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We have seen many incarnations of Beretta's iconic Silver Pigeon shotgun before, and Mike Yardley is pleased to see the latest version - the Silver Pigeon 5 - is as robust and well designed as we have come to expect.
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This month's test gun, imported by GMK of Fareham, is the new Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon V. It is, of course, an over-and-under with a single-selective trigger, based on a very familiar action – one which has proven itself to be nearly indestructible even with continual use and abuse (which is the reason why so many shooting schools use Silver Pigeons). They seem to remain eternally popular with the shooting public as the Anson and Deeley side-by-side once was for earlier generations.
What sets the test gun apart is its action decoration. The name might have fooled you, meantime, into thinking it was a colour-hardened gun with gold bird inlays like the previous Silver Pigeon V (although the colours on the action body of that gun were actually created by a chemical process not bone meal hardening). What you see here though is laser-applied scrollwork on a silver-finished action more reminiscent of the briefly marketed, but very good, Beretta 695 (a specimen of which I use).
First impressions of the new gun are good – it is one of the prettiest 68 series yet seen. I also liked the old Deluxe 687 models (which may partly inspire this). Beretta seem to have mastered laser engraving now. Decoration on 68 guns used to be rolled on with special presses with a dozen or more operations per gun. In action, the presses looked like reloading machines and required skilled operators. I once watched this work being done in the Brescian workshop of master engraver Cesare Givanelli. He improved the process for Beretta and engraved many guns for them.
The latest Beretta engraving is cut on a 5-axis CNC machine; it's not especially deep, but it is well done and looks most attractive as noted. I think it is hard to beat good scrollwork on a game gun and I much prefer it to anything but the finest, hand-cut, game scenes.
The nice engraving here is complimented by excellent wood and general high standard of finish, including barrel blacking by a new process.
Moving on, the steel shot, Fleur de Lys proofed, 18.6mm-bored barrels are available only in 30" in this field model. I've no issue with this, as whether in 12- or 20-bore, 30" is always my first choice unless considering serious heavyweight competition guns.
The barrels are well presented as one expects from Beretta, with a nice, light, 6mm ventilated sighting rib and full-length, solid, joining ribs. 6mm parallel is my favourite pattern in a game gun, although solid ribs are less prone to denting (but may add frontal weight).
Barrels have got longer in recent years. Mr Churchill would have once had us all shooting with XXV 25” guns, but that fad played out. Nevertheless, I'm old enough to remember when gun shops didn't like 30" guns and would order 26, 27 and 28" routinely. I've long since concluded 30" and just over 7lb is the way to go in a game gun, and that is exactly what we have here. We've actually gone back to the ideals of 1900!
The stock on the test gun was excellent as well. The wood, which has a shiny, but still attractive, finish was far better than the average. I liked both the butt and (lipless) fore-end shapes. The measurements were ok but there was quite a lot of drop to the rear (easily remedied because a higher stock is a no cost option).
All Berettas tend to be a little thin in the grip forward, but this is a consequence of their otherwise excellent low-profile design. Brownings, which are deeper in the action, have a wider spacing between their top and (fixed) bottom straps, allowing for an almost ideal grip shape, but at the cost of action height reduced to some extent in their 725 guns.
This action will be familiar to many readers. I don't know how many Silver Pigeons I've tested over the years, it must be, literally, dozens. I'm always impressed with their robust mechanics. The guns are an evolution of the old Models 55 and 56.
The Silver Pigeon ranks as one of the greatest of all over-and-under shotgun designs. Its features include a low-action profile made possible by trunnion hinging (inspired by the British maker Woodward) and Beretta's own, clever, conical bolting.
The gun is designed for machine manufacture but a surprising amount of handwork still goes into the final testing and regulation. These guns are designed to be used a lot.
The 9mm hinging studs are available in three over-sizes (each going up .15mm). The conical locking bolts also benefit from two over-sizes. The Silver Pigeon still has a steel fore-end iron (unlike the 69 series) and two old-fashioned (but good) machine screws to hold action and trigger mechanism/guard together (unlike the newer 69 guns which have a dovetail at the bottom and a single screw to the top). All in all, a very smart gun!
I was pleasantly surprised by the way the new Silver Pigeon shot. I liked the balance with the 30" 6mm rib barrels. They seemed to suit it well, and the gun didn't have that heavy-forward quality many modern guns do with thicker ribs. The overall weight of 7lb 3oz would be near my ideal for a field gun – light enough to carry, heavy enough to be steady. The stock shapes were good too.
I shot the gun at some really demanding targets for this test, skipping my usual Skeet 'Low 2' start. I thought I was on for a straight on a tough pro Trap layout but missed my last bird when I got too cocky!
Meantime, this is a good, pretty, gun. The only negative was that the trigger pulls were quite heavy, but this didn't stop me shooting well with it. It is quite pricey when other Silver Pigeons start just under £1,200, but it's very smart and does the biz admirably well.
Model: Silver Pigeon V
Action: Trigger plate over and under
Chokes: Multi (Beretta Opti-Choke)
Weight: 7lb 3oz
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Quality, ultra-tough LRF binoculars at a sensible price. Paul Austin looks at (and indeed through) the very latest optical offering from Steiner in this review of the Steiner Ranger LRFs!
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