Cogswell & Harrison Certus in .308 Winchester - in depth rifle review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin presents his review of the Cogswell & Harrison Certus in .308 Winchester
Steady, reliable performance if nothing particularly ground-breaking
Trigger can be tweaked for best results
No forend stud for a bipod as standard, although easily added
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Trigger needs a tweak for best results
Another gun that just keeps things simple and will perform day in day out for proper hunting needs. The stock design, handling, ergonomics and feel were outstanding to my mind.
Calibre: .308 Win (223 and 243 also available)
Trigger: Single stage 1250 gr
Barrel: 20” Fluted
Rate of twist: 1 in 12”
Length of Pull: 365mm/14.3”
Scope Mounting: Weaver bases supplied
Recommended retail price: £675.00
Contact: 00 353 41 6853711
Swarovski Z6i 2-12x50
Winchester 150gr Extreme Point ammunition,
Browning UK, 01235 514550
Lapua 150gr Mega Soft Point ammunition
Viking Arms, 01423 780810
Ramshot Powders, Sierra Bullets and 165gr PPU soft point ammunition
Henry Krank & Co. 0113 256 9163,
Norma 180gr ORYX,
RUAG, 01579 362319
Cogswell & Harrison (C&H) was founded in 1770 by Benjamin Cogswell. In 1863, his son Benjamin Jr took Edward Harrison into partnership to form a company whose name is now listed as the oldest surviving London gunmaker. The original Certus rifle, dating from 1900, was designed to take on the formidable Mannlicher and Mauser names and offered a magazine rifle at a lower cost to the British sportsman.
Travel 246 years on and I have received two new Certus rifles: one in rimfire, the other – the subject of this review – a centrefire .308 Winchester variant.
As a reviewer, I find it difficult not to see the physical truth quickly, and so it was impossible for me not to spot the direct origin of the latest Certus. It is marked clearly as ‘Made in Italy’ and is basically a Sabatti. Now we take many rebranded Italian-made shotguns as the norm, yet rifles have always seemed a little more discreet when it comes to ancestry, with styling tweaks and specification changes; few are seen here on the C&H Certus. This is by no means a bad thing, though. A good rifle is a good rifle, and there is far more to guns in this price bracket than name alone.
The sporter-weight Certus Synthetic is a good-looking gun straight from the box, with clean lines and no irritating controls or features to snag. It has a 20” stainless barrel, hammer forged with a well-cut crown and a 1/2” threaded muzzle for a sound moderator. It is a medium sporter contour with a satin bead-blasted finish, which minimises corrosion staining, marks, and glaring in bright light all the way back to the action.
This shows an upper projecting from the stock in a half octagonal shape above a flat-bottomed lower, all mating precisely with the stock, and a solid recoil lug fitting within a forward pocket to transfer recoil. Torquing the fasteners up and down showed little bedding stress. Upper surfaces are gently radiused to match the Remington 700 profile for a massive range of scope-mounting solutions, which is a wise move – I hate awkward scope mounts! A pair of aluminium Weaver bases fitted with twin Torx screws for simple progress were supplied. I attached a Swarovski Z6i 2-12x50 scope without a moment’s hesitation. I wish other rifles were this quick to set up.
The left side of the action shows a bolt release catch to the rear with a larger thumb-operated safety catch adjacent to the right side. It has a broad serrated head and is quiet to operate, but I had the chance to try it alongside an identical looking Sabatti, and it did show differences.
When operating, backwards locks the bolt on ‘safe’ to block the trigger sear, with forwards allowing the rifle to ‘fire’. There was a very slight detent when pushing the safety catch forward, which made you think there might be a second stage allowing the bolt to be opened on safe and enabling the gun to be unloaded, but this was just a minor tactile glitch and the safety catch was in fact simply two stages. I suspect after use and ‘wearing the gun in’ a little, this will become smoother and disappear.
The standard Sabatti showed neither tendency with a simple two-stage catch, and I have been left with the conclusion that this gun should have been identical, and the feel of the intermediate stage was down to a flaw in the catch detents. The gun was in no way unsafe when treated like a normal two-position safety, so please do not think it was a dangerous fault; it was just very unusual, and probably the result of a burr or glitch somewhere in the works. Treated as a two-position catch, all was well.
Bolt shaft, handle and shroud were all steel and functioned faultlessly, feeding and cycling all ammunition with simplicity from a push-feed bolt face within twin locking lugs. A single extractor claw recessed within the bolt face provided effective primary and secondary extraction of fired cases, with the former powered by the bolt handle coming open against the rear of the action.
It is fairly unashamedly Remington 700 in basic design with a few updated tweaks that Remington themselves should have made long ago. The shaft is a polished finish running smoothly in the action, and the 60mm ball-ended handle is blued to contrast with the rest of the gun, yet blends nicely with the stock. Its 20mm ball end lifts 90 degrees to operate, following the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle of keeping things uncomplicated so they work effortlessly, with a plunger ejector flinging spent brass well clear of the open-topped action.
Three rounds slot into a single-column magazine. An extra will fit in the chamber if required, and single rounds dropped onto the magazine follower will feed cleanly for backup shots. Magazines drop clear of the action under their own weight when a release lever within the front of the trigger guard is pressed, and the full metal construction feels totally dependable and likely to resist wear well. Aluminium is used again for the bottom metal/trigger guard assembly to surround a blued steel trigger blade, which is quite deeply curved but comfortable in use with good reach to pull from the grip. There was a tiny bit of creep in the 1,250gr break which, although not ideal, was fairly acceptable and pretty easy to get used to. The trigger guard was spacious with plenty of room for gloved fingers.
If the action and barrel were fairly plain, the stock most certainly wasn’t. Manufacturers are slowly catching up, especially Europeans, on the notion that a bad stock will kill a good rifle, and the Certus has an absolute beauty of a stock.
I don’t love thumbholes on sporters as far too often they can be utterly useless when ambidextrous shots need to be taken, and it can be slow to feed your thumb back into the hole, but here no such problems occur. It is injection-moulded but stiff throughout its entire length, floating the barrel all the way back to the action in any shooting position. Chequering is deep and crisp at both fore-end and vertical pistol grip, with simple sling studs firmly sited front and rear.
I would have liked to have seen a lower stud fitted for a bipod, but this is a five-minute job after purchase, and the stock was totally capable of accepting such a modification. I’m surprised C&H haven’t specified it, as there is a moulded reinforcement lug in position internally already.
The bridge, spanning from the upper of the pistol grip to the comb, swells and arcs gracefully into existence, and flows smoothly into the high, slender comb, featuring a modest cheekpiece below on the left. It runs straight through to an inch-thick (25mm), solid recoil pad that both absorbs and transfers recoil well to the shoulder. A C&H company logo is moulded into the surface. It is grippy and retains its position when planted onto your clothing too – a feature I demand.
The lower end of the grip, below a modest palm swell, shows it ‘bridge’ again to the underside of the butt, through to the toe of the stock. This bridge is not actually at the base of the grip; it flows through the heel of your hand between the meat at the base of the thumb and the bonier centre of your palm for a really solid anchor. It really is nice, and the metal cap with a C&H logo on the grip finishes off a damn good job. In my opinion, top marks!
A 365mm length of pull (14.3”) fits me perfectly and the reach to trigger shows great ergonomics to get the best from its performance. With a thumbhole that is huge for quick re-application of your hand, yet which retains a look of diminutive significance, I really liked this stock – as can you tell! I
t is cast for a right-handed shooter but shot well left-handed on the odd occasions it might be required to do so, although as of now, I’m unaware of a true left-handed rifle option. Rather than just being a hole for your thumb, this newer bridged-style structure between pistol grip and butt stock, in a conventionally bulky design, is definitely the way forwards. I still don’t think they are quite as quick to get hand to bolt and back as a non-thumbhole unit, but they do feel very good, with head position and ergonomics to increase comfort while reducing operator stress. You have a better hold on the gun with less force required to grip it.
Given the Sabatti looks, I was interested to see if it showed the ‘Multi Radial Rifling’ the company offer on some of their own products, but available information, and a borescope inspection, left me to believe it was a conventional lands/grooves configuration. This isn’t a real downside as the normal barrel concept is well proven, to say the least.
Given the fact I couldn’t shoot it from a bipod, I used an especially heavy range bag from the bench to wrap the fore-end with sufficient firmness. I could be deliberately aggressive with the gun handling to tempt fore-end flexibility, but all worked well. The .308 is no aggressive shooter, but will highlight a bad stock very quickly with snappy characteristics attributable to the small but potent calibre. No such traits were shown with the Cogswell & Harrison which was a very pleasurable gun to shoot.
I tried ammunition from a variety of sources in the 150-180gr weight bracket that I prefer in a hunting rifle. As always, handloads got a better performance from the gun, but as a factory rifle with factory ammo, it happily printed anything into 1 1/2” groups at 100m, from inexpensive PPU to expensive Norma Oryx. A definite preference for Winchester’s Extreme Point load emerged. Even from a 20” tube it delivered 2,745fps (836m/s) for 2,510ft/lbs, which will flatten pretty much anything UK based.
Accuracy with this brand hovered between 20-30mm (0.8-1.2”) for three-round groups, but varied little in terms of overall position regardless of rate of fire, cold barrel or hot tube. Trigger control was important and if you snatch and grab you would be punished badly. I won’t say this is a one-hole rifle. I won’t tell you it is anything groundbreaking mechanically, technologically, with regards to metallurgical performance, or with respect to coatings and corrosion resistance.
What it is, is a very honest gun that eschews all hype and offers you one of the best stocks I have ever shot with. This is the foundation of how any gun fits you, teaches you to shoot and allows you to extract the intrinsic functionality and accuracy from within it. I’d happily carry it any day.
It points and balances well, accepts scopes easily, and won’t break the bank. I think it looks good too – it looks more expensive than it is! Get a good gunsmith to tweak the trigger – it is accessible and can be done with competence – and go and enjoy shooting it!
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