Beretta Silver Pigeon 1 a fitting tribute, says John McDougall
It is indeed a pleasure to celebrate with Beretta Australia their 20 years of being in this country. The oldest manufacturing company in the world has been making treasured guns for more than half a millennium and to commemorate their dedicated presence Down Under for two decades – since Principal Luca Scribani Rossi moved here to head the venture – he ordered 500 customised Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon 1 shotguns with customised engraving, individually numbered for collectors and offering a higher grade of wood.
Having owned and reviewed countless Beretta shotguns during my 40-plus years as an outdoors writer, I’m more impressed than ever with this latest offering. The gun mounts well, swings smoothly, looks a treat and is soft on recoil. Steel shot proofed for high performance loads, the 686 offers everything for the Sporting Clays shooter except a mid-sight which can be added later without charge during the free customer fitting at Beretta HQ in Melbourne.
Measuring 760mm (30”) these are finished to perfection. Slightly over-bored to 18.6mm (.732”) the Optima bore barrels are suited to newer and longer choke tubes which are a huge improvement in technology from their shorter predecessor the Mobil series. Finish on the barrels is also faultless – many years ago Beretta experimented with Bruniton (a Teflon-like coating prone to scratching) but thankfully a return to high-quality, traditional blueing has been adopted here.
The internal bore of the gun is still hammer-forged where some manufacturers prefer to drill their barrels and while this has been a long and proven tradition by Beretta, I believe their higher-grade guns are line bored. The top rib is tapered to draw your eye to the target and topped with a white Trap-style barrel sight, both top and side ribs ventilated to cool the barrels quickly and prevent a heat mirage over the top rib while rapid firing, for example in a ‘flush’ shoot or duck hunting on the NSW rice fields. Yes, although labelled a Sporter the 686 is also well suited to field shooting, making it a highly versatile shotgun.
At the muzzle the Silver Pigeon 1 Commemorative is fitted with interchangeable Optima choke tubes, five supplied along with a handy case and spanner. The tubes ranged from Skeet through to Improved Modified, are 90mm long and a great improvement on the Mobil chokes used by Beretta many years ago (they’re also made from materials suited for use with high performance steel shot loads).
Extras such as jewel polishing about the monobloc and super-strong ejectors ensure longevity of service, there’s bifurcated jointing of the barrels to the rib and the gun is joined to the barrels on each side via slots milled into the monobloc interlocking. Furthermore, replaceable trunions in the receiver provide for simple service should the gun ever need to be re-jointed, for instance if the barrels work loose from the receiver and develop slight lateral movement. I’ve only ever needed one Beretta re-jointed, a 680 model that would’ve fired several hundred thousand rounds, so this is very uncommon.
This is engraved with unique scenes and while not our indigenous species, the right-hand side features a woodcock in flight and the left a partridge. Ornate scroll bordering and the Beretta logo along with model of the gun on the receiver floor are all tastefully completed and steeped in typical Beretta tradition, the replaceable hinge pins being robust and engraved with a flower design.
The look of the top lever is perfect as it engages to release the barrels, trunions protruding from the receiver face tapered to lock the barrels while the small nipple protruding from the top left of the receiver face releases the top lever. This should be done when the gun is stored to prevent loss of tension in the springs associated with the locking mechanism, particularly if the gun is put away for longer periods. The barrel selector-cum-safety catch is in its traditional position on the top tang, is positive in operation and conveniently marked with red dots to help identify which barrel is to be fired firstly – great attention to detail.
All surfaces are well inletted including metal-to-metal about the receiver, especially the shoulder where the barrels rest, inletting about the tangs done to perfection and doubtless attributable to Computer Numerical Control-driven machinery. Design of the trigger and generous gold-plated triggerguard is superb, comfortable despite having no adjustable triggerfoot, the inertia-operated trigger releases reasonable though possibly a tad heavy at around 2.27kg (5lb) for each barrel.
Stock and fore-end
These are walnut and stunning for a 686 model. Upgraded to Grade 3 walnut as found on the EELL models, the colour and character of this Turkish wood is magnificent and while a Sporter, the 686 Silver Pigeon 1 Commemorative isn’t fitted with an adjustable comb though this can easily be added later.
Design of the fore-end is exceptional – Schnabel or Tulip in design – and generously covered in chequering about 20 lines/inch, action of the lever release adjusted as is inletting of the fore-end catch into the wood. I was heartened to find a comfortable recoil pad fitted, almost essential when firing high-velocity, high performance steel shot loads and secure for positive gun mount when shooting 28-gram steel or lead Clay Target loads. The pistol grip is typical Beretta, raked with a handful of wood for steady gun control and while chequering about the grip could be a little more generous, at around 20 lines/inch it’s more than adequate.
In the field
The 686 was light and comfortable to shoot with the supplied 28-gram RC2 loads which destroyed targets using those longer Optima choke tubes. Balance and swing is delightful and that mid-bead comes in handy to ensure the gun is correctly mounted and not ‘canted’. I’m fortunate in having a build which means most guns ‘out of the box’ suit me well without major adjustment and the Silver Pigeon 1 Commemorative is certainly one of them.
In conclusion, as a user or collector’s gun (they’re individually numbered 1 through 500) an owner will be more than happy either busting clays or having made a solid investment. With a recommended retail price of $3999 (shop around), three-year warranty, Beretta factory-fitting and all accessories, you can’t go past this one-off sporting shotgun where results were beyond expectation, looks matchless and balance superb.
Maker: Beretta, Italy
Model: Beretta Silver Pigeon 1 Commemorative (1/500)
Distributor: Beretta Australia
Overall length: 1230mm/43½”
Barrel length: 760mm/30”
Overall weight: 3.61kg/8lb
Bore size and diameter: 76mm/3” chambered, 18.6mm/0.732” bore
Chokes: Optima, suited overbore barrels and not compatible with earlier models, 90mm long. Skeet 0.742”, Cylinder 0.729”, Improved Cylinder 0.722”, Modified 0.712”, Improved Modified 0.707”
Trigger pulls: Bots barrels 5lb/80oz
Length of pull, drop at comb, drop at heel: Customised with fitting
Warranty: Three years.
Recommended retail price: $3999