Charles Jones takes a look
Beretta is one of the best-known firearms manufacturers. While it is possible to pay a very large amount of money for a hand-finished Beretta shotgun, the company also produces a wide variety of more affordable mass-produced guns of superb quality.
The Beretta 686 action
Guns based on the Beretta 686 action are no exception. The 686 family was produced during the late 1980s and 1990s and designed to be compact. It features two central conical locking lugs at mid-action, which give a high locking strength while ensuring that the profile is kept as low as possible. As a result, the shooter’s eye is kept closer to the plane of the supporting hand, which assists a more natural swing and better co-ordination between hand and eye. Beretta says that the conical lugs ensure that the receiver will continue to lock up positively even after many thousands of shots as they simply ‘self-adjust’ and set themselves deeper into the barrel unit without compromising strength in any way. This is considered to be especially important to the high-volume clay shooter.
A number of variants were built around this design, catering for the various demands of competition shooters and hunters, some of which include the Essential, Onyx, Silver Perdiz, Sporting and of course the Silver Pigeon (a name also confusingly used for other action models). Beretta also includes Silver, Gold and Diamond in some of their names to designate grades; Silver tends to cover the standard models and Gold the higher specifications, while Diamond is reserved for those featuring the very highest grades of wood and most ornate engraving. They were offered in 12, 20 and 28-bore, with barrels ranging from 26 to 30in and either fixed or multichokes.
- The Beretta S686 Special was produced between 1987 and 1993, the S in the name designating that it was intended first and foremost as a sporter.
- As with all Italian sporting firearms, a two-letter code among the proof markings denotes the year of manufacture.
- It was intended as an entry-level gun to the Beretta range but certainly did not skimp on quality.
- While not as ornate as some of its more expensive cousins, this is still an elegant gun with very pleasing lines and users will immediately recognise similarities with the immensely popular Silver Pigeon 1 currently in production.
- The scroll and leaf engraving is understated but attractive, and the walnut woodwork is all that you would expect it to be in a quality Italian gun.
- Cold hammer-forged barrels with a ventilated rib, a single selective trigger and a selective ejector are all normal features, while the non-automatic safety catch points to its intended purpose as a gun for the clay lines.
- The 686 can alternately come with either fixed or multichokes. If fixed, half and three-quarters are usual but this will vary, so it is worth checking with a gauge.
- Additionally, Beretta fixed-choke guns are usually stamped at the receiver end of the top barrel to show the choke.
- The stock features a semi-pistol grip and is usually cast to suit right-handed shooters; it is rare to come across a left-hand version.
- Many carry an ‘L’ engraved on the bottom of the trigger-guard, denoting ‘Lusso’ (luxury), indicating a better quality of wood than other models.
The Beretta 686 has a deserved reputation among owners for having an excellent finish with a rock-solid action, positive handling and pointing naturally. Berettas generally hold their value well, so expect a good used example to cost a little more than some of its competitors. It is, however, worth it as these guns are in demand and do not tend to stay on the dealer’s racks for long. So, if you like the feel and fit, it can pay to make that decision to spend a few extra pounds.
Discover a few surprises with Beretta’s impressive silver pigeon budget shotgun!
The Beretta 686 Onyx is a shotgun that falls somewhere between the Essential and the Silver Pigeon.
Tech specs for the Beretta S686 Special
- Configuration: Over-and-under
- Action: Boxlock
- Choke: Fixed or multichoke
- Chamber: 2¾in
- Barrel length: 28in and 30in
- Trigger: Single selective
- Safety catch: Non-automatic, reversible
- Ejector/non-ejector: Ejector, selective
- Weight (12-bore): 7lb 4oz
- Available in calibres: 12-bore
- Cost new: N/A
- Cost used: From around £650
The Beretta 686 has a deserved reputation among owners for having an excellent finish with a rock-solid action, positive handling and pointing naturally