By Mike George
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Secondhand Beretta SO shotgun review: Tullio Marengoni must be the most famous gun designer that the majority of British shotgun shooters have never heard of.
GUN EXPERT: Mike George
USEFUL BUY: Beretta SO Sidelock shotguns
SECONDHAND COST: From £25,000
Unlike his contemporary, John M. Browning, he never had either a gun or a factory to bear his name, so who was he?
As his name suggests, he was an Italian, and in 1894 he went to work in the Beretta factory as an apprentice, So talented was he that in just ten years he had been appointed chief designer.
A constant stream of guns for sporting, military and law enforcement use rolled off his drawing board until his death in the mid 1960s.
There's no limit to the engraving styles you can choose from.
He had thus been a leading figure in gun design for more than 60 years.
His most famous sporting gun design was the much-respected SO sidelock which went on sale in 1935.
The story goes that he had examined John Browning's B25 boxlock, and wasn't impressed.
Beretta SO10 Field shotgun.
Apparently he found the Browning, with its full-width hinge pin and rather tall action to be unpleasing on the eye - perhaps an affront to his Italian sense of what is both elegant, as well as mechanically efficient.
His design was for a shallow-actioned gun more after the style of the English Boss O/U, and that's why every Beretta O/U to this day has a shallow action with the barrels hinged on stub pins.
His first Beretta SOs, which had double triggers, were - like the modern series - designed for both field and clay shooting.
Beretta SO10 Sporting shotgun.
Production slowed to a standstill as World War II approached, but resumed again when hostilities ceased.
The SO2 and competition models of the SO3 were introduced during the 1960s, while the SO4 made its debut in 1968. The SO4 Trap and Skeet models came out in the very early 1970s.
With the Italian traditional concentration of trap shooting, no guns specifically for the Sporting disciplines were available until the 1980s, and it was 1989 before the SO5 made its appearance in Skeet, Trap and Sporting variants.
The SO6 was a deluxe version. The SO9 came along in 1990, and was the first to be offered in small gauges, while the SO10 which was introduced in 2004, features a different locking system to previous models.
WHAT DO THEY COST?
The SO series has always represented value for money when compared to other top quality sidelocks.
That doesn't mean they are cheap, and the least expensive currently available new, the SO5, is just over £17,000 (importer's recommended retail price).
Beretta SO6 Field shotgun.
The SO6, in three different engraving patterns, is £29,800.
Most expensive is the SO10, with the basic model at £44,825, and the top-of-the-range SO10 EELL over £52,000.
On the second-hand market there are not many guns for sale at the moment, but you might pick up an old double-trigger SO2 in good condition for its age as cheaply as £2,500.
Beretta SO5 Sporting shotgun.
After that the sky really is the limit. Most of the guns are fixed choke but there are a few multichokes around.
Also bear in mind that, like many top-quality guns, some SOs have been built to special order, so you may find specifications at variation from standard.
POINTS TO WATCH FOR
SOs have no particular known vices, but bear in mind that older guns, particularly the competition models, may have fired many thousands of cartridges.
And, as with all sidelocks, pay particular attention to the woodwork when buying second hand.
Beretta SO shotgun stock.
Any well-used gun may have picked up the occasional bruise, but any crack is really bad news.
A replacement stock can cost an arm and a leg! Unlike other Beretta models, SO barrels are not generally internally chromed.
Instead, they are made of a grade of steel called Bohler Antinit, which is extremely strong as well as being corrosion resistant.
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