Beretta Silver Pigeon Classic
Vic Harker is impressed by the new Beretta Silver Pigeon Classic.
To manufacture a shotgun of outstanding quality and design is not an easy task, but if cost is not important it is far less so. To produce a gun of outstanding quality to sell at a price that has ensured it's been a best seller worldwide for half a century is quite another matter. That is the scale of achievement the Beretta 680 Series shotguns represent.
I've been looking at the latest incarnation, a game gun, the Silver Pigeon Classic. Well executed engraving enhances this gun but I make no apologies for the far greater importance I attach to the action, because it's a classic of proportion and strength created by a genius. Tullio Marengoni was employed by Beretta all his life and his inventiveness was incorporated into every type of firearm the company produced. When, in the early 1930s, he was tasked by his employers with the designing of Beretta's first ‘Sovraposto', the over-under shotgun, his original thinking once again came to the fore. Based on conclusions gained from experiments he conducted which demonstrated that when a shotgun is fired the forces generated by the explosion flex the barrels and action together, he decided to dispense with complicated under-bolting and to lock the gun together above the explosion of the cartridge, thus working with the natural forces he had identified.
With the SO sidelock introduced in 1935 he achieved this with a form of cross-bolting, but with the much later 680 Series guns a bifurcated bolt – or as Beretta terms it, a U bolt. On closure this bolt comes forward through the breech face and locates in shoulders integral to the monobloc. These shoulders also meet with recesses cut each side of the action body and provide bearing surfaces that relieve stress at this important conjunction of the barrels and the action. This form of bolting creates a low profile action body that is both elegant and very strong. Strong because it requires no removal of material to accommodate barrel lumps locating through the bottom of the action body as an under-bolted gun requires. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Beretta's over-under guns is this strength within a design that is simple and compact. All subsequent Beretta over-unders have incorporated these original principles and the Silver Pigeon is no exception.
Stocked with a handsome piece of Turkish walnut, its configuration has been given the most careful attention. As befits a gun for game shooting, the tapered comb is suitably slim to locate comfortably under the shooter's cheekbone when he brings the gun to his face. The pistol grip has an open radius which keeps the shooter's hands in line. This is particularly important in a game gun which is always mounted with the stock somewhere about the level of the hip, requiring both hands to work together to create a smooth coordinated movement. A very neatly turned and checkered butt-plate is only one of the features that make this gun not only feel the part, but look it too.
The stock's dimensions are 35mm-55mm drop at comb and heel, length of pull 3.75cm, cast at heel and toe 4mm-8mm.
Innovative design in all Beretta guns is complemented with state of the art metallurgy. Both the action and the barrels are manufactured from the latest tri-alloy steels that are hard and durable and far less susceptible to corrosion than steels used to be. In the case of the Silver Pigeon, the barrels are bored a tight 18.4mm and the set of five detachable chokes correspond to constrictions suitable for all game at differing ranges.
Beretta's barrel production employs cold hammer forging in which a drilled and reamed blank of steel is put on a mandrill and inserted into a machine with hammers that pound the steel to a perfectly uniform profile. The barrels on my test gun were beautifully finished and testament to this time-honoured process, nowadays executed with the most advanced machinery.
With 30" relatively light barrels the Silver Pigeon Classic represents the modern game gun as it should be. At 7lb 8oz it's not too heavy, but with enough weight to digest more powerful cartridges comfortably. It's also sufficiently light not to tire the shooter in a hot corner. The Beretta's trigger plate action also provides class-leading trigger pulls with absolutely no drag, straight out of the box. A quality that should be intrinsic to a true game gun is versatility, which is to say it should provide the shooter with the means to deal with all game shooting adequately.
In this the Silver Pigeon more than meets this criterion. I would be very happy to use this gun on a high pheasant shoot and at the same time it's sufficiently handy for a walked-up day with a mixed bag. I only had the opportunity to shoot it at clays, but on the high tower and the bolting rabbit at North Oxfordshire Shooting Ground it convinced me this was a gun for all seasons.
The Silver Pigeon Classic is much more than just another cosmetic exercise. It combines mechanical reliability with fine handling characteristics, packaged in an elegant design that is timeless. I have to say I was very reluctant to return this gun to its importers, GMK.
Model: Silver Pigeon Classic
Bore size: 12
Barrel length: 30"
Action: Non-detachable trigger plate
Chokes: 5 multi-chokes
Rib: 10–7mm tapered
Stock: Pistol grip. Drop at comb & heel 35mm-55mm, pull 3.75cm, cast at heel and toe 4mm-8mm
Weight: 7lbs 8oz
Price: £2,825 (inc. VAT)