It's a shotgun built to the Italian giant's usual standards - and well worth the wait says Mark Heath
In the field
For the gun test, I selected a variety of cartridges, from 21gram to 36gram loads, and started the test on the 40ft tower with the light loads. The handling was neutral with no hidden vices. The gun moved well and the patterns were certainly excellent and consistent.
Onto the partridge clays, which the SL3 was equally adept at turning into a fine dust. These were followed by the high tower. This can be shot from four different locations simultaneously and on one particular side some extreme clays can be launched. Using a combination of 24gram and 36gram loads the gun showed no shortcomings, and even with just the ¼ and ½ fixed chokes the clays were vaporised.
The weight of the gun was perfect and absorbed the increased recoil exceptionally well. Next, I tried a few rather quick downwind grouse on the new layouts at the shooting school using some 28gram game loads. The SL3 performed very well on some fast clays at all angles.
One small niggle, common on Berettas, is the barrel selector being inadvertently moved across to fire the top barrel first as you operate the top lever.
The ejectors were effective and well timed, and the trigger pulls had a quality feel with appropriate pressure and crispness when operating.
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- Engineering: 9/10 The engineering on this new Beretta shotgun is exceptional; clearly a lot of thought has gone into utilising the best features from the premium guns. You can appreciate that you are investing in something of quality.
- Looks and finishing: 10/10 Overall appearance is exceptional, in particular the wood-to-metal fit is first class. The engraving is detailed and well finished; the game scene would be my preference, the mirror finish special order option is a little too flashy for my taste.
- Handling: 9/10 This was very good on the test gun, however, under no circumstances would I order this gun without a custom stock from the factory after a full gun fitting with a try gun. This gives you additional options such as specifying the point of balance, giving you a magnificent gun for all of your shooting. This gun, set up correctly, would cover every aspect of your shooting: partridges, pheasants, grouse, duck and clays. My personal choice would be a 32in with a tapered rib and, if you are offering, could I please have the same in 20-bore?
- Reliability and customer service: 10/10 The SL3 brings together the precise CNC production methods and the skilled crafts for the assembly, a perfect combination for a first- class gun. Beretta has been around since 1526 so its reputation proceeds it. The firm’s guns are the go-to default position for many game and clay shooters. Customer service and backup in the UK is provided by GMK, which has an excellent reputation for customer service. We use them for any warranty issues and the turnaround is quick and efficient.
- Value: 10/10 When you look at the detail in engineering, engraving, woodwork and finish it is easy to understand why the price is around £18,000. Comparable guns would be a Perazzi or a Browning B15 or B25. They are all good guns, it’s down to personal choice.
You are investing in something of quality.