Can one gun be a perfect fit for every style of shooting in a diminutive form factor? Alex Flint investigates.

Product Overview

Pros:

  • Built on a classic, proven action – very hard to fault.

Cons:

  • I would like the fore-end to be a little longer.

Product:

Beretta Silver Pigeon I 28 bore

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,600.00
This product is featured in: A close look at the Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon 1.

Our current trend for increasingly pocket- bursting mobile telephones aside, the advancement of technology in recent years has also been an on-going march towards miniaturisation. From silicon chips being manufactured in nanometre thicknesses approaching single figures, to the humble vacuum cleaner taking up ever-decreasing space under the stairs, small is cool. This trend has also made its way into the shooting world, with sportsmen and women turning to smaller- bore shotguns thanks to their superior handling characteristics and more elegant designs.

Though the very best shots will swear by their ability to use small bore guns on even the highest pheasants thanks to the continuing development of a range of high performing and consistent cartridge loads, for many the likes of a 20 or 28 bore gun is seen merely as a bit of fun or as a first gun for a lady or a youngster. The perennially brilliant Silver Pigeon from Beretta proves a small bore gun, given the correct specification, can indeed be a gun for all seasons.

Famous Beretta Silver Pigeon model

The famous Silver Pigeon model is a gun so competent and offering such excellent value for money I would wager every shot in the land has at least laid their eyes on one, if not brought one to bear on a clay shoot at some point in their shooting careers. Our little 28 bore test gun, however, drew the eye – and not just because the ported after-market chokes by Rhino added an extra inch to the already long 30” barrels.

Though the classic Beretta 680 series action has always been pleasingly slim-line, in 28 bore guise it very attractive indeed with seamless lines from butt plate to sight bead. The gun looks as strong as any Silver Pigeon, and given the ongoing rivalry between Beretta, Browning and Miroku shooters, I imagine many will have made their minds up about this gun as soon as they saw the name written at the top of the review. My feeling is the classic Beretta action is a good fit for the reduced frame of a small bore gun, where sometimes the shallow action can give bigger bore guns slightly unbalanced proportions.

Good oil finish

As you would expect for the price, the wood is perfectly attractive, if not stunning. It has had a good oil finish applied, avoiding the almost-plastic look and feel I have seen on some Beretta guns in the past. Chequering has been very well applied, feeling comfortable in bare hands and providing plenty of grip. Our test gun had a smart textured rubber butt plate embossed with the Beretta logo and the semi-pistol grip is a delight to use, allowing a full, solid grip on the gun whilst still feeling pleasingly slim.

Engraving has of course been applied by machine, but has been very well executed and is of an attractive foliate scroll design with some large Acanthus leaves and a rose over the mock-hinge pin area. The silver sight bead is my preference, and even the plated trigger is not too gaudy – though as always a complete coin finish would be my preference.

The only criticism

Perhaps the only criticism I have of the gun is I would like the fore-end to be a little longer. It also seems a little bulky compared with the dimensions of the rest of the gun. However clearly it must remain so to make the gun useable for gentlemen without allowing the fingers to wrap fully around and be burnt on hot barrels. It is a shame Beretta does not offer the Deluxe version of the Silver Pigeon in 28 bore guise, as the upgraded wood and game scene engraving really would make this little gun feel quite special.

Like all Beretta guns, this one came in a hard case – always a welcome addition no matter how much the gun costs. The case also contains a full set of internal multi-chokes to be fitted to the 30” barrels with 23⁄4” chambers. Such long barrels on a small frame meant the gun was very pointable and a real pleasure to use – I cannot see why you would want to go for the fairly extreme 32” barrels on any gun, let alone a 28 bore, though the option is there should you spend your time worrying about such things. In any case, felt recoil is virtually non-existent and at 6lbs 8oz this would be perfectly comfortable to use over a long day’s shooting.

With all the sweet handling characteristics you would expect of a 28 bore, along with long enough barrels to tackle the high birds for those of sufficient skill, this smashing little gun would be quite at home for any type of shooting you would care to mention.

The attractive price means it is an ideal gun to fill up an empty slot in the gun cabinet, and it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face when shooting it.

Beretta Silver Pigeon I 28 bore on test

This little 28 bore acquitted itself very well indeed on a very windy day at Grange Farm Shooting School. The extra barrel length meant the gun mounted consistently well and its light weight meant the gun moved beautifully naturally, allowing for some very rapid changes in direction as the wind turned even the simplest clays into very challenging targets. Trigger pulls were very crisp and there was essentially no recoil or muzzle flip.

The presence of instructors Bruce Marks, Ed Smith and Steve Wood meant the gun was really put through its paces, and all four of us found it to be a great pleasure to shoot. However, universally we found the comb was not high enough, with a real effort required to push the cheek hard into the stock to get the right sight plane and avoid shooting high. Interestingly, Ed Smith owns this gun with 28” barrels, allowing a direct comparison. Both guns handled very sweetly, however the loss of a couple of inches of steel in the barrels did make a big difference to the character of the gun, with much more weight felt in the rear hand. Unsurprisingly, shooting a 28 bore was a challenging experience, however it also proved one guaranteed to bring a smile to the face.

 

Verdict

Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face when shooting it.