Roger Glover tests out Beretta's 686 Silver Pigeon I Game Scene 12-bore, an all-rounder that offers something for everyone at an excellent price
Ever keen to keep a fresh face on long-life models, Beretta has launched the Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon I with the new Game Scene engraving. The Silver Pigeon range has involved many models over the years.
There have been some changes to the action, but essentially the heart of it all is close to the original design. It works well with little need to change it.
A new take on the decoration
The engraving pattern on the cheeks of the action does offer a new take on the decoration of this gun. With rising pheasants on the right side and flighting ducks on the other, there is no question that this is outwardly a field gun with the best of sporting intentions. Clearly at this price point you are not going to see any hand-engraved work, but for rolled or pressed engraving these scenes do fit well with the scrollwork that abounds around the rest of the action.
Design renowned for reliability
With an action that has been in production for so long, it is fair to say the design is a proven one and renowned for its reliability. Lock-up is by Beretta’s famous tapered round lugs, two pins from the breechface engage with two holes either side of the barrels, creating a relatively shallow action as there is no locking bar lower down under the barrels.
The trigger-plate action, like most over-and-under guns with a single trigger, uses an inertia block system to select the trigger sear for the second barrel. I measured the trigger-pull several times as I thought the scale was reading wrong; it really does break at 4lb 11oz, but you don’t feel anything like that on your finger. Though a bit heavy, it breaks with a crisp snap with only the slightest of take-ups. The barrel selector on the top tang safety catch is smooth and notch-free in use — a delight. It is also easy to return it to the safe position if a shot was not taken.
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Strikers and hammers
The strikers are on the vertical centreline of the action, which means there is less stress on them than if they were set diagonally. The hammers are so designed to have ears to contact the strikers, and cut-outs so the offset ears pass each other. Simple and straightforward, the mark of good design.
The ejectors are tripped by the same rods that re-cock the hammers. Again, simple and efficient design with just one lever per barrel in the fore-end iron to facilitate this. Once tripped, the ejectors dispense the empty case well clear of the gun and, in most cases, over your shoulder.
Sighting down the barrels has a traditional view with a finely cross-filed 6mm ventilated rib; slender and accurate to guide you straight to the bead. The only fault I found here was that the pattern gave the illusion of a bent rib, which was rather off-putting, even though the rib is dead straight.
Chokes are 50.8mm long and fully internal. Though short by current trends, they certainly do work as proven in the pattern sheets.
With its 3in chambers and chrome-lined barrels, there is not much you can’t fire through this gun, with the obvious exception of steel shot through any choke tighter than modified. With 18.4mm bores, felt wads will seal well and deliver their true performance without leaking gas.
At 7lb 8oz it is by no means lightweight, but by that virtue it is not going to fall apart on you in 10 years’ time either.
The stock is nothing special in terms of wood used; stained down to dark brown, it holds little in the way of pleasing figure with its very straight grain, but remember the price here. At least this is an honest piece of wood that will serve well for many seasons; you will get plenty of use from it and it should take the knocks that are bound to happen.
It is, however, suitably proportioned — with 2 ¼in of drop at the heel and a good ¼in of cast, it won’t be far off a decent fit for Mr Average. I do feel the stock is rather let down in the quality of the chequering and the somewhat mundane design of the panels, but we are at the budget end of Beretta’s range, so perhaps my expectations are a little high.
The gun is presented in a sturdy case with moulded dividers and padding where required. In the case are three alternative choke tubes, gun oil, a butt-plate to reduce stock length by ¼in instead of the recoil pad, a plastic choke key — which is far more robust and positive in action than I thought it might be (though the lugs that engage the choke are metal) — a guarantee card and manual, and a pair of sling swivels.
Not just a game gun
The 686 Silver Pigeon I is intended as a game gun, but it has such a strong following as a great all-rounder that it becomes hard to peg it as just a game gun. It won’t cause embarrassment on a driven shoot, it will work hard for you on any rough shoot and should return a good bag in a pigeon hide. Yet on a Sunday you can take it to your local clay ground and not feel too disadvantaged against dedicated clay guns on any stand.
This Beretta has something for almost everyone.
Need to know
Maker: Beretta, Italy
Model: 686 Silver Pigeon Game Scene
Barrels: 30in multi-choke Chrome lined (26in and 28in also available)
Rib: 6mm filed and ventilated
Length of pull: 14¾in with recoil pad
Weight: 7lb 8oz
Features: Game scene engraving, multi-chokes, single selective trigger, steel-shot proofed.
The market share that Beretta targets with the 686 Silver Pigeon involves pretty fierce competition.
You must have faith in your product to succeed, and over the years Beretta has followed that faith and evolved this gun into what it is today.
The engraving does add a new twist and bring it up to date, but the main thing is that this gun has everything you need.
You might want more, but as a step on to the Beretta ladder this gun lacks little. It is a workhorse no doubt, but there is blood from the thoroughbreds of the Beretta stable in there too.
The stock lacks a little style and quality, but there is a price for everything and this gun holds standards in the action and barrels, which does pay off in your shot and the gun’s lifespan.
If you want a better-stocked gun look further up the Beretta range, but for that first toe dip, give the 686 Silver Pigeon I Game Scene a serious look.
This has got to be the 686 Silver Pigeon’s true strength. Beretta’s reputation with this design is worldwide. Chrome lining means that you can fire light clay loads, through game loads to high performance steel shot for waterfowl. Multi-chokes offer versatility for many disciplines. 18/20
Trigger and safety
On the scale the trigger is over-heavy, yet while feeling firm it doesn’t come across as awkward or difficult in use. The auto safety is good on barrel selecrion, fine to disengage and lovely to re-engage. 16/20
Not wanting to slam the Silver Pigeon as it fulfils its duties well, but I find the stock very plain and basic – almost misplaced. If I could request any improvement on this gun it would be entirely in the stock, but clearly Beretta has traded quality of stock for precision in the action, and it does show. You get what you pay for. 15/20
Beretta doesn’t produce a bad gun. Even at this entry level it has worked on balance and composure. I found the Silver Pigeon slightly over-cast in the fit, but on the whole it shoots well and is fast to reload and oeprate. It feels neutral and stable in the shoulder, an attribute not always found at this level. 18/20
Different manufacturers take differing views as to where to put the money in a gun. Muc as I like a quality stock, I am pleased the Silver Pigeon has the lion’s share directed at the action and barrels. A stock is a handle, but if the action is no good you will never have a decent gun. 18/20
This Beretta has something for almost everyone.