Around 18 months ago I tested a gun from the Italian firm Bettinsoli.
It marked the return to prominence of the brand in this country, following a new distribution deal with RUAG Ammotec Ltd, the company behind Perazzi, Rottweil ammunition and a whole range of accessories.
It was already clear the partnership was likely to be fruitful, giving competitively priced products a good distribution base is usually a recipe for success, and so it has proved.
Not content to rest on its laurels, in recent months the company has added an impressive new sporting clay gun to its range, in addition to the subject of this week’s test, the Diamond Line Deluxe.
Its grand name may be slightly misleading, however, for this is an entry level gun with a retail price tag of less than £700.
It is a ‘crossover’ model, an all-rounder designed for most types of gameshooting and some less serious clay target shooting as well. Inevitably, such a gun will make compromises along the way and the trick is to make such a jack-of-all-trades at least competent at most things, if not a master of any one situation.
First impressions are good and an indication of how far Bettinsoli and the trade in general has come in this sector of the market.
Modern production techniques have greatly improved build quality on budget guns in recent times and there has been general astonishment this particular gun retails at such a modest price.
The gun has sideplates (the false panels shaped to resemble the lockplates on a sidelock gun), which are usually reserved for guns of a higher grade where the maker wants more space for fancy engraving. Once, with the old type of acid-etched engraving, this would have been a disaster on a cheap gun – the last thing you’d want would be more of it.
Bettinsoli, though, uses state of the art laser engraving, which is remarkably effective, especially on scroll work. The gold detailing on the game scenes may not be to everyone’s taste, however.
“Budget guns can also be let down by poor wood-to-metal finish, leaving gaps like the door-fit on an old Land Rover.”
Not so the Bettinsoli, which is fitted snugly throughout, including on the tricky curves around the sideplates. Add to this the fact that the maker seems to offer consistently nicer wood than anyone has a right to expect at this price, as well as a pleasing oil finish, and it is not surprising that the gun attracts compliments.
There are a few clues to the price: the pierced top-lever is a little over-ambitious, perhaps, and a few rough edges remain inside the action – but it is an impressive package, nonetheless.
In technical terms it is unremarkable, following as it does the standard time-honoured Brescia layout.
The gun can be specified with 28in or 30in barrels and a choice of fixed chokes, or with the more versatile multi-chokes for around £30 extra, a worthwhile option for an all-purpose gun.
Steel shot compatibility and choice of 3in chambers are the norm these days on new guns. Unusually for this price bracket, for a modest additional sum it is also possible to have a true left-hand stock fitted.
One of the features of the stock is the ‘Profile pad system’, a fairly standard-looking solid rubber pad that can be replaced with one of a different width without the need for fitting. A standard is 17mm thick, but 11mm and 25mm alternatives are available for £12 or so each. This is useful, not only in getting a more precise off-the-shelf fit, but also in adapting to seasonal changes – a gun that fits over several layers of clothing in January will be too short over a T-shirt in July.
The parallel 10mm top rib is more suited to clays than game, though the simple brass bead is more traditional. The selective trigger operates through an H-pattern movement of the safety catch, a mechanical design that does not rely on recoil to reset the trigger. Surprisingly for an all-purpose gun, the makers have chosen to fit a manual rather than automatic safety.
My sample was a 30in multi-choke model and, at 3.5kg (7.3/4lb), no lightweight.
That might make it a bit of a lump for walked-up shooting, though it is a good weight for clays and no problem at the peg or in a pigeon hide.
It is muzzle-heavy, so the handling is on the slow and steady side, once again more suited to clays than fast-moving game, perhaps. It would be handy for shooting heavier loads and more testing high birds, however.
The stock dimensions are predictable, the drop of 35mm at comb, 55mm at heel being a sensible choice. Length, as we have already seen, can be adjusted easily. I liked the open semi-pistol grip, which is set off by neatly applied chequering, and the lip on the Schnabel-type fore-end is not as pronounced as some.
The trigger pulls are not unduly heavy, registering around 4.3/4lb on my gauge. They do, however, have a fair amount of drag and are a long way short of the better examples on the market. That really is the only aspect of the gun that reflects the price.
With some fettling they could doubtless be made quite crisp, but a sub-£700 price tag reduces the manufacturer’s margin for fettling time. What we have here is a very handsome gun for not much money, and one which could doubtless have a crack at most things, though walking long distances with it might not appeal.
You even get a hard case, making the new Bettinsoli remarkable value and, I suspect, a strong contender in the sales charts.
BETTINSOLI DIAMOND LINE DELUXE
– Trigger pull has some drag
– A bit heavy for walked-up shooting