Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun
ANY engineer looking at the Beretta 680-series action realises one thing: this is a piece of kit designed to be built on modern machine tools.
Whoever in the Italian company’s design department first sketched it out was a genius, because it epitomises good engineering practice in all respects: it is strong and long-lived, simple, does its job extremely well, and has an elegance all of its own.
At one end of the scale it is economical to make in large numbers, while at the other it provides a broad and uncluttered canvas on which, on the higher-grade models, the engraver can fully display his art. This latter quality is enhanced by the action’s ability to accept side-plates on the very best versions.
Forerunners of the current Silver Pigeon 3 include the 680, the 682, the 686 and the 687. Variations of the 682 and the 686 remain in production as world-wide favourites, but for one of the guns to take them forward into the 21st Century, Beretta dropped model numbers beginning with ’68’ and opted for the name Silver Pigeon.
Silver Pigeons numbered 2,3,4 and 5, representing different qualities and specification details on the main theme, are currently in production and available in the UK.
Who makes it?
Beretta, at their factory in Italy’s Gardone Valley, where the Beretta family have been making guns since the early 1500s. They claim to be the longest-established industrial company in the world.
As well as shotguns, the present-day company also makes rifles, and pistols for military, law enforcement and competition work. Gunmakers Benelli, Sako and Franchi are all part of the present-day Beretta group.
How adaptable is it?
This is primarily a sporter, and there is a game model. However, we think the sporter would be the best choice for anyone seeking an all-round, adaptable gun.
How does it work?
The Silver Pigeon replaced the Beretta 687, and employs the same mechanism. The action body is a machined steel forging of great strength, featuring a floor of semi-circular section into which the rounded rear end of the barrel monobloc fits snugly when the gun is closed. Into the rear of this action is fixed a trigger plate which carries the main elements of the firing mechanism.
Hammers are hinged at the bottom and, unlike many over-under actions, so are the sears, which are located directly behind the hammers. The hammers, driven by coil springs running on guide rods, are cocked by independent rods running through the action side walls to engage with twin cocking levers projecting from the rear of the fore-end iron.
The trigger mechanism incorporates an inertia weight which is moved by the recoil of the first shot to transfer the trigger to the second barrel. Initial barrel selection is via a rocking switch built into the safety thumbpiece. The safety is non-automatic.
Unlike most other over-under actions, the Beretta bolt is mounted high in the action, and sits just under the forward end of the top strap. Its fork-shaped conical tips pass through holes in the breech face to locate with conical holes in the barrel shoulders just below the centre-line of the upper barrel. This bolt is released into the locked position when the breech ends of the barrels depress a small round-nosed pin projecting from the breech face above and to the right of the upper firing pin.
Spring-loaded ejectors run in dovetail slots machined in the barrel monobloc, and are released a fraction before the gun reaches the fully open position.
The barrels hinge on circular stub pins located in the forward end of the main action block.
This is a very simple, robust action, which has stood the test of time virtually unaltered over many years. It is the low-profile action against which all others are judged. It has also been built for easy refurbishment by gunsmiths. Should it ever shoot loose, then bolts with over-size tips, and over-size stub pins, are easily available for expert fitting.
The outside of the action is neatly engraved with game scenes on the sides, and on the underside is scrollwork with the Beretta logo.
– Built on the familiar monobloc principle, with 3in (76mm) chambers and magnum proof.
– Those on the Silver Pigeon sporter are bored on Beretta’s Optima system, with an internal diameter of 18.6mm (0.732in), compared to the English standard of 18.5mm (0.729in) and Beretta’s previous, rather tight, competition gun standard of 18.3mm (0.719in).
– Forcing cones are also considerably extended, and the five flush-fitting choke tubes are about half as long again as Beretta’s previous standard.
– Bores are internally chromium plated, and finished gloss black on the outside.
– The ventilated top rib tapers from 10mm at the breech to 8mm at the muzzle. It is matted to reduce glare.
– Standard foresight bead is white, but a red version is available.
– Solid side ribs.
– Barrel lengths of 28, 30 and 32 inches are available.
– Wood quality is good, with a deep pistol grip, neat chequering, and no palm swell.
– A Schnabel-style fore end is fitted, and both stock and fore-end are oil finished.
– The stock is 14.3/4 in. long at the centre, with drops at comb and heel of 1.1/2 and 2./4in respectively.
– The butt pad is in reasonably hard rubber.
– Left-handed woodwork is available.
The 30in sporter weighs 7.3/4lb. Different barrel lengths will change this by a few ounces either way.
What the tester thought
Sporting Gun tested the Silver Pigeon 3, 30in sporter in February 2005.
It scored 8 out of 10 for build quality and handling, and 7 out of 10 for styling and value for money.
It was found to be an all-round gun of proven, reliable design, and another plus point noted was it comes complete with an ABS travelling case.
No low points were recorded.
Woodwork drew praise for the fact it is oil-finished, which was thought to be an improvement on previous, varnished stocks. Varnish marks easily, while oil does not show everyday knocks and scratches so badly.
The gun, as illustrated, has a recommended retail price of £1,665. Look around for cheaper deals.
A Browning 525 Grade 3 would cost about the same. Or, for something completely different, look at a Browning Cynergy.
Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun