This is a gun you should look out for in the second-hand market and here's why.
When this shotgun first came out many people supposedly ‘in the know’ reckoned it filled a gap between the latest-generation 682 series and the much more expensive ASE models – boxlock versions of the famous SO sidelock series.
Instead, the gun stood strong on its own merits and established itself as a top-level competition contender, used by Richard Faulds and clay-shooting legend A.J. Smith.
It’s not a very adaptable shotgun to be honest.
The weight and specification make it really a dedicated, precision clay-busting tool.
How it works
From the outside it looks like an ASE but it’s different. And it works nothing like the familiar 680 series Beretta boxlocks.
The main similarity with the ASE is it has a drop-out trigger mechanism. Push the safety as far forward as it will go, then push over the top lever, open the gun, and the trigger group can be pulled out downwards.
It is a very safe shotgun. The trigger unit cannot be pulled from a closed and loaded gun.
The hammers are hinged from the bottom, and powered by V-springs rather than the coil springs found on cheaper Beretta models. The hammers and sears have been arranged to give extremely crisp and precise trigger pulls. The trigger blade is fully adjustable in a fore-and-aft plane to accommodate hands of all sizes, and transfer to the second barrel is by a recoil-driven inertia mechanism.
Barrel selection is by Beretta’s usual rocking switch, built into the safety thumbpiece. This component is larger than on most other Berettas. The safety is non-automatic, which is right for a competition gun.
The action frame is an extremely tough steel forging, with a plain, bright-polished exterior with the maker’s name set in gold on the sides and the gun’s name and the Beretta logo on the bottom on the standard model. The more expensive L-version features very fine engraving.
Lock-up is achieved by a cross-bolt running across the top of the action just above the centre line of the top barrel. When the top lever is pushed over, the bolt moves sideways and its end protrudes through a slot on the left side of the action frame. When the gun is closed, the bolt end retracts and projections on the breech ends of the barrel pass through slots in the action face, and engage with the bolt. This is the bolting system used on the SO sidelocks, and is extremely strong and positive.
The top lever is curious – paddle-shaped and offset to the right. It looks a bit odd, but users report it provides for a very positive and fast reloading action. It works well for both left and right-handed shooters.
Cocking rods pass through the lower sides of the action frame, and ejectors, of a beefed-up design compared to some other Beretta models, are spring-loaded. The barrels hinge on stub pins in the normal Beretta fashion. The fore-end iron includes an adjustment to take up slack in the jointing, should the gun ever shoot loose.
- Available barrels: 28, 30 and 32 inches, all built on the monobloc principle.
- Three-inch (76mm) chambers are standard.
- Forcing cones are so long and with such a gradual taper that they are not apparent when you look through the tubes.
- Uses Optima-bore format, which gives an internal diameter of .732in – a little wider than the British standard of .729, and a whole lot wider than Beretta’s historical standard of .719.
- To further the interests of good patterning, far longer multichoke tubes than normal are fitted. These protrude from the muzzle ends, and feature colour-coded rings for easy identification. The protruding ends have an easy-to-grip pattern of parallel slots to aid fitting and removal.
- The gun can also be supplied with flush-fitting choke tubes.
- Top rib tapers from 10mm down to 7mm, and is ventilated. Side ribs are fitted to the barrels only on the length that shows ahead of the fore-end, and these, too, are ventilated.
- A choice between standard and adjustable stocks.
- Both comb height and cast can be altered on the adjustable version.
- The hand of the stock features a slight palm swell.
- Stock and fore end are in well-figured, dark walnut, with a varnish finish.
- Wood-to-metal fit is excellent, as is the standard of chequering.
The 32in version with the adjustable stock comes in at 8.1/4 lb.
Sporting Gun tested the 32in adjustable stock version in early 2002. It scored 9 out of 10 for build quality, and 8 out of 10 for handling, styling and value for money.
The testers liked the engineering quality, the gun’s pointability, and the thoughtful provision of a spares kit.
The weight was a downside and the chunky stock with a butt pad, which tended to snag on mounting. Mind you, they felt the gun could do a lot of work without undue wear, which could make it a good second-hand buy and the butt pad can be easily changed by a gunsmith.
Has established itself as a top-level contender