How does the small bore variant of Beretta's newest line of guns stack up? Alex Flint finds out

Product Overview

Overall rating:

86%

Pros:

  • Deals with recoil superbly

Cons:

  • Wood selection on the more affordable Beretta guns can be a little disappointing

Product:

Beretta SV10 Perennia 20 bore

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,800.00

Gunmakers are often criticised for attempting to reinvent the wheel with each of their new releases, each increase in model number hiding a tiny change in designs which have been around for over 100 years. Beretta’s SV10 was something of a departure on its release five years ago, by virtue of being a wholly new gun. Browning has since followed suit with the B725, both manufacturers pouring hours and money into research and development of a new generation of shotguns.

This 20 bore model is the first SV10 I’ve had the opportunity to test and although it clearly shares some visual DNA with its predecessors, it is a strikingly different proposition from the Silver Pigeon I. Though the trapezoidal shoulders are very familiar, the action has an unusual shape, with a sizeable sweep of the rear of the sideplates cut away and the stock pressing into the metal work. The sideplates themselves are raised and create some interesting lines for the eye, coming almost to a point at the hinge pin.

The scalloped action body has much more attractive lines than the Silver Pigeon and allows for more engraving, particularly over the fences, top strap and lever. The engraving on the ‘I’ grade tested here takes the form of daisies with some Acanthus leaf. It is attractive enough but not exactly breathtaking, and is very shallow having clearly been applied by machine. However, it is certainly no less than one would expect at this price point and is by no means unattractive.

Those looking for something a little more striking might consider the higher grade ‘III’ which has game scenes engraved on the side plates.There is a new fore-end and fore-end iron which is a vast improvement. The new shape is streamlined and elegant and is scalloped along the top edge, providing a convenient spot for the thumb when shooting.

The blued fore-end iron is a pleasing addition, and is one of a number of small features which go a long way to making the gun feel special. Other neat touches include a new trigger guard surrounding a lovely titanium trigger, and the Beretta logo engraved into the bottom of the pistol grip.

Visual downside

The only real visual downside to this gun comes in the wooden parts of the gun. Sometimes the wood selection and finishing on the more affordable Beretta guns can be a little disappointing, due to their lack of oil and finishing which lends a rather odd plastic look. On the SV10 though there is a different issue. At first glance the gun is very impressive, with a well figured, dark finish and precisely executed checkering. However, closer inspection reveals the dark grain has been applied to the wood artificially – in fact it has been burnt on.

While it is not ugly, spotting the genuine grain of the wood underneath the applied grain can be a little distracting. Though the gun is better looking than most at this price, one is left to wonder why Beretta could not simply have applied a proper oil finish, although we have been informed that GMK are addressing this.

At 5lbs 13oz with 30″ barrels the Perennia is not as heavy as some of the 20 bore guns we have tested, but with 3″ chambers and proof for steel shot it is clearly a gun designed to occupy similarly serious shooting territory as the Rizzini.

Given its reduced bulk it is a lively delight to handle, but retains the steadiness one associate with larger, heavier guns. This mixture of thrilling small bore handling and steady 12 bore swings is quite compelling and makes the gun an absolute joy to use.

The stock is well shaped, the pistol grip is particularly comfortable and the design of the safety catch is a significant improvement, providing plenty of grip and a very positive action. The gun mounts and swings beautifully and is a real joy to shoot, with recoil dealt with particularly well. In fact, it’s probably the best Beretta I’ve ever shot, and at under £2,000 looks like something of a bargain.

Although not a radical departure from a successful formula on the surface, all these small changes add up to a highly successful gun. I would highly recommend testing out Beretta’s latest baby in 20 bore form for yourself, as it is sure to surprise and may well become a genuine contender for a permanent spot in your gun cabinet.

Beretta in the field

The SV10 Perennia in 20 bore form is an absolute delight to shoot, retaining all the joy and life of a lightweight 20 bore gun but married with the steadiness and linearity of much heavier guns. It is quite intoxicating in the hand, coming up to the shoulder very positively and with an essentially perfect weight balance.

Getting up on the targets at Grange Farm Shooting School felt entirely natural and staying on the line of the target required almost no conscious effort. Trigger pulls are
very crisp without being sharp and both I and instructor Bruce Marks felt very little recoil which was a very welcome surprise. The rubber butt plate was a little sticky as you would expect on a new gun but this should soon ease with use.

The gun is very satisfying in terms of its basic operation, opening easily and wide enough to allow quick reloading, without having to force the gun open any wider – often a problem on new guns. Ejection is very powerful and the 3″ chambers and steel proof together with its remarkable recoil characteristics mean you could put some pretty heavy loads through the gun without much fear.

The pistol grip is comfortable and the shapely, shallow fore-end with its scalloped top edge is particularly worthy of note. Though the safety catch is not the most elegant design, it has huge amounts of grip and is very positive, so you always feel totally in control of its operation.

The real joy of shooting this gun was that it seemed to give me more time on the target and therefore more time to get the shot right each time. It is a seriously impressive gun to shoot and feels a world apart from the Silver Pigeon I.

View from the gun shop, by Bill Elderkin

The SV10 Perennia comes in at £200 above the cost of a Silver Pigeon I, and for many buyers that difference in price will be very clear – certainly visually. It sits in an interesting point in the range, being somewhat cheaper than the Silver Pigeon I Deluxe which costs £2,250. The Perennia compares very well with Browning’s B725 and lower-end guns from Caesar Guerini or Rizzini and it will be ideal for serious game shots as well as being a genuine contender for a gun for ladies or youths.

Our test gun comes with five Optima-Bore high performance multichokes which are slightly longer than other chokes. The barrels have been back bored and feature longer forcing cones, all of which helps to improve pattern and contributes to reduced felt recoil.

The shallower action is also of major benefit on that front and, should you so choose, you may also fit Beretta’s Kick-Off mechanism where two hydraulic dampeners integrated into the butt plate work to reduce recoil, vibrations and muzzle flip. Some find this makes the gun a little hard to settle between shots – personally I would go for a standard rubber pad as these do a fine job.

A long release catch on the fore-end is supposed to make removing the fore-end from the barrels a smooth and easy operation, though this was not the case on our test gun where it was extremely tight. This may have had something to do with the gun being new or the mechanism present in the fore-end which automatically ensures a good fit between the barrels, fore-end and action. This should strengthen the locking of the barrels to the action and therefore have benefits for the longevity of the gun, and any tightness should soon ease with use. A further innovation is found on the barrels where you can turn a screw to choose between ejection or extraction – ideal for wildfowlers or rough shooting.

All Beretta guns come with a standard one year warranty, increased to three years if you register the product within 30 days of purchase. While this is obviously beneficial to the buyer, Beretta guns are famously reliable and I would be very surprised if you had many problems.

 

Verdict

Among the best shotguns we've ever tested