Beretta's latest gun is generating lots of interest in both trade and the shooting community. Mark Heath finds out what all the fuss is about
Normally when a new product is going to hit the market you get the pre-launch ‘coming soon’ marketing. There’s no such approach with the new Beretta 694 — it’s as if Beretta has been running a black ops mission to design a new clay gun.
The new gun is aimed at the competition shooter and bridges the gap between the 692 and the premium DT11. But now it’s been launched it seems to be very much in fashion and is generating a lot of interest within the trade and shooting community alike. So what’s all the noise about?
The Beretta 694 is a serious competition gun and not merely a rebadging of a current product. It has had some significant re-engineering which makes it significantly different from any other Beretta on the market.
An excellent choice for partridge and pheasants
It also means it should stand the test of time and tens of thousands of cartridges. And if it’s good for competition shooting it may well be an excellent choice for partridges and pheasants, especially those in places such as Exmoor that tend to be slightly higher. But do get some flush-fitting chokes, otherwise your extended clay chokes might be a talking point over dinner.
Anyone who thinks this is simply a style makeover for the 692 would be very much mistaken. First, the technical dimensions: the stock length of pull is 14 ¾in to the mid-point with the customary additional 1⁄8in at heel and ¼in at toe, so fairly standard fare. The drop measurements, however, put the comb quite high at 1¼in at the comb and 1 7⁄8in at the heel, with an 1⁄8in cast-off at heel.
There is also an adjustable stock option for a little more money. The stock is a new design with a tighter radius favoured by many clay shooters, and the shoulders of the stock are designed to give better peripheral vision of the target. The butt is finished with the Micro-Core recoil pad. The overall weight of the gun on arrival was 8lb 10oz, but closer examination revealed 3oz of the B-Fast weights in the stock. The barrel weight was 1,590g with the 32in barrels, a good weight for the competition circuit, but is it suitable for the towers? We shall see. The fore-end is a slim design with steel as opposed to aluminium ironwork, complete with two fixings — the traditional loop and an interchangeable rear loop that will enable a simple change of part to keep the gun tight.
A lot of thought has been given
to the integral strength of the fore-end unit by the use of a doll’s-head shape that sits in the wood to create additional strength.
The now familiar Steelium Plus barrels are present, together with HP Optima chokes, and the B-Fast balance system will help you set up the gun to your preferred balance point to assist handling. There’s the familiar three-position adjustable trigger and a tapered rib. There are two choices of barrel length, 30in and 32in, with 3in chambers in the sporting version. So if you intend to shoot clays and/or high pheasants, all the cartridge options are covered.
The barrels are 18.6mm diameter with Beretta’s HP tapering, designed to optimise the patterns. The ejection system has been designed to ensure reliability — it’s a straight sliding system with a retaining disc, which should have greater strength even than the old 680. There are larger hinge-pin surface areas than on other Berettas, which gives a smoother operation and reduces wear.
Significant effort has gone into the design of the action and fixing of the trigger mechanism to create an incredibly strong unit — the trigger mechanism fits into the base of the action through a very strong tongue.
The gun is well presented in a premium case, complete with five chokes, a stock key and two pads. Left-handed options are also available.
Clearly a lot of time and effort has gone into the design of this gun but does it do the job expected of it? Out onto the shooting ground with a variety of 24g and 28g cartridges, both fibre and plastic wad from a variety of manufacturers, to put through the half and three-quarter chokes.
Starting with a looping target and long battue it was immediately apparent that the patterns produced were very much up to the job, with some exceptional breaks. I moved on to some long, fast-crossing mid-range targets with the same result.
It was becoming very apparent that the handling of the 694 was a step up. I decided to give it a test on the legendary West London high tower on the side that presents the highest target at around 130ft, with a trap that can push a target beyond 60 yards.
Using everything from a 24g to 36g cartridge, the breaks on the long-range targets were stunning; the targets absolutely evaporated.
The handling — which is important to both competition and game shooter — is critical. Though aimed at the competition shooter, this gun could easily cross the divide and make a high-bird gun for Exmoor’s finest.
In the 1980s and 1990s the Beretta 682 was incredibly popular and successful on the competition circuit at every level. At the top level, George Digweed and Barry Simpson won numerous championships with it. The mid-range Beretta competition guns, with some exceptions, haven’t had the same level of success since then. The 694 has the potential to put a gun in the mid-price category in the right hands back on the podium —perhaps it’s the 68 series for today. Impressive.
The right price for a gun with a lot of potential