A shotgun for sporting clays and high birds, as West London Shooting School's Mark Heath explains.
Over the latter part of the past season the birds were fit and strong and flying with the assistance of some stiff gales.
Invariably these birds, in addition to the challenge of their height, are sliding, gliding, rising, falling or dropping a wing, or all of the above.
Beretta DT11 EELL
To have the best chance of consistency requires the right tool and cartridge for the job. My preference in these circumstances is a 32gram or possibly 34gram No.4 or No.5 cartridge.
To shoot these cartridges comfortably, the assistance of a little weight in the gun is always useful to soak up recoil and the additional pointability of 32in barrels in the right hands can be an effective combination.
Step forward the Beretta DT11 EELL, a high-end gun developed for the competition circuit, right up to Olympic level. The version we are testing is the sporting-clays model but with the EELL you get the refinements of engraving and highly figured wood. This is the top of the Beretta range before going to the SO sidelock.
First impressions are that it feels incredibly well engineered. It is hand finished and the mechanism has evolved from the ASE models of the 1990s. This model was replaced by the DT10, standing for detachable trigger, which found considerable success – not least in the hands of Olympian Richards Faulds at double trap, FITASC and English Sporting.
The DT11 has been developed from the DT10; it’s a little wider in the action but otherwise has many similarities. The gun on test is the EELL and the full retail price is £16,025, compared with £8,275 for the standard DT11. The difference between this model and the one that we are testing is the deep scroll engraving on full side plates and the wood quality.
The gun has a cross-bolt locking mechanism and, of course, the detachable trigger for easy replacement in the heat of competition.
That being said, I am not sure I would want to be doing that in the middle of a drive at the bottom of an Exmoor valley.
The gun feels so strong that you would fail to pull it apart with a couple of tractors.
The test gun with 32in barrels weighed in at 8lb 9oz, so you might need to spend a little more time at the gym rather than the pub.
The standard stock measurements are pretty much the norm for Beretta products, with a 14¾in mid-point length of pull and an additional 1⁄8in at heel and ¼in a toe, with 1⁄8in cast-off at heel.
Beretta does offer a factory-fitting service with its premium guns and it’s an option I would take up. This gun is a serious contender and if it’s not comfortable to shoot you are not going to get the best out of it, regardless of how good a Shot you are.
Minor adjustments to length can be made to the standard gun using the different microcore pads, which vary between 10mm to 25mm. The grip dimensions are very comfortable and there is an adjustable trigger to cater for those with larger or smaller than average hands.
The barrels are the familiar Steelium Pro, with a long internal taper to ensure the best patterns with HP Pro chokes, and feature a nicely tapered rib, from 10mm to 8mm.
The chambers are also 3in so if you’re a user of big loads then the DT11 will handle them with ease.
The barrels weighed in at 1,541g – not the heaviest 32in barrels by any means, so the handling on the towers might not be the handful the overall weight might suggest. Kriegoff and Perazzi, among others, often feature on high-bird days and this gun is in the same bracket.
Scores for the Beretta DT11 EELL
- Engineering: 10/10 The quality of the engineering almost shouts at you when you put the gun together. Built to last doesn’t even start to describe it, its not by accident that the DT 10 action has stood the test of time and hundreds of thousands of cartridges.
- Looks and finishing: 10/10 The version we are testing is the top of the range in this model and looks amazing. The finish and fit is exemplary.
- Handling: 9/10 The gun when you first pick it up feels large however the balance is first class and consequently the handling is excellent. A fitted stock would take it a stage further.
- Reliability and customer service: 10/10 Beretta build quality and customer backup provided by GMK in the UK is legendary within the gun trade
- Value: 9/10 This gun is no cheap option but you are paying for a gun with exceptional engineering, engraving and woodwork. And if the aesthetics are important to you then this is a great option or for around £10,000 you can opt for the DT 11 L with either game scene or scroll engraving. Or a carbon fibre EELL for a little more than the gun on test at just over £17,000
In the field
Bearing in mind we were testing this with high birds in mind I used a selection of cartridges, but nothing less than 30gram No.6s and going up to 36gram No.5s. With the lights going out just after 4pm and the shooting school incredibly busy there wasn’t much time so it was straight out to the 80ft tower on the side where there is a short window because of the trees and the clays are fast. No problem turning these to a ball of smoke, the gun turned out to be very responsive due in part to the balance and the weight between the hands. This tower has the capability to throw some very wide birds which if you shot over someone you didn’t know might have consequences, however no problem with these targets so onto the 130ft tower. The main tower at West London can be shot on three different sides and to get the maximum benefit of the 130ft side really needs a northerly wind to get maximum benefit. Fortunately this was the case at the time of the test and the tower was sending some great targets. The patterns through the 1/2 and 3/4 HP chokes was just phenomenal regardless of brand, and for the record they were fibre.
The quality of the engineering almost shouts at you