The Anglicised, 28in double-trigger, straight-hand version 12-bore gun as tested does not maximise this design's potential virtues.
By Mike Yardley
Monday, 08 October 2007
The Beretta 471 Silver Hawk side-by-side is sound and reassuringly well engineered.
Beretta's products need no introduction to Field readers, but this month's test gun is interesting for being a little different to the modern Beretta norm.
It's not an over-and-under but a fairly traditional, double-trigger, boxlock side-by-side called the 471 Silver Hawk.
Of course, Beretta - the world's largest sporting gunmaker - has been making side-by-sides for generations, but in recent years its over-and-under production has eclipsed the manufacture of side-by-sides by a massive margin.
Nevertheless, Beretta still makes a large range of side-by-sides in both 12 and 20-bore. The current line includes the multi-choked, straight-hand, double-trigger gun as tested in 12-bore. There is also a single-trigger gun with or without a semi-pistol grip. And there is a fixed choke model for those content with quarter and three-quarter choke or a modification of those constrictions (my preference would be improved and half).
As well as the basic grade guns, which cost something over £2,295 with scroll-engraved, silver-finished actions, there is an SC model with an ersatz but attractive chemically achieved 'colour case-hardened' finish at £2,540; an EL model with side plates and gold inlays (£5,100), and a 'bells and whistles' Jubilee II deluxe.
This is more or less the old 470EELL as was, another side-plated gun, which looks quite expensive now at a cost of £10,500.
All of which brings us back to the test gun. It has 28in, multi-choked barrels and looks smart with silver action and fore-end furniture as well as a scroll-engraved, silver-finished, subtly scalloped action.
First impressions are good rather than outstanding, but this is a gun that impresses more as you explore its detail and finish.
The monobloc barrels, for example, appeared to be especially well made. Wood-to-metal fit was excellent, too. The machining and general finish quality of the action was excellent and the jointing between barrels and action impeccable. I also liked the articulated front trigger, and the unusual catch on the fore-end iron which allows one to turn off the ejectors if desired.
I was not especially fond of the chequering on the thumb-piece of the top lever, nor did the shape and finish of the safety appeal: the ramp needed to be a little steeper to achieve good purchase. Nor was I especially impressed with the grip, which was square in cross-section and too flat-topped for my taste. The tang of the trigger guard could have done with a bit of engraving, and the scroll on its bow looked sparse.
The gun, however, felt very solid - more so than some mid-price side-by-sides coming out of Italy - and better than many modern Spanish boxlocks. There was little vibration on closing the gun (an issue with side-by-sides where a stock-bolt replaces the breech-pin as the usual means of attaching the stock to the action).
The impression given was of a gun developed and built by an experienced team.
On bringing the gun to face and shoulder, I was struck by a muzzle-heavy balance - more than an inch in front of the hinge-pin. The gun was fairly low in the comb as well, and quite weighty for its length and purpose - about 7lb.
But, I will give credit where it is due and emphasise that the gun looked well engineered and felt well constructed - a shooting tool that I would imagine lasting as well as any Beretta over-and-under, and one in which I would have complete confidence in firing any sensible load on a regular basis.
Looking at barrels in more detail, we may note 3in (76mm) chambers, fairly tight bores - the right is marked at 18.3mm and the left at 18.4mm - and medium-length forcing cones. The barrels are made on the monobloc system as noted. The joint between monobloc and tubes was good.
I am left wondering, however, why Beretta has dispensed with the laser fusing of monobloc to the tubes which was a feature of its side-by-sides and one introduced comparatively recently. This seemed an excellent development, an improvement on conventional monobloc manufacture. It put monobloc barrels on a par with their chopper-lump equivalent for both strength and appearance.
In spite of this seemingly regressive step the barrels are exceptionally well presented with straight bores and first-class external finish. They are chrome lined and equipped with new long-type Optima multi-chokes. The concave rib - which is brazed to the tubes - was very good too. It presented a true and near ideal picture to the eye with a well-proportioned brass bead at the muzzles.
This gun has the typical Beretta feel of being well engineered and constructed.
The stock of the 471 was made from good-quality, fairly dense timber, with average figure. The walnut looked close-grained and strong. Wood-to-metal fit was first class. The stock was 14.5/8in long with nearly 1/2in extra at heel and 3/8in at toe.
This slightly exaggerated heel measurement matches my preference. Many guns are not quite long enough at this point (measured from the middle of the trigger to the bump - the protrusion - at the top of the butt sole) and, consequently, do not feel as secure at the shoulder as they might. When fitting guns, I often find myself increasing length to heel but slightly decreasing length to toe, ending up with dimensions (save for length) very much like those of the test gun.
The drop at comb was fine at 1.3/8in but the heel measurement, at 2.1/8in, was 1/8in more than I would advise on a production gun. The comb had some taper and just about passed muster; I would have preferred a more bowed shape to the sides.
The grip was rather square in cross section with a flat top surface enhanced with a chequered diamond to improve purchase. A more oval or diamond shape might have achieved the same effect more ergonomically and elegantly.
Chequering was well cut (by laser I would guess) but a little fine from a functional point of view. The fore-end splinter (which had a button fastener) was quite deep in the manner of a Holland and perfectly acceptable.
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