By Mike Yardley
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Gun reviews: Beretta 687 EELL shotgun: The Beretta 687 EELL is one of the most functional and aesthetic shotguns you can buy.
Beretta 687 EELL shotgun.
The new EELL is based on the well proven 68 series/Silver Pigeon action with sideplates fitted.
Apart from its atypical decoration, the test gun sports fixed chokes, 30in barrels and a single selective trigger (interchangeable chokes and 28in tubes are options).
As we are used to seeing EELLs with game scenes, this new, scroll engraved style calls for a second glance to determine precisely what the gun is.
As well as fairly tight scrollwork on the action body and sideplates, there is a large, horizontally set, fleur-de-lis like motif near the front of the sideplates and a branch and bouquet near the middle.
It all looks competent but the additions break up the symmetry of the lockplate decoration. My preference - and this sort of stuff is very personal - would have been for tight scroll all over.
Presentation of the gun is generally well up to the mark, however. The woodwork is just what most British shooters will want with regard to both form and (oil) finish.
The wood of the test gun is especially well figured. I noted two slight flaws in the grain of the butt towards its middle. These become a problem only if the wall of the stock is excessively thin (Beretta usually hollows its EELL stock to a degree to reduce weight).
The stock shapes were sensible, as were the dimensions. The butt has a good taper to its comb and a comfortable, well-chequered grip. The fore-end is classic Schnabel and well chequered, too. (If the lip offends you, it might easily be removed by a competent stocker to create a more rounded style, which would allow the front hand to be placed farther forward.)
The gun measures a whisker under 14¾in long (including a wooden buttplate), with 1.3/8in and 2¼in for drop at the nose of the comb and heel respectively. I liked the wider-than-average radius of the grip, too, and the width of the comb and fore-end - thick enough to give good purchase and control, but slim enough to enhance elegant lines.
The gun handled well. It was not too heavy - just over 7lb - and it was well balanced (slightly forward of the hinge-pin). One did not feel the barrels were too heavy, as one sometimes does with factory-made multi-choked guns.
The fixed chokes allow for the monobloc barrels to be made to a first class specification for weight. To be more precise, they weighed just under 1,400g (all Italian guns are marked with regard to their barrel weight). Barrels with dedicated interchangeable chokes must be made thicker - and hence heavier - especially at the muzzles.
The EELL mounted reassuringly well.
There was sufficient weight for it to be steady and controllable but not so much as to make it feel slow to mount or swing. There is significant weight between the hands (sideplated Berettas are superior in this respect) and not too much at the muzzles, thanks to fixed chokes and a narrow rib.
I might have argued that a solid rib design would make this set of barrels even better, but I shall rest content on this occasion - these monobloc barrels made from really tough chrome-moly steel look and feel good.
They are 3in (76mm) chambered, bear Italian proof marks (reassuringly, they have been tested at 1370 BAR), and are suitable for steel shot.
A long time ago Beretta used to make a sideplated over-under called a 57EL. The 50 series in its various forms was a simpler design than earlier Berettas. Designed for mass production from the off, this gun combined bifurcated lumps with a unique and brilliantly simple conical bolt locking system.
In the Seventies Beretta switched to 68 series guns and in the early Eighties introduced two new sideplated guns - the EL scroll and the more finely finished EELL.
EELLs are distinguished by their engraving. Although primarily applied by rolling presses, this is a labour-intensive business. After the rolling process (which involves a dozen or so specialist machines, each applying part of the pattern), 25 to 30 hours of hand time are required to finish the work using traditional tools.
I watched the process some years ago at the studio of Cesare Giovanelli - a master engraver responsible for many Beretta engraving patterns and the specialist machinery used to apply them - and was surprised by how much handwork was involved in so-called 'machine engraving'.
This gun shot as expected. It moved well but there was sufficient weight to control recoil. It is the sort of gun that one can shoot consistently.
Trigger pulls were reasonable (brilliance in this department is something that one finds in leafspring guns such as the Beretta S/O sidelocks; stock shapes were especially good; and the narrow rib suited it well.
For a high-volume shooter, I can think of no better gun than the EELL for sustained field use.
Scroll or game, and a little bit more expensive than it was because of the Euro exchange rate, it will not disgrace itself in any company, aesthetically speaking, and offers good value.
Small-bore models are available - 20, 28 and .410 - not to mention slightly heavier sporters that might also be put to good use on high birds.
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