Kennedy Beretta shotgun.
Beretta over-under guns based on the 600 series action have been extraordinarily successful.
They are bought by experienced sportsmen in great number and by novices, many of whom may have begun their shooting career with a borrowed Beretta.
The guns are made from first-class materials, impeccably designed and shoot consistently.
For those in need of more bling, the famous Brescian house offers models such as the EELL and the Jubilee. They share the reliability and good shooting qualities of the basic 600 series guns but have upgraded wood, finer finish and sideplates that offer space for decoration and put a fraction more weight between the hands.
This market for ritzier guns based on well-proven mechanics seems to be growing. Tony Kennedy, one of the country?s best-known gun dealers and a specialist in the most expensive Italian marques (Fabbri, Piotti, Bertuzzi), has now introduced his own modified Berettas as part of a new custom-gunsmithing service involving Italian craftsmen.
Tony spends much time in Italy and knows many of the artisans and engravers in Gardone Val Trompia.
Realising that not everyone has £40,000-plus to spend (the cost of a best Italian these days), he has put his contacts to good use to give serious and savvy punters another option somewhere between a machine-built gun and a bench-made one.
?What we are doing,? he says, ?is taking a standard gun and making it into something special. You can buy a factory de luxe model but these have more real character. Not everyone wants an off-the-shelf gun with off-the-shelf measurements. Ours are all finished by hand to the customer?s measurements. Each one will be different. You can have sideplates or not, brush polish or true colour-case hardening. Engraving can be personalised, too. We are using topflight craftsmen, creating something beautiful, usable and affordable.?
The test gun, which carries a price tag of £12,000 (in the same ball park as a Beretta Jubilee or William evans St James), certainly has the wow factor.
Stocked in exhibition-grade walnut and profusely engraved, it has been built to show just what Tony can now offer.
Intended for high birds, it is a big beast weighing 7lb 13oz, with tightly choked 30in barrels (reflecting the fact that it began its life as a trap gun). It has a 10mm sighting rib, a non-selective single trigger, and a half pistol grip stock.
The fore-end is of rounded style and there is a London style push-button fastener to the front set in a skeletonised metal tip ? a feature that will appeal for its looks and because it is practical, too (taking heat away from the front hand).
The quality of finish is impeccable, as good as or better than that of guns costing three times as much.
The chequering is finely cut and the hand-rubbed oil and blacking to the monobloc 2¾in chambered barrels to London standard.
What really sets this gun apart, however, are the striking game scenes on the sideplates and action engraved by Greco. The pheasants on the left-hand plate are especially eye-catching because they are larger than average and so well drawn. The deep and wide scroll pattern is well chosen, too.
The 600 series action upon which this gun is based is one of the world?s most proven. Low in profile, and especially rugged, it is one of the best ever conceived for an over-under.
It may not have quite the trigger pulls of a true leaf-sprung sidelock but its total dependability makes up for this.
The single trigger always works, the spring-loaded ejectors are simple and effective, the locking mechanism, based on conical bolts engaging round bites either side of the top chamber, is a work of genius.
It is not only simple but it wears in with use.
The 600 series also offers a trunnion hinging system and easily replaceable bearing surfaces (all parts that are subject to wear are available in several over-sizes should the need for replacement ever arise).
I know of a king and several wealthy men who use side-plated Beretta 600 series guns because they shoot so much and demand something that will never let them down.
By taking such a fundamentally sound gun and customising to the standards seen here, one ends up with the best of all worlds. Machines and human hands have both made what they are best at.
The test gun shot consistently breaking all but a couple of clay targets that were presented to it.
It was a little heavy for me ? especially in the barrels. It was also a bit low in the stock (2.3⁄8in drop at heel), and a little long (15.3⁄8in including a neatly made, contrasting dark-wood extension of 1in or so).
The demonstration gun was built to shoot high birds with heavy loads. (Lighter guns are possible.)
This custom Beretta is beautiful, however, and offers real value for money (the engraving alone would cost nearly half the ticket price).
Tony will work on other makes of gun if required, and mentions Brownings and Perazzis as possible candidates for similar treatment.
Delivery would be four to six months in most cases.
Kennedy Beretta shotgun
Tel: 01566 86535