Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon O/U Sporter
Length: 30-in. Weight: 1420grams.
Chambers: 76mm (3-in); extended forcing cones.
Bore: Chromed Optima-Bore, 18.6mm diameter.
Choke: Optima-Choke interchangeable choke tubes.
Ribs & sights:
Ventilated top rib tapers from 10mm – 7mm. Solid side ribs from muzzle to front of fore-end. White sighting bead at muzzle; small steel centre bead.
Steel alloy with nickel finish. Factory floral and scroll engraving
Single selector. Gold finish. Recoil set for second shot.
Manual. Incorporates barrel selector.
Walnut with pistol grip and Schnabel tip fore-end.
Length of pull: 375mm (14 ¾ in.).
Drop at comb: 35mm.
Drop at heel: 55mm.
Cast for right hander.
20mm Micro-Core recoil pad.
ABS carry case. 5 internal choke tubes and wrench.
Handbook and 3-year warranty card. Oil Bottle.
Beretta NZ Ltd
Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon 1 Sporter
When the opportunity arose to testfire a 686 Silver Pigeon 1, I realised that although we have reviewed most new models of Beretta shotguns, we had never featured this model. That’s something of an oversight when you consider that the Silver Pigeon 1, their entry level over/under, is Beretta’s biggest selling double-barrelled shotgun.
The popularity of this model is easily explained. It offers Beretta quality with no compromises on materials or construction but at a very attractive price. Beretta’s extraordinarily popular 680 series, introduced in the 1980s, is gradually being phased out in favour of the new 690 models, but this gun, the 686 Silver Pigeon 1, will remain as the entry-level model to Beretta’s extensive range of over/under shotguns.
This Silver Pigeon 1 family itself is a large one. In 12-gauge, it offers a field gun, a dedicated trap model, and a Sporter, the subject of this review. Sub-gauge models, which are particularly appealing, include a 20-gauge, 28 and .410, these last two being on a scaled down frame – the “baby” frame. The popularity of these sub-gauge models can be judged by the fact that four of them featured in the sub-gauge sporting clays competition described elsewhere in this issue.
Our testfire Sporter has proved to be a popular choice with those Kiwi shotgunners who are looking to get the greatest versatility from the one gun. Designed as an all-round gun to perform competently both as a game gun and on the clay target range, especially in skeet and Sporting Clays, it is a little heavier than the field version. Weighing in at 8lbs, it is heavy enough to absorb the recoil of sustained target shooting, yet not so heavy as to be awkward to carry for long periods in the field. It’s a good compromise.
In appearance, the 686 is unmistakeably a Beretta. Its characteristically compact, low-profile action is a product of its hinging and locking system. The barrels swivel on trunnions while the barrels are locked shut by a bifurcated locking bolt engaging at the mid-point of the monobloc. For extra resistance to the stresses of firing, the barrel shoulders, integral parts of the monobloc, engage cut-outs in the action walls. Beretta’s system has proved itself to be immensely strong. In the event that the action should come loose through an extraordinary amount of shooting, the critical components – locking bolt and hinge pins - are designed to be easily substituted with over-sized replacements. This shotgun will last a lifetime of shooting.
The steel action itself is attractively presented. It has a durable nickel finish and the action walls feature a scroll and floral engraving pattern which was specially designed for the Silver Pigeon 1. This pattern extends over the bottom of the action floor. Although this decoration is done by machine, it is tastefully designed and very well executed.
The trigger group is Beretta’s reliable trigger-plate mounted lockwork, powered by coil springs, and inertia-operated for the second shot. Trigger pulls are crisp and positive. The barrel selector is incorporated into the manual safety which is mounted on the top plate in typical Beretta fashion.
The barrels incorporate Beretta’s Optima-Bore technology. Chambered for 3-inch shells and proofed for steel shot, the bores are chromed, are over-bored to 18.6mm, have lengthened forcing cones and are equipped with internal choke tubes 70mm long. Five chokes are provided: Cylinder, Improved-cylinder, Modified, Improved-modified, and Full, together with a well-designed wrench. The Sporter has a wider ventilated top rib than the field model and it tapers nicely in width, from 10mm to 7mm at the muzzle. It has twin sighting beads: a large white bead at the muzzle and a small steel centre bead. To save weight, the barrels have no side ribs beneath the fore-end, but have solid side ribs in front of the wood. Weighing only 1420grams, these 30-inch barrels are quite light for their length which contributes to the gun’s fine handling.
You don’t expect to get fine quality walnut on an entry-level Italian shotgun. It’s one area where costs can be reduced. However, I was surprised to find that the walnut on the testfire gun was of a much higher quality than I had expected. The butt-stock in particular had a very attractive grain to it. The wood has been given a good quality oil finish and the pistol grip and Schnabel-tipped fore-end have laser-cut chequering in an attractive and practical pattern. Stock dimensions are pretty standard with drop at comb and heel being 35mm and 55mm. The length of pull, 375mm, is too long for me, but the gun came fitted with a 20mm thick recoil pad. Beretta’s excellent Micro-Core pads come in different thicknesses. Substituting a 10mm pad would make the length ideal for me. The testfire gun had a significant degree of cast for a right-hander – perfect for me, but not so good for a left-hander.
Our testing was designed to assess the versatility of the gun’s performance. Our initial pattern testing showed that the 686’s Optima-bore technology produced very satisfactory patterns using the RC lead hunting loads supplied by Beretta NZ. The quality of the breaks on clay targets when we were using their RC2 target load was confirmation of the efficiency of the patterning.
Several experienced competitors took the opportunity to shoot the gun during practice rounds of 5-stand. The 686’s balance point is right on the hinge pins so that the gun has a neutral balance. For most shooters this resulted in a smooth, steady, controllable swing. Although you couldn’t describe this gun’s handling as lively, the general consensus on its pointability was very favourable. Over the course of a day’s clay target shooting, the gun’s weight and the excellent recoil pad minimised the effects of recoil. Everything worked as it should. The ejectors spat out the empties in fine fashion; there were no hiccups of any kind. Time now to test it in the field.
I was a little apprehensive that the gun’s weight might prove burdensome on a long day’s rough shooting, but it proved not to be so. Of course it’s a lot heavier than the lightweight 20-gauge I normally use when hunting pheasants, but, in the event, its handling proved up to the task when my lab suddenly flushed out game for me.
With a retail price of around $3399.00, this Beretta strikes me as being a good buy for a person looking for an affordable, high quality, versatile over/under. A comparison of this price with that of the equivalent Model 690 Sporter - $4999.00 – shows just how good a buy it is. This attractively presented Sporter would be equally at home in the duck blind (it is proofed for steel shot), in the field as a rough shooter’s gun, on the peg for driven shooting, or at the gun club breaking clays.
Copyright 2017 NZ Rod&Rifle Magazine