In an exclusive review for Shooting Times, Matt Hunt puts the groundbreaking new superlight over-and-under through its paces
The thinking behind the Beretta Ultraleggero
I often find myself staring into the gun cabinet and pondering how an increase in steel shot usage could affect my current guns and how it will inform my future purchases. My conclusion is that, with a 12-bore, I see no great change in shooting steel over lead. My main concern is when I look at my much-loved small bores. What of the .410 I was taught to shoot with and is now used by my own children; the 28-bore boxlock I shot my first driven day with; and, most importantly, the 20- and 16-bores that have accompanied me on wild adventures over moor, dale, bog and forest.
So, looking to the future, what gun will be light enough to walk with all day? What calibre will it be? What ammunition will I use so I don’t have to consider a shorter killing distance?
Well, the answer is simple: a British or continental side-by-side will cover all these requirements and most are still capable of shooting standard pressure steel cartridges.
But what if I want to use an over-and-under that still only weighs 6lb, has balance and handling characteristics similar to my other clay and game guns, with the option of using high-performance steel loads, and is of a quality and ruggedness to last?
This used to mean looking at guns with aluminium actions that used various methods of strengthening the action body and having to compromise on barrel length to achieve even half-sensible balance and handling. This is all going to change with the new Beretta Ultraleggero over-and-under, which arrived with UK dealers last week.
The Ultraleggero is the replacement for the now discontinued Ultralight, but its ambitious design does far more than just fill the Ultralight’s shoes. For a start, this gun will be available in 12-bore and 20-bore with three barrel lengths: 26in, 28in and 30in. Both calibres will also be available with the Vittoria stock dimensions making the gun ideal for ladies and juniors.
Unlike the aluminum Ultralight, you will not be compromising on action strength. The Ultraleggero action is made from pre-hardened steel but lightened by milling away the sides and bottom of the action, creating a skeletonised frame to mount stock and barrels to. The areas that have been milled away are then replaced by a plastic polymer insert.
This is a groundbreaking design for an over-and-under, but skeletonising an action to reduce weight is far from a new concept. The likes of Dickson and MacNaughton have been using this design since the 1880s — of course, their guns used a bar-in-wood concept rather than a plastic polymer insert.
The weight reduction does not stop at the action; the inside of the stock has also been milled away, the fore-end iron is made from plastic and the mid-rib on the barrels has been removed. The combination of these changes has a dramatic effect on the weight, but aside from this the Ultraleggero still looks and feels like a Beretta.
You can also be assured that this gun is as strong as any other gun in the Beretta range as it has passed a CIP 3in magnum for steel proof.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Beretta
- Model Ultraleggero
- Calibre 12-bore
- Barrels 30in
- Chamber 3in (76mm)
- Chokes Optima HP
- Rib Vented top-rib with no mid-rib
- Grip Pistol
- Weight 6lb I
- mporter GMK
- RRP £2,495
The Ultraleggero was tested at Holland & Holland Shooting Ground, which was recently acquired by Beretta Holding. The gun is just one of the new products being launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of GMK.
Aesthetically, the Ultraleggero is striking with its matte black action and gloss black polymer inserts. The dark walnut stock and fore-end completes the look of the gun beautifully.
Picking the gun up, you are immediately struck by its lightness. The test gun had 30in multichoke barrels, and when shouldered it felt like a 28-bore. The weight is distributed perfectly between the hands and though slightly barrel heavy, it had a wonderfully balanced and quick-handling feel.
Operating the top-lever, the gun feels tight on the action as it hinges open. This bearing is caused by the fore-end pressure, which can be easily adjusted on the barrel loop as the gun wears. It also gives the option of easing this pressure when new to reduce operator fatigue on opening and closing if required. The lock-up on close was precise and solid, and the safety catch and barrel selector are operated with ease.
The first cartridge we fired was a 21g felt wad school cartridge loaded by Hull. Felt recoil was negligible and the only variation from shooting a standard Beretta game gun was a slightly different harmonic feel from the ribless barrel. The gun was fast to handle and required little heft in moving it to the target. You forget you are using a 30in 12-bore.
As the test continued, we started to use heavier cartridges, up to a 28g fibre wad Eley Blue. Though recoil was increased slightly, the gun did not move from the shoulder and it was still comfortable to use after firing 100 shots in quick succession.
With the Ultraleggero, Beretta has achieved an exceptionally lightweight gun with no compromise in strength, quality or handling. It gives the walking Gun, as well as ladies and juniors, an out-of-the-box solution to their sporting requirements in these changing times.
- Action and barrels 19/20 Strength and reliability you can count on
- Handling 19/20 Very fast with superb balance
- Trigger 19/20 Simple, crisp and reliable
- Stock 19/20 Durable finish with options to fit all
- Value 17/20 Not the cheapest but represents good value