It is not often that we get to test an entirely new gun from a shooting industry giant.
The cost of developing and retooling to create new models is colossal, especially in the case of biggest of the big, Pietro Beretta, a firm that makes something in the region of 150,000 shotguns a year.
So it was with genuine excitement that I first handled the new Beretta Perennia game-gun at this years CLA Game Fair at Blenheim.
The very first impression was that the Perennia based on the new SV10 action design was not that unlike the current Silver Pigeon 68 series, but, the more one looked and touched, the more it became clear that this was, in fact, a very different gun.
The asymmetric scalloping to the rear of the action and asymmetric action wall panels immediately set it apart visually from the old 68 guns (which remain in production and will continue to be sold alongside the Perennia, the first of the SV10 series).
Look a little harder at the Perennia, and you will note different action fences, different barrel shoulders, a new design of top lever and safety (the latter with its barrel selector is much improved, the main thumbpiece being larger and with deep serrations that provide more purchase).
It does not end there: the well-shaped, silver-polished trigger is of titanium instead of steel, the ejector mechanism is significantly changed and the fore-end lever has been lengthened to make disassembly easier.
Aesthetically speaking, the Perennia is a smooth, modernistic design. I was not quite sure about its extra action curves initially, but the design has grown upon me, not least because of its excellent functionality.
The Perennia is an extremely strong design even stronger than the old and much trusted Silver Pigeon (already one of the toughest guns about).
It also incorporates some especially interesting special features. The Perennia has a new barrel profile to improve handling.
And it is bored according to a plan Beretta calls Optima HP (for high performance).
This includes a modest over-boring (18.6mm), long forcing cones and new, hidden (but long) Optima Choke HP choke tubes.
The gun is 3in chambered and bears Italian fleurs-de-lis high pressure proof marks for steel shot.
The stock is interesting: classically formed with a medium-radius pistol grip of good proportions and a well shaped comb with some taper to it. The fore-end is also well shaped and has no Schnabel-style lip (a trend with Beretta shotguns).
It would be hard to improve upon the stock design.
Measurements are 14½in for length (the modern Italian standard for a game-gun). The drop dimensions show a significant change and are the better for it. The comb is significantly higher than on most previous Beretta gameguns.
Drop at heel is 2in and there is just over 1¼in at the front of the comb. There is a little right-handed cast. For most sportsmen (and many women) these dimensions will work well for driven game.
There is the easy option of increasing stock length with Berettas range of interchangeable pads. The front of the comb might be lowered by a competent stockmaker for those who have larger heads or unusual facial shapes.
My preference, nevertheless, is always for a higher comb than a lower one. As Mr 5ft 11in, 13st Average, this stock suited me well straight out of the box.
There are so many interesting technical features to this gun that it will be a job to get to them all in the space available.
Starting with the stock: this is attached to the action in a completely new way. Gone is the long stock bolt common to 99% of mass-produced over-unders.
Instead, the Perennia has a clever and more rigid system with a short bolt.
It allows for rapid stock removal by means of a key inserted through a trapdoor in the grip cap. Once the Perennias stock is off, the trigger group may be quickly removed, too, for cleaning or service.
Disassembly is achieved by the same tool that removes the stock. This ‘Q-Stock system’ appears to be a significant advance.
The preproduction test gun had no recoil reduction device in the butt. The first guns to appear in the UK early this month will, however, be equipped with Berettas Kick-Off hydraulic oil dampened recoil-reduction system.
The action of the Perennia retains replaceable stud pins for hingeing and conical locking bolts emerging from the action face and mating with matching circular bites either side of the chambers, but the barrel shoulders have been changed, which means that Perennia SV10 barrels are not interchangeable with those on Silver Pigeon 68 series guns.
The ejector system has been radically altered. The extractors are longer and guided the entire length of the barrel monobloc. One can switch the ejectors off by means of a screw in the rear part of the fore-end iron, useful for walked-up or wildfowling when one does not want to waste time searching for empties.
The Perennia shot exceptionally well, and was one of the best-shooting guns Ive tested in these pages recently.
It weighs 7lb 4oz and handles quickly with the 28in barrels fitted.
Recoil was modest, trigger pulls good and patterns excellent.
Berretta has got it right with the SV10; the gun should be a great success.
Contact GMK on 01489 579999