Mike George selects three of his favourite O/U Sporters available at three different price brackets
This selection of second-hand over-and-under Sporters can be found on the second-hard market from £600.
Bettinsoli X-Trail Sporter Target Price £600
Our experts usually advise the purchase of a good second-hand gun, yet there are some newcomers who prefer the idea of owning a gun which has not had a previous owner.
For them, the Bettinsoli X-Trail Sporter is a gun to be seriously considered, because it costs around £750. Therefore, you should get a good second-hand example for £600, or even less.
Historically, I have always been a bit wary of the brand, but when gunsmith Jason Harris reviewed a new X-Trail more than four years ago he allayed my fears. He said that the quality of “starter” guns from the majority of manufacturers had improved very much in recent years, largely because of their investment in modern, computer-controlled machinery. And, although he didn’t say so, the quality of materials must have improved, too. As my mum used to say – you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Mechanically, the “works” of the X-trail contains the simple features of previous models, with hammers hinged at the bottom and sears hanging from the top strap. The main springs are coils running on guide rods, and the single, selective trigger is switched to the second barrel by an inertia system. The barrel set is built on the monobloc principle, and five choke tubes are provided.
Lock-up is achieved by a low-mounted bolt engaging with a bite below the lower barrel, and the barrels are hinged on stub pins. In other words, mechanically the X-Trail is a typical Italian gun.
One peculiarity is the top-lever spring, which takes the form of a torsion bar, similar to the front suspension springs of the 1948 Morris Minor, which was my pride and joy in the early 1960s. They hadn’t broken in 15 years of hard use in the African bush, so the principle is sound.
More information: From the importers, Ruag Ammotec, Cornwall, tel 01579 362319, or visit www.ruag.co.uk.
Beretta 690 Field III Target Price £1,850
If you were to pick up a BL series Beretta from the 1970s, it would be instantly recognisable as a Beretta and, at a quick glance, very similar to a 2016 gun such as a 692 Sporter.
That’s because the Italian company has adopted a philosophy of a gradual series of developments to its basic boxlock action, and there have been some memorable, well-engineered guns along the way. For instance, the 682, which was developed from the 1980s onwards, has probably won more competitions in the UK than any other gun.
Competition and field shooters have been delighted with a series of gun based on the 686 and 687 actions, and now we have the 690 series guns, typified by the 692 Sporter and the subject of this review – the 690 Field III. And if you wonder what a field-shooting gun is doing among a couple of Sporters, then read on…
The 690 Field III was introduced as recently as July 2014, and for a new one you will pay around £2,150, although there is a price difference between multichoke and fixed choke versions. Second-hand guns should be around £1,850, or more for a pristine, lightly shot example.
Barrel lengths available are 26, 28 and 30 inches, and the internally chrome- plated tubes are made of steelium – an alloy steel containing nickel, chromium and molybdenum. I’d like to be able to tell you more, but the steel industry seems strangely tight-lipped about the exact composition.
The action itself is internally similar to the 860-series guns, although it has been improved in detail. It has also been slimmed down a bit when compared to the 692, just to keep the weight down. The gun weighs anything from 7lb 2oz upwards, depending on barrel length and wood density. A typical game gun weight, but it would also make a good clay-buster for anyone, who may find a 7¾lb-plus Sporter a bit too heavy. Overall the gun is slim and handsome-looking. Anyone buying it may find the auto safety a bit of a pain, but these features can usually be removed quite easily by a gunsmith.
More information: From the importer, GMK Ltd, tel 01489 579999, or visit www.gmk.co.uk.
Beretta DT11 Sport Target Price £5,000
The DT11 is a boxlock, but the action is totally different to the 600 and 700 series guns. I always think of it as being just one step down from Beretta’s prestigious SO series sidelocks, and DT11 prices go up to £9,000 for the poshest version.
Retail prices of the regular Sporting, Skeet and Trap models are much more reasonable, however, and discount prices in the shops seem to begin at around £6,000. A really good second-hand DT11 should be yours for around the £5,000 mark.
The DT11 is a natural progression from the DT10, which was very popular in the UK and still has a good following on the second-hand market. Prices for old guns seem to begin around £2,500, but it would be wise to pay more for a lightly-shot gun.
In fact, inside the action of the DT11 there is nothing much new when compared to the DT10, but close examination reveals that the action body of the DT11 is slightly wider. This has been done to concentrate the weight of the gun in the area between the shooter’s hands – a vital element for good balance and handling.
Balance of the DT11 is good, and critics may suggest that it needs to be because the all-up weight is around 8lb 5oz, while most shooters expect a sporter to weigh not much more than 7¾lb.
Like the DT10, the DT11 has leaf mainsprings rather than coils running on guide rods, which are more common on boxlocks. Leaf springs are said to give exceptionally smooth and crisp trigger pulls. It’s debatable, but DT11 testers usually remark on how good the trigger pulls are.
The gun’s barrels are interesting in that they have a very slow internal taper, from what is really 11-bore just ahead of the forcing cones to 12- bore just behind the choke tubes.
Overall, the gun is very sleek, although some may say that the lines are slightly spoiled by choke tubes which stick out of the muzzles. But that’s just a matter of personal taste.
More information: From the importer, GMK Ltd, telephone 01489 579999, or visit www.gmk.co.uk.