It's a shotgun built to the Italian giant's usual standards - and well worth the wait says Mark Heath
The Beretta SL3 does not disappoint
First impressions are important and the SL3 does not disappoint. This is a completely new product in the range that brings together the mass production of the Silver Pigeon and 690 series with the hand finishing of the SO premium Beretta range.
- Beretta runs two manufacturing lines at the factory in Brescia, simply named 1 and 2. T
- The first runs the mass production of the popular models, focusing on CNC production.
- The second is where all the skilled handwork is completed on the top-of-the-range SO models.
- The Beretta SL3 is unique in that the parts are made on the CNC production line in factory 1 and hand finished and assembled in 2.
- The gun could be described as a boxlock that has been breathed on in the custom area of the factory.
- The locking system and ejectors are similar to that of the SO 10 and it has a whole raft of features to ensure that the gun will last, such as the easy replacement of key parts, including the main bolt, the locking shoulders, hinge stubs and the bases of the lower locking lugs.
- The gun on test is a 30in fixed-choke version; there are Optima multichoke versions and also 32in barrels in the 12-bore version.
- The gun weighed in at 7lb 14oz with a barrel weight of 1,478g. Some would say this is slightly heavy for a game gun in both the overall and barrel weight but let’s see how it handles later.
- The stock measurements were pretty much what we have come to expect from Beretta at around 14¾in to the mid-point with and extra 1⁄8in at heel and ¼in at toe.
- The drop measurements were slightly higher than normal with 1¼in at the comb, 2in at the heel and 1⁄8in cast off at heel.
- If I was in the market for a gun or, in a moment of generosity to myself, a pair in this price bracket, under no circumstances would I buy off the shelf but have factory-made, bespoke stocks after a full gun fitting.
- The wood quality on the test gun was exceptional, showing excellent figuring with an English style rounded fore-end, a style I favour.
- The grip is slightly open semi-pistol grip, the barrels have a solid mid-rib and a narrow ventilated game style top rib; on the 32in barrel versions there is a tapered rib. The wood-to-metal fit is exceptional and the result, I am sure, of the hand assembly.
- There are a number of engraving options. The test gun featured an English scroll design that was well executed and elegant; other options are a floral scroll design, a traditional game scene or there’s a highly polished mirror finish available on special order – possibly an acquired taste.
- Barrels are the familiar Optima Bore HP steelium with 3in chambers proofed for all shot types and the ejectors come from the SO 10. Multichoke versions use the higher grade Optima HP chokes, as used on competition guns.
- Triggers are similar to those used on the DT11, a premium competition gun, with leaf springs although not detachable.
So where does the SL3 sit in the Beretta catalogue? Clearly above EELL territory, which comes in at around £6,500, and just under half the price of the cheapest SO game gun, with the SO6 EELL priced at just under £42,000. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the aesthetics and the design of critical function parts on this gun, but does the Beretta SL3 work?