Is this budget alternative to the Italian standard suitable for a day in the field? Alex Flint investigates.
One of the smaller Italian manufacturers, Bettinsoli is nevertheless a name many British sportsmen and women will be familiar with, thanks to its importer RUAG, which is also responsible for bringing Perazzi’s guns into the UK. The Crypto line is a relatively new addition to Bettinsoli’s portfolio, marketed as being ideal for game and clay shooters alike. At first glance this 12 bore Lite model certainly looks like an interesting alternative to Beretta’s Silver Pigeon for example at a significantly reduced cost.
Initial impressions are good, with the gun supplied in an ABS hard case with an extensive assortment of accessories. You will find, for example, a full set of multichokes including two extended chokes for targets at extreme range, and a second, thinner rubber butt plate allowing one to account for variations in the thickness of clothing as the seasons change. Already, this seems a generous amount of kit given the price – I have tested more expensive guns transported in little more than a cardboard box.
Visually the Bettinsoli does not disappoint either with some lovely woodwork on display and a most attractive sweeping pattern running across the stock. The wood is pleasantly finished if a little on the light side for my tastes – though it must be said the colour does suit the gun. Clearly the Crypto has been carefully designed aesthetically as it is strikingly different from its competitors.
An unusual dome shape forms part of both the stock and raised sections of the action body, the back of which is sculpted far more than one is used to seeing. The strong obtuse angle of the rear of the action is carried through into the fore-end iron and the fore-end itself, creating an eye catching design that suggests action and swift movement – fitting for this lightweight gun.
This theme in the visual language is carried through into the engraving and carving of the woodwork. The raised faces of the action body also host a simple but attractive game scene vignette, with a single flushed woodcock picked out in gold on both sides and on the bottom of the action body.
Elsewhere, there is plenty of attractive scroll engraving covering almost every part of the bright metalwork, including the fore-end iron and the fore-end release lever. The carved fences have a pleasant stippling effect and though the trigger guard is adorned only with the name of the gun, the trigger itself is a subdued gold. Anything but simple steel triggers are usually not to my taste, but here the gold works nicely as it matches the pale colour of the wood. The engraving is shallow and has clearly been machined on, but it is not unattractive and given the price one cannot complain. Engine tuning style polish also makes an appearance on the internal parts, something one would expect only to see on more expensive guns.
There is plenty of chequering cut into the fore-end, providing good grip but not showing any of the coarseness one sometimes finds on a new mass-produced gun. One might, perhaps, like a little more chequering on the semi-pistol grip, however. I would also like the grip to be a little larger in the hand and swept back more. It is not uncomfortable and feels secure when shooting, but I found my little finger being pushed forwards more than I would have liked as the grip is deep but slender. I imagine those with smaller hands will find the gun perfectly comfortable.
It is not all good news on the visual front, however. Unfortunately Bettinsoli has chosen a large red plastic cylinder as a sight bead – though any good gunsmith could change that for you. Also, there are holes on each side of the action body revealing the hinges for the ejectors. These are crying out to be capped and engraved to imitate a pin. The stiff safety catch is basic and black – totally incongruous with the rest of the gun. The catch has not been fitted terribly well either, leaving behind scuffs whenever it is used.
Underneath, one finds the word ‘Crypto’ has been carved deeply into the fore-end. Though well executed it does not fit in with the visual cues seen elsewhere; the manufacturer seems to have been a little too keen to remind us of the name of its gun – just once would have been fine!
The Crypto Lite handles well and looks lovely for the price, and while a little more refinement in certain areas would be welcome it really does do exactly what it says on the tin. If you are in the market for a lightweight gun for walked-up shooting for instance then this is an extremely good option at a very competitive price indeed.
Bettinsoli in the field
Out of the box the gun was quite stiff to open and close as one might normally expect from any new gun, but this did not seem to ease after instructors Ed Smith and Steve Wood and I had put plenty of shells through it. We spoke to the distributors and they tested the same gun and found it was unusually stiff too, but always recommend at least 1,000 shells go through a gun before the initial stiffness dissipates.
In the actual act of shooting the gun performs very well indeed, coming up to the shoulder easily – as one might hope of a lightweight model such as this. Mounting is consistent and comfortable, and the gun feels lively in the hands while remaining predictable and easy to keep on line thanks to the balance being found just forward of the hinge pin.
Given the gun’s weight, one would expect muzzle flip and recoil to be somewhat exaggerated. However, recoil is dealt with well and muzzle flip, while present, was not a major problem.
View from the gun shop. By Bill Elderkin.
The Crypto range includes guns in standard guise or ‘Lite’, in either 12 or 20 bore with 28” or 30” barrels. At 6lbs 1 ½oz, the Lite is a genuine featherweight thanks to its simple action and aluminium alloy construction, along with the shorter 28” barrels. The gun has 3” chambers – rare on lightweight guns, where 2¾” chambers are more often found – and features Bettinsoli’s unusual dual cone design with a long forcing cone in front of the chamber and in the section of the barrels before the multichokes. The manufacturer claims this has significant benefits in dealing with recoil – certainly useful if one were to use steel shot.
More generally, the gun is of typical Italian design with some unusual visual cues such as the almost banana-shaped chequering on the fore-end. Wood-to-metal fit is very good and not too much wood has been left behind. All the stress-bearing parts of the gun are steel, including an insert in the action face.
Bettinsoli has been around for a long time now and is a smaller-scale manufacturer – like a lot of the lesser-known makers. However, it has certainly upped its game in recent years thanks to the proliferation of CNC machining technology, allowing for a focus on product development. When you consider the equivalent Browning or Beretta costs around £2,000 it certainly looks good value, especially if you are considering using lighter loads rather than going down to a 20 bore.
The manufacturer offers a three-year guarantee backed up by a three year warranty from RUAG, meaning you should have peace of mind even at this low price point.
Extremely good option for a lightweight gun at a competitive price