What’s in a name?
Beretta’s Ultraleggero shotgun worth a look, says Ben Unten
The latest offering from Beretta is the Ultraleggero 12-gauge over-and-under shotgun. Based on the popular 690 platform the Ultraleggero is made in Italy and features an attractive 2.5 grade Turkish walnut stock and fore-end and there have been a number of hi-tech modifications made to this shotgun in order to have it come in at a lightweight 2.87kg on my digital scales. Some of these modifications include reducing the amount of steel in the barrels, an aluminium triggerguard, reducing thickness of the walls of the action and having techno-polymer inserts on both sides and underneath.
The Ultraleggero is 1160mm in overall length, the stock featuring a straight comb with 50mm drop at heel and with a 16mm-thick rubber recoil pad stamped ‘Extralight’. Length of pull is 370mm and the grip is delicately chequered and feels slender but comfortable in the hand. Chambered for 3” shells the action features a standard, thumb-operated lever for break-open and has an intuitive barrel-selection switch underneath. Instead of the usual stamped lettering it has two concave indents ‑ the larger one painted red and the smaller one white.
When the switch is shifted to the right the larger red dot is visible on top, indicating top barrel to fire first and by sliding the switch to the left that dot is underneath indicating lower barrel to fire first. As mentioned the action has techno-polymer inserts on both sides and underneath the action, these engraved with a floral pattern and closer inspection reveals ‘Ultraleggero’ is inscribed within the engraving.
The cavity within the fore-end has been enlarged to further reduce weight while the exterior features the same chequering as the grip and a take-down lever is located two-thirds up the underside of the fore-end and operates more like a switch than a lever as it travels roughly 5mm before the fore-end is released.
The Ultraleggero is available with 30” or 28” barrels with the latter supplied for testing, the barrels spaced 5mm apart with the upper having a 6mm wide, 5mm high raised and vented rib with a single brass front sight (there’s no rear sight). Both barrels appear to have been shipped in a thin blue plastic protective membrane and as this was a test firearm I left it in situ. The Ultraleggero comes broken and the fore-end must be removed to facilitate assembly.
The Ultraleggero is delivered with an Improved Cylinder choke installed in the under barrel and a Modified choke in the upper. The shotgun comes supplied with three additional chokes in Full, Improved Modified and Cylinder along with a plastic choke key, 25ml bottle of Beretta oil, rear screw swivel mount and barrel clamp swivel mount. As this shotgun is going to be carried more than it’s shot, mounting the swivels is the first thing I’d do but as a review firearm I left it as-is.
In the field
This is a lightweight shotgun and as we’d chosen No.4 and No.7 shot for the bulk of the testing, recoil was certainly noticeable. A target was set up at 25m and as we began test firing, the lack of a rear sight did take some getting used to until I eventually worked out the correct ‘rib-to-sight’ ratio (that is, how much of the rib I needed to see beneath the brass front sight) until I felt comfortable and confident enough to take it bunny busting around my place.
Even though the distances were short the lack of heft made carrying the Ultraleggero a pleasure. This was especially noticeable as I’d just returned from an unsuccessful deer hunt where I had had to lug my Tikka Varmint T3 in .243 uphill and down dale as my other mountain rifles were either having work done at the gunsmith or experiencing ammo supply issues. The ejectors are virtually ‘super-charged’ and spat out spent shells like insults from a disgruntled footy fan.
I found this shotgun handled and swung pretty well in the field and while the weight and balance do take time to feel comfortable with, I certainly grew in confidence when swinging through fast-moving targets. Unfortunately while there were plenty of rabbits around, recent rain and warm temperatures meant it wasn’t possible to move in close enough or track them through the undergrowth.
The Ultraleggero is a well-balanced lightweight shotgun and, bearing the Beretta name, the quality speaks for itself. For those in the market for a shoulder-carried field shotgun you’d be hard pressed to go past the Ultraleggero which retails for $3499 and is available from Beretta dealers or visit www.berettaaustralia.com.au for more.