The Silver Pigeon has been around since the 1950s but there's a reason for that - it's one of the most reliable guns built, says Mark Heath
The Beretta brand is not short of choice — with the 69 series alone we have models covering both field and competition options. These include the 691, 692, 693, the new 694 and the 695, covering a wide range of price points. As a consequence I was starting to think we were about to hear the last post for the Silver Pigeon, when an email popped up asking me to review the ‘new’ Beretta Silver Pigeon 1.
Before I do, it is worth looking at the quite significant evolution to date. In the 1950s, Beretta produced the 50 series: the 55, 56, 57 and 58. These early models had leaf springs and included a 57EL — today’s equivalent of the EELL. Interestingly, there is a 56E for sale on the national trade database for £675 and a 57EL for £1,550 — probably more than was paid for them originally.
These guns were followed by the 68 series, with the 680, which was the clay shooting version, and the 685. The next models to appear were the 686 and the slightly higher grade 687. I started clay shooting with a 686 Sporter and a 686 trap gun, shooting my first 100 straight at DTL, which resulted in my hat being thrown up and shot by those shooting with me.
I then bought a 687 20-bore that I still have, complete with an extra set of 32in barrels acquired later. The 686/687 model was followed by the Silver Pigeon series, with varying price points from the Silver Pigeon 1 up to the EELL.
Advantages of buying a Silver Pigeon 1
In the car world Jeremy Clarkson has been known to say that if you don’t know what car to get, buy a VW Golf. The same can be said in the shooting world of the Silver Pigeon 1, especially if you’re a novice or occasional shooter. The advantage of buying a Silver Pigeon 1, especially if you’re unsure or a novice, is that if you can learn to shoot with it and determine what direction your shooting is going to go, then trade up to a higher grade or specialist model. At the same time the gun dealer will be pleased to take your original purchase in part-exchange because they know it is an easy ‘sell’ second-hand.
Having said that, many people stick with the Silver Pigeon, especially game shooters —albeit the field model.
The new Silver Pigeon 1 version that arrived at the shooting school in the familiar Beretta case was the competition/ Sporting version. Taking it out and assembling the gun it looked pretty familiar — so what’s different? Aesthetically the scrollwork has been applied using the latest laser-engraving methods, delivering a design of a standard you would expect, with the Beretta trident on each side of the gun.
The main technical upgrade is the use of Steelium barrels and HP Optima chokes. It is proof-stamped with the fleur-de-lis, showing it can use steel shot, and the gun comes with a plastic case for the chokes and key.
The measurements on the new gun are also familiar, with a 14 ¾in length of pull, easily adjustable with the Beretta MicroCore pads. The drop measurements were slightly higher than normal at 1 ¼in, 2in and the expected 1⁄8in cast-off at heel. The wood was plain, with a strong horizontal grain through the stock.
The competition model on test had a ventilated mid and top rib, while the field version comes with a solid mid rib and narrow top rib. There is a manual safety catch on this version and auto-safe on the field.
The gun comes in .410, 28-, 20- and 12-bore, and left-handed versions are available in each bore size. The gun can also be ordered with an adjustable stock and the 12-bore can be specified with 28in, 30in or 32in barrels. The one part of the gun I didn’t take to, which can be easily changed, was the bead. It is as large and white and as bright as the Needles Channel lighthouse when you’re trying to catch the tide into the Solent.
On to the test and, as this gun is targeted at the clay-shooting market, all the cartridges used were 28g or less. We shot a range of targets with the gun — rabbits, crossers, battues, tower targets and loopers.
The gun, as expected, has no vices. It handles well, has the usual high standard of trigger-pull, the ejectors had excellent timing, and the stock radius is comfortable, as is the fore-end grip.
If you were going to compete on the clay scene you might want to consider the 692 or new 694, slightly further up the Beretta range.
This gun goes head to head with the Browning 525 and perhaps the 725. They are all guns that will give years of service, so all down to personal preference. We encourage people to try different models with one of our instructors before they buy.
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An entry-level gun in the Beretta range that is well put together and history tells us will last a lifetime. Our shooting school Silver Pigeons are out in all weathers every day — some have had hundreds of thousands of cartridges put through them and, apart from the occasional spring or ejector, carry on working. The parts are easily obtainable and consequently down-time is minimal.
- Action/barrels: The action is tried and tested and the new laser engraving doesn’t detract from the gun. The Steelium barrels deliver the usual Beretta handling and excellent patterns. 18/20
- Trigger and ejectors: The trigger-pulls are standard Beretta with no vices and the ejectors are well timed and effective. 19/20
- Stock: The wood in this price bracket is not going to be exotic, but it has straight grain to give strength and the dimensions are excellent for an off-the-shelf gun. Easy to adjust by a competent stocker after a gun fitting. This will greatly assist your shooting. 19/20.
- Handling: Handling is predictably Beretta. For a full-on competition gun I would like a little extra weight but that’s a personal choice. This gun will do the job in a wide range of shooting arenas. 19/20.
- Value: This is a lot of gun for the money. You may well find it slightly cheaper if you do your homework. 19/20
- Score: 94/100
Lot of gun for the money