Beretta Silver Pigeon III shotgun.
Beretta shotguns are more popular with British game shots today than any other.
I have half a dozen of them and have always been impressed by their sound design and durability. One of my guns is well over the 100,000 cartridge mark.
That is not to say that Beretta guns are perfect, nothing made by human or robotic hand is, but they have gained an enviable reputation because of their consistency, styling and practical field performance. This applies as much to standard models as bells and whistles creations like Jubilees and SO sidelocks.
This test gun falls somewhere between the two. It is a new, limited edition, of the popular Silver Pigeon III. The current RRP is £2,220 for the field model as tested, and £2,405 for the sporter which might also be used as a high bird gun.
First impressions are certainly positive.
The idea for the gun emanated in the UK from GMK, it has upgraded wood, tasteful tight scroll and game scene engraving and a coin finished action that is not too bright.
There is a bit of cachet to this special Silver Pigeon, as well – only 999 will be offered worldwide and each gun is individually numbered. It has 30″ Mobil multi-choke barrels, the much admired, low profile, Beretta 68 series action, and stock shapes and measurements that are significantly improved on some older guns.
One other feature that sets it aside from the current standard model Silver Pigeon III is a fore-end with a rounded tip rather than the Schnabel. This new design is excellent and gradually coming in on other models.
The 3″ chambered barrels of the test gun are the typical monobloc production of the Gardone giant. They set a standard that others seek to achieve. There are solid joining ribs and a 6mm ventilated sighting rib (regular readers will know my preference for solid ribs on a game gun, though).
Everything has been put together well – achieving the consistent quality that we have come to expect from the world’s oldest and most successful shotgun manufacturer. Being specific, it is very rare to encounter a Beretta 68 series gun where the jointing between barrels and monobloc is poor.
It is equally rare to find a gun where the barrels have been distorted as a result of the manufacturing process.
So I might continue. Sometimes, on cheaper guns, one sees rivelling internally matching the bridges of the rib – not in a Beretta. Sometimes sighting ribs are out of true – again, rarely, if ever, in a Beretta. And, sometimes one sees barrels that leave much to be desired with regard to the internal and external finish – again rarely on a Beretta.
Moreover, the firm’s barrels are hard-chrome plated to resist corrosion. This is, generally speaking, a plus as well – especially for those of us who are less than careful with our gun cleaning.
Another positive, confirmed at the pattern plates, was the competent regulation with regard to point of impact. Many manufacturers are not as careful as Beretta in this respect. Every Beretta gun, as far as I am aware, is still checked for point of impact in a tunnel range at the Beretta 1 factory (which also incorporates its own branch of the Italian Proof House).
If you take a tour of the factory you will eventually come across a man whose only purpose in life is to shoot the newly manufactured guns and make sure that both barrels are going where they should (this is done by means of an electronic impact detector).
It may not sound that important, but I am convinced that many of the guns sold today – regardless of considerations of fit and stock design – do not shoot where they should. They are built to a formula that may work, but they are not checked by shooting to ensure it.
The action of the Beretta is due to be updated soon, but it is a modern classic as it is. Lower than many other designs (because the gun has a trunnion hinging system rather than a full-width hinge pin), the simplified Beretta trigger-plate ‘boxlock’ over-under was conceived during or just after World War II and launched in the mid 1950s as the Model 55.
It evolved into the 68 series guns and has not required much redesign for 50 years. It has two other clever features, trapezoidal barrel shoulders that engage with the top rear of the action walls, and, most brilliantly, conical locking bolts that emerge from the action face and mate with circular recesses to either side of the top chamber mouth.
The stock of the test gun generally impressed. The figure is better than average though a bit eccentric in that there is a very different pattern to the rear of the stock than the front. The finish is a little light for my taste and the chequering, though competently executed by laser, might look better with classic straight-line borders rather than the rounded sort that the designers seem to be inflicting on us at present.
The grip shape is good and offers good purchase and control with its sensible radius and proportions. The comb shape is comfortable – neither thick nor thin with some taper – and the flutes near the nose are not overly obvious, as often happens on machine made stocks.
I also liked the new fore-end which is not only more elegant than a Schnabel but more user-friendly.
It allows for subtle changes in hand position, and, for those who want to, the front hand may be extended, though I caution against this because it can impede swing.
Beretta Silver Pigeons can usually be relied upon to shoot well and to keep on doing so with minimum attention. The test gun did not disappoint in any functional or shooting respect.
Indeed, it was one of the better handling Berettas that I have recently shot.
It is no secret that I am an enthusiast for the marque, but that does not mean every Beretta suits me. I have found some guns in the range a little front-heavy due to barrel weight. And I might add, on the aesthetic front, I am not
always keen on excessively modernistic styling.
This is a classic looking gun.
It balances and points well. Barrel weight is excellent – heavy enough for control, light enough to be lively.
Felt recoil is good thanks to good stock design and sensible measurements. Trigger pulls are also as good as they get with this trigger plate, coil-sprung, action design.
Sidelocks, typically, offer the finest pulls.
Practically speaking, it is a very nice gun. It looks good, it shoots well and it is not outrageously expensive. What more do most of us want?
Beretta Silver Pigeon III shotgun
Field version £2,220
Sporter version £2,405