Can the Beretta 690 Field III, the long-term successor to Beretta’s venerable 686 line, make a mark in a competitive market?
For the past 30 years or more the only real question many sportsmen and women have asked themselves when buying a new gun has been a simple one: Beretta or Browning? The likes of Beretta’s 680 line and Browning’s 525 and now 725 have long dominated most buyers’ thinking when looking for a gun in the £2,000 – £3,000 region. Given the quality of handling, reliability, after sales care and aesthetic appeal that these guns offer, this should hardly come as a shock.
With the addition of the 690 line, Beretta now sells five products in the UK all based around the same action for less than £3,000. One has to wonder, therefore, quite where this latest gun fits in, especially given the firm only released its line of guns based on the SV10 chassis five years ago. Essentially, the Beretta 690 Field III is the game version of the 692 Sporter clay gun released in 2013, and Beretta hopes it will eventually replace the 680 line, which has its origins in the 1970s.
Beretta has not made drastic changes to the design or presentation of its new gun – it looks every inch the classic Beretta. There is the same low-profile receiver but with larger hinge-pins and a stronger locking system, and familiar 3″ chamber multichoke barrels made from Beretta’s Steelium alloy, which it claims to be lighter and stronger than ever.
The Beretta 690 Field III is prettier than the average Beretta with higher grade walnut featuring some lovely figuring and a pleasant – if a little light – oil finish. The grain on our test gun was very straight through the hand and into the action body, promising plenty of strength. The fore-end is nicely rounded and as you would expect on a new gun, the chequering is well executed, if a little coarse. There is plenty of wood left on the gun, however, with quite a visible step from the stock down on to the action body.
Attractive carved fences sit atop a new engraving design on the action, with acanthus leaves and large game scenes featuring a flushed partridge on one side and a pheasant on the other, with some tight border work. The game scenes stand out thanks to the raised cheeks of the action and overall the engraving is attractive and well executed, though a little shallow as is always the case on mass-produced guns.
There are a few other visual quirks with the Beretta 690 Field III – some more welcome than others. The automatic safety catch features a break from Beretta’s usual barrel-selection indicator with a single red dot above or below a white dot indicating which barrel is selected to fire first. This is much clearer than the more common design and will be particularly useful for those new to over-under guns.
The silver sight bead and bright finish to the action body are attractive but also mean the eye is invariably drawn to the odd matt black ceramic finish to the fore-end iron and the housing of the Deeley edge fore-end release lever.
Though Beretta claims this makes the gun stronger and more reliable, the look of these parts is a distraction alongside the polished black metal of the barrels. It leaves the gun feeling a little piecemeal visually. In spite of this, the 690 is attractive enough and certainly looks worth its increased price over the likes of a Silver Pigeon. At 7lbs. 8oz. with the 30” barrels of our test gun, the Beretta 690 Field III comes in a little over its advertised weight, but it by no means feels heavy and as with any Beretta gun, is impeccably balanced.
Indeed, in the hand you will soon forget about any qualms you might have about appearance. This is a lovely gun to shoot, coming to the shoulder beautifully with excellent trigger pulls and dealing with recoil as well as you would expect.
So in conclusion the appearance will appeal to some more than others but on the basis of its performance, engineering and reliability I can wholeheartedly recommend the Beretta 690 Field III and it certainly feels like a worthy addition to Beretta’s lineage.
View from the gunshop of the Beretta 690 Field III
While first impressions are good, it’s clear Beretta’s latest offering is not intended to be revolutionary – though of course that’s almost certainly not the intention given it costs what some will pay for a day’s shooting. I suspect that for buyers set on a Beretta and looking for something a little more special than a Silver Pigeon but not convinced by the visually different SV10 models, the 690 will be very popular indeed.
The gun is an evolution of the classic Beretta design with a low-profile action that’s essentially mechanically identical to its other guns, though with a few small changes to improve overall strength and reliability. Whether these changes are necessary is up for debate, as we very rarely see broken Berettas in our workshop!
Visually the gun certainly looks worth the price with lovely wood and plenty of engraving. The carved fences and raised cheeks for the vignette game scenes are a particularly pleasant addition, though elsewhere it could be argued that the gun lacks a little visual refinement. The matt finish on the fore-end iron and the dark recoil-reducing pad stand out somewhat against the lighter wooden parts of the gun. Though this is common on new Berettas, some might prefer a deeper colour to the oil finish on the wooden parts. There is also quite a step down from the stock to the action body.
Though certainly not doing anything radically different, the 690 Field III seems well set in the market at this price and I am certain it will be popular. As the vanguard for Beretta’s new line, it certainly makes a solid impression and bodes well for future models.
In the field with the Beretta 690 Field III
Shooting instructor Bruce Marks and I gave this new 690 a proper test on an autumnal day at Grange Farm Shooting School in north Cambridgeshire and came away impressed.
While the gun left me feeling a little cold visually, the way it shot won me over thanks to the way it sprang into the shoulder and moved with an ease and fluidity I had not expected.
Mounting was consistently good, with Beretta’s chunky new recoil-reducing butt-plate never sticking in the shoulder region of my shooting jacket as they sometimes do.
The Beretta 690 Field III moved nicely on driven targets and was effortless on crossing clays, with tremendous trigger pulls. The excellent sight plain provided by the top rib cut in a diamond pattern also made shooting instinctive and smooth.
The rounded fore-end was very comfortable, and the slim semi-pistol grip should suit most shooters’ hands – though personally I would like to feel a little more in the palm.
Recoil was dealt with well, though the light overall weight of the gun means it gives a bit more of a kick than you might expect – however, there was no noticeable muzzle flip. And it must be said I had no shoulder soreness after a very active hour on the clay ground.
If you can forgive the visual quirks, after all this is a subjective area and every one’s tastes are different, I suspect almost any sportsman or woman would find the Beretta 690 Field III a very rewarding gun to own. Another winner from Beretta.
Scores for the Beretta 690 Field III
Engineering: Small changes to a classic design will probably go unnoticed by most buyers, though still an impressive recipe. 8/10
Handling: Absolutely tremendous. Lively, but allowing for smooth swings and excellent trigger pulls. Slightly hefty recoil thanks to reduced weight. 9/10
Looks & finishing: On the whole it’s what we have come to expect from a Beretta, though the matt black fore-end metal work may divide opinion. It’s not unpleasant, and it’s certainly something different. 7/10
Reliability & customer service: Broken Berettas are a rare thing. An evolution of a classic design, this gun should be no different. 9/10
Value: Compared with other guns at this price point, the 690 looks more than worthy of the asking price. 8/10