This impressive side-by-side from Beretta would be as at home on a pheasant or partridge day as it is on a rough shoot, says Mark Heath
As the new shotgun reviewer for Shooting Times, I was asked to look at the Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-bore side-by-side and consider whether it would make a good rough shooting gun. The short answer is yes, but let’s have a look at the evidence to support the argument.
This model has been around for a couple of years now and is a gun I am familiar with, having seen a number in use by customers at West London Shooting School, where I am an instructor.
The Parallelo was introduced as the replacement for the 471 Silver Hawk, which was not made in the same numbers as other Beretta models but is nonetheless frequently seen in the hands of side-by-side users. Second-hand, they seem to hold their price well and a key reason for this is the single-trigger mechanism. A number of customers who could afford much more exotic firearms for their sporting forays refuse to be parted from their pairs of Silver Hawks.
The rounded action of the Parallelo is pleasing to the eye. It is available in the standard version — with some pleasant but slightly plain wood that would benefit from some finishing and a bit of elbow grease to apply some oil — and the EL version. This has rose and scroll engraving and upgraded wood, which costs a little more but not so much that you would leave it at home on a rough day.
The Marc Newson limited edition model, however, costs around £18,000 and features some truly amazing wood and engraving — on a rough day, it is probably better off left in the gun cabinet.
Founded in 1526, Beretta knows how to make guns; though it makes a wide variety of firearms for military and sporting use, three-quarters of its production is of the sporting type. The 686, 687, the Silver Pigeon and, more recently, the 690 series, are some of the go-to shotguns for game shooters.
The 20-bore Parallelo weighs 6lb 7oz and, while this is not particularly lightweight, it is still less than the average 12-bore.
- The barrels, according to the technical information, are made on a “tri-block” principle, which I am sure is great, but all we need to know is that it is a Beretta and they will work. The multichokes are of the Beretta Optima type — if you are not a choke geek put quarter in the right barrel and half in the left and, aside from cleaning, leave them alone. Or, even better, opt for the fixed-choke version with quarter- and half-chokes.
- The safety, as expected, is automatic and has the usual Beretta barrel selector. A gravitational safety also helps to prevent an accidental discharge if dropped, as the gun will not fire if it is upside down.
- There are 3in chambers, so you can use some heavier loads if you choose to, much as it might take away some of the pleasure of shooting a 20-bore.
- A 24g cartridge is all you need on a rough day where your dog is working ahead of you; if you really must, or you have a particularly enthusiastic springer spaniel, then use a 28g.
- The stock dimensions are critical for shotgun shooting, as it is a hand-eye co-ordination sport not an aiming sport. While guns in a higher price bracket can be made to bespoke measurements following a fitting with a try gun, guns bought off the shelf are made to fit the average height, average weight individual. They can be altered with relative ease in most cases to provide a custom fit. Indeed, a gun that fits and shoots where you are looking is a pleasure to use.
- The Parallelo has the option of straight-hand or pistol grip, but given that it is a single trigger I would opt for the pistol grip. Straight-hand stocks allow you to slide your hand back for the second trigger, which is not necessary on this gun — but you might prefer the traditional style.
At first glance, this month’s shotgun – the Beretta 486 Parallelo – may appear to be one for the diehard…
Beretta’s only side-by-side shotgun – the 486 Parrallelo – gets a design makeover by Marc Newson
The stock dimensions are 14¾in length of pull, 13/8in at the comb and 2¼in drop at the heel with ⅛in cast off at heel. In my view, with a little change to these measurements, a really good gun could be improved even further. A bit of extra length, taking it to 15¼in, a little less drop at heel and some additional cast, to around ¼in, would give greater flexibility. When fitting guns, we normally make a side-by-side longer than the equivalent over-and-under, and the cast required is usually more in order that the eye is centred over the rib.
My instructor colleague Paul Gendall and I took both the pistol-grip and straight-hand stock versions out on to the ground and started at the 40ft tower to get a benchmark on the handling. We each shot both guns, starting with a straight driven and then a right-to-left, followed by the left-to-right. The quarter- and half-chokes left no prisoners, with the clays crunched into balls of smoke.
With the focus on the question of suitability for rough shooting, we went to a trap with a wireless release that we could shoot by moving around it in a semi-circle, starting with quartering away from just to the left of the trap, then walking away to the left and then to the right, so that we ended up shooting the trap as a 35-yard crossing bird from both directions.
Handling was first-class with both forms of grip. I had a slight preference for the pistol grip, while Paul liked the straight-hand stock. We used some 30g No.5s to test the felt recoil — both models were great at absorbing the recoil, with no discomfort to the shooter at all. The result was a lot of crunched clays. The guns were very smooth and controllable to shoot. I would definitely opt for the 30in barrels.
Need to know
- Manufacturer Beretta, Italy
- UK distributor GMK, tel 01489 579999
- Model Parallelo
- Bore 20
- Barrels 30in with 3in chambers proofed for steel shot
- Action Ejector, side-by-side
- Weight 6lb 7oz
- Features Gravitational safety lock, multichokes
- Price £4,300
With some thought to the stock dimensions on the standard model, this gun would be truly exceptional. Of course, the stocks as they are can be altered, but if they came with slightly different measurements as standard there would be far greater flexibility to custom fit them. If that were to happen, I might even consider getting my wallet out, as it would be a fabulous gun to shoot and I very rarely venture forth with a side-by-side.
As always with Beretta, the finish is first-class. The gun has very effective ejectors, which can be turned off easily on the fore-end. Useful when roughshooting so that the cartridges don’t disappear into a bush. 19/20
Trigger and safety
Excellent trigger pulls – we used 21g No 8s in addition to the 30g No 5s with absolutely no problems. The gravitational safety in addition to the auto-safe is innovative, especially in this price bracket. 20/20
The stocks on both guns had exceptional wood to metal fit. They both had straight grain throughout, which provides strength and could look very attractive with further finishing. We were able to shoot both guns very well with the dimensions, however with some relatively minor variations in the dimesions, a very good gun could be exceptional. 17/20
Great balance and handling – a pleasure to shoot. This is more than a gun for a rough day; it would be very much at home on a good partridge and pheasant day. Though my choice would be the fixed-choke version, the multichokes in the guns tested did not affect the handling. 18/20
Outstanding value for money. The recommended retail price is £4,300. However, as is common in the gun trade, you can find discounted prices at around £3,900. This is a lot of gun for the money, with reliability and backup in the name. 19/20
With some thought to the stock dimensions on the standard model, this gun would be truly exceptional