by-sides in the style of the top London makers. Elder brother Remigio was the specialist in metal, Elio a master stocker. A taste for the unusual began to emerge, however, not least in the ‘Ariette’ model, an over-and-under single trigger hammer gun, that demonstrated a desire to create gunmaking problems just to see if they could be solved. This model used to be built to scale in all bores from a 12 to .410.
Like most of the bespoke Italian trade, Bertuzzi had responded to changing demand by increasing output of over-and-under guns and, again like most of their peers, they looked to London – and specifically Boss & Co – for inspiration. The brothers were on record as saying that they regard the Boss over-and-under as ‘the best gun in the world’ and unashamedly set out to emulate this classic design. That they succeeded is beyond doubt and many would now argue that they had gone beyond the levels set by Boss & Co in the golden age. The shotgun that had done this is called the Zeus and at first glance it appears a near replica of the Boss – an over under sidelock ejector of elegant proportions and fine detailing.
The Zeus came in two formats. A normal sidelock ejector, if the word normal can really be applied to Bertuzzi sporting firearms, but the most extraordinary and rarest of all formats being the ‘Ali di Gabbiano’ or Gullwing.
Push forward the safety catch beyond the normal ‘off’ position and prepare to be surprised, delighted and amazed. The lockplates spring forward, to stand at 90 degrees to the action, revealing exquisitely detailed lockwork below. Bertuzzi called them ‘Ali di Gabbiano’ or ‘Gullwings’, although the term ‘Flying Locks’ is also sometimes used.
The lockwork itself is attached to an inner plate rather than the sideplate as on a normal sidelock.
Highly polished tumblers, engraved pinheads and gold detailing indicate that the Zeus is very much for show. Close the plates again and you simply can not see the join. So precise is the fitting, aided by skillful engraving, that it is almost impossible to tell the ‘Ali di Gabbiano’ Zeus from a conventional gun. If the side-by-side configuration is your preference, then the same feature can be seen on the ‘Ali di Gabbiano’ ‘Venere’, with its Holland & Holland style lockwork.
For gunmaking of this quality, only engraving by the very best will do. Over the years, the list of engravers who have worked on Bertuzzi guns reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Italian engraving with Torcoli, Terzi, Giancarlo and Stefano Pedretti, Fracassi, Gianfranco Pedersoli, Dassa, Valerio Peli, Firmo Fracassi, Angelo Galeazzi and the world renowned studio, Creative Art, all having been employed at some time. In later years, Manrico Torcoli’s signature appeared more than most, his distinctive ‘fantasy’ style a match for the technical tour de force of the gun.
Needless to say, work of this quality (and rarity) did and does not come cheap. Each new Bertuzzi Ala di Gabbiano (Gullwing) was usually spoken for long before completion. One of only 12 that will ever be produced. This stunning example is engraved by one of the masters of Italian Bulino engraving, Firmo Fracassi. Visit us in Bernardsville or Hudson Farm, even if just to view this unique piece of artistry and mechanical genius”.
Guy Bignell, current Griffin & Howe President, has a long association with the Bertuzzi brand and has managed to secure a number of Bertuzzi shotguns over the last few years. Since 2006, Griffin & Howe has been in the privileged position of having had thirty-one Bertuzzi sporting firearms pass through their portal. Given the diminutive total output of Remigio & Elio during their career, this is privilege indeed.
The total production of ‘Ali di Gabbiano’, side-by-side and over-under is believed to be twelve. Two are believed to have remained in the care of their makers, Elio and Remigio.
Griffin & Howe has been blessed with eight examples. Two have been acquired by their new custodians in 2012 and 2013, changing hands at US$240,000.00 and US$270,000.00 respectively.
Leaving only six Ali di Gabbiano, currently available at Griffin & Howe and awaiting their new home (or homes), dependent upon the seriousness and depth of passion of the true aficionado/s!
One example was known to be in Europe. It came to auction in London in 2005. Bearing serial number 6000, a very fine Torcoli and Ferrante engraved 12-bore ‘Ali di Gabbiano’, over-and-under sidelock ejector by F.lli Bertuzzi. It was withdrawn..
Actual prices were rarely disclosed, although the phrase ‘six figures’ is muttered, (and that was pounds not dollars!). Suffice to say that if you need to ask, you probably can not or do not wish to, afford it!