These Berettas were great fun, a little bit of a challenge and the ideal tonic for a jaded palate.
By Lewis Potter
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
This matched pair of Beretta S687 EELL Diamond Pigeon 28-bores would certainly make the ultimate Christmas present.
A matched pair: if they are not able to be identified by the gold inlaid numbers, 1 and 2 (or also serial numbers), it should be virtually impossible to tell them apart.
So, how does this dainty pair of 28-bores score?
In appearance they are virtually the same. Only the most subtle variations in the dark, heavily-veined, oil-finished stock wood give the slightest clue how to tell them apart.
Even if these did not actually grow side by side in the same tree they are of identical fine quality, density and weight. Cast off for right-handed use, they also have a commendable amount of toe-out while length of pulls measured the same at a shade more than 14.5/8in.
Drop on both stocks is just less than 1.1/2in at the tip of the comb and 2.1/2in at the heel. Even the positioning of the ovals is the same and that is no mean feat.
The fore-end wood is just a shade lighter than the stocks but complementary in appearance, quality and finish. Wood-to-metal fit is good and where wood is raised slightly above the steel it is the same on both, continuing the theme of a genuine pair. This is also obvious in the chequering, and one of the benefits of laser cutting must be the ability to produce identical patterns.
I think most of us have a fondness for engraving, even if sometimes we might claim (perhaps somewhat half-heartedly) that it is not necessary for a good shooting gun.
For fans of engraving, these two guns display a most generous application, from the fences and top-lever to the sideplates, sides and bottom of the action body, fore-end knuckle and trigger-guard. The patterns are striking to the eye, clean-cut and, of course, the same.
However, for Beretta, this is not too difficult to achieve, as on this grade of gun the basic patterns would be mechanically applied and then finished by hand. One small criticism is the inlaying of the gold identification numbers, which varied from neat and tidy to, in the case of one inlay, a little smudged, though this is in a vulnerable position and may have been damaged after manufacture.
At 30in, the barrels have a leggy elegance, and with little discernable flare at the muzzles it is not at first obvious they are fitted with removable chokes. Struck up cleanly and well blacked on the outside, the barrel bores are also flawless.
The three-quarter-length side-ribs are suitably proportioned and the ventilated top-ribs sport a well-cut non-reflective finish and brass bead. Assembled on the monoblock principle, the bore of each barrel is proofed at 13.9mm, which is 0.547in, and under the old British system of measurement makes them a tight 28-bore, which I feel is an advantage.
The five choke tubes for each gun are, of necessity, dinky little things identified with both notch markings and engraved details. Each set of five covers a range from full choke to cylinder bore.
The lockwork is a true trigger-plate action of Beretta's own design and while appearing a little complex, has always proved to be an efficient and reliable arrangement. Second barrel selection has a lightweight inertia system that can function dry-fired similar to a mechanical system; a necessity on light-recoiling guns.
Operation of the safety is automatic on opening the gun and features Beretta's familiar safety button and barrel selector. Trigger-pulls are crisp and even for both guns at around 3.1/4lb.
As befits a pair of guns, these are provided with a sturdy double-gun case where the lid and base are virtually identical, each half holding one gun. This has the convenience of making a case with little more bulk than one for a single gun.
Accessories include a choke key, optional rubber butt-pad, instruction manual, guarantee, gun oil and a leaflet on setting the three combination case locks. Material slips to protect the barrels, fore-ends, stocks and actions are included and, of course, there is double of everything.
There are even, for those of Continental inclination, two sets of sling swivels which would mean clamping one around each lower barrel and screwing it to the side-ribs while drilling the stock adjacent to the oval to accommodate the other. Wisely, Beretta does not actually fit them.
Good shot patterns
When it comes to handling it is not possible to tell the guns apart. At just less than 6lb they are certainly light but, with the long slender barrels, very pointable.
The curve of the grip is suitable for a variety of hand sizes and the slim fore-end also provides plenty of length, whatever your shooting style. With the right-hand cast and slim comb I found, at least for me, patterns shot at 25 yards centred well on the pattern plate. Both barrels on both guns shot to point of aim and, due to the consistency of the internal barrel dimensions and the ability to swap chokes from one gun to another, comparing patterns was rather an academic exercise.
It became apparent, in use, the choke key was a bit fiddly and was not quite of the quality one would expect to match these fine guns.
A pretty pair
On the clay layout one of the pair was set up for driven birds, using the lower barrel for the first shot and therefore the most heavily choked.
The little gun was a delight. For something so light it swung in a very positive manner, much like a bigger-bore gun but without the weight penalty.
Using 19g loads of No.9 shot, while the clays were not dusted, they were convincingly broken one after another. A change to 18g loads of No.6 shot still gave exceptionally good results.
Everything worked as it should, second barrel selection was fine and a change to the second gun was effortless and the difference not noticeable.
It is easy to be seduced by such a pretty pair but I suppose the query in some minds must be do they qualify as game guns in the sense of being on a stand, perhaps in that well-known hot corner?
Used intelligently by a competent shot, the answer has to be yes.
A partridge drive would be a better bet than high pheasants, but how many driven pheasants on most shoots are much more than 25 yards away?
So how do these two score on the scale of qualifying as a matched pair?
In all aspects, except for the numbering, they are identical twins. Were they difficult to part with back to the importer? I have to admit, yes. They were great fun, a little bit of a challenge and the ideal tonic for a jaded palate.
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