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Beretta Silver Pigeon 3 sporter shotgun

This is a piece of kit designed to be built on modern machine tools.

Beretta Silver Pigeon 3 sporter

Manufacturer: Beretta

Pros: All all-round gun of proven, reliable design

Price as reviewed: £1,500

This shotgun is the epitomy of good engineering practice. It is strong and long-lived, simple, does its job extremely well, and has an elegance all of its own.

Large scale production is economical but at the other end of the scale, it provides a broad and uncluttered canvas on which, on the higher-grade models, the engraver can fully display his art.

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.

Made by Beretta

The Beretta family have been making guns at their factory in Italy’s Gardone Valley, since the early 1500s.

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.

Is it adaptable?

The Beretta Silver Pigeon is primarily a sporter, and there is a game model. For anyone looking for an all-round, adaptable gun the sporter is probably the best choice.

The workings

The Silver Pigeon replaced the Beretta 687, and employs the same mechanism. The action body is a strong machined steel forging, 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 manual.

Unlike most other over-and-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.

The action has stood the test of time and remains virtually unaltered.  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.

Beretta’s Optima system

  • Barrels are 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.

Woodwork quality

  • This 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.

What does it weigh?

  • The 30in sporter weighs 7.3/4lb. Different barrel lengths will change this by a few ounces either way.

What did our tester think?

Sporting Gun tested the Silver Pigeon 3, 30in sporter in February 2005.

Build quality and handling gained it a score of 8 out of 10 and 7 out of 10 for styling and value for money.

The verdict was that this was an all-round gun of proven, reliable design, and another plus point noted was it comes complete with an ABS travelling case.

The oil-finished woodwork encouraged compliments, 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.

What does it cost?

The gun, as illustrated, has a recommended retail price of £1,665. Look around for cheaper deals.


And the alternatives?
A Browning 525 Grade 3 would cost about the same. Or, for something completely different, look at a Browning Cynergy.


Does its job extremely well