I tested this dedicated competition gun to see if it had some fieldsport uses.
By Lewis Potter
Wednesday, 05 September 2012
Lewis Potter attempts to discover whether a competition over-under makes a suitable game gun, finding this heavyweight to be up to the task.
Peter Wilson's stunning gold medal in the Olympics got me thinking about the differences between clay shooting and game shooting, and how the design of specialist guns has evolved.
So, what are the main differences between the two? In simple terms, clay pigeons follow a planned flightline and are theoretically slowing down, though at the distance they are usually shot they seem fast enough.
Driven game shooting is generally more predictable than pigeon shooting, but birds still arrive at different heights, speeds and angles of approach.
To cope with the latter, plus the practical aspect of carrying a gun all day, traditional game guns are light and fast-handling.
Competition guns, by comparison, are heavier and more stable; in fact, they are a bit more like wildfowling guns in that respect.
So, there has not been a complete divergence of design, and my philosophy behind testing the Beretta DT11 was to see whether a dedicated competition gun might have some fieldsport uses.
The first impression upon picking up the cased gun was its weight.
However, the case is well made, plus there is a clutch of accessories such as spare strikers, foresights, tools and lubricant, which suggests the makers believe that, as a competition gun, it is likely to have much more use than a game gun might.
The DT11 weighs 8.5lb, which makes itself felt over the arm but, while not lightweight, it compares favourably with a double-12 wildfowling gun.
Also, once assembled, its handling characteristics are good - though it is a bit front-heavy, it is exceptionally smooth to mount and swing.
The other striking feature is the walnut, which is a riot of dark veining and deep shadows on a reddish-brown background.
The chequering patterns are fairly extensive, including a thumb rest on the top of the grip, and the cut is fine - all of which, one might argue, seems a little extravagant on a competition gun.
Where it differs from a game gun is in the finish, which is matt, though the grain seems adequately filled as protection against the elements.
Bearing in mind its intended use, the fore-end is long and well-rounded, a real handfiller, and the stock has a high comb with a deep, tightly curved pistol grip.
One of Beretta's excellent rubber butt-pads is fitted, and subtle variation on the length of pull is obtainable via the adjustable trigger.
With the popularity of the Beretta Silver Pigeon, one is tempted to make some comparison with this gun, but the DT11 is different.
Externally, the projecting Optima chokes and long, 32in barrels are true to its competition heritage, while the flared monobloc and massive standing breech further reinforce this appearance.
Having said that, it is done in a way that is visually pleasing - a typical case of Italian flair in the gun's styling.
The top-lever with cranked thumb-piece looks rather odd initially, but in use it proves to be comfortable and practical, as well as being necessary, as the top-lever spring proved to be strong.
The large-ribbed safety button would be a wildfowler's delight, however, probably due to this gun being new, it was a little stiff to operate.
The locking arrangement on these guns is also different from Beretta's popular range of game guns, with a large cross-bolt in the standing breech located on lugs (or bites) above the centre line of the top barrel.
This is a technically strong and neat arrangement, and the plunger for releasing the top-lever is of a good size.
Another nicely executed, but surprising touch is the super-small jewelling around the monobloc, which is beautiful but unexpected - a bit like the farmer's daughter turning up for haymaking wearing high heels.
Equally, the fine script details on the barrels are more what one might expect on a game gun - a contrast to the modern sweeping blue inlaid line on the side of the action body and the bold lettering of “DT11”.
The neat lockwork fits compactly into a small space and is detachable.
Lightweight short-throw hammers and a lighter inertia block help to minimise the locktime, in addition to giving the user a short triggerpull of just 3lb.
THE MECHANICAL ASPECTS
Internally, the lockwork is neatly constructed, rather complex, detachable and compactly fitted into a modest space.
Beretta has clearly made an effort to keep the locktime to a minimum, with lightweight, short-throw hammers and a smaller, and therefore lighter, inertia block, which also has a short travel.
Apart from a short locktime and quick changeover between shots, this also gives the user a delightfully short, crisp trigger-pull of a bare 3lb.
The barrels are fitted with Beretta's Optima chokes, which are 3.5in long with a knurled section where they protrude from the barrels to aid insertion and removal.
These were marked up and matched to the bore size - on this gun, 18.6mm, which is a nominal measurement, as the bore is actually tapered.
This means the measured restriction in the choke is relative to this gun - something that is often overlooked.
Having said that, the resulting pattern will still depend upon the cartridge used and its suitability for this particular gun.
I used a large variety of cartridges to test this gun, including Eley's Hi-Flyer and Olympics, Fiocchi's PL30, Hull Cartridge's High Pheasant and Lyalvale's Express Super Game and Europa Game Supreme.
Neither the Eley Hi-Flyer (30g No.6), nor the Fiocchi PL30 (30g of No.5) particularly suited this gun.
However, at 30 yards, the Olympics 28g No.7.5 load threw excellent patterns and the Europa Game Supreme, with its 32g of No.5, also produced a good killing pattern.
Up to 40 yards, the Hull High Pheasant proved its worth, and a couple of Eley Alphamax 3in with 46g loads showed that, even when wearing only a T-shirt, recoil, while a little snappy, was quite manageable and not especially unpleasant.
A short session on the pigeon over a patch of fallen corn soon made it clear that this gun should definitely be used while standing to get everything moving nicely.
Its handling characteristics were a bit deliberate for pigeon flaring away, but it was more than a match for those flapping along the hedgeline, unconcerned and unaware of any threat.
The DT11 is not really a pigeon gun, and would prove equally slow-handling for partridge.
Its use for wildfowling is limited to standard (reduced load) steel shot cartridges, and few would be bold enough to take such a beauty on to the foreshore.
Where it could find its niche is for driven high pheasants.
For anyone who wants to do this, there is a responsibility to use the right tool for the job.
With its reach, smooth handling and crisp trigger-pulls, the DT11 would manage well - as long as you do not have to walk too far with it!
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