The Beretta 486 Parallelo impresses Charles Smith-Jones
At first glance, this month’s shotgun – the Beretta 486 Parallelo – may appear to be one for the diehard traditionalists – but look a little harder and you may be in for something of a surprise.
Beretta 486 Parallelo is a little bit different
Sitting as it does within the more usual Beretta range of over-and-unders and single-barrelled guns, it stands out as something a little bit different. But stand out it does, and in more ways than one. In fact, it’s rather special. The 486 Parallelo is, not to put too fine a point on it, a little cracker of a gun.
On the surface, the Parallelo is little more than a traditional side-by-side (indeed, Beretta named it for the barrel configuration) but looks can be deceiving. Although it replaces the long-serving (and admittedly rather more clunky) 471 Silver Hawk in Beretta’s catalogue, it is by no means a straightforward upgrade. The mechanism has been totally redesigned and features improved leaf springs, which help to ensure faster firing-pin engagement and a crisp let-off. The barrel assembly is based on Beretta’s Triblock technology, in which the tubes, chambers and barrel flats are struck in one piece, eliminating the weld lines that you might normally associate with monobloc barrels while adding strength.
The trigger group is new as well and offers a single selective trigger, something you don’t often find on a side-by-side in this price range. The 486 even employs gravitational safety, a concept pioneered by master gunsmith Joseph Manton in the 18th century but seldom seen since, which uses a floating weight at the back of the trigger to prevent the gun from being fired if it is in an unusual position or if it is dropped.
Innovations aside, there is much else to admire. This is a sleek, well-proportioned gun with a slender profile and an attractively rounded action thanks to it being built on the trigger-plate. Traditional finish is everywhere; the wood-to-metal fit is excellent with well-grained and oiled walnut furniture that is somewhat better than average for a factory gun. The action body and plates are largely unmarred by screws or pins, finished in a polished silver and decorated profusely but discreetly with floral and scroll engraving, while the remaining metalwork is deeply blued to a high standard of depth and lustre. There is also a case-colour-hardened version.
There are two main variations on the body shape: the original 486 is offered with a straight-hand stock and splinter fore-end in the traditional style, but a full pistol-grip stock and beavertail fore-end are available for those who prefer something a little more substantial. There is chequering in all the right places, skilfully and discreetly worked and providing grip precisely where it is needed.
Although some earlier examples were supplied with fixed chokes, an option that can still be requested when ordering a new one, the standard set-up comes with Beretta’s own cold-hammer forged Optima high-performance, flush-fitting chokes, though only the slightest flaring at the muzzle gives away the fact that multichokes are fitted. A useful little feature is a simple switch in the fore-end that enables you to switch off the positive ejectors and turn them into extractors, something that may appeal to anyone anxious to retain their empty cases when walking up or for reloading.
With the point of balance sitting at the hinge pin, the Parallelo handles beautifully and switches easily and instinctively between targets. It deals efficiently with recoil and even absorbs heavier 36g loads with ease, which will appeal to the habitual high-bird shooter. The overall weight and comfortable configuration for carrying lends itself to walked-up shooting, as does the ability to disengage the ejectors. It would be equally at home in the pigeon hide, while the multichoke option allows for versatility on the clay lines, where it might be easy to forget at times that you are using a side-by-side. Versatility is further improved by being proofed for steel, an important consideration when making a major outlay on a new gun.
Although the Parallelo appears to be a straightforward game gun at first sight, it is actually much more versatile than that and handling one may just tempt someone otherwise considering an over-and-under. As much at home on the clays as in the field, it represents a very real alternative.