By Lewis Potter
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
The new Beretta Perennia shotgun combines technological improvement with the familiarity of popular older guns. Lewis Potter asks if it will be a success in the field
It is not very often that a gunmaker brings out a new model. In fact, it could be argued that in some sections of the gun trade, unchanging tradition is the strongest selling point. However, the world of the over-and-under shotgun is a fiercely competitive market and anyone who can steal a march over their rivals is in with a good chance of success. Yet a brand new design may not be what the customers will accept, no matter how novel, visually attractive or technically interesting, so most large manufacturers tend towards caution and much of the time a new gun is actually a variant on an existing popular and well-established action.
There is another option for gunmakers, and that is the evolution of design, where significant improvements can be incorporated, while still retaining the essential character of a previous model. The new gun can then be introduced alongside the current production run until it becomes sufficiently established to phase out the earlier type. This seems to be the route that Beretta is taking with its new SV10 Perennia. Whether it remains as an alternative alongside the well-established 687 series or eventually replaces it remains to be seen.
So, what is new about this gun? Well, quite a lot, though it is not that obvious because many of the changes are in the details. One of the noticeable differences on this gun is the Kick-Off device, which incorporates two hydraulic dampers. A visually tidy arrangement, it is an optional extra and, for the more conservative shooter, a standard pad is available. Further along the stock, let into the bottom of the grip is a hinged cover-plate, which allows access to the attachment system for quick stock removal.
Light and fast
Light and fast handling is typical of this breed, with a tendency to throw the shot a little high, allowing a good sight picture of the target over the narrow rib and dinky brass foresight bead. At 6¾lb, it would be excellent for a long day tramping around the fields on a roughshoot. However, I would fight shy of loading it up with 3in magnums as this is very much a game gun in line, style and feel.
At just under 14¾in length of pull, I found this gun was suited to me and it came to the shoulder consistently well. Even the fore-end seemed to sit a little flatter in the hand, giving a much more precise feel. As for the stock, the comb is a bit narrower than of old, which I feel is a good move, and the chequering patterns have a hint of new style without being too arty.
Innovative but familiar action
On the action, I found a blend of new and technically interesting features mixed with recognisable and familiar parts. The thumb piece of the top-lever has been increased in depth in comparison to existing Beretta models and the safety is crisply shaped for very positive contact, which is not such a bad job, as it proved positive but a little new stiff. Another obvious and, I felt, visually pleasing development is the new trigger-guard. The reshaping of this and the resulting slight dimensional changes between the grip and front of the comb should prevent bruising of the second finger.
Of course, the action body does look subtly changed with the different inletting of the stock, the detail around the fences and raised side panels. It does not end there, as the action body is a little wider than previous models and the geometry of barrels to action results in an even stronger lock up. Also gone is the gold-plated trigger. Instead, Beretta has gone high-tech and replaced it with a strong, light titanium unit.
Quick stock detachment
In the advertising, much is made of the new Q-Stock securing system, which enables the stock to be detached with the minimum of fuss. It is less than a minutes work to unlock the stock with the T-bar tool provided and, with a tap of the hand to loosen it, to then pull it away from the action. A similar lock is sited to the rear of the trigger-plate extension, which means the lockwork can be detached for ease of examination and cleaning. I am not sure quite how much benefit this might be to the average owner who, if the gun is working okay, is inclined to leave things alone. It is good news for the gunsmith, however. Even better is that most of the lock mechanism is of the reliable layout we are all used to.
Aluminium alloy fore-end iron
Changes to the fore-end iron (the metalwork that the fore-end wood fits to) incorporates a mechanism that maintains a constant barrel/receiver/fore-end iron fit, a much more complex arrangement than is the norm. While the fore-end iron is made of an aluminium alloy, it is subjected to a ceramic treatment that results in, to quote the handbook notably enhanced strength and lubricity. What is interesting is that Beretta has recognised that the move towards aluminium alloys for this component is not without its drawbacks, especially where the knuckle bears against the action.
That is not the end of the new features: there are also the modified extractors. These are now guided for their full length, though the earlier design was very reliable. Of potentially more interest is the facility to convert the operation to simple manual extraction rather than ejection. This is promoted as environmentally friendly, which means it is easier to bin cases on a clay shoot.
Beretta Optima bore system
The barrels are slim and elegant, as is expected of Beretta. The side ribs run for three-quarters of the barrel length with a gap between the barrels under the fore-end, while the ventilated matted top rib is suitably slim for a game gun. The jointing between the 30in tubes and monoblock appears better than ever, giving a very smooth, clean line to the glossily blacked barrels. Internally, the barrel bores are blemish-free with chroming extended through to include the chambers. They include a longer forcing cone, part of what the maker calls their Optima Bore HP (high performance) bore profile.
The five nickel-alloy coated choke tubes cover a range from full to skeet, all, of course, using the American designation, such as improved modified, meaning three-quarter choke. That small grumble aside, the 2¾in tubes are beautifully finished and identified with name, type of choke, degree of choke, suitability or otherwise for use with steel shot and, in addition, notch marked - so there is no room for complaints in that department.
On the pattern plate the gun threw very good patterns. A touch high as expected, but fairly central. I think the latter was helped by the relatively slim tapered comb, as the actual amount of cast is quite modest.
As this is a new design, in fact much more of it new than it would at first appear, I took the opportunity to visit a local clay ground and test the reaction of some of the regulars, both clay and game Shots. This proved to be a most interesting and worthwhile exercise. Now, I accept that ownership of a Beretta can be a bit black-and-white. You are either a fan or you are not. Yet in spite of some initial reservations, the Perennia transcended that mental barrier. Most users in my test liked it - some enthusiastically so.
A comfortable gun
Comfort was a factor that was high on the various users list of comments, followed closely by compliments concerning weight and balance. Not all was rosy, as one or two found it bouncy with fairly hot loads, but this may have had a connection with the users physique. The general consensus of opinion did follow my thoughts that this was a gun at its best with modest game loads. Altogether it had a good reception, a very thorough testing and did everything with reliable efficiency.
This gun has grown on me. While some of the technology is now more computer-aided design than traditional gunmaker, there is nothing blatantly mechanical about the Perennia. It still looks, feels and handles as a thoroughbred over-and-under should.
I am a historian working on the history of Savernake Forest.... Read more
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