A great package for the game shot who wants one gun for all his or her shooting without breaking the bank, as West London Shooting School's Mark Heath explains
The Beretta 695 on test is a relatively new offering from the Beretta stable and top of the range for shotguns based upon the 690 action. It is available in 12 bore and 20 bore and in this form comes with fine, deep-relief scroll engraving and Grade 3 premium walnut fitted with a silver oval to take your initials.
The stock on the gun we used for the test was particularly well figured; to check that this was the norm, I had a look at two others recently arrived in the gunroom at the West London Shooting School (WLSS). Both had wood that was equally well figured and with a little effort with some stock oil could be made to look stunning. The stock comes out of the case with a wooden butt plate, which sets off the stock nicely.
The gun is pitched between the 690 III and the Silver Pigeon EELL in terms of price. Stock measurements are slightly different from standard Beretta offerings, with a mid-point length of 147/8in, slightly longer than the norm, and drop measurements of 1¼in, 2in less than usual with cast at 1/8in, which is standard. Overall weight comes in at 7lb 5oz. This combination is an excellent starting point for an off-the-shelf gun.
The Beretta 695 is the gun that does everything
This gun is suitable for pretty much anything that you want to do with it: formal driven day; partridge or pheasant, whether high birds or a less stratospheric day; even a day on the grouse. No problem, it will perform. It will handle 500 shots on a greedy simulated day with ease – and shoot your neighbour’s clays if that’s the sort of company you keep. On a charity or corporate clay shoot it will do everything that you ask and then do the same on a small walked-up day.
Technical and quality
Beretta is one of the world’s most successful arms manufacturers and, as expected, there are predictable levels of first-class build quality with the 695. The reliability of Beretta sporting shotguns is legendary – and even better if you look after them properly. This gun has evolved from the old 686/687 series; I still have a 687 20 bore that I am fortunate to have 30in and 32in barrels for and it’s never going to be sold. If a spring or ejector has a problem it’s an easy fix, though this very rarely happens.
The 695 comes in an upgraded case usually reserved for the EELL version, with a gun sock and four Optima chokes. It has a solid mid rib and vented narrow top rib. The balance is ¼in in front of the hinge pin; if your preference is on the pin this is easy to deliver with a little bit of additional weight being added to the stock. The schnabel fore-end was well executed, however, I would, for personal preference, have the lip removed by a good stocker.
There’s the usual first-class level of finish, with excellent wood-to-metal fit and overall engineering of the usual Beretta high standard.
The closest competitor is probably the Grade 5 Browning 725. These two guns are both great products; it’s a question of you pay your money and take your choice, you cannot go wrong with either. These guns are popular for a reason – they do the job, they work and you can buy them as basic or premium models.
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In the field
We started on partridge clays coming over the top of some oaks, moving the trap to take account of all the angles, before moving to the high tower for some higher birds. We had no problem shooting the partridge clays and some tight patterns with ¼ and ½ chokes.
The gun offered first-class handling with no vices and was most effective. The grip is comfortable, the gun moves without too much effort and is pleasant to shoot.
We tried 32gram cartridges from a manufacturer with a reputation for enthusiastic but effective cartridges (thumpy). The felt recoil was fine with no discomfort and some magnificent breaks. The high tower produced the same results, with some wide, high clays being disintegrated effectively. And lastly back to earth and the grouse, where we placed the trap at extreme angles on the fast layout to see if we could make the gun fail. However, it proved equally as effective on some really nasty grouse targets.
- Engineering: 10/10 Very well engineered and presented. Great trigger pulls, effective ejectors. The complete package.
- Looks and finishing: 9/10 The scroll engraving is well presented, the wood is exceptional but would benefit from some additional finishing. The standard measurements are very good for an off-the-shelf gun.
- Handling: 8/10 If you are looking for a gun that will do everything in the game-shooting field this could be the one for you. A great all-rounder.
- Reliability and customer service: 10/10 Beretta guns rarely have a problem. If something doesn’t work it’s usually minor and can be fixed quickly. The back-up through the UK distributor is excellent and any gunsmith of standing can fix these without difficulty.
- Value: 9/10 With an RRP of just over £4,000 it sits below the EELL at £6,400. It really depends on the level of aesthetics that you require. For this money you get a great-looking gun that handles very well.
- Overall: 46/50
For the money you get a great-looking gun that handles very well