Can the best-known Italian gunmaker convince game shooters to invest in a gun designed for breaking clays? Alex Flint reports ...
With the gameshooting season well and truly over and August some weeks away yet, we move into what can be a tricky time of year for the sporting shot. Without a regular weekend fix of high-bird shooting, the local clay ground begins to look a very tempting proposition indeed – but many of us know the feeling of being a little under-equipped next to our clay shooting brethren when taking on the high tower with a standard game gun.
A gun designed for clayshooting
While I’m not for a moment suggesting buying a gun with a plethora of Allen keys and weights to adjust every aspect of your gun is necessary for consistent success on the clay ground, my years of testing shotguns has proved that one can give oneself certain advantages by choosing an appropriate tool for the task. Most shooters – of any stripe – I am sure would not know where to start with the likes of Beretta’s slightly terrifying X Trap edition guns, but it is undeniable that a gun designed for clayshooting handles significantly differently to a standard game gun. The likes of the Beretta 692 Sport on test this month provide a tempting entry to the world of clay guns, providing a high quality shooting experience at a reasonable price.
Closer inspection of the Beretta 692 Sport
Looking for all the world like a standard game gun, the only real giveaway that we are looking at something a little different with the 692 are the exposed chokes. On closer inspection one might spot a few smaller differences, such as the wide trapezoidal shape to the top rib and the actually rather lovely rubberised finish to the top-lever, which provides an intriguing visual accent and is actually quite useful in operation. Otherwise, we are looking at standard Beretta: well selected, pleasantly figured wood with a good quality, light oil finish. Chequering is fine and provides plenty of grip without feeling coarse, and the familiar shape of the Beretta action is given an understated matt finish with virtually no engraving other than the model of the gun, coupled with some bright polished accent sections. Taken as a whole, this is a very attractive, understated gun which, chokes aside, would look quite at home in the field.
At 8lbs 1oz, one might struggle to spend a day with this in the field, however. This is one of the major points of difference for clay guns – added weight for consistent, neutral handling and excellent recoil control. It would not be unreasonable to describe this as a big gun – really everything about it is larger than a game shooter will be used to, from the recoil absorbing pad through to the pistol grip (notably lacking any significant palm swell) and rounded fore-end. The gun is available with 30” barrels as tested, and also with 28” or 32” barrels, and one suspects the selection of these would have a fairly fundamental impact on the handling and balance of the gun, hence the inclusion of a set of stock weights for fine personal adjustments. It should be noted, however, that for me the gun was superbly well-balanced out of the box.
Although it’s a great gun to shoot as provided, Beretta does offer plenty of options for those who wish to adjust the gun. Alongside the aforementioned balance alterations, as standard the trigger may be adjusted for pull weight and one may choose to have the gun either eject or extract cartridges. An adjustable stock is also available as a factory option, costing an extra £300. While doubtless a good looking gun as is, one might also be tempted by the rather fetching Black Edition at £4,075 with a – you guessed it – black receiver highlighted with simple gold inlays, making an already handsome gun very appealing indeed.
Above all, and most importantly, this really is a tremendously enjoyable – though challenging – gun to shoot. Though you might not leap straight to this gun as a first clay gun, after a long day at Grange Farm it felt worth every penny of the asking price. One would be quite satisfied to be seen using this gun amongst serious clay shooters and could quite reasonably see use on a competitive as well as casual basis.
View from the gun shop
This gun replaces Beretta’s popular old stalwart clay shooting gun, the 682. Internally, the action is as you would expect for a Beretta, with the low profile receiver we have come to expect of the Italian maker. It is, however, a little wider and features slightly more heavyweight construction to offer greater control in the hand. The barrels also have a long 360mm forcing cone, which Beretta claim helps make shot patterns more accurate and consistent and help reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip.
Everything about this gun is certainly big, as it has been designed to be! If you are looking for a relatively straightforward clay gun, this really is where you should be looking as it will suit everyone from a club shooter right through to a more serious competition shooter. A bog standard sporting version of the Silver Pigeon I comes in at £1,900, so you might reasonably wonder if this is worth the difference but I would argue you really can see your money in this gun. It is a much larger, smarter shotgun and indeed, if you had started with a sporting Silver Pigeon then this 692 might be the ideal step up.
If you are keen on your clay shooting and want to start taking things a bit more seriously you would do well to look here. If you click with this gun as a clay shooter you are unlikely to really need anything else.
This isn’t a particularly crowded part of the market, though Browning and Caesar Guerini each produce sporting versions of their own standard guns. If you enjoy shooting Berettas and want something to take on some more serious clays then this is a very easy gun to recommend.
In the field
This gun proved something of a surprise to shoot for both me and seasoned shooting instructor Bruce Marks, being an entirely pleasurable experience without being our most successful session on some varied targets at Grange Farm.
It was a very satisfying and easy gun to shoot, mounting with a remarkable consistency and moving in a fluid, linear fashion but still feeling surprisingly lively. Crossing targets were particularly satisfying thanks to the consistency of swing one was able to produce, doubtless thanks to the heft and balance of the gun. Trigger pulls were excellent and felt recoil was very well controlled, with little hint of muzzle flip. The gun was very positive indeed and felt much closer to a game gun than other sporting guns we have tested. However, it must be said both Bruce and I missed a few more targets than we are perhaps used to – the gun shot very flat, in common with all Beretta guns, though this could have been mitigated with having the gun properly fitted.
In spite of my varied performance I would not hesitate to recommend the 692, since I can think of few guns which have left me smiling even when clays were missed.
Engineering: 9/10 The action is a tried and tested design, built to exacting standards.
Handling: 9/10 Very pleasurable, though certainly not straightforward.
Looks & finishing: 8/10 Minimalist, but all the more successful for it.
Reliability & customer service: 9/10 Feels like it has been built in a tank factory.
Value: 9/10 Well worth the money and should provide a lifetime of shooting.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Beretta 692 Sport